A Travellerspoint blog

Own Goal

Team meeting

Team meeting

First play of practice...two down...

First play of practice...two down...

Vuyo, after we fought for her to play!

Vuyo, after we fought for her to play!

just lost :/

just lost :/


Thursday morning was the worst! Weeding. Weeding in the hot African sun for 2 hours that felt more like 5. But, what can you do. It was a great workout at least! And we were working with Lina, Yster, and Zima, the 3 black staff members on the team who we really like so that helped too.

Regarding racial divisions, apartheid ended very recently in 1994, so there is a very sad 50s-esque black/white division that we'll delve into later, and we also learned about a new one yesterday from Zima (and his interactions with Yster have confirmed it). Within what we would call the black community are actually two “races”: “black” and “colored”. If I understand it correctly, the black people speak Xhosa and the colored speak Afrikaans. According to Zima, who classifies himself as black, the colored people are generally lighter skinned, descend from slaves, and look down on the “black”. It’s amazing that even within a race with such an uphill battle in front of them, they create their own battle lines.

Moving on for now…Thursday afternoon we were supposed to do HIV soccer drills with the younger kids. Apparently, they dribble the ball around cones and if they hit one, they “catch” HIV, and then the other kids have to decide whether to the associate with them. I’m actually sorry to have missed this as it seems like it could get the wrong message across so I wanted to see it in action to understand. Unfortunately, it was cancelled and so we helped the kids work on ideas for a mural to teach the community about healthy eating that they will be working on for the next 20 weeks.

Friday was supposed to be a short day for us-we were just scheduled to work until lunch but when we found out we’d be prepping the kids for an afternoon soccer tournament that happens once a year amongst the townships, we asked to stay for the afternoon. This worked out great as the kids had no coach so after a long and arduous auditioning process Dave got the gig. After drawing out the game plan on a white board, we went outside to start preparing on the pitch (a small field littered with broken glass). I shouldn’t say that what happened next was hilarious, but I can’t help it. Within moments of starting the very first play of practice, not one, but two kids went down with injuries. I probably should have mentioned we had about 7 kids to work with, and the game set up would be 5 on 5. These weren’t serious injuries, but one of the kids, Steve went inside to rest, and so Zima and I took turns playing with the other kids to get them ready. There was one girl in the bunch, Vuyo, who was tireless, and never wanted to stop.

Come afternoon, it’s time for the tournament to begin, and Steve tells me gleefully that Vuyo won’t be allowed to play because she’s a girl. So, I went to the judges (who happened to also come from Sinethemba) and stated my case rather emphatically that she had been the one on the field practicing all day and pushing everyone else so she deserved to play with the team she’d practiced with. They probably just wanted the angry white girl to go away, but it worked, and Vuyo got to play. Unfortunately our kids lost in the first game and Steve spent the next hour or so blaming the loss on letting a girl play, though she did as well as everyone else! I got pretty excited during the next game when our guys got slotted to play the one girls team out there and they asked Vuyo to play since they were down a girl. I had switched loyalties at this point to the girls’ team for Vuyo’s sake, and she actually scored a great goal to tie the score at 1-1 late in the second half, but the girls ultimately lost to Sinethemba in a shoot out. 

Posted by daveandk8 09:57 Comments (3)

Valentines Day Party!

The kids came from all over

The kids came from all over

They're incredibly affectionate and love cameras!

They're incredibly affectionate and love cameras!

Valentines Day wind-down

Valentines Day wind-down

I think this sign should warn against questionable friends instead!

I think this sign should warn against questionable friends instead!


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!

Posted by daveandk8 09:37 Archived in South Africa Tagged kids south africa volunteer township valentines Comments (1)

The Two Faces of Knysna

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We learned a lot more about the deep contrasts within this area of the world today. It’s not specific to Knysna (it certainly exists around Capetown and other major South African cities) but it’s very sad. On one hill overlooking the city you find luxurious homes and even mansions filled with wealthy white citizens and vacationers. On the next hill over you find many more completely impoverished black South Africans, densely packed into structures that would not even be referred to as huts in America in many cases. Some of them are lucky-if they voted for the correct government last time around, their names get moved further up the never-ending wait list for a proper hut with actual walls and a roof-still smaller than a woodshed where we come from.

