I am writing from onboard my new home on the Africa Mercy! Woo-hoo! I’m exhausted, but happy to be home! On Wednesday we pulled into the port of Durban, South Africa and I got to see the white hull of the Africa Mercy for the first time and let me tell you, it was a surreal experience after seeing her in so many videos and photos over the past five months to actually see her in real life! I must admit that while I’ve known for a while I would get here, I was thinking, “She’s real?!? There really is such a ship?!?!!!” I am also officially reunited with my Mommy, who got here before I did and found me as I was bringing my luggage to my cabin! She’ll be working housekeeping for the sail to Benin!
Before we get to that though, I’ve spent the past two-ish weeks among the Zulu people in the Drakensberg Mountains of South Africa by Dragon Peak (I didn’t get to see a single dragon though ;0) and it was…COLD!!! We stayed at a former air force base and it was one of the most gorgeous places I’ve ever seen, but there was a lot of dashing to the fireplace in the early morning and burrowing as deep as I could go into my sleeping bag at night. Lots of hot tea was in order as well!
I had the privilege of helping in a Zulu kindergarten class (they call it grade R) and there was so much that I found similar and a few things that I had to giggle at because they were just different. Though their classroom was bare and the ceiling was dripping and the electricity was flickering and although we were able to see our breath while doing math because there was no heater and although a goat was poking his head into the kindergarten classroom, they were just going about their day being kindergartners. They did stations and practiced counting and recited the months of the year. They pushed while getting into line and sometimes some got in trouble (although when they got in trouble the teacher twisted their ears! Yikes!). They played with blocks and played pretend and had snack (although it was rice and beans, which some of the littles who forgot a spoon ate with their hands or even a hand that was covered by a mitten and then proceeded to lick the mitten clean). They laughed and played and loved. Just like me and my littles! It made me feel here in South Africa a little bit like I was home.
|Kindergarten teachers unite!|
Something that the upper school grades were working on while we were there was practicing for a big “cultural competition” that was being held at the end of the week for all the surrounding schools. We had the privilege of watching their rehearsals and then we got the HUGE honor of actually going with them to the competition at the end of the week! Our leader dropped us off at the highschool where the competition was supposed to be held and we traipsed inside only to find out that we had apparently been dropped off at the wrong school. So, we bundled into a stranger’s car who was supposedly going the same place and we made it! The competition was held out in a large open field with a big area roped off for the competing schools to perform. The judges sat at a table at one end of the roped off area. We found our group (it felt so good to be “part” of their school even after only being there a few days…like we belonged there and were helping to represent Zuzimfundo School) and played games with the kids until we got the all call over the speaker phone that it was time to get costumes on. And that’s when it turned into a true cultural experience. All the groups of ten to sixteen year olds started stripping down right out there in the open field. We were put in charge of helping the girls get their “costumes” on which consisted of tying together their strings of beads. They had little bloomers on and we tied skirts made from strings of beads around their waists and beaded collars around their necks. They also had beaded armbands and ankle “bells” made from the top of aluminum cans that made a pretty tinkling sound as they walked. And that’s it! All the girls were completely topless and no one was concerned. Maybe that’s what it felt like in the garden of Eden. The boys had on little animal skin loin clothes and crisscrossing “suspenders” made from sheep wool. The competition began and one group after another performed traditional Zulu dances and songs, some completely acapella and some to the beat of drums. We got treated with such honor and got the best seats, right up front (where we could see everything…and I mean everything! :0). They kicked high into the air and every time their bare feet would hit the ground, little puffs of dust would explode around them. It may not have been my preferred style of dance or costuming, but oh was it beautiful and unique and such an incredible experience to be a part of!
Today was our first day of teacher orientation, which consisted mostly of how to secure and tie down everything in our classrooms so it won’t fly everywhere on the sail! It’s going to be a little tricky once classes start on the sail, but I’ve told one of my soon-to-be-kindergartners that if I get seasick and have to lay on the floor of the classroom during kindergarten, she’s in charge of taking over, so we’ll be in capable hands! Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to head out to “ stowaway watch” soon…not even joking!