This whole month, my kids have been talking about swimming and how much they wanted to go to the pool but unfortunately, this South African winter weather has been less than suitable for that. It’s always cold and rainy here, and if the sun is shining, it’s still never warm enough to go for a dip. But unbeknownst to them, I knew of a place where I could take them swimming in Cape Town that had a heated indoor pool. I promised them, before I left Kayamandi that I would take them, all eight of them. I had one more weekend with these boys so I wanted to make it a memorable one. So for the week prior, I have been telling Avele, Mawande, Fudo, Atha, Ski, Chester, Aphiwe, and RiRi to tell their parents that I would be taking them to Cape Town on Saturday. I planned on being there all day so I made sure to tell them everyday that they must be at my house by 7am on the dot or else they would be left behind. It was a bit early of a time, but I had a lot planned for us. I also told them to bring shorts to swim in, but besides that, they knew of nothing else I had in store for them.
Chester, Mawande, Ski, and Avele actually ended up spending the night on Friday because they were afraid of waking up late and missing out! We woke up the next morning, got ready, and Aphiwe, RiRi, and Fudo showed up. It was now 7am and there was no sign of Atha. I even waited a couple more minutes and walked slower than usual to the train station to see if he would be running to us. I felt bad, but to be fair, I did warn him numerous times. I bought everyone’s train ticket, and as we waited, we saw Atha running towards us on the train tracks. Once I spotted him, I ran and bought another ticket before the train came! He made it just in time and now I had the whole crew with me; the elite eight.
After a little more than an hour, we arrived in Cape Town and the kids became excited because they didn’t know where I would be taking them in this big city. First, we walked along Long Street to the indoor pool. The pool here was very large and went up to about 10 feet deep, I wanna say. We all swam, except for Fudo and Aphiwe who forgot their shorts. Most of the time, the boys splashed around on the shallow side while I did laps back and forth across the pool. There was no lifeguard on duty but no worries, I used to be a certified lifeguard during the end of high school (even though I actually didn’t do anything with it). I’m like a fish in the water, so I felt confident if something were to happen, I could save them. At one point, I wanted to teach RiRi and Avele how to do a proper dive. RiRi got the hang of it, but after a few misfires, Avele’s nose started to bleed so I had him sit out for a while. He handled it like a trooper though. After about maybe an hour or so of swimming, I got out and dried off. As I was, a security guard came up to me and started asking me questions about the kids, and where I’m from, and what my background is and blah blah blah. He then had the courage to tell me that I shouldn’t worry about my bag being stolen while in the pool, but if it were to happen, it would be the whites that would most likely take it. Ugh…I knew where this conversation was headed. He started to get into this whole ridiculous spiel about color and race and all that junk. Next time I come to Africa, I’m going to wear a shirt everyday that reads “I don’t give a $h%# about colors!” I summoned the boys, got changed, left the pool and went to get some grub.
I didn’t want to go to McDonald’s again, but it was literally right there, right across the street. So that’s where we went and all had burgers, chips, and drinks. I made a promise to myself though, that once I get back to America, I will avoid McDonald’s for the rest of the year. While eating, the boys had no idea where we were going to next, and kept asking me for hints. “You’ll see!” is what I kept saying. I think not knowing made things a bit more entertaining for them.
We headed to the South African Museum and Planetarium. To my surprise, they were pretty excited about it. I bought tickets for all of us to the next showing of “The Sky Tonight”, which started in about 90 minutes. In the meantime, we went to explore the museum. This museum is a whole lot better than any museum I have been to back home. It’s a giant storied complex and the amount of exhibits and showcases were almost endless! Every kid wanted to take a picture with everything! My memory card is packed with pictures they took here, which I prepared for. I bought a new card pretty much for that reason.
In due time, we found our way to the planetarium and nabbed seats for the show we booked.
I haven’t been to a planetarium in ages and I forgot what it was actually like. The room became pitch-black and the faux stars sprinkled the top of the dome. A guy started lecturing about the planets, stars, and our galaxy. He lectured pretty much the whole time. Lectures lull me to sleep, and that’s what happened haha! I fell asleep maybe ten minutes into the presentation. I have to give pats on the backs to the boys, they were able to sit through quietly (well quieter than I expected) for the entire duration. The whole time they said they were waiting for a movie or something to start haha!