Today we started our community volunteering stint with Edge of Africa. The morning was “orientation” even though it’s just Dave and I starting this go around – they’re having a slow period with only two other volunteers in the house when sometimes there are as many as seventeen. They drove us around to all of the different projects they work on – several preschools (larger huts-the first was about 9’x5’ with 20-30 students packed in), a street kid community center, a Rastafarian village ecological trail, and more. We were going to spend our afternoon at Sinathemba, the community center for children and young adults that didn’t have the privilege of attending any schools because there is no free schooling in these townships and some parents simply aren’t interested or able to send their children anywhere for approximately $15/month. Our morning stop was memorable, even if likely timed for our arrival. As it happens, we conveniently walked in right before they all started singing a lively hymnal about God and the power of positive thinking. It was moving and Dave and I both got into it with them. It’s amazing how hard it is to be cynical when you’re surrounded by joy shining through poverty. We left then and continued on our tour to return later in the afternoon so that Dave and I could run a sports session with them (this was news to us!).

We returned to the volunteer house for a further run-down on the volunteer efforts that Edge of Africa, and we, would be involved in. Almost all of the projects here-even the sports projects-have a heavy focus on HIV education. Other focuses are sexual education, pregnancy planning (and avoidance), tuberculosis screening, empowerment through art, and much more. It seems like our time here is going to cover a lot of ground which will be interesting, but in truth Dave and I would have been thrilled to spend the rest of our time here the same way we spent this afternoon.

When we got back to the community center, the kids (I use this word loosely as they ranged in age from 10 to probably 20) were all eating lunch so we had some time to set up volleyball in the small yard outside (trying to find a section without too many shards of glass as some of the kids were barefoot). The impression we’d gotten from our project manager was that it might be hard to keep everyone engaged in this new sport but our experience couldn’t have been more different. They came out one by one but immediately approached the net and started hitting around, and they were all great! Seriously, I was by far the worst player there (not my sport!) including the young kids! They could serve the ball from the back of the court over the net with no problem at all, and they were all smiling and laughing for the whole 2 hours, whether winning, losing, making mistakes, and especially when falling down. It was such fun. I stepped out quickly when we had enough kids to field a team but Dave stayed in and kept the game organized, making sure everyone switched positions and called the score out at every serve, and I started taking pictures. (Side note: Dave is really good at volleyball! This is the first time I’ve seen him play.) It was just such a fun, great-feeling atmosphere, it was easy to forget where you were. Afterwards as the kids headed out we did some soccer drills with one of the staff who participated in the Homeless Soccer World Cup a couple of years ago and longs to play American Football one day.

It was a great day. Oh, and we arrived home to Bobotjie, a South African minced (ground) beef dish that was not only sweet and spicy but absolutely delicious-they really take care of their volunteers here!

Posted by daveandk8 10:02 Archived in South Africa Tagged water ocean south africa lagoon volunteer Comments (1)

Hot and Cold

Capetown_Day_2_010.jpgHe did it. It took two days but he did it. Dave found someone to talk obscure American sports with (outside of MLG ). And how could he possibly know the Oregon Ducks?? (I had either never heard of this team or the South African was obviously mixing up Oregon (full of vowels) with Anaheim (also full of vowels, understandable). Alas, no, Dave and this young boy both agreed quickly from the outset that their primarily passing game was far more exciting than the average college football team, and they had done so well this year…does Dave study these things while I sleep? He must. There’s not enough time in a day otherwise….I digress though…

Day 2 was also wonderful. We slept in as long as we’ve ever slept in as a couple – 10:30am- exactly one half hour past our allotted free (amazing) breakfast time. And as much as I begged Dave not to beg the staff to fix us a special late breakfast, despite the fact they’d already cleaned up, well, Dave has no shame and maybe, just maybe, secretly underneath it all, I was starving and hoping he would do it. And I wasn’t surprised (or upset) in the slightest when he came back victorious and, once again, the breakfast was fantastic.

