Emmanuel & Jerusalem

Molo! As a result of our primary schools being on holiday break this past week, we spend our fourth week in PE on holiday as well! On Tuesday the 24th, which is Heritage Day in South Africa (national holiday) we spent the day at Jerusalem, which is an informal orphanage run by a woman called “Mama Vinqi”. At Jerusalem there were about 35 children under the age of 13 and I believe about half of them actually live at Jerusalem. Jerusalem is Mama Vinqi’s home in one of the townships. It is an incredibly small house that houses the children. There is the main room where the activities take place, a small backroom where the beds are, and the smallest kitchen I’ve ever seen. All of the walls are made of concrete cinderblock. Up until a few years ago, the roof was made of thin sheets of metal. When the roof started to leak in, Calabash (the volunteer organization placing us in the schools, Emmanuel, and Jerusalem) paid for the roof to be replaced, so at least they have a stable roof over their heads now. On Tuesday we brought along new craft supplies for the children to use as well as homemade playdough. Part of the cost of going on this trip is to supply the volunteer organizations with some supplies. At Jerusalem the program paid for food for us all to eat on Tuesday as well as extra food to last Mama Vinqi and the children a while. Because it was Heritage Day, Mama Vinqi made us a hugely bountiful lunch that was distributed amongst all of the children and us. We also brought in birthday cake because one of EIU student was celebrating her 21st birthday! I think everyone enjoyed the day while we were able to serve others. Mama Vinqi and her staff were extremely appreciative and kind to us while we were there. It was too bad that that was our one and only day at Jerusalem.

            For the rest of the week (Monday, Wednesday-Friday), we were placed at the Emmanuel Advice Care Center (EAC), which is a social services organization that helps OVCs (orphans and vulnerable children), in their community. Again, we planned lessons and different activities for the children during the four weeks while we were at Emmanuel. The ages at EAC were anywhere from 4 years old – 20/21 years old. There were about 30ish children there everyday, but it varied. All of the children that go to Emmanuel are either orphans (being cared for by grandparents, siblings, etc.) or they are vulnerable children (they are HIV positive, have TB, etc.). We weren’t made aware of the status of individual people, because they don’t have to inform us, but we just knew that a large majority of the children and staff of Emmanuel were HIV positive, but you would never have known. On Monday, we were greeted with probably the biggest warm welcome I’ve ever experience! Hugging as a way of hello and goodbye is very common in SA culture. The staff made us feel incredibly welcomed. On Monday we had the chance to go on “home visits” with several of the staff members. Not only does the Emmanuel staff care for the OVCs that come to their center, but they also do home visits in the township to check in with children/adults that have AIDS or another disability. The staff members have such an incredible relationship with everyone they work with and you can really see that they love what they do (even though they’re volunteers and don’t get paid). We were able to visit five different homes and meet five different families. It was probably one of the biggest wake-up calls for me that I have experienced yet on this trip. Everyday we drive through the townships on our way to the schools. We see the shacks, the poverty, and the overpopulation, but we have never stepped inside someone else’s home to hear their story. We met a young woman who I believe was HIV positive who has lost so many people in her family. She told us that just a couple weeks ago she had to bury her husband. She has had children and other family members die from HIV/AIDS and she continues to remain so positive. I can’t even begin to imagine the strength that takes. We met another family headed by an elderly grandmother who cares for her 28-year-old grandchild who I believe has cerebral palsy (just by observation). They live in such a small house and don’t have the resources to adequately care for the grandson. All day, every day, he lies on the floor because that is how he was born. The grandmother says that most nights she can’t sleep in her bed because she is too busy sleeping on the floor by her grandson’s side to make sure he doesn’t roll out the door during the night. I know how hard it is for parents and families of children with disabilities, but I never stopped to think about how the hardships are barely beginning for similar families in places like South Africa. Those home visits were physically (because we walked up and down the streets in the heat) and emotionally exhausting. I have a totally new appreciation for my family, my health, my education, my country, and my blessings. I swear, everyone should come to South Africa and visit the townships – your life will be changed! Paul, the guy who started Calabash Trust says that we are experiencing more of what South Africa is really like than many white South Africans who live here. Isn’t that sad? Even though apartheid has ended, most white South Africans haven’t even entered a township let alone done what we have done in five weeks. That is mind-blowing. For the rest of the week we spent at Emmanuel we really got a chance to get to know some of the OVCs – especially the older kids. They all have dreams of going to college, becoming a social worker, getting a car, and having a family. I have those same dreams, but it’s sad that mine are much more realistic and likely to happen. These kids come from families where nobody has gone to college or even held a real job. Yet these children continue to be so optimistic and positive about their future. On Friday, our last day, the staff made us an amazing lunch/farewell dinner. We also had birthday cake that Dr. Murphy brought in to celebrate Nisha’s belated birthday (since we weren’t there on Tuesday). The children sang for her and for us, which was unbelievably moving. Saying goodbye was pretty hard. I’ve never had to say goodbye to someone that I know I will never see again, and someone who I know will have a harder life than I can ever imagine. So far, this has been the week that has truly opened my eyes to all the things I am thankful for.

