In order to avoid arriving late to my old school again, Chris and I took the early 7:27 am train to Cape Town. Immediately afterwards, we took another train to Steenberg. We were making excellent time compared to the last as we walked down the road towards my school. Before we went there, we haven’t had breakfast yet so we decided to stop at a place I used to frequent during my lunch breaks from the school. It was a Pie Shop that sold an assortment of meats stuffed in bread and also mini pizzas. The ladies behind the counter recognized me from last year which surprised me! We ate our meals and then headed to the school. Recess was in session because I saw all of the learners playing about. As we walked along the gates of the school, a couple familiar children spotted me with very shocked looks on their faces and ran up to see me. They had no idea I was going to be here today and no one at the school besides Sandi Jacobs knew I would be back in South Africa. I gave them high fives through the gates and asked if they could tell the security to open the gate.
As I walked in, I saw many kids running about that I remember from last year. Some kids came up to me that I didn’t quite remember, but they remembered me! “Hey Superman!” some of the kids would shout. Last year, some of them referred to me as Superman because I wore a shirt the emblem and used to launch the kids in the air! We walked around the whole lot of the school, seeing who was around before we made way to Ms. Jacobs grade one class. I walked into the room and saw a new batch of kids there plus a few who were held back that I recognized. Sandy walked in, surprised but glad to see me today. Some of the kids who were held back asked me “Where did you go?”. “I went home for awhile” I responded. Michael was one of the craziest kids back in the day and I had a feeling he would be held back because he’s a little too wild. He seems to have calmed down, just a touch. Sandy said he’s definitely improved since last year and is doing very well this time around. She gathered all the kids to form a circle in the class. She asked them to volunteer and step into the center of the circle and tell the class what they did over their week-long break in English. The kids on this part of the Cape speak Afrikaans as opposed to the kids in Kayamandi who speak Xhosa. Most of the kids who reluctantly volunteered said they played with their friends over break. Some said they went to Spurs and had Kentucky. When I asked Sandy what it meant when they said “Kentucky”, she informed me that it meant Kentucky Fried Chicken. I guess it’s a big deal for the kids!
Next, all of the kids gathered to sit on the rug so Sandy could go over a story with them. But instead of merely reading a book, she had the kids describe to her what is going on in each picture. The purpose was to get them speaking in English and to enhance their observation skills. It still amazes me how well Sandy is able to handle her students. They all listen to her and are quiet for the most part, but once she leaves the room then chaos would ensue! Sandy told me that the kids had P.E. coming up next and that Chris and I could watch them. Back when I was here, the DTR Sports Development volunteers were the ones who coordinated the P.E. courses. She told me the volunteers still handle that department. So we lined the kids up and went outside! We made way to the field and I saw some volunteers near the storage with loads of recreational equipment piled outside. It looked like they were cleaning or something. Chris and I stood around waiting for the volunteers to start with the kids but they completely ignored them! They were busy sorting and organizing the equipment.
Sandy saw this and decided to take matters into her own hands and became the P.E. teacher for the day. Since the volunteers weren’t doing anything, Chris and I took it amongst ourselves to help out. We created relay races and made obstacle courses with hula hoops that were lying around. We tried to stretch out all the activities we were doing as long as we could because we didn’t have any recreational equipment besides the hula hoops to use.
As we were playing, I spotted a very familiar kid walking from the bathroom outside. It was Conroy, my main buddy that I always used to hang out with last year here! Conroy was the grade one learner that I taught how to fly last year. He saw me and stood for a second and without saying anything, immediately ran up to me and gave me a big hug. By the looks of his face, he wasn’t expecting to see me again at all. And thankfully, Conroy has made it to grade two this year! I told him to find me during the next break and to gather the others. He knew what I meant when I said “the others”. We had a pretty close group between him and a few other kids who were constantly by my side everyday during breaks here at the school. He had the hugest smile on his face as he ran back to his class.
During P.E., I went up to the volunteers and introduced myself. There were three of them cleaning and sorting out the storage. I told them I was a volunteer with DTR last year and came back to visit. We talked for a bit as they told me some of the changes compared to when I was here. For example, the Palmer house no longer exists and DTR has added two new houses in addition to the Rec House, Brass Bell nights have been switched to Wednesday nights, and the room that DTR has been working on here at the school is just about complete! I had to see for myself. I went inside the room and saw other volunteers tutoring a few students in a classroom that has been improved immensely since I’ve seen it last.
When I exited the class, I spotted another very familiar kid walking around. It was Ghadija, who was also in grade one last year. She saw me and instantly came running for a hug. “Where have you been!?” she asked. “I went home for awhile but I’ll be here to visit for a bit!” I told her. “Come find me during break!”
I was anxious for break to start because I couldn’t wait to see all of my kids again! Then finally, the bell rang and everyone ran outside. Conroy and Ghadija found me almost instantly! Along with Conroy was Lawon and Limbo, two others who were part of the pack I used to hang with. And just like old times, they all climbed up on my arms and shoulders wanting me to swing them around. I was more than happy to!
Nearby, I noticed Michael took a liking to Chris and was climbing all over him!
At points, Chris tried to take pictures of me with the kids but Michael decided he wanted to hog the spotlight and show the world how well he can eat a peanut butter sandwich!
During break, other kids and even teachers came up to me asking where the heck I went! By now they must be used to volunteers coming and going on a constant basis. I made sure to tell everyone this time that I am not volunteering and am just here to make a few visits within the next couple of months. I saw many kids in the older classes too. The group of grade five boys who I held the air hockey tournament with last year were all hanging out, including the winner of that tournament, Virgil. I also saw some of the surf kids, and a few other random kids from random grades. I was being bombarded with great memories!
Chris and I had plans to go to the Surf Shack later today to meet with Dave. In order to avoid any train debacles, we left the school before dismissal. I told all of my kids I will visit again in a few weeks. It was so cool to see them all again! And it was cool that every single one of them remembered me! We had to go though so we said bye to Sandy and the kids and took a quick train ride over to Muizenberg. Chris and I had a lot of money left over from the Reaching Out 2 The World campaign and decided to donate chunks of the money to organizations we thought could benefit. I mentioned in a previous post that Dave was in the early stages of starting his own volunteering company that works with kids after school. Chris and I both liked where it was going and wanted to give him a portion of our money, to help with his cause. We visited Dave near his clubhouse and he updated us on his continuing efforts and we told him about our successful trip with the kids. We told him how we both appreciated everything he was doing for the kids after school and that we would like to contribute some money towards his organization. Dave was surprised to receive it and didn’t expect it at all! He told us he would use the money to buy African drums for the kids for usage after school. Great idea Dave!
Later on, we had to say goodbye for now. Sandy was nice enough to pick us up from Muizenberg and take us back home to Kayamandi. On the way, we stopped at her house and enjoyed a glass of wine. I saw pictures of her two kids on her table. I had no idea she had kids! She even has a niece. After a bit chit chat, she dropped us off in Kayamandi. The next few days were pretty non eventful, at least for me. On Saturday, we had all planned on taking some of the Kayamandi kids to the Surf Shack but I opted to stay behind. With the German volunteers away on a trip, and with everyone else at the Surf Shack, this was my prime opportunity to be alone for a little while and catch up on hordes of emails and other things without disturbance before I set off to the Middle East on Monday. On Sunday, a few of us went out for lunch to celebrate Hanneke’s and Mieke’s one month anniversary of surviving South Africa. I made sure to remind them that there’s no such thing as a one month anniversary!
On Sunday night, Chris and I packed for our trip within a trip. We will be back in South Africa in a few weeks! Our first random destination: Dubai!