Visit of Rheenendal school, braai with the whole Homtini team, meeting with the girls of the Future You project… the last days were particularly rich in sharing moments, that helped discover and understand better the South African culture.
I went with the Esthers one morning at Rheenendal school (in the farm’s neighbor township). They hold a class there several times per weeks, just for the FASD children – Fœtal Alcohol Syndrome Disease -. The children always start all together in the school courtyard to sing and pray together, before going to their own class.
Just on that day, they sang a song dedicated to the Esthers, which they did not expect at all… let’s just say that it was very touching for them! Once the songs were finished, a lot of children came around me, wanting to touch me, hug me… emotion for me too!
I then came with the Esthers to their class with the ten children they have in charge. The rest of the time they are in “normal” classes and their teachers can’t take really take care of them. They unfortunately end up fired of the school, vowed to wander in the streets, because they are troublemakers…
I had never seen children suffering from this syndrome and I admire the Esthers’ patience, especially with the language barrier which makes their work even more complex (even though Dutch and Afrikaans are quite close and let them exchange a minimum). They only have a concentration capacity of a few minutes and are really difficult to handle, even in small group, which is even sadder when you know they will never be cured.
Seeing these children troubles and the lack of means and adapted facilities reinforce even more my support for the Esthers’ project, Racing for Rheenendal. They leave on the 25th October from Port Elizabeth up to Mossel Bay, with a 496-km ride (mainly going up and down) planned. Their goal is to raise funds and draw attention on this major problem – knowing that a lot of pregnant women drink without being aware of the consequences for their future child ; and others very poor drink to receive some allocations from the government to raise their child -. We will go to encourage them next weekend in Plettenberg with Solène.
The “braai” tradition
South Africa is a meat-lover country, where the braai – barbecue – is essential in their culture. The South Africans gather very regularly around free big collective barbecues displaced everywhere. I had not had the occasion to experience it at the farm yet, as we mainly eat vegetarian food and Jeremy and Margreta are not especially keen on the braai!
However we have suggested with Solène to organize a meal with all the farm staff and the volunteers, so that we could get know each other better and that they become less shy with us (it is still new for them to see volunteers at the farm and the historical background makes the exchanges still difficult between the colored people and white people).
After taking some pictures of the new calf of the farm, we spent our whole Friday in the kitchen with Franziska to cook big salads and deserts (we are both vegetarians so don’t expect us to prepare the meat!). The dinner was very pleasant even if it was not that easy to mix between each other… it will still need time before the staff team becomes talkative with the volunteers!
The “Future You” project
Another project led at the farm for the local community is called Future You and is intended for teenage girls around 15/16 years old. They were gathered for the first time last year so to talk during one morning about periods, sexuality, contraception, etc.…
We have invited ten of them last Saturday at the farm to exchange about their feeling following to this first meeting, if they had other questions / problems since then… it was also a very enriching experience for Solène and me. We had to answer to a lot questions about love, first sexual intercourse, menstrual cycle… topics and worries from a period that don’t seem that far away for us!
It was not always easy to find the right words to answer, especially as we are far from knowing enough about the South African culture and to have all the keys, but it was still nice to share this time with the girls. We also asked them to write their questions and put them in a box so that they feel less sky than at speaking. We felt a bit like “Love doctors” given the tons of the questions and subjects that were raised, but we did our best and we will give them our replies so that they all benefit from them.
The objective would now be to gather them once a month so that they can share together, confide and be assisted, while continuing with a new group of girls soon.
And another braai more
Last Saturday, we have prepared a surprise with the Esthers for Solène’s birthday (which was on Sunday) by taking her to Samantha’s cousin (Samantha is one the receptionists at Homtini), not far from the farm, for a surprise braai. She thought she would have a very plain birthday this year as nobody would know about it but she was wrong!
We spent a very nice evening around the fire (my freshly washed jacket still remembers it with the strong smell!), welcomed like princesses by our hosts. It was simple but so generous and sincere that we were really touched. Some music played at the end really made me want to dance but it was already time to go home… I hope I will have other occasions soon!
Getaway in Wilderness
Last Sunday, after sharing all together an excellent birthday cake prepared by Margreta for Solène, we went with her, Peter and Franziska to explore Wilderness, located west from Knysna.
We have now really understood why the 4×4 and and other pick-ups are necessary in South Africa as we took dirt roads – roads of sand that are actually present everywhere in the country-. After this beautiful ride in the mountains, we reached Wilderness, a small town close to the Ocean.
After a long walk on the beach and a nice lunch, we then went hiking in a natural reserve, between lakes, rivers, rocks, indigenous forest and cliffs… another nice discovery.
Already more than three weeks that I am here, which is half of my experience at Homtini… time flies!