Dassies, Kudu’s, Ellies and Zebies.

On top of Table Mountain

On top of Table Mountain

I’m very tired after my night flight so I’m not sure if this last post will make much sense, but I wanted to give you guys one final update 🙂 Heathrow is quite a nice airport to spend a couple of hours at. They’ve managed to make it feel like it’s a lot smaller than it actually is, with cosy corners and comfy chairs. I quite like doing the long flights on my own because they give you time to think, which is exactly what I need right now. Time to process everything that has happened in the last couple of months and to mentally prepare for returning home with all the

Climbing Table Mountain

Climbing Table Mountain

holiday busyness. Yesterday afternoon Daniela, Peter and Pippa brought me to Pietermaritzburg airport after our final goodbyes. I was really nice to spend one last night with them and Gail before going back home. We had a picnic at a beautiful spot with one of those gorgeous views that I’m going to miss so much. Daniela being Daniela, actually still wanted to do a million things with me before I left. Unfortunately we did not have much time, so in the end we decided to decorate the Christmas tree with their huge African/German collection of decorations. I’m going to miss all of them, they DSC00427gave me a home away from home and we’ve gotten to know each other so well in this short time. I hope I can return sometime or meet them somewhere else in the world! Levi is on his way home now as well just on a different route, pretty weird but nice as well! We had a great time together, I’m so so glad he came to visit me. It was our first holiday with just the two of us and it worked out perfectly, we’re a great holiday-team! 🙂 We spent one week in Cape Town, exploring all

Table Mountain from Robben Island

Table Mountain from Robben Island

the different neighbourhoods. What a nice and interesting city and completely different from the places I had seen in KwazuluNatal, much more Western or European whatever you would call it. Some parts could be anywhere in the world while others feel very (South) African, it’s a wonderful mix. We climbed Table Mountain, visited Robbeneiland, went to a hilarious comedy show and had lots and lots of wonderful food. Cape Town brough back a lot of memories of Rio with that same kind of city/mountain/beach combination. South Africa really is a car country, making us Dutch people

Our courtyard on Long Street :)

Our courtyard on Long Street 🙂

feel pretty helpless sometimes! In the Cape Towns city centre you can get around with public transport, but when you want to go anywhere else you often need to have a car, book a tour or hitch-hike. The distances are huge and it’s usually not safe after dark. Luckily we had already decided to hire a car for part of our trip and Levi managed very professionally with the driving on the wrong side of the road 🙂 We spent one day driving to around the cape past lovely small towns on of which had a beach with a penguin colony, where we also encountered our first dassies: big rodents that climb on branches

Chapman's Peak

Chapman’s Peak

that seem to small for them causing them to fall down every now and then. This drive was one of the best ones both of us had ever seen, curling cliff roads with stunning views 😀 The second day we had the car we drove through South Africa’s famous wine region doing a tour on a wine estate in Stellenbosch, of course ending with a wine tasting and after that an extremely chilled pick nick on another wine farm. It suddenly felt like we were on a holiday in France, South Africa has many faces. Unfortunately this day ended for me in some sort of food poisoning :S luckily we were in our apartment, so I survived! Sadly it DSC00578was time to leave Cape Town and our (ugly golden) rental car took us to the little coastal town of Hermanus. Again beautiful views, driving on big roads is much more exciting here than back home. Hermanus had a gorgous cliff path walk and is one of the spots where many people go to look for whales. Unfortunately we were a little bit too late, Levi saw one tail very far a way and I didn’t have any luck. Good reason to return! 🙂 The walk ended at a place call

Cape Point

Cape Point

ed Dutchies (owned by a Dutch woman and her son), where Levi tried some kroketten! Hermanus was very relaxing and a nice place to go after enormous and busy Cape Town. However we were quite happy we did not stay for too long as it was also not a very exciting town. Next stop: Knysna. As we drove the 4/5 hours towards Knysna the landscape started to change, becoming more green and foresty. I could almost not contain my excitement when we entered our own little wooden house with bathtub on legs and stained glass windows. Knysna is known for its forests and outdoorsy

Cape Point

Cape Point

activities and we spent our time kayaking on the lake and doing a beautiful walk in the forest with 800+ year old trees 😀 We did not really feel like leaving Knysna already but it was time for the part of our trip we both had been looking forward to the most. Addo Elephant park, home to not only hundreds of elephants but also lots of other animals including The Big Five. Lonely Planet describes as the Town of Addo as blink-and-it’s-gone, which we could definitely agree with. Quite funny how this town existing of a couple of shops and a gas station had not grown with the big herd of tourists passing every year.

Dassie!

Dassie!

