Day two of volunteering happened to be on and entirely related to Valentine’s Day. Our morning would be spent at “Mad about Art” (a nearby project that works with kids of all ages to express their feelings through art) decorating and planning a Valentine’s Day party for the kids. Before we left the volunteer house we found some big red and white paper and cut out heart valentines for the kids-our project leader thought there would be about 40 kids so we planned for 50. We also asked if we could stop on the way to pick up some treats for the kids and were surprised at how moved our co-worker Lena was. I guess these kids don’t get things like that for parties generally. So, on the way we stopped at the store and the head and founder of Edge of Africa, Dayne, steered us more towards fruit than candy due to the kids poor dental hygiene. We were able to snag a bag of pink and white marshmallows as well so we were happy they would get those in addition to the apples, dried apricots and peanuts.
However, upon our arrival, I asked one of the Mad About Art ladies how many kids were coming and she came up with a slightly different number-140…oops, clearly there weren’t going to be near enough treats, or valentines, and our ride had already left. Sad. We ended up using the valentines to decorate, and after all was said and done, I think Dave and I put together a pretty well decorated stage. We were also informed that Dave and I would be explaining the story of Valentine’s Day to the kids, which we happened to look up on the internet the day before. There are about as many theories on the origins of this day as there are on why the groom breaks a glass at a Jewish wedding. We picked the one we liked the best (though we couldn’t find more than a couple websites to support it) and created a two man skit in an hour or so using a lego, two pool sticks, and a jacket as props. When the kids got there, they performed a couple of HIV related skits which were great, though quite surprising to hear these things out of such young kid’s mouths. Necessary as I understand it though. Next up was Dave and I and I’d give us a B- for our efforts (forgetting to bring the props on stage with us at first was the biggest negative). All in all, a fun day, and the marshmallows were used as prizes for questions at the end and were a huge hit. As were the valentines that the kids ripped off the walls and stuck on their clothes. That’s the first time I’ve spent a full day celebrating Valentine’s Day since I was kid. We ended it by getting dropped off in town to try out our first oysters (Knysna is famous for them-they can keep them!) and after, delicious tapas at a waterside spot on Thiessen Island. You can’t beat the price of this meal -a seafood platter with fish, calamari, shrimp, onion rings and a strawberry daiquiri was about $10! Otherwise prices in South Africa haven’t been that much better than America unfortunately.
Day three started out with TB screening-we were sent into a township with two co-workers to knock on hut doors asking ten questions to indicate whether the inhabitants might have TB and should go to the local clinic. TB is a common problem here but unfortunately they aren’t informed about it and don’t go to the clinic. We found two likely cases and a few that had been or were being treated for it. Everyone was extremely nice though, inviting us into their huts, several thanking us for helping, and giving them information they don’t have. Dave even had one guy who recognized us from the restaurant last night because we were wearing our hideously bright orange volunteer shirts-it’s a small town I guess! I had honestly expected some doors in my face, but in not one case did that happen for either Dave and Lena or Zima and I.
They bring us back to the house for lunch which seems a little strange to me, but very nice. Today’s lunch was more South African food and it was delicious. Relish (not American relish, a tomato and onion concoction) and some sort of maize dish for which I’ve already forgotten the name. Afterwards, it was back to Sinethemba, the street kid community center, for “Recycling Swop Shop” and some more volleyball. Swop Shop is a fantastic idea (though Dave and I have a few suggestions about implementation) where the kids bring clean recyclables and receive tokens to trade them for goods in the trailer, from jump ropes to clothes to basic necessities like toothbrushes or school paper. There is trash everywhere so any enterprising young lad should have a good business, but it doesn’t seem like that happens. Still, lots of people came with lots of trash bags of recyclables. I was working outside the shop weighing and recording drop-offs while Dave worked inside in the shop. I saw kid after kid coming out with toothbrush, soap or paper, and was amazed. Asking Dave afterwards he said that was pretty much the case across the board-they might pick up the jump rope but they always ended up with the necessities. I’m still surprised that without their parents present they would choose a toothbrush over a toy. I doubt at the age of 10 I would choose a toothbrush over a toy even if I hadn’t brushed my teeth in ages!