Update from Joanne Garnett in South Africa
Happy New Year!
by Joanne Garnett
January 1, 2008
Editorís Note: Pinedale resident, Joanne Garnett, is spending several weeks in Cape Town, South Africa volunteering for an organization called Cross Cultural Solutions, an international volunteer organizations. She has been sending updates via e-mail. She will be returning to Pinedale on Tuesday, January 8th. She will be back to work in Pinedale on Wednesday. Below are her messages between December 24 and January 1, with the most recent first.
Tuesday, January 1, 2008:
You are probably celebrating new year's eve right about now, and it is long past for me. We lined up a ride to the Water front to watch the fire works with hoards of people and listen to live bands playing in the square. Although the Albert and Victoria Water front is a major tourist/shopping destination, it drew a very diverse, mixed crowd. We got back pretty early and opened up a bottle of champagne covertly here in the house to further celebrate 2008.
Barbeques are called brees here and we are having one for lunch. After that some may head to a beach to splash around and take in the day. Sorry everyone who is suffering through the snow and cold -- it's probably going to be in the 80's here again. :-) NOT that I am gloating, mind you -- I'll be back home in it myself in a little over a week.
Many people have asked about volunteering or said they are thinking about it themselves. Do it! No we can't change the world or save a gazillion people at once, but the way I figure it is, every bit helps. It's a helping hand that otherwise may not be extended, and lord knows I've had plenty of helping hands myself when it's been needed. So, go for it.
Time to take a shower and getting rolling for the bree. HAPPY NEW YEAR !!!!!! jeg
Monday, December 31, 2007:
Hello friends -
It's 5 p.m. here and in a few short hours it will be 2008! Our plans remain sketchy -- what is known is 5 of us have a cab coming at 9:30 to either take us to the Waterfront (total zoo), Signal Hill (less people but still nuts) or the base of Table Mountain (more crowded than Signal Hill but less than the Waterfront!) to bring in the new year by watching fire works over Table Bay and sipping a bit of whatever we find. We'll see how it plays out!
This weekend was a busy one. Saturday three of us went up Lion's Head, one of the side mountains to Table Mountain. According to the guide book it was a 45 minute hike with a little bit of difficulty toward the top, which some people did as their 'daily constitution.' DAILY CONSTITUTION, MY BUTT! After we passed a group of people on a section of the trail that were paragliding off the side of the damn thing, I knew we were in trouble.......or at least I was. After clambering up and over all sizes of rocks, going up one vertical ladder, and sweating to beat the band, we learned we were half way to the top. For once in my life I showed a modicum of sense and decided to give it a rest. The other two went on up, made it, and staggered back down a while later to rejoin me at the site of the paragliders. The three of us then went back down, hitched a ride with a paraglider (they were everywhere!) who when she found out we were working in the one of the townships said 'better you than me', and went to a local cafe for many bottles of water and much more potent adult beverages after that.
Sunday was spent at the market where all sorts of authentic and questionably authentic South Africa wares could be purchased. After that it was a trip to Houk Bay where I went into the FREEZING Atlantic Ocean to just get that sea water on me, and a few others took a boat ride out to Seal Island to (can you guess?) look at seals. I knew the ocean water was cold when the only ones out there were 10 year old boys and 8 year old girls looking to impress the 10 year old boys. Ah well, it was wonderful.
The original 15 volunteers are now down to 9. Half leave for home this Saturday; two of us leave next Monday; one on Tuesday; and two others head back shortly after that. As if to point out that it is time for us to go home, virtually everyone had a rough day today at Placement. Mondays just tend to be that way: It is like the kids plot all weekend as to how they'll make us run, sort of like my cats when they see me after a long day! Anyhow, my day started off with a bang when one of the older girls charged through the gate at the play school and took a flying leap at me, knocking me down. Next up, my charges showed up -- the two babies -- and they were both crying with wild abandon in no time flat. One had a wicked cold, and both were tired. A few wiped noses and rocking later, things settled down on that front.
The word being out that there is a play school going on, more and more kids are beginning to show up for the daily fun of seeing how many can fit at one time on a swing and who can run the fastest while pushing plastic chairs clanging across cement. Painters are there doing the inside and outside of the house, and certain of us quickly learned what was wet by sitting in it. Ahem. We definitely put in a full day of work in the short time span we have with the children, that's for sure! My hat is off to every pre-school and grammar school teacher and I will vouch for the fact they never, ever, earn as much $$ as they should.
Well, a bunch of volunteers popped into my room, so that's it for now!!!!! All the best to you and a very, very happy new year to each and every one of you. Bye!!!!! Jo
Saturday, December 29, 2007:
Good morning, every one!