It’s probablly because the millions of B&B’s in the area have taken on the role of accomodating the tourists with their every wish. Ours at least was absolutely wonderful with lots of space, green and a pool which we used gratefully during the hot afternoonds. Again we had our own little wooden house, this time looking out over the river. On the first day we did a 4 hour tour with a wonderful guide that could tell us everything about the park, its animals, vegetation and lots more. In the first hour we got extremely excited seeing a couple of elephants and zebra’s from a big distance. And DSC00648then suddenly our guide Steven stopped the car and pointed to something in the distance. Two gorgeous lions that were quite hard to see at first since their colour camouflages them well. They were pretty far away but easy to see with binoculars. Absolutely wonderful seeing them chill in the grass, especially since Addo only had nine lions at the moment. Continuing through the park we suddenly we saw a row of cars parked, meaning something exciting was happening. A

Penguin Colony

Penguin Colony

group of over 40 elephants of all sizes was chilling at the water hole, minding their own business and not caring about all the overexcited tourists playing paparazzi. Our guide explained some things about elephant behaviour, communication and the group hierarchy. It was absolutely amazing to see them from up close and observe the way they move and interact. The rest of the day brought us lots of birds (of prey), zebra’s, ostriches and different types of buck. Great first day, even more excited about the next one. We had been recommended to do an early morning tour, since the animals

Stellenbosch area

Stellenbosch area

are very active during the cooler ours of the day. So at 5 AM we drove to the park and met our guide for a hop-on tour, meaning the guide hopped into our car, quite nice! 🙂 This quite (forgot his name) was much more fanatic and enthousiastic than the other one and even though steven had provided us with lots of interesting information the second guide gave a sort of quest feeling to the tour with was really nice. He was determined to find buffaloes for us and said he would even try to find a rhino even though he had not seen one for months. The park is huge and there’s only a small part where

WINEWINEWINE

WINEWINEWINE

people can go, which the reason the leopards are hardly ever seen. We drove a round in the quiet park, being only one of about 10 vehicles during the first hour. And suddenly the car stopped and we looked right into the face of a couple of huge buffaloed. about to cross the road. We reversed quietly and let the buffaloes pass. One, two, three…. thirty, forty, fifty… at least a hundred buffaloes crossed right in front of us, with the bigger ones stopping and checking us out letting the smaller ones pass behind them. We could hear them walk and breath, absolutely mesmerizing. After that

Lekker!

Lekker!

experience we were no longer tired but eager to see more. We saw a few jackals and more beautiful types of buck: kudu’s, red hartebeest, and other ones who’s names I forgot. As we were driving, trying to spot more animals I suddenly looked right into the face of an enormous rhino. It was exactly the same as with the buffaloes, just about to cross the road. Even our guide got extremely excited and kept telling me how proud he was I spotted the rhino. He told us a story about how this same rhino had chased him once but now he was calm and ok with us being there. We followed the great

:)

🙂

creature for a little while, with the guide speaking about South Africa’s struggle against poaching. This was one of the best things I ever did, I definitely want to do it again in another game reserve. I’ll put some videos of the animals on facebook! 🙂

A great end of a great four months and time to go home. It was a great experience, I learned so much and I’m very glad I made the decision to go through with it. I feel sad

 to leave South Africa, but happy to come home. Time for Christmas and New Years and time to return to normal life!

Hermanus

Hermanus

See you all soon in the Netherlands and people from SA hopefully we’ll meet again another time.

Lots of love,

AnnaDSC00830

Knysna

Knysna

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Knysna Forest

Knysna Forest

Look for the Lions!

Look for the Lions!

Pumba chillin' with the Ellies

Pumba chillin’ with the Ellies

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Big Elephant Bums

Big Elephant Bums

Kudu

Kudu

Zebra :D

Zebra 😀

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Jackal

Jackal

Buffaloes

Buffaloes

Mr Rhino

Mr Rhino

Beautiful Elephant

Beautiful Elephant

So close! :D

So close! 😀

Gail, Peter and Trevor at the picnic

Gail, Peter and Trevor at the picnic

Daniela, Pippie and me

Daniela, Pippie and me

Picnic peeps

Picnic peeps

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Say goodbye with a Braai

We’re leaving in a little bit, but I just wanted to do a tiny update.

My internship is finished, time for a holiday 🙂
I spent the last few weeks doing focus groups for my research with people from different communities in the area. It was very interesting and I managed to hand in my draft about 2 weeks ago. I haven’t heard from my professor yet, but Mervyn was very enthousiastic! I’ll have to finish everything when I get home, but I’m feeling quite happy about it!

On Sunday Daniela and Peter organized a Braai for me, which was absolutely lovely.
I feel quite sad leaving this beautiful place, but I cannot wait to see Levi and everyone else soon!
I’m flying to Cape Town today and Levi is arriving tomorrow morning.
We have planned the best holiday ever, I’m so excited 😀

See you all very soon! Lots of love

xxx

Lunch in Lesotho

Drive to Lesotho

Drive to Lesotho

Time is a weird thing. I’ve always felt like it’s something you have no control over whatsoever. It almost seems like time has a mind of its own, taking it easy for a little while to then run like mad. Just to tease us or see how we react, I don’t know. Sometimes it feels like I’ve been here for ages and the moment I left home feels very far away. On the other hand the weeks seem to run past me in the blink of an eye, especially when it’s busy. Only 5 weeks of internship left! 5 weeks to complete my research (eesh!) and 5 weeks until I see Levi again :D.

