Returning to ‘Normal’

I have been back in the U.K for over a week now and it’s been wonderful!

The last few weeks at Clouds of Hope were lovely and I am so glad that I got to finish with happy memories. On my last week in Underberg Jess, Iona and I went to a Passover meal which was so much fun! I got to meet a lot of new people (ironically two days before I left) and Jess and I took the opportunity to get up and dance in front of everyone!

I then had the task of getting to the airport and dealing with planes and transfers… I thought it was going to be a lot more daunting then it was. On my first flight I sat beside a very chatting Canadian man and we debated Scottish independence, this was about 10 o’Clock at night. Then my second flight was a lot quieter. As soon as I get through customs at Heathrow I went straight to WHSmiths! I have noticed I missed a lot of little things which I didn’t even think about. Such as the £ sign on a keyboard.

Since I’ve been back I have seen majority of my family in Scotland, been through to Edinburgh for a flat party, seen a few of my friends, spent a lot of time with Sean, cooked for my family on multiple occasions, cleaned the whole house and started doing all the washing and walked my dog A LOT!

On my return my dog who I have had for nearly 8 years had absolutely no recollection of me! I still don’t think she remembers me as her owner, just the person who arrived and stayed last week. It has been wonderful to be home and being helpful.

Today I got to Skype Jess who is still at the Underberg Hostel and I got to hear all about her holiday etc. It’s sad that I don’t see her as much but I will definitely put in the effort to keep in contact with her!

It has been strange coming back to what used to be normal and feeling slightly out of place but I will get back to normal soon.Back with my family!

Last Blog In South Africa!

Okay, Ladies and Gents. This will be my last blog post from South Africa. For this very special occasion I have found a computer! You will hopefully have the most legible, grammatically correct post so far.

As you can tell, I have not been here for 12 months so you maybe wondering why I am going home. Well, after thinking about it for a long time and discussing it with my Desk Officer, the decision has been made that it will be more beneficial for me to now return home, get back into life in Scotland and prepare for university. Clouds of Hope is an amazing place and a perfect project if you are able to handle Richenau (which my partner Anna is thriving at) but it was never intended to be a social care project. I requested the change from Richenau Primary School at the beginning of the gap year because it was not something I could handle/expected to be doing. I felt this was the right decision for me then and I still do now. I then began working full time at Clouds of Hope as I had requested. It was very kind of my host to allow me to make this change since he had expected me to be working at Richenau during my year. At this point (mid-September 2013) there were 9 children who stayed at Clouds of Hope during the day whilst all of the other children went to their various schools. Since there were 12 house mums and 9 children I wasn’t required to help in the cottages however I helped a lot with caring for the twins, Bayanda and Bandile, who lived in Cottage 11 with Anna and I. Because of this I decided to begin a ‘Baby Playgroup’ and I also took over the ‘Older Playgroup’. In the late afternoons Anna and I also did homework with three girls who went the Underberg Primary School. With 9 children in ‘Baby Playgroup’ and at least 16 in ‘Older Playgroup’ this kept me fairly busy. Even though I labelled the new playgroup as ‘Baby’ there were still children who were approximately 3/4 years old who could partake in activities that I arranged. This was also the time that I began working at the creche where there were a ‘Mum’, an ‘Auntie’ and me looking after approximately 45 children at a time. My job here was to feed and teach the children basic English. I was kept very busy at this time.

After our amazing Christmas holiday things became a lot quieter since my ‘Baby Playgroup’ went from 9 children to 5 children (all of whom were between 1-2 years old) and my ‘Older Playgroup’ went from approx. 16 to 7. This was due to children moving up to pre-school and Grade 1. The girls that we did homework with no longer needed our assistance due to moving schools so I began working one on one with a Boy called Mlo.  The creche numbers also depleted to between 20-25 at a time. I was needed to recreate the Library/Education Centre at Clouds therefore I didn’t work with the children as much/if at all until 2 pm when the Older Playgroup began. Because the the Baby Playgroup was now very much just babies/toddlers it didn’t last as long (no matter how hard I tried) because all the children would fall asleep after about 2 hours. This left me from 11 am – 2 pm of not really having a set purpose. When the Library still required my help I could fill my time very easily but once that was complete (at last) there wasn’t really a role for me at Clouds. This allowed me a lot of time to think and reflect on home therefore made my homesickness a lot worse.

After discussion with my desk officer we agreed that my time at Clouds seemed to have come to a natural end and it would be more beneficial for me to return home and begin preparations for university and generally get back in to home life.

I will absolutely never blame Clouds of Hope or the people there for the reason that I am leaving early. Even though it is hard to admit it, I am leaving due to homesickness. I cannot deny it. The fact that the homesickness may have been held off for longer if I were more busy is no ones fault. Clouds of Hope did everything they could for me in my situation and have been very supportive in the decisions and actions that I have taken. Even though towards the last few months my work load was lighter and I was more homesick I never stopped learning and developing.

Even though I am absolutely set on going home and know it’s right for me, it won’t stop me being sad to leave Clouds of Hope. The children have become my family and it is like having 12 mums with me at all times. I have gained so many friends.

So now I have explained what decision making has gone on in my life and why I will now explain my last few weeks at Clouds, since my last blog post.

So, the past few weeks have been filled with excitement as the end of term approached for the children. As we wrapped up the week Anna departed on her holiday which she thoroughly needed and deserves! This has left me alone in the cottage which has been a strange experience. I have learnt to man up about sleeping in a room alone as well as ‘enjoying’ my own company.

However during the day I have not had much time to ‘enjoy’ my own company (thank goodness, I’m not that fun.) This is because I have been the main entertainer of the 65 children at Clouds of Hope. We have been more then busy in just the past two days. Yesterday and today we went swimming and filled all the other time in the day by playing games. The children drew lots of pictures for me today and yesterday the older girls taught me how to Zulu Dance. This is definitely not my forte but I am very glad that I plucked up the courage and tried it!

This morning I was also trying to develop my Zulu language skills however 7 years old that speaking at me and not explaining what they are saying really isn’t the best teaching method. But hey, they tried!

I still have three days left of my week caring for the children and I think it will fly by now. Tomorrow we are going on a picnic with the under 12 year olds. I have managed to rope Iona, a volunteer up at Underberg Primary School, into coming along. On Thursday I will be doing a picnic with the over 12 year olds which Iona AND Jess will be coming to. Then finally for my last day with the children at Clouds I will be doing a movie day and painting the nails of anyone who wants it done, I won’t just restrict it to girls!!!

So that’s my evaluation of what’s happening in life and my mind over the past few weeks. Even though the count down is in full swing for my return home I am making sure that I throw myself into my last month and at every opportunity that comes my way!

P.S- I went to see Sister Abigail who created Clouds (FANTASTIC WOMAN!)

P.P.S- I also working for half a day at UPS with the vols there seeing how they live- I’m more then jealous of the food they eat!

Reflection

I have been here for nearly seven months now and sometimes I get so caught up in the work I am doing at the time that I never really take the chance to appreciate they experience that I have had so far. This morning I started off thinking that I haven’t done much with my time here but then I made a list of all the significant things that I have done in my time here and it amazed me how much more I have done then what it feels like!

Here is a list of all the significant things that I have done and experienced in my time in South Africa:

1) Left my friends and family

2) Met so many amazingly interesting and fun people

3) Became a sister and a friend to the 65 Clouds of Hope children

4) Tried working at a local free primary school

5) Worked through homesickness

6) Gained enough confidence to make the project my own

7) Started up a ‘baby playgroup’ at Clouds for the toddlers and babies during the day

8) Took over and developed the playgroup for the children after Pre-Primary

9) Started work in the Low Cost at the creche

10) Got to know local members of the community

11) Bonded with the older girls of Clouds when we went on a three day hiking expedition!

12) Celebrated my first birthday away from home

13) Celebrated said birthday in Durban!

14) Learned to live independently

15) Learned about budgeting

16) Organised and rehearsed a Christmas Play with the children at Clouds

17) Travelled for over 23 hours to get the Cape Town!

18) Got to know my fellow volunteers better

19) Spent my first Christmas away from home

20) Spent said Christmas in a cave on Devils Peak!

21) Went on my first wine tour

22) Spent my first New Years Eve away from Scotland

23) Celebrated it on Long Street and joined in singing Auld Lang Syne at midnight on a balcony looking down onto Long Street!

24) Travelled over 23 hours back to Underberg!

25) Travelled to Durban by myself

26) Got to show my boyfriend my South African life

27) Catalogued the entire Clouds of Hope library (twice) and alphabetised it

28) Saw the twins stand, walk and speak for the first time

29) Said goodbye to Katie Turner (one of my best Underberg friends) and now see her be happy in Cape Town

30) Returned to the Creche and saw that the children still remembered what I have taught them!

That is the Top 30 things that have been so significant in my gap year! As life here became ‘normal’ I gradually remembered less and less of what has happened to me and how I have changed over the past 7 months. I think it is important that I take these oppurtunies to stop and reflect on the life changing experience that I am having and to not forget the amazing things that I have experienced!