It's another bright, breezy day in Cape Town, SA. I'm here to quickly tell you a few stories about the last couple of days and our last night excursion to Robben Island.
A few of our volunteers that have been here a while are beginning to leave which causes a little sadness in the house -- or happiness, depending on the personality clashes involved. ;-) But mostly for sure it is sadness. Two from my group are leaving a week early, and both of them are actually ready to split. It'll leave us with 9 here in Rosebank and that's still plenty of warm bodies. I'm now feeling very glad I added in that extra weekend to tour around and relax a bit before flying back. We go back through Senegal and my understanding is that the airlines will use a shrink-wrap paper to bind up our bags for that flight. Interesting! We can't get off the plane there but nonetheless it'll be kind of cool to at least land there.
But enough about next week. This week went well, especially when you consider we had (get ready) about 30 children to handle Friday. I've taken on the babies who are actually about a year and a half and BOY do those little buggers ever move when they get their minds to it! It's worse than herding cats, or the engineers in my office! (Sorry Brian and Jason, I couldn't resist it.) I've taken photos of the Placement site and will share them upon my return.
Today we plan to hike up Lion's Head, sort of a pinnacle of Table Mountain. It's an early 45 minute hike which suits me for sure.l Tomorrow I think a few of us will head to Hauk's Bay on the Atlantic side where one will scuba dive and the rest of us will poke around a bit.
So, Robben Island is very worth it and an extremely well done tour. The Island has been a prison of one kind or another for 400 years. It was once used as a leper's colony. Anyone even suspected of having the disease was removed to the island, given food and water, and told 'good by' for life. It later became a penal colony/prison with two rock quarries and a lime quarry where prisoners worked. A former prisoner led the tour in the maximum security prison and his ending message is one of reconciliation, that they will not let the legacy of aparthaid taint their lives from this pint forward, if you will. To me if gives significant meaning to the term 'human spirit', letting me there is hope even during extremely troubled times. It seemed particularly important to hold onto in the follow up of the Bhutto assassination.
The Island isn't that big but is well developed with sections for full time park employees, the outbuildings, prison facilities, and so forth. It is no longer used as a prison and if I recall it became a national landmark around 1996. While Nelson Mandela was likely the most famous accupant, there were many, many other dissidents and political prisoners who spent way too many years there. While prisoners were kept in Pretoria, I believe. But even in prison there was an effort to divide and conquer the races. Prisoners of asian, Indian, and mixed (coloured) descent were given more food that the blacks. However, the prisoners didnt' fall for the ploy and secretly shared the extra food among one another.
I strongly urge you to go to Robben Island if you can a chance. There you will both learn about brutal conditions, and there you will learn about the strength of the human spirit. It's an excellent tour and very well orchestrated. And if you need moments of lightness, there are even the obligatory African penguins running around, along with deer and rabbits!
Well, I better go get myself coordinated for the day. It's a delight that this is a SATURDAY with no set schedule. I'm enjoying the lack of structure! From here on out I suspect it's going to get a bit crazy as everyone tries to do their Placement work as well as fit in sites to be seen and Christmas presents that need to be bought for the return. Again, it makes me happy to have the extra weekend here.
Brian tells me it is -15 in Pinedale. Oh, BOY! I'll think about that while I'm sweating on that little hike today. Big hugs to all, and take care! jeg
Thursday, December 27, 2007:
I'm taking lots of photos but this gives you a little taste of the township I'm working in. More later on, after I go to Robben Island tomorrow!
Wednesday, December 26, 2007:
Happy Boxing Day!
It's a British/Canadian holiday today and what it meant for we volunteers was a DAY OFF. A dozen of us hired a driver and went to the wine country, touring 4 vineyards and sampling enough wine to sink a ship. I have to say that the South African wineries are way more generous in their wine tastings than the US wineries: each stop means 5-6 tastings. By the end, we thought every thing tasted lovely and bottles of wine were being bought, left and right. We are all lamenting the fact that we can only take two bottles back to the states. I have one excellent shiraz to share with my dear friend Nancy Reno when she heads back to Wyoming in January. Then I hope to either pick up a South African liqueur or a port to round out my limit.
The wine country is in the Western Cape. The countryside is beautiful -- mountainous, green, filled with a variety of grapes growing on both sides of the road. We went to three towns today including Paarl (which means 'Pearl' and was named because of three huge boulders that early Dutch settles believed looked liked pearls), Stellenbosch, and Frank-something-or-another. All three are full of Dutch or French architecture. The Huegenots settled here after they were being persecuted for religious reasons in France and brought their wonderful wine talents with them, to assist the Dutch in improving -- in my mind -- the wine stock. Cat U., I picked up some brochures from the vineyards I visited today and can tell you that they were pretty darn nice. Some don't export to the US yet but plan to start doing so in 2008. We are lucky!
Tomorrow we head back to work. The four of us working at the play school have decided to use the divide and conquer approach. I suspect I'll end up with the youngest ones. At least they don't talk back and I am stronger than them. ;-) But we are finding that trying to manage 18 kids that range in age from 1 to 11 is a bit much, if they are in a pack. The little ones need attention -- and diapers changed -- and the older ones get an attitude going by the end of the day. It's pretty funny because we typically go there with an activity in mind that we believe will keep them occupied for a half hour or 45 minutes. 15 minutes later, they are done and our idea is toast. Then off we go, chasing kids, putting them on swings and pushing them to their smiles and cries of 'push me, push me Jo', telling others to be careful on the jungle gyms, and bringing out trays of water cups to them that are promptly dropped and/or fought over. Ooops! We have found that keeping the unused rooms locked works wonders to keep a little bit of control inside the building. The first day we were there we didn't do that, and we had kids hiding in cabinets, laying on top of cabinets (I still don't know how they managed that one!), yanking window shades up and down, and locking themselves in one of the bathroom stalls. We volunteers quickly got a grip after that first day and hence we started to lock the doors of any room we weren't using. It has helped! And we also find it helps to go out after Placement for a beer, adult beverage, or a soda.............. But always, always, always, we feel good about the day's efforts.
Well, time to call it a day. It's a delight to hear back from so many of you, and I want you to know that you aren't forgotten! By the way, my Placement has a web site. The name of the place is Home From Home, and I believe if you Google that name with South Africa after it, you'll see where we are.
Tomorrow I'll be working in the a.m. and then taking it easy. Friday evening 6 of us are going to Robben Island, the Alcatraz-like prison off the coast of Cape Town that was first inhabited by locals, then became a leper colony, and eventually became a horrific prison where Nelson Mandela and many other ANC and prisoners of conscience were held during the apartheid years. It should be quite moving and we're looking forward to it very much.
All the best, my friends - Jo
Tuesday, December 25, 2007:
Molo, sisi and bhuto!
Merry Christmas to you all. We had a delightful Christmas Eve dinner with three (count 'em) turkeys and enough mashed potatoes to stuff a horse or two. I made dressing that was pretty OK (no one spit it out and some even wanted seconds), and we had lots and lots to eat. We then had a toast of smuggled-into-the-house wine to further celebrate the holiday and exchanged Secret Santa gifts. I brought presents for everyone that came from Pinedale and/or Wyoming, including the infamous Moose Poop and moose magnets, etc. They were a hit and let the rest of the volunteers discover that Pinedale, Wyoming is indeed a special place -- which I already know.
This morning I went to the children's hospital, and it was quite a time. Christmas music played in the background as I fed one child that looked like he was about 9 months when he was actually about a year and 9 months. After he was set, I bottle fed a 4 month old. Then it was off to holding babies and playing with a few tiny ones while the nurses ran around getting things done. I picked up one very, very tiny baby girl and was utterly shocked when I discovered she had a severely misshapen head, like it had been put in a vise and squeezed. It's a birth defect and though she'll never be a so-called normal person, she was as sweet and appreciative as could be. It made me think that my next career should be working with a hospice or sick children, just trying to make them realize they are not alone and someone cares about how they feel. I loved it.
Marisa and I went up Table Mountain this afternoon, taking the cable car up and down. Because it IS Christmas and because we DID feel like it, we bought a bottle of champagne and two bags of chips to sit out on a picnic table and watch the fog roll in and out over the coastline of Cape Town and South Africa. It was pretty darn neat. We got a dissertation from our cab driver on the way back all about the country and what was good and bad about it. He was from District 6, which we hear about repeatedly. Apparently District 6 was a section of Cape Town that had a mixture of blacks, whites, East Indians, Malays, and so on that functioned very well and in considerable harmony, until the government moved every one out and tore it apart a few decades ago. People from there still very much lament its loss, sort of like how the US Urban Renewal program impacted communities in the 1950's. When neighborhoods are torn up, the former residents don't really ever quite recover from that loss. In the case of District 6, the neighbohood was torn up because the government wanted to have separation of races. There is talk now about rebuilding the district to bring back the former residents, but that discussion has been going on for 7-8 years. Who knows....................
I'm so sorry I haven't sent photos yet and promise to send some out after I return. I am normally using the house computer and it doesn't work to send photos out on that system. Just consider them to be dessert after all this verbage going on!