Next up, we went to the Aquarium at the Waterfront. We walked about 30-40 minutes to get there, as opposed to taking a taxi van because I wanted them to see the city by foot. The kids have never been to the Aquarium before and were anxious as to what exactly this kind of place was. I bought everyone tickets and we went inside. This aquarium had everything; penguins, sharks, loads of colorful fish, crustaceans, reptiles, insects, everything but whales and dolphins. I saw a sign where people could go scuba diving in one of the humongous shark tanks. I needed to know more information! I let the kids explore the aquarium on their own as long as they stayed together while I went to the information kiosk to ask about the diving. The lady there explained it all to me. It costs a lot (which I was willing to pay) but it takes three hours of training before we even went inside the shark tank. I told the lady that I already received some scuba training about a month ago in Zanzibar. “It’s different here though” she said. “You have to have a license.” I have to put that on my list of things to do: get a scuba diving license. I couldn’t go into the shark tank anyways because three hours is too long and would take up the rest of our day. The boys would grow restless! I would have to save this on the list of things I must do whenever I come back. Afterwards, I reunited with the kids who were under the shark tunnel. I thought this place was pretty neat and I’m glad they enjoyed it as well.
Next up, the giant ferris wheel! I don’t think any of them had ever been on one of these, let alone know what a ferris wheel even was. I bought the boys tickets, but I sat out and watched. This wheel was gigantic and revolved a lot; longer and more often than it does back in the U.S. The boys were on there for quite a while! That gave me time to watch the marimba players nearby and nab a quick ice cream cone.
We were all hungry again and we all had a hankering for thick, juicy ribs and as luck would have it, the Waterfront occupied the kids’ favorite restaurant, Spurs. We went through the mall (which looked very nice by the way) and requested a table for nine. I let them each order whatever they wanted and they all ordered their own personal slab of ribs with chips and sodas. I ordered the same but with buffalo wings as well. “You eat buffalo!?” asked Aphiwe. I started to laugh. “You eat chicken heads!” I responded back. They all thought I was eating actual buffalo. Since when do buffalo have wings? Haha! The main attraction of Spurs that the kids love is the video games they have in the game room. They always went to the one in Stellenbosch, but never to this one. This one had different games for them to play. I couldn’t blame them for always wanting to come here. When I was a kid, I practically lived in the game areas of every child friendly restaurant I went to. Eventually, not too long, the food came and we pigged out.
They were finished super fast and rushed back to play more games. I asked Avele to stay behind as the others went off. Avele is going to be moving to the Eastern Cape soon, so whenever I do comeback to South Africa, I will most likely never see him again. So I bought him and I dessert as a going away gift; waffles covered with syrup, candy coated chocolates and ice cream. Not to worry though, I eventually bought the other kids ice cream cones as we made our way back to the train station.
My aim today besides it being my last Saturday with the kids, was to give them a chance to do everything they wanted to do in Cape Town without having to worry about money. I wanted them to have a glimpse of what else is out there outside of the poverty-stricken township of Kayamandi. A whole day of doing the fun stuff every kid would dream to do in this city. Maybe seeing the city freely like this would give them the motivation to get out of Kayamandi one day? To do that, I told them they have to do exceptionally well in school and I guarantee that they will go to parts of the world they never even imagined. Don’t get me wrong, Kayamandi isn’t a terrible place, it’s just hard to grow and develop fundamentally there, especially for a child. There are people who spend their whole lives there, because that’s all they know and can afford. These kids are still young enough to head on the right track in their lives and it starts with staying in school and doing well in their academics (and I will help them with that later on in upcoming posts). However, its way too easy for the kids in this township to get caught up with the wrong crowd of people and be led astray; being misguided away from their true potential. All eight of these kids are truly unique from one another and I always enjoy my time with them because with a mix of eclectic personalities like these ones, I’m always entertained! It’s rare for a kid in this area to get an opportunity to have someone from the outside world to help them positively grow, hang out with, and pretty much spoil them for a while with no worries and otherwise do what they could never do before. It’s even rarer to get a second opportunity. It started first with my friend Chris and now with myself. I just hope they don’t take all of this for granted.
If you’d like another perspective on these kids, check this out http://osullivanstravels.wordpress.com/.