My time in South Africa is almost up. I’m beyond the point where I really do feel like I live here. I’m not a tourist and never will be one in this country. I have a family with the Zulu’s and an amazing group of locals all over the Western Cape who I call my friends. I’ve definitely established a foundation here. With that, my first round of goodbyes would begin this week, starting with my original group of kids at the Christian David Primary. I woke up early Tuesday morning to get to the train station. From Stellenbosch to Cape Town and from Cape Town to Steenberg. It’s quite the journey that takes more than two hours total. I walked to the school and found Sandi Jacobs there to greet me. It’s always nice seeing her. I walked into her grade 1 class and all the learners there said “Good morning, Dan!”
Michael in particular was happy to see me. I brought Sandi a bottle of red wine from Spain which I made sure to give her while hidden away from the kids. She loved it! For the class, I made sure they were all sitting down and on their best behavior before I passed out candy I had bought for everyone. Once it was break time, I went outside to see all the other students again. It has been more than three weeks since I’ve been here, so as usual, they were surprised to see me. I was specifically looking for my original clan, Conroy, Gadijah, Lawon, and Limbo. It’s like I had a signal beam that guided them towards me because they found me almost instantly and attached themselves to my side. I printed out pictures for them as a keepsake to remember me. I had one for each of them. Other kids, mostly ones I barely knew, expected pictures too but I only brought photos for the four who have clung to me since the beginning. I told them to make sure to take care of the pictures and don’t lose them. I also made a point to be as clear as possible, telling them that I had to say goodbye today because I was leaving back home to America on Saturday. “When will you comeback?” they would ask. All I could say was “Someday”. I have no idea when I’m coming back to South Africa after this. I gave Michael my camera to take some pictures. He’s always wanted to use it but I never let him because he’s a little nuts, but I figured to let him have a shot. To my surprise, he was really serious and careful with it.
The final bell rang and it was time to say goodbye for real. Gadijah gave me four separate hugs and told me “I’ll see you next year.” “Ahh, probably not next year but in a few years!” I made sure to tell her. Limbo is a tough guy, so I gave him a high five and he went on his way. Conroy couldn’t even look at my face because he was tearing up so bad. On the back of his picture, I wrote him a note saying how great of a kid he is. Lawon was also teary faced with his new haircut. I gave them both one last giant hug before we finally parted. I found Michael outside the gates waiting for his mother to pick him up. Michael was held back in grade 1 this year so I told him when I comeback, he better be in a much higher grade by then. We said goodbye and his mother finally came to pick him up. I said bye to some of the teachers and staff at the school and then left the premises. On the way, I spotted Lawon outside the gates tying his shoes. I walked with him home which was actually on the way to the train station. Before we split, we stopped at a convenience store to buy us some ice cream which he really appreciated. We took one final picture and finally parted paths. It was a long train ride back to Stellenbosch. It always is. And this would also be my last train ride during this trip in South Africa.
On Thursday, Hanneke, Mieke, Eric, and I wanted to treat Miriam out for a nice dinner. She has been driving us everywhere and never asks for anything in return. Sandi Jacobs would also be joining us for the occasion. She actually suggested we all go to the Grandwest Casino in Goodwood at a buffet restaurant called the Quarterdeck. Sounds good to us! As always, Miriam drove us but we told her that we would fill up her gas tank for this trip. We made it to Goodwood around 6:30 pm and found the casino hidden within the city. This place was humongous and I felt like I was in a part of the Las Vegas strip! The Grandwest Casino resembled a resort that was clean as can be and fancy all around. Was I still in South Africa? I never knew such a place could exist here.
We walked inside the casino and immediate thoughts were, “I can’t stick around for long!” This casino had that tempting “casino” scent and sound. I can’t describe the scent but the sounds of hundreds of slot machines echoed in my ear teasing the gambler in me. Eric also started growing anxious and wanted to play games, but we both had complete control over our bad habits and didn’t do anything but look. We walked throughout the massive casino and finally found the Quarterdeck Restaurant which also turned out to be very lavish. We walked by the buffet area and saw all of the delicious looking food! We were all hungry and prepared to feast like fat kids! But, we wanted to wait for Sandi to arrive first. She eventually arrived with her friend and colleague and we all made our separate, multiple rounds through the buffet! Throughout the night, I ate lasagna, calamari, pizza, curry, pasta salad, nan, potato wedges, creamed spinach, shepards pie, prime rib, and chicken. For dessert, I had chocolate brownies, ice cream, yogurt with jello, strawberry shortcake, chocolate mousse, and malva, a South African delicacy. Whenever I am at a buffet, I make sure to eat until I feel like I am going to burst open! This was THE best meal I have had in South Africa! I think the other volunteers would agree as well. We ate so much that we sat glued to our chairs, long after we had already finished because we were so stuffed.
After finally being able to move, we left the restaurant and said farewell to Sandi Jacobs. It was cool of her to come out for one last dinner and for her to meet the other volunteers. Sandi, you are one amazing woman and I’m glad to have you as a good friend of mine here in South Africa. I know I will remain in contact with her, we’ve been pretty good at that. I think her and my mom would get along so great.
Before we left the casino, we walked around a bit to see what else was there. I found that part of Grandwest resembled the inside “town” area of the New York, New York casino in Las Vegas. We also saw a bar where there were nothing but cougars dancing away, and a photo booth machine that we took advantage of.
On the way out, we grabbed a group photo in front of the fountain before Eric volunteered to drive us home in Miriam’s car.
Once we got back to Kayamandi, like usual the past few nights, we had a Big Bang Theory marathon in my room. I managed to steal a few brownies from the buffet that I had put into a napkin and into my bag before we left the restaurant. I considered it my parting gift from South Africa. Thanks South Africa! Anyways, I ate some while watching the show which was the perfect ending to an awesome evening!
I have three more posts left to end this worldly trip. Tomorrow I planned to spend my last full day with the Kayamandi kids. I’ll be sure to tell you all about it!