So tomorrow we do the wine tour in three towns since it is Boxing Day and a legal holiday, then Thursday and Friday it is back to the play school. Some kids will still be gone visiting families outside of the area, but we'll still have our hands full. Let's put it like this: I go to bed at night about 10-10:30, SO unlike me! ;-)
We have a good group of volunteers. As always group dynamics are, to say the least, interesting. But good hearted? Absolutely. Caring for those around them? Totally. So we all attempt to accommodate one another's eccentricities and enjoy the time. It'll be real interesting to see how 10 of us do in a van tomorrow, riding around for the wine tour.
I hear Jingle Bells playing on the radio in the other room, and look outside at a palm tree, dark purple flowers, and lush greenery. We're all a little confused about what time of year it truly is, but know in our hearts that it is indeed Christmas. We share it with all of you back home and send blessings of love and peace-filled days ahead.
Until later! Jo
Monday, December 24, 2007:
My buddy Amy lent me her laptop so I can sit in my room and type. Ahhhhh! Privacy and time to type! :-)
We aren't sure what the kids were on today, but they were pretty AWFUL. I can't really even blame it much of Christmas! The same with the orphans at another Placement. One little guy had a pair of scissors and nearly cut off my friend's pony tail. Oh, that would have been BAD.
Some random thoughts for you this Christmas Eve Day. One of the guides at the animal reserve we went to got to talking with me and told me that mothers on the US want the best for their children, and mothers in Africa want the best for their children as well. He referred to the need to 'meet the people', a refrain I have heard the last two times I've been to Africa. In other words, don't just come to look at the animals. Come and meet the people. It's good advice, no matter where we travel. It isn't just about the scenery; it's about the people, too.
The Cape of Good Hope is not actually where the Indian and Atlantic Oceans meet -- that is further to the east. Cape Point (found at the very end of the Cape of Good Hope) does mark the southwestern most tip of Africa. The Cape Point area was originally in the hands of two farmers, at least one of whom left in the 90's when apartheid was lifted. It was actually to the good of the country that he left, though; they received the land and put it into the Table Mountain National Park for all of us to enjoy!
Stellenbosch is one of the towns in the wine country region. It has a university there and a strong reputation for maintaining the Afrikaneer language. It is also the place where apartheid was born. Very historic and pronounced Dutch influence in its white buildings and narrow streets. On our way into that town, I saw a winery dating to 1688, to give you a little perspective!
We're doing Christmas dinner today for volunteers and the staff that wishes to stick around. I joined in and the head cook stuck me in an apron and hair net. None of the youngsters here remembered, but all I could think of was Ruth Buzie from Laugh-In, when she played the little old lady who always hit the old man with her purse! I looked just like her! Anyhow, we have two turkeys cooking and another one set to go into the over afterwards. I did the stuffing with help from two other volunteers, and we're waiting now to turn on the potatoes for mashed potatoes, steam the broccoli, make apple crisp, and open the cans of fruit and cranberry sauce. There is talk of a few bottles of wine hidden away to quietly have it to celebrate Christmas in this non-alcohol house. NOT that we are all alcoholic, mind you, but it would be nice to hoist a toast to Christmas.
Motown music is playing in the kitchen, thanks to our youngest volunteer, 18 year old Alex (WI). My group could not be more diverse if it tried. After Week One we've sorted out who is a type AAAA and who is a calm personality. We're beginning to laugh at one another's foibles which beats being irritated by them. I've got the massively chatty room mate that asks 7 billion questions per minute without waiting on too many answers. She had most people running away from for the first few days. However, we've come to accept her in her nuttiness because everyone here is basically trying to do good things. Right now there are 14 volunteers in the house and after next weekend it will be down to 9. The good thing is we split up into four groups during the week for Placement; otherwise I'm sure that someone would be clobbered before the end. Tomorrow I plan to spend a few days at Sarah Fox, the children's hospital, to hold babies for a few hours. Then in the afternoon most of the volunteers (including me) will head to the beach for a bree, which is a barbeque. Quite the way to spend Christmas, eh?!
It poured this morning with lots of lightening bolts -- the wind was wild, always rivalling Casper! Now it is still windy but the sun has popped out for a while.
Well, I better go peak at those turkeys just to make sure something is happening. Thank God for the little pop-up on it so we'll know when it's done! The stove is in celcius and most of us are clueless about it. Wishing you and yours a Merry Christmas! All the best
I forgot to tell you: I 'stuffed' the paper bag stockings for the kids today with every and anything we could find here at the house , which included (get ready) stickers that said Trick or Treat and BOO. What can I say.............. Love, Jo
Joanne Garnett in South Africa: December 19-23, 2007
Joanne Garnett in Cape Town, South Africa, December 19, 2007