Mountain view

Mountain view

The weekend of the 18th was a strange one. I stayed with Sonia and her family. We had a very relaxing Saturday, watching the cooking channel in the morning and strolling around the mall in the afternoon. At night we were watching a movie (A very nice one called About Time, go watch it! Except for the people I specifically told not too, because I want to watch it with them 🙂 ) when Sonia’s husband Minesh got a call. Apparently his brother was having trouble

Tiny lonely mountain biker

Tiny lonely mountain biker

breathing and his wife had called an ambulance. They rushed over there and I stayed with behind with daughter Megan and son Mikhail. Two hours later I got a message that he had died of a heart attack. Age 49, no history of heart problems and no sign that this was going to happen. Sonia and Minesh came home in the middle of the night and the next day we went over to the family’s home. As we turned into their street we could already see rows of cars parked outside the house and small groups of people spread out on the curb. Sonia had

Group at the meeting

Group at the meeting

explained to me Minesh’ brother and his wife were Hindu’s which meant the family would go into a traditional mourning process including a ban of electricity and a quick organisation of the funeral, which had already been planned for Tuesday. The house was full of people and food and my initial fears of intruding slowly disappeared as strange faces welcomed me and thanked me for coming. It was a weird and emotional day, but at the same time quite a beautiful experience. On Monday morning Sonia and I came into the office and it felt like we had to switch back to a different reality. We were

Daniela in action

Daniela in action

asked to tell the others about meeting the week before and both us had a hard time even remembering (see, time is weird!). Even though I did not even know this man, the emotions of pain and loss are very tangible and always get to me. These last weeks have been crazy busy, I’ve been working very hard to keep up. The week before Minesh’ brother passed I spent 2 days taking notes at a big meeting with 30+ people from all kinds of different organisations from South

Gezubuso

Gezubuso

Africa and abroad. The week before that Daniela and I were preparing for that same meeting. Sonia was in Cape Town for the week so suddenly I was in charge of her desk, which meant trying to keep up with the endless amounts of emails and phone calls. It was very hectic, but also nice to get a better understanding of the amount of work that goes into organising an event like this. The Thursday after the meeting was World Food Day and Mada and Julie from PACSA had organised an lovely event in Gezubuso. Many people came from different communities both nearby and far

A lesson in organic farming

A lesson in organic farming

away to share their experience with food. Different stations were set up where people could learn about organic farming and make their own fertilizer. There was also lots of singing and dancing like at every event I’ve been to so far, click here for a video! (hope that works) The fact that it’s been so busy also meant I did not have much time at all for my research. But I’ve discussed it with some staff members and we’re going to organize a couple of focus groups with people from the community, so that should be good 🙂 I am kind of scared that the last week of November will be very stressful trying to finish the whole thing, but I guess that is always

Zama and I at the at the Film & Arts Festival

Zama and I at the at the Film & Arts Festival

what happens in the end.. I have a hard time remembering what happened before these two weeks, but I’ll try my best for you guys. I’m afraid I won’t manage the day-to-day thing anymore, so you’ll just have to try and keep up with my mind wanderings :). The PACSA Film and Arts festival was wonderful, very socially and politically engaged. It has been growing immensely and getting more and more media attention. With all the staff members helping out we enjoyed 3 days of music, poetry, movies and discussion. The theme this year

Who killed the gardener?

Who killed the gardener?

was:  People live here, 20 years into democracy. The country’s young democracy is much debated topic within South African society. People’s hopes and dreams have not been realised at all and Apartheid is still very present in today’s society. Daniela and Peter have an enormous garden and even though their gardener Mhkulu (I forgot, is this right Daniela?) takes care of most of it, there’s still quite some work to be done every now and then. Not to mention the

D and her boys

D and her boys

hilarious misunderstandings, caused by a language barrier, that seem to happen quite regularly. No offense Daniela, I’m sorry about your Honeysuckle!! So we spent a day digging, picking (my first experience with that, to Daniela’s amusement), planting and sweating. Thato and his friends and Peter also came to the rescue every now and then 🙂 The result was beautiful and a perfect addition to hundreds of roses that were already showing off their colours in the garden. Someone however seems to be working against us, throwing a devastating hail storm at Daniela’s treasures last week. But

Pippa's favorite activity

Pippa’s addiction: BALL

we won’t give up!! The flowers will grow back 🙂 On a beautiful sunny morning Peter took me for a day trip to Lesotho. Yes you can just go to Lesotho for one day, if you don’t mind spending some time in the car with a lovely CD full of golden oldies created by Peter. I don’t think many would refuse after having seen the amazing views this trip offers. Part of it is only accessible by 4×4, which means a spectacular and bumpy drