Day 2. Some of us in the house decided to opt for a chilled night in this evening, while others from our group went out, and I think we all needed it after the day we’ve had today. We cooked a fantastic pasta dish together, enjoyed a couple of beers and shared stories and music with each other. A really nice way to wind down after a busy day.
It was a pretty early start when our adopted South African mother, Mandy, came to meet us. She had a little moan about the state of the house after our first-day party the night before, but we were quickly ushered into a taxi shuttle that would take us to the Township of Masiphumelele.
Before I get into what the township is like, I have to touch on the way these taxis work. Firstly, they are super cheap (8 rand which is the equivalent of about 50 pence) for a good 10 minute ride. Then the whole bus clubs their money together and passes it forward row by row to the driver, working out who is owed what change along the way! Imagine if we did that on public transport in the UK? No chance. I felt sheer honesty and sense of community here, and we haven’t even reached Masi yet.
So Masi – nobody says Masiphumelele every time they refer to the township, I mean, why would they? I had been quite nervous for this part of the first few days. I had seen pictures of what the township looked like, and I had expectations that were making me feel a little anxious. But as soon as we stepped out of the taxi, I felt that community feel again, and actually pretty comfortable in what was a huge culture shock coming from the UK. The whole area is pretty much a big campsite, where a lot of the homes are made from metal sheets and wood. There are stone-built houses as well, but all are very basic, especially in comparison to what we’re used to at home. Stray dogs are roaming around on every street, seriously there are loads of them, but all relatively calm. The people are so friendly. I decided to just say hello to people if eye contact was made, and every time the gesture was reciprocated pleasantly. Starting to love this place already.
Next stop is the Creche I’ll be working at for the next 8 weeks. It was the most heartwarming experience walking into this place being greeted by the class of nearly 50 children, all of whom have so much love for you immediately! They chant, ‘Teacher! Teacher! Teacher!’ over and over until the initial fuss settles down, and then they sing for us. The classroom took me right back to my primary school days, with the art on the walls, the tiny chairs, colouring pencils, paints and that unforgettable smell of a combination of all of these things you find at any school. The only other classroom in the building is on the upper floor, where the slightly older children are (up to 6 years), and we were given just as much of a wonderful greeting when we paid these guys a visit too. What’s crazy is the class sizes and the teacher:student ratio. I’ll definitely have my hands full with these energetic little people, that’s for sure!
Continuing our tour of the township, Mandy also took us to a community centre where we met these lovely people who were dedicating their time to cooking hearty meals for people suffering from cancer, HIV and other rubbish diseases. We got stuck into helping dish out the food into old ice cream tubs and I was thankful for my experience in hospitality at this point in the day! A quick drink in a local bar (a 750ml beer cost just 60 pence) was a welcome break from the heat of the afternoon, and we were kindly welcomed into the home of Nonni, a friend and neighbour of Mandy, who had prepared a delicious meal for us called Chakalaka – a traditional South African dish of chicken served with vegetables and a maize porridge called mieliepap. Delicious! Note again that South African hospitality I mentioned in an earlier post.
With the tour of Masi complete, we stopped off at the mall on the way back to the house to pick up some essentials, predominantly alcohol as the area we live in is a ‘dry’ area where alcohol is only sold in restaurants and bars. That was it for me then, nap time. I’m pretty sure the rest of the group all spent the afternoon by the poolside, but that can wait for me. I mean I’ve got another 8 weeks in this place. I’ve got a weekend of exploring to look forward to now before I jump straight into teaching on Monday. So much excitement!