As was the rest of the day…well we went to the beach and I’m not speaking in hyperbole when I say it’s the most beautiful beach setting I can remember. Dave claims Maui is a close tie which I’m sure I would agree with if I could remember it at the moment, but visually speaking, this is all you can ask for from a beach: mountains, oceans, perfect sands, a great Miami-esque but more low key ocean front drive with bustling bars and restaurants. However, it has one substantial downside-the water is FREEZING. We both got in, just for the hell of it and because we’re used to the ocean temperature of Maaaine (and because it was 80 degrees out), but it’s definitely unpleasant. Afterwards we went on the Hop-On/Hop-Off bus tour which Dave has officially stated his change of heart on-it was a fantastic ride around the coast and we still weren’t disappointed in Capetown, even riding through the actual city. We had dinner in Camps Bay which was delicious but our service was seriously disrupted by the fact that we had some young rich foursome beside us who commanded the waiters full attention (he actually offered them blankets when it got chilly, and they accepted!), but let’s face it, their dinner was probably closer to 10,000 rand ($1,250) and ours was a mere 500 rand ($65), so the waiter was certainly making a good financial decision.

Friday we took our second but slightly different Hop-On/Hop-Off bus tour to the nearby vineyards in Stellenbosch. The first stop was an enormous estate called Constantine Groot where you’re able to wander all over the grounds. The tasting there was fantastic, I think we liked 8 of the 9 wines. We split up our choices on most of them as these were healthy pours. Of course, my usual anxiety over schedule and such probably stressed Dave out as much as it did me-I need to work on that, but we did catch the second bus to the next stop (I was ultimately trying to make it to Monkeyland before the end of the day where you get to play with the monkeys but so as you’re not as anxious as I was, the outcome was sadly a failure). The next stop couldn’t have been more different-called Eagle’s Nest it was not the actual estate where the grapes were grown, more like a house on a hill that reminded me of my own "hill" in Blacksburg, VA ( Shout-out: Moms, Pops, and Willie!). Nice setting, but very different than your usual vineyard. Once again we were in an unsuccessful hurry but our rush did allow us to spend 25 minutes with the security guard Thomas from Malawi after he informed us that we missed our bus by 2-3 minutes. The language barrier was substantial but we enjoyed each other’s company and attempts!

Being scheduled on a 9 hour bus ride to Knysna the next day we went home, ordered pizza, packed, and called it an early night. The bus ride was long but enjoyable. It was filled with stops where we got to enjoy some delicious South African Coca-Cola. It’s pretty different than American Coke, but unlike European Coke, it actually tastes very good. I also got what I think was an insult from a bus hippie for buying a plastic bottle of water from the gas station when I could be filling my water bottle (which I don't yet own) with tap water to save the environment, but I had expected something like that all day-after all, every single one of our co-riders were wearing backpacks and wouldnt be caught dead with our rolling duffles... The South African countryside is lined with tree topped mountains and full of beautiful waterfronts. On the other side though, it is also full of township after township, and the word “township” is sincerely misleading. Townships here, where the poorer people live, consist of “huts” (what we would call very very small wood sheds in America) that have absolutely no space in between each other packed into extremely small spaces. As Dave said, what we’ve seen of South Africa is amazing but we couldn’t live with the disparity of life here. It’s too extreme.

Posted by daveandk8 11:46 Comments (2)

Upside Down

sunny 80 °F
View African Adventure on daveandk8's travel map.

025.jpgnelson_mandela.jpgEverything is different in the Southern Hemisphere. First of all, Dave sleeps on flights (I mean the whole time) and I don’t. And Dave’s infamous sea sickness? If it did indeed exist, it does no more. Eight hours through Day 2 (and after a day and a half of airplane sleep), I literally held up his head with my right hand so that his constantly dipping head wouldn’t wake up and remember we were on the choppiest water we’ve been on since the outset of our relationship and he should have thrown up 2-3 times by now.

