Volunteering in South Africa Day 1: Meeting the Children
August 10, 2014
Volunteering In South Africa Day 2: Teaching & Learning
January 20, 2015
Tuesday morning in Muizenberg, South Africa was even colder than Monday since the icy rain drizzle was still lingering from the downpour the night before. They really weren’t joking when they said bring things to layer. I put on a pair of leggings, skinny jeans, fuzzy socks, my new gangsta boots I bought for $20 down the street because I was so cold, a knitted head warming thing, a tank top, a long sleeved shirt, zip-up hoodie, and a loose black wool sweater – both for warmth and because I learned the day before that if the kids can see the outline of your phone in your pocket, they will beg you to take pictures, and they are pretty much impossible to say no to.
After getting ready, my GBF and I got to work making as many peanut butter and jelly sandwiches as we could to take to school for the kids after realizing the day before that the majority of them don't have lunches. It was pretty hilarious watching him do it since he had never made a school lunch before in his life. We used up all the bread when I realized I had forgotten to make our own lunches, but as luck would have it, one of the (really cute) volunteer guys I nicknamed Mr. TDH (tall dark and handsome) had just set a pot of water on the stove to boil some eggs and offered to make me some. Since he's in the surf program, they don't have to start their programs until later in the afternoon, so he had time to slowly boil eggs.
"Karl's here!" Someone yelled from an unknown location (Read previous blog about Day 1 if you don't know who Karl is). How on Earth do they know? I wondered yet again. I shoved the sandwiches into my GBF's backpack and turned to bat an eye at Mr. TDH, "I'll save you some", he said with a smile. I skipped out the door like a little schoolgirl, giddy about my TDH eggs, pumped for the Karl jam sesh, and excited to see the kids.
Since it was a Tuesday, we helped out and taught in the classrooms instead of the private tutoring sessions. I know have a HUGE appreciation for elementary school teachers - not only because they hold the opportunity to teach a child and help him succeed…but because they have to single handedly handle what is the equivalent to a mini zombie apocalypse on Redbull everyday. And not the sugar free kind.
I also appreciated how much they appreciated us. One teacher that particularly moved me was Sandi (we’re friends on Facebook.), who has so much love for not just the kids and the volunteers, but for the actual ability to teach and make a difference in the kids’ lives as well. After seeing how grateful she was for the 50-pound bag of school supplies I brought over from the States, I was inspired to send over more items as soon as I got back to LA (AKA if you’re reading this and want to get involved, let me know).
We went to the first grade classroom first where the tiniest humans I’ve ever seen were practicing their ABC’s and spelling. I felt like Alice in Wonderland when she eats the wrong mushroom and gets stuck in the house sitting in their mini chairs at their mini tables, but they absolutely love when you sit with them. I gave the three at my table their assignment – a connect the ABC-dots puzzle that made a frog on one side and a cat on the other.
It might sound boring to talk about teaching, but I learned so much from those little guys, just by guiding them through the alphabet, and praising them for their coloring skills. I learned that all of them have very different personalities, but one common trait – they all love to feel loved and encouraged.
The little boy in front of me had a huge personality – he would demand that I not look at what he was coloring and then ‘surprise me’ with his colorful creations. After he was finished he asked if I’d draw boots on the cat like Puss in Boots, and immediately colored them in after I made him copy the letters to spell ‘Puss in Boots’ after I wrote them. Clearly he is going to be an artist.
Romeo, the little boy next to him was very smart, and more interested in completing things the correct way. He had finished the alphabet puzzle first and colored the pictures proportionally, finishing both sides before anyone else. He asked me to write the words ‘Frog’ and ‘Cat’ so that he could copy them and learn to spell them on his own, and then wanted to know how to spell myname. Both of their “rewards” were getting their picture taken on my phone and then getting to look at them.
The next class that we went to was second grade AKA way more rambunctious, strong, and vocal than the little angels next door. They were already out of control when we entered the room when their teacher yelled, “If you don’t stop it right now, you don’t get to spend time with the teachers!” They all immediately tumbled into their chairs and fell silent except for their giggling, “Now what do you say?” She continued.
“Good morning teachers!” They all said in unison. It hadn’t occurred to me that they really did think of us as their teachers until then. After explaining to them that we would be making Women’s Day cards for the holiday that Saturday, we handed out colored paper and markers. If you’ve ever thought handing out markers to second graders would be an easy task, you should definitely try it one day.
“Teacha! You sit here!” A little boy that looked more like a little man ordered, pushing the chair out that was next to him and tapping the desk like he was the teacher and I was the student. “What is your name?” He asked.
