November has been a HUGE month! But I probably say that every month! 🙂 It has been a month of goodbyes (as many of the international volunteers head home for Christmas); reflection and wrap up of 2013 activities; planning for 2014; and so many Christmas celebrations (and Christmas is still 5 weeks out!!)
With my housemates, we celebrated Christmas a few weeks ago with a roast Chicken dinner and some yummy Canadian baked Christmas treats (Butter Tarts are DELICIOUS! Definitely importing them back to Aus as a new Christmas tradition 🙂 and put up our Christmas tree (yes – it has been up since the first week in November!!)
Back in February, when I came to Africa, I hopped on a plane with Leyton, who at the time, I knew of him, but didn’t really know him. We journeyed through orientation together and now 10 months on he is like a little brother to me. We have traveled to Swaziland together, worked very closely together to support the Zimbabwe team, and have spent many a weekend having adventures exploring South Africa. His time as a volunteer is coming to an end and he heads home next week. For one final fun weekend outing before he heads home, this past weekend we spent time with our African community stay families, who we first stayed with for a weekend during orientation back in February. They live in a community called Welverdiend which is 2.5 hours from where we stay. We decided it would be fun to treat them to a day in Kruger Park on Safari. There community is literally 10 minutes up the road from one of the gates to enter the park and yet all but one of them had never been into the park (and most people in their community will never get there). So it was exciting for us to be able to share in experiencing the park with them for their first time.
So Friday afternoon, in 35 degree heat or so (which continued though Sunday with nothing but rolled down windows for air-conditioning ;-)), we piled into the car and made our way out to Welverdiend community. Our plan was to stay the night in their homes, wake up early (i.e. 4am!) Saturday morning to spend the full day in Kruger park, and then bring them back to the Hub where we stay to spend the night in our homes Saturday night, go to church together Sunday morning, share lunch and then drop them back home. It was a full weekend and we were all pretty exhausted by the end, but it was such a wonderful time – my body was certainly weary by the end of the weekend but my heart was full!
For me, the highlight of the weekend, was the Friday afternoon/evening I was able to spend with my African family. I have been privileged enough to stay there 3 times now, so with it comes a sense of coming home. We arrived around 4:30pm, and as always family, friends and a whole bunch of neighborhood kids were there to greet us. So for the couple of hours of daylight that were left, we sat around chatting in the yard, played games, sung and danced with the kids. But the best part was the moment it was time to catch the Chicken for dinner, where the 20 or so kids in the yard all started running after this poor chicken – the squeals, the laughter, the ruckus – it was one of those moments that after joining in the chasing I could not help but stand back and just smile. And be so grateful for the amazing experiences I get to have living life in Africa!
This was our crew for the weekend, and here is a link to some footage of our weekend adventures put together by Dave 🙂 – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ewe7MM-tKCQ&feature=youtu.be
Now in 3 sleeps the next adventure begins. I am off to Zimbabwe for 10 days on Friday! It will be my first time in Zimbabwe and I am so excited to see and experience another of the countries we work in, in communities that I have heard so much about! I have been supporting the Zimbabwe Service Centre team for approximately the last 6 months in a project support role. So our time in Zimbabwe will be lots of meetings to tidy things up for the year and set all the plans in place for 2014. But amidst all of that I should get out to see the communities that we work in and spend lots of good quality time with Farai, Florence, John and Barbra (our amazing Service Centre team in Zim!). I’m sure I will have lots of stories to share on my return! For now…I should start thinking about packing!