Tuesday, February 8, 2011

“Excuse me principal- why is there a white girl waiting here for you?”

Today was my first day of service at Zimasa Community School.  Needless to say it was an interesting experience.  I entered the school and the principal wasn’t there yet, so the secretary told me to wait for him outside his office until he got there.  When he arrived she asked him why there was a white girl waiting for him.  It was a strange conversation to listen to, but he eventually came out to talk to me and told me that I would be working with the deputy principal at the school, Fazile, and that I should sit there and wait for him.  Fazile came and introduced himself after another 20 minutes of sitting and awkward stares from children, and he told me I could either go with him to the “playhouse”, or wait until he was done there and then we could talk.  Naturally I wanted to go to the “playhouse” –I thought it sounded like fun.  So we walked outside, where the whole school of 1,300+ students and teachers were congregated, and they started the “prayers”… not “playhouse.”  Accents are tough.  I was confused.  I was also standing in front of the giant sea of students, the only white person, and all 2,600+ eyes seemed to be wondering what the heck the white girl was doing there.  I began wondering the same thing myself at times.  Anyway, once the prayers and singing were finished the students went to class and Fazile and I went to his office to talk about my time there.  We were chatting for a few minutes and he told me he was going to place me with a teacher who teaches English and Natural Sciences- perfect match.  He then explain that the students were all writing exams so today was a hectic day for everyone and then asked me if I wanted some tea, and went to get it for me… and didn’t come back. His secretary brought it in an hour later.  Then another hour passed and the teacher came in and introduced herself and we spoke about teaching etc.  Then she said she had to go administer a test.  He came back a half hour later and dismissed me, saying there wasn’t really anything for me to do because of the testing, but that he would see me on Thursday.  That was the end of my first service day and I sat in the office alone for the majority of my 4 hours there.  It can only get better.  My patience is improving exponentially, I just keep reminding myself: TIA, This Is Africa.

In other news, we had our first braai (barbeque) at the Kimberley House on Friday.  We each made a different “American” dish, and then one of our housemates grilled.  We had invited all our neighbors, in an attempted block party- but none of them showed up! Our landlords and program directors and their families came, and a few random friends that people had met came, and we all had a blast.  Good food, good teamwork, and good company.  A pro of living with 20 people is that you don’t really need anyone else to come over to make a party happen.

Three of my housemates and I also went to Stellenbosch this past weekend for a wine tour, and to explore the city.  We took the train there Saturday morning and checked into our hostel, appropriately named “The Stumble Inn.”  From there we jumped on the wine tour bus, where we traveled to four different vineyards around Stellenbosch.  The first was called Simonsig and it was the first vineyard in South Africa to make champagne.  We also got a tour of the wine cellar where we learned the logistics of wine making, then we tasted the champagne and various other wines.  Next, we got back in the van and went to Fairview, where we did a wine and cheese tasting, both of which were excellent.  We stopped for lunch in the little town of Franschoek, and then went to the most beautiful vineyard I’ve ever been to.  It’s called Dieu Donne- which literally means “A gift from God” and it certainly was.  Situated in the valley between the mountains, the views were spectacular 360 degrees around.  The final place was called Boschendal-  which was nice and had great wines, but the views were not nearly as nice as Dieu Donne. 

After the wine tour, we went back to the hostel and cleaned up and went out for dinner and drinks with our buddies from the wine tour.  They were an awesome group of people from Germany, Australia, and Switzerland who had just finished a 49-day overland tour from Kenya all the way down to Cape Town in a huge 4WD truck/van with a driver.  They were telling us stories all day about their crazy adventures, and needless to say it’s next on my bucket list of things to do.  On Sunday we visited the Stellenbosch botanical garden- which was so peaceful and serene- a much needed change of pace from the previous day’s antics.  Then we headed back to Obz on the train.  All in all, a good first adventure with lots of great wine.

Wine Cellars at Simonsig

Our Guide Opening a Champagne Bottle with a Sword

Aftermath of the Sword Trick

Baby Chameleon

Mountains from Dieu Donne

View from Dieu Donne


Holy Lotus in the Botanical Garden

Our Extended Wine Family

So Much Wine 

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