“Alyssa, what’s your name?” I replied with my normal slow annunciation. “Alisha. Alisha. I like you Alisha”, he chanted. “My name is Shelton.” He said matter-of-factly. Shelton was not only the troublemaker of the class, but a mini-Tupac who knew the words to a lot of songs he should notbe singing. All of the words.
I played Shelton-wrangler and marker-guard while they colored, but then made the mistake of doing something special for one of them. “Teacha! Teacha! Can you write right here, ‘Nicky’?” Shelton asked, smacking me with one hand while pointing the other to his card. “Sure, who’s Nicky?” I asked. “She is my mom.” He said, as if I should have known. I then had to write six more mothers’ names, which I didn’t mind at all, but then GBF made an even bigger mistake.
“Look! Look! He drew me a buttafly!” A little boy announced, waving the simple little drawing of a butterfly in my face. For what seemed like the next hour I was swarmed by waving colored papers, markers being shoved into and out of my hands, and non-stop demands for butterflies and flowers. Ok, so I wasn’t technically teaching them anything with that project, but I was still happy to help show them how to draw. Besides Shelton. Shelton told me, “I do not like your buttaflies”, because I didn’t draw his fifth one before all of the other kids waiting in line.
“Well then you don’t get a butterfly.” I teased back, knowing he’d take me seriously. “Ok! Ok! I like your buttaflies, now draw one for me here please!” I took his paper and quickly drew him yet another butterfly, which prompted a smaller little boy to somehow manage to crawl in between mine and Shelton’s chairs, and then eventually on my lap. I then had to attempt drawing around the kid on my lap, with my arms being tugged and tapped in every direction, and at one point, with a child on my back.
“Friday night and I just got paid,” Shelton started to rap again. “Shelton, don’t sing that, it’s bad.” I said, as if he’d actually listen. “You don’t like it, you talk to my lawyer.” He said, grabbing another handful of markers. “You don’t have a lawyer.” I said, trying not to laugh. “Yes, my lawyer has all the money.” He said matter-of-factly. “Shelton, the point of having a lawyer is to get youmoney.” I couldn’t help but laugh at the mini-adult. “You talk to my lawyer because I do not like you or your buttaflies.” He said, getting up and sticking his nose in the air. “Fine, then I don’t like you either,” I teased, sliding the kid on my lap into Shelton’s chair. “No! No! Ok! I like you!” He shouted, shoving the poor little kid off his seat and back onto my lap.
“Finish your card then.” I ordered, setting his second piece of paper in front of him. I looked up in time to see the beautiful little “colored” girl (they refer to tan or mixed colored skin as “colored”) with the same light golden brown colored hair as her skin that was pulled back in a messy, curly ponytail, coloring the tips of her fingers.
“Hey! Don’t do that!” I said in the most non-authoritative voice ever. She just looked up with her warm honey-hazel eyes and giggled, holding her fingers up for me to see. “Like you!” She chirped pointing to my nails. Great, now I’m a bad role model. I thought, giving up that battle immediately.
When the bell finally rang for interval, all of the kids gathered their things and ran outside. Except for my table. My table of kids didn’t even glance at the door, instead they either continued to color, or continued to wave their cards around for me to look at and take pictures of. I glanced at the door to see if my GBF was waiting for me, only to find him standing there with one kid on his back and one in his arms, looking like he had no idea what to do about being made into a tree, but not at all mad about it.
When my table finally decided they wanted to go outside, they dragged me out like a tornado (they’re seriously stronger than they look), latching on to my arms and waist and pretty much carrying me outside.
Since it had gotten colder and was still drizzling, I spent most of the interval yanking jacket hoods on, preventing puddle fights, and keeping hands warm, although most of the time it was the kids folding back my sweater sleeves so that they could hold my freezing hands. They were very generous and mindful in that way. Even if their own hair or clothing was messed up, if my sweater was twisted or dirty in the slightest bit, they would immediately pull it down or brush it off as if they were carefully dressing their favorite doll.
One of the tiniest kids, Chloe, who looked like a little tanned China doll came right up to me and immediately felt at my wrists. She pulled one sleeve up and saw my crappy digital watch, then the other and found what she was looking for – my sparkling Evil Eye bracelets that I picked up on my layover in Dubai.
She didn’t ask for one, not that she needed to, I stood no chance against that adorable little face, she just took it off and tried to figure out how to double loop it around her frail wrist. I quickly took it from her before she cut off her circulation and tied it on her then pulled her sweater sleeve over it so no one could see it. I had a feeling she had quite the collection of bracelets at home.
Once again the bell rang and I was pulled in every direction, “Come to class with me!” “No come to my class!” They all shouted. But since it was time for their classes that were taught inAfrikaans, we weren’t able to help out, so I walked them all to their classrooms and hugged them goodbye for the day.