To back up a bit, we’ve had an unbelievable day. We woke up late, but just in time for breakfast at 9:55 which was a sincerely delicious concoction of eggs, sausage, mushrooms, bacon (attn: USA-why is the bacon everywhere else SO AMAZING??? No offense-yours is still really good too, but still…) and potatoes sizzled with onions and red peppers-my favorite part. We’d been warned about the windy and cloudy days above Capetown but, luckily, the Table Mountain we were looking upon from our breakfast table was not that one. If my brother were right about my affinity for hyperboles, I would say it was the most beautiful day Capetown had ever seen but since he’s not, I’d say it’s as beautiful a day as one could see here. The sky was cloudless and a brilliant blue and the temperature hovered around 80 throughout the day. (Side note: though they deal in Celsius, at least for now, we still convert-it’s a fun formula anyway, especially in the negatives.) We rushed through our showers in order to get up the mountain before the winds could start. Please note that, by rush, we mean we rushed to get to the cable car-we saw the legit climbers, and would never steal their thunder. In fact, that the staff checked for people’s cable car tickets on the way down really annoyed us. If you had the balls to climb up that monster in the wind, with ropes and carabineers and all, you deserve a free ride down. Of course, they probably wouldn’t want it, but all the same, they should have the option. I digress….we saw one rebellious kid climbing down to a rock well off the beaten path on the edge of the mountain, his dad waiting near us taking his picture. We were trying to wait for he and his family to leave before Dave attempted to copy his stunt but, lo and behold, Brazilians must be extremely friendly and he promptly offers to take our picture together down there. As terrified as I am of heights when my legs are in control, interestingly, I’m far more afraid of embarrassment in front of friendly strangers, so I run down after Dave in my flip flops. It’s a great view from there if you don’t look straight down. After this we wander around the top of the mountain for an hour or so and then descend for our imminent appointment on Robbens Island, the prison home of Nelson Mandela for 18 years.

The waterfront area where our tour begins is gorgeous and teeming with activity, street performers, shops and restaurants. Boston could take a lesson on capitalizing on your waterfront here. The ferry takes about half an hour to reach Robbens Island-successfully preventing any prison escapees from ever making it (even if you could swim that far the water is a frigid 57 degrees at its warmest, making it a great home for the great whites). Looking back on Capetown from the ferry you really see how beautiful it is-the effect of water meeting city meeting this mountain that looks like a sleeping giant (literally, that's it's shape from afar) is amazing. From the ferry you board a bus which takes you around the entire island, including the house Sobukwe was held in, the leper colony and cemetery, some old World War II artillery, and always a lesson in South African politics and their strive for equality. Our tour guide consistently pleaded for everyone’s help in reaching for that goal throughout the tour and it was sincerely moving. Once we circled back to the prison, our second tour guide was an actual previous inmate. We had learned from the bus guide that they now have previous prison guards and inmates working together and though we were promised more about those relationships on the prison tour, our guide’s Kenyan accent was unfortunately so strong that if he did discuss it (I’m fairly sure he didn’t), we missed it. We both thought it was great that some of the inmates were strong enough to come back to the prison and give tours but agreed that the prisoners and guards working together seemed a little too soon! The most commonly known fact about the prison is that “Comrade Mandela” as the tour guide and fellow inmate refers to him was held here for 18 years of his life and, when released, went on to spend an additional 9 years of (captivity) among 2 more prisons, for a grand total of 27 years without ever having committed a crime. This jail was entirely used for political prisoners-the convict prison was down the road a bit.

By the time we’d arrived back at the Waterfront, we’d seen seals, penguins, and a springbok (that one was on land, don’t worry!) without much effort. Dinner was wonderful - a steak overlooking the water, arguing over whether the couple sitting near us were South African or not. Dave lost the bet-not only were they South African, they lived about 40 miles from us in Virginia.

We've uploaded a few new pictures to the photo gallery! Still getting used to this website and not sure if that pops up or not...

Posted by daveandk8 12:01 Archived in South Africa Comments (2)

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