Saturday, October 6, 2007

health, heritage, and the great in-between

Where to begin?

I’d begin at the beginning, except there isn’t one. And as far as I can see, there’s also no end. Life really is about being between the trapezes, isn’t it?

In my last post, I said there’d be more to follow on Kirstenbosch, but so much has happened since that I can hardly bear to go back and tell the whole “Story of Our Field Trip.” So I won’t. However, I do want to mention a few things. Namely, that in addition to leaving the park without any broken bones or major injuries, a second miracle occurred: I didn’t pull my hair out. Not even after Sinothando threw her chip bag in a pond and laughed as she watched it float towards a family of ducks, while Sihle ran to the other side of the pond and began dumping her juice into the water. To have all my hair after that and to have stayed calm? Miraculous. (Well, anyway, I stayed calm-ish....)

And then of course there were the flowers, which were absolutely gorgeous. The kids counted the petals and named the colors as we went along. But forget flowers – it was actually the automatic hand dryers in the bathroom that took center stage. My group must’ve spent thirty minutes by the toilets, washing their hands multiple times, just so they could dry them. We have been working on hand-washing at school, so it was still educational. (Well, anyway, it was educational-ish. And as far as I’m concerned, “ish” is enough.)

Anyway, since Kirstenbosch, we’ve done LOTS. The week following, we made flower projects connecting the theme “What I Saw at Kirstenbosch” to our new focus: “We Are Growing!” The projects turned out very sweet and highly original. There were paper circles the children were supposed to glue in the center of the petals on their flowers, but many of circles ended up at the bottom of the stems – as bulbs! I guess you stick to what you know, eh? (And bulbous plants happen to be one of the four major groups of flora and fauna here in SA.) I’ll post pics of the projects once I’ve got them properly displayed.

Later in the week, we also made a class growth chart. This was partly in preparation for a visit from Shelli Marx, a local woman studying to be a dietician. As part of her internship at a nearby clinic, she asked to weigh and measure all the kids to assure they are growing properly. I’m pleased to report that, for the most part, our children are growing well – and I'd think the meals provided by Angels and Starfish each day certainly help. Ms. Marx will be back next week to do some de-worming. (Gross, maybe, but as the township lacks any proper sewage/sanitation system, worms are a big problem in children, adults, and dogs.)

Shelli Marx measures Rowundi.

Besides keeping an eye on health these past few weeks, we also took advantage of Heritage Day (which fell on September 24th). I developed a semi-simple South African flag craft, then gave Voiswa (the head teacher) the materials and "how-to" so she could instruct the kids. The flags turned out beautifully. Jessy and I laminated them, then strung them into a banner. I must say, I’m always amazed that the “same project” turns out so differently for every child. It’s remarkable to see the reflection of the creator in his or her work. Awesome, really.

The completed banner, hanging in our classroom.

There was a bit of confusion about the red and blue :)

Last week, Jessy and I also tackled the not-so-fun task of sorting and washing all the toys from the crèche. And there were some pretty nasty ones, let me tell you. There were broken bits of plastic and metal, and a few toys with mold growing (obviously we threw these away.) The white fabric torsos of the dolls had become black with grime, and many stuffed animals were losing their insides. Jess and I salvaged everything we could, then set to work scrubbing away with sponges and toothbrushes. We put the dolls in the bathtub to soak (which looked incredibly creepy, what with many of them missing eyes and such), but even overnight in a tub of bleach didn’t get them visibly clean. At least we can assume the germs were killed, I guess. So while the toy situation may still be far from perfect, it’s certainly better than it was before. Far less dangerous, too.

Of course, it hasn’t been ALL work around here. We’ve been going out, taking trips, even building houses. Well, ok, building houses is kind of a lot of work. In any case, I definitely have more to share – next time. Cheers!