            On a positive note, we are officially in the second half of our trip! Less than two months! 55 days!

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A view of Jerusalem from the outside.

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On the wall inside Jerusalem. It isn’t seen as politically incorrect to say stuff like this in South Africa!

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They love posing for a camera! “Photo! Photo!” they scream 🙂

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My favorite wall!

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the little girl on the right had the cutest laugh! it was one of those belly laughs that you wouldn’t think would come out of such a small child! Her name is Asive. Such a cutie.

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these four boys are doing “gum boots”. It’s like a step show where they jump around, smacking their rain boots to create beats. It was really cool! Wish I had it on video. Gum boots is a part of male South African culture. Nelson Mandela wrote in Long Walk to Freedom that he and his inmates in Robben Island would do Gum Boots all the time.

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Friday was super windy. The trees were shaking like crazy, dust was flying everywhere, and the metal roofs were about to blow away! It was crazzzy!

 

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So stray dogs are EVERYWHERE and everyday dogs would somehoww make it through the gate and wander looking for food. This little guy is waiting outside the little kid room during lunch time to get any bit of food. On Tuesday I gave my leftovers to a few pups. Felt like home!

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Saying goodbyes! This was taken from inside the van as we were getting ready to drive away. The staff and children all gathered around the van and started waving, so I started taking pictures! :’)

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boom goes the dynamite.

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okay, last one 🙂

Zip Lining & Whale Watching

IT’S WEEKEND! Or at least, pretend it was weekend J Last weekend we were able to get outta PE! We took a weekend trip to Tsitsikamma national park. Tsitsikamma is in between PE and Cape Town and where we made our bungee jumping stop. Instead of jumping off a bridge, we zipped lined through the treetops! It was pretty fun. We got all harnessed up went on ten different lines in the woods. It was really pretty. I felt like Tarzan! The lines ranged from beginner to medium fast, to super fast! By the end of the weekend I was really sore from being all tensed up on the lines. Believe it or not, bungee jumping was more freeing/relaxing than zip lining. You were constantly tense and clenched up so it wasn’t as relaxing as you might think. Here is a link to the website where you can see some pictures of what the canopy tours are like (we had to leave all of our bags/cameras with Dr. Murphy). Tsitsikamma Zip Lining Canopy Tours.

            After the canopy tours we went to see about our sleeping situations…. We were backpackers. Backpacking. In a backpacker’s lodge. Let’s just say we weren’t prepared for that! Bunking it up with total dude strangers in the same room? No thanks! But we did have a good dinner that was included. In South Africa they have what’s called a “braai” which is Afrikaans for “roasted meat” and is basically the American equivalent of a “barbeque”… I think braii sounds classier. However I didn’t eat the meat 😛 so they made me a veggie wrap think on the grill that was super tasty.

            On Sunday we left early to drive to our whale watching location. There was a good size group of whale watchers going with us, probably about 40 or so. Before we left we all went around and said where we were from. There were people from Japan, Italy, Germany, England, Brazil, France, SA, and then us Americans. I was shocked at all the different locations people were traveling from! So we all got on the boat, which was smaller than I thought (“you’re smaller than I remember… whereas I barely remember you at all” YOU HEARD ME!). It was a beautiful day outside so it was great weather for being at sea… until we got out to see. The waves picked up as we got out in the water. We saw a school of seals and were able to see evidence of whales (we saw some blows from their blow holes and a few backs), but nothing really impressive. What was impressive was how seasick I felt!! I was fine until the boat stopped. We stopped many times and just bobbed up and down, up and down in the water while we scanned the waves for signs of whales. That’s when I felt it. At one point, three of the people form our group (including Dr. Murphy) threw up in the back of the boat! It was miserable! I had to turn away from one of the girls who kept saying “I think I’m going to throw up, I think I’m going to throw up” because I WAS GOING TO THROW UP TOO. But I didn’t. Thank God. No more whale watching for me!

