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Archive for February, 2013

Purple breasted roller

Purple breasted roller

Sometimes I get to experience a day so wonderful that I feel I might spontaneously combust with the type of joy that makes my body TING from the roots of my hair to the tips of my raspberry painted toenails. February 1st was one of those days; when living in South Africa just makes sense, and the idea of being anywhere else, doesn’t.

My day started off with a visit to the local high school which my non-profit, I Learn to Live, works in. We met with the life orientation teachers to discuss the programme we are implementing this year. Our programme is essentially about teaching high school kids in rural areas that they are valuable, that they are unique, and that they have a destiny. Our intention is to create a new culture in the school; one of working hard, putting your head down, and focusing on the task at hand (learning) in order to construct a better and more productive future. I have to be honest and tell you that it is hard work.

Not only are we working against a culture of apathy and disinterest in the learners, but also the very same culture within the teaching cohort. I can assure you that the two LO teachers were not exactly thrilled to see us. However, we persevered and brought out the teaching material we have the great privilege of using this year. Quite simply, it is awesome. The facilitator manuals are weighty and substantial and each learner gets a book with work sheets to do in class. The material constantly reiterates how valuable these kids are, and how much they have a part to play in ensuring that they can have a different future; one which does not have to be a mirror image of the life their parents/caregivers have led.

We handed over the material to the teachers to have a look through and as they flipped the pages, it was as if a tiny spark lit up from within and their demeanour became ever so slightly enthusiastic. They liked what they saw, and they wanted to incorporate it into their classes. This is important to us because if we don’t have the buy in from the teachers, they aren’t going to encourage the learners to grab hold of the wonderful opportunity they are being presented with. We left that meeting with the hope that as the teachers read through the material, they too will be encouraged to see value in themselves and their role as teachers in a rural school in South Africa. We know the task ahead is daunting; we don’t see this as a short term project but rather as a long term commitment. Changing learnt behaviour is incredibly difficult and we know that it might only be in 5 years time that we see significant change. But we are committed and we are excited to be part of changing a small part of the social fabric of South Africa.

The night before, Empangeni experienced one of those awe-inspiring storms that flood your home, damage your car and litter the road with strange artefacts. As we headed up to Hluhluwe, the rain continued to fall in torrents, and we weren’t holding out much hope for our weekend at the game farm. However, by the time we arrived, the sun had emerged and flooded the veld in the soft magical light found just before twilight. We headed off in the jeep out into the veld to see what we could find, and our first sighting was a male cheetah; fat and lethargic, resting in the open space of the airstrip. Just up the road we came across a large nursery herd of delicate impala, posturing male nyala, and five small wildebeest chasing each other in the open veld as their mothers ran rings around them. There was such life in that small patch of land. I was reminded of August last year when the earth was dry and dusty and the animals were skin and bone. I remember feeling like we would never see the rain again or that a shoot of tasty green grass may never pass the lips of an impala. And I thought of the seasons in our life and how change is always around the corner, waiting for us.

Baby impala

Nursery herd of impala

Eagle in flight

Eagle in flight

On the wind came the sound of reed frogs chirping, so we followed the calls until we came across a small pond and were deafened by the chorus of frogs in the fading light. Never before have I heard such a concentration of frogs serenading. The air pulsed with energy and we felt almost hypnotised as they sang in unison (click to hear sound – takes you to another website which is also mine). As we headed back past the airstrip we saw the cheetah dragging the very mangled body of an impala out into the open space. We went in for a closer look and realised he’d been feasting all day on that carcass and the whoop whoop of the hyena told us they were already encroaching on his territory. We ended the day watching him eat the last of his impala under a yellow fever tree, a double rainbow arcing across the sky. That night we stood out in the open veld, heads lifted to stare into the cavernous depths of the sky studded with millions of stars. I glimpsed a shooting star track its way across the sky and knew that it was just one of those near perfect days in South Africa.

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