Thursday, 16 May 2013

Goodbye Mr Dlamini

So we stayed our final night in Mr Dlamini's house. And what better way to spend it than to watch a Kaiser Chiefs match and have a few beers together over dinner - especially after a more than necessarily stressful trip to the Spar. 

Sarah cooked chicken and I threw some vegetables and tins together. I had grand plans of making something completely different however after 10 minutes I realised everything was going to taste exactly the same as everything we've eaten so far. So, emancipated by my realisation, I threw together all the things that had been used before - chakalaka, baked beans, mixed beans, peas, tomatoes, onions and peppers. 

After dinner Mr Dlamini came to speak to us. He seemed pleased with how the day had gone and asked us about how we thought it had gone. He asked us lots of questions about schools back home and seemed surprised that children didn't immediately stand up when teachers enter the room, that we didn't have prayers before class or that we couldn't carry a stick around. It is so different here but as he asked us more questions it was sometimes difficult to answer - why don't people in England believe in God? Why is divorce so high? Why don't we sing and dance at will? 

He's clearly very proud of his school. He started working a factory when he left school before moving to Johannesburg to work as an office clerk. He said he didn't learn English at school but picked it up 'on the street'. Remarkable considering his grasp and ability to chat to us all. If only we'd been as good with Zulu.........

You can also tell how much he cares about the children and wants us to understand how difficult life can be for them. He talked openly about how HIV and Aids have affected his teaching staff and both diseases are high in the teaching profession. Shockingly he said over a quarter of the children we'd been working with are HIV positive and many have lost one or both parents to the disease. I think deep down we all knew but we hadn't really discussed the facts yet. 

We've been really honoured to stay here and it's been so wonderful to truly experience what living here is like - even if it is only for a short while. For the students it's been important to appreciate the value of things we take for granted - food, water, space, comfort. Some students have adapted more easily than others but we've all made compromises from our everyday lives. 

Creature comforts have crept in - showers are a daily conversation starter, cups of tea, toilet paper, cadbury's chocolate, KFC - but to students who have never experienced this type of life before we've done pretty well. Much like Mr Dlamini doesn't have anything to compare London to and finds it hard to visualise, so do we find it hard to truly appreciate the bigger struggles these people face. But staying here has been a good start. 

No comments:

Post a Comment