Day Trip with a Picnic of Dreams

As part of my volunteering experience, the charity I am away with pay for one trip each month. So on Saturday we went to Mhlontlo Nature Reserve to see the Tsitsa Falls. We met up with the other team who are working in a place called Tsolo doing the same thing as us here in Qumbu who we haven’t seen for three weeks. It was a VERY VERY exciting day for everyone.

It was a beautiful place. Beside the waterfall there was little cabins which you can rent out for R500 per night… I was very tempted. One of the most exciting parts about the entire trip was the toilets. They had proper toilets with flushes and taps to clean your hands. It felt like five star luxury.

A couple of the girls and I who have been named The Journal Club literally for the fact we all wrote in our journals every night together at training, pre-planned a picnic where we all brought something and shared it. It was LUSH. Because it’s towards the end of the month and we haven’t been to supermarkets very frequently we have all been a bit consistently hungry for the last while. So when we saw the feast that was about to happen it was like we had never seen food. The four of us devoured the picnic which consisted of two tubs of pasta, three tubs of fruit salad, six slices of banana bread, four large packets of crisps, two packets of biscuits, two packets of sweets, a large bottle of apple juice and cartons of coconut and pear juice. It was such a great treat that we really needed and for the first time in a while I felt full and satisfied after eating.

We spent the entire day just mingling, chatting, catching up, playing games, taking pictures, laughing and eating. It was such a wonderful day and The Journal Club gals were reunited for the first time in what felt like forever. I’m so so lucky to have found these girls who are 100% going to be friends for life. The countdown is on until next weekend where I get to see them again at top up training and we have already started planning for all the shenanigans that are going to happen once we get home.

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First impressions

I’ve been in South Africa for three whole weeks (and a bit) now so I thought to kick start the SA blog series off I would focus on the good, the bad and the ugly, by ugly I mean the things I’m missing back home.

How did I end up in South Africa?

Well, it started a year ago when I applied for ICS (international citizenship service). The scheme seemed interesting with various charity all working with the ICS programme. After filling in a couple of forms I then had to rank each charity from my top preference to my bottom. I was invited to a selection day in London with Restless Development (my first choice) which was a day of interviews, presentations and scenario based activities. Luckily I found out a few weeks later that I had been accepted onto the programme. After what seemed like forever I then found out the location I would be working in. I chose Restless Development as they were working on projects which I found most interesting – sexual health, gender based violence, livelihoods and life skills.

The Good

Where do I even begin? Everything I love here takes me back to basics. The smallest things make me incredibly happy and excited, for example finding chocolate spread in a shop made it feel like Christmas had come early. I love waking up naturally at 6:30am every morning (can’t even believe I’m writing that) to the sounds of the chickens cooking outside, it’s like the worlds best alarm clock. Getting up and going outside to eat breakfast in the company of the family’s dog (who had no name but I call him Snoopy) in the sun is one of my highlights. He is really affectionate to me now because I feel him everyday some of my leftover food, a bad habit to get into but one I can’t help. Even bathing in a tub, washing my clothes by hand and having to boil water for drinking are all things which I have adapted to quickly and enjoy. I think it’s because all of these activities mean you are focussed on one thing only for a while so your mind isn’t thinking about a thousand things a minute, it’s pretty calming. I like seeing my friends everyday without fail and having conversations which never get dull or never dry out because there always seems to be so much to discuss. I love going to one of my friends houses and seeing her dog Danger who is a guard dog but has become such a softy as us British girls pamper him to the max. I like having just enough food to eat without having excess. I love the yoga sessions which happen in the mornings or evenings which the kids join in with and love. I love how I loose track of the days and the time because everything here is much more chill than back home, lateness is not rude it is accepted. If something is meant to start at 11am it won’t actually start until an hour or so later. I love eating vegetables fresh from the garden to add to my meals. I LOVE LOVE LOVE how the animals are able to roam around free here without a care in the world and how they always find their way back home at sunset.

The Bad

To be honest there’s nothing major that I dislike. I don’t like how dogs are treated as animals rather than pets, however that’s something that I just need to accept. I don’t like the waste management or lack of. In the town of Qumbu (my nearest town) piles of rubbish litter the street and it’s disgusting. Bins are very few and even then people tend to just litter. In the communities it’s less of an issue as the rubbish is just burnt in the garden. We are hopefully (fingers all crossed) going to be working with a guy who is interested in turning rubbish into biofuel potentially tackling some of the waste management issues, however this is a project that is volunteers can start tackling but will need to make sure it is going to be sustainable for when we leave.

The ugly (or things I miss about home)

Again not much. Mainly out of sheer laziness I miss a washing machine, shower, microwave, toaster and all those things. My biggest thing however is probably running water in the house and flushing toilets. I often feel like I’m not maintaining hand washing practices as well as back home but it’s difficult to continually be washing hands when running water is just not a thing.

All in all I’m having an amazing experience and feel so happy to be part of a wonderful team with so many interesting projects on the go.