            Besides the almost chucking and soreness from zip lining, it was a nice weekend. Sorry I couldn’t take any pictures on account of I was up in a tree and I was trying not to puke!

Ellies, Zebras, and babies!!

Molo! This weekend we were able to take a day trip and visit the Addo Elephant Park just outside of Port Elizabeth. Addo is one of South Africa’s National Parks, and it was nice that we were so close! Here is a link to the Addo site online: Addo Elephant Park. You can read about the park on the website, but it’s the third largest national park in SA and is nearly 450,000 acres! It is HUGE! It’s been around since 1931 when there were only 16 ellies that lived in Addo, now there’s over 500 elephants, lions, hyenas, leopards, zebras, antelope, and more!!! Our driver, Nelson, (when we met him, he said that he is the smallest “Nelson” that we would ever meet in SA!) drove us to Addo on Saturday. What’s nice about the park is that you just pay the entrance fee, and then you drive through the park in your own vehicle! You can stop and take pictures whenever you see animals, but you just have to stay in the car. We saw so many!! Along the road we could always tell that elephants had been there based on the plentiful amount of lovely elephant crap. Yep. The park is so big that we drove around for about 5 hours before we stopped and had lunch at 2. And we still had more to see! It was so cool to try and spot animals. Off in the distance we were able to spot herds and herds of Zebras. I love them! We drove to a man-made watering hole where a herd was chilling at and we even saw babies and their mommies!! I’ll have to upload some photos. We didn’t just see animals; we were UP CLOSE to animals in basically their natural habitat. Even though Addo is technically a closed in facility, the park is so big, that you forget that you’re within the boundaries. So the animals can LITERALLY roam as far as they want. Addo isn’t like a zoo where you have zookeepers feeding the animals and different enclosures for different species; it’s like the wild. The animals find their own food and have their own homes wherever they want within the park. One of the best attractions at the park is the watering hole that is generally occupied by herds of elephants. Like 50 elephants all gathered around the watering hole. Some role in the water, some play in it, and others just walk around the watering hole and chill with their lil friends! Right by the watering hole is a place where cars can park and just watch the ellies interact with eachother at the watering hole. We saw lots of babies with their mommies! Did you know the gestation period for ellies is 22 months!!! Try being preggers for that long! The mama elephants are very protective of their babies. The babies literally walk underneath the moms and never get separated from her. It’s amazing that they don’t get stepped on! What’s interesting at Addo is the male ellies have tusks but the females don’t. When we went to the Knysna elephant park, both males and females had tusks. The only way you could tell who was male and who was female was to notice the… 5th leg. Yeah. I will never get that picture out of my mind. But at Addo, the males are much much bigger than the males at Knysna, and they have tusks so you know their males. And the females are kind of medium sized. But look at the pictures that are to come. I can’t find words for what it was like, and after visiting Addo, I’m like super duper excided for our Kruger safari in November!! Addo was pretty much 1/10 of what Kruger has in store for us. Starting today is our third week in PE, on Wednesday we’ll be halfway done in Port Elizabeth!!! 68 more days!!!!!!

 

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A family of ellies!!

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A mama red-hearted beast and her baby! (no dad present… go figure, mom was doing all the work!)

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Another mama and her baby

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the zebra watering hole

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YOU’RE BEAUTIFUL! She was very pretty!

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this is the elephant watering hole… where 50 ellies were hanging out! We were so close too.

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this guy reminded me of LEVI! Struggling to get out of the water like he needed someone to HOIST UP HIS HINEY LEGS ONTO A BED in order to get out! Sound familiar, mom? 🙂

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WELLLLL! follow your mommy, little guy!

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I stand corrected. THIS is the Levi of elephants!!!!!

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Stay by your mommy!

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needless to say the cars parked right there left!

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so handsome! this was a herd of males, we pasted the females that were all together. I thought it was funny that the men traveled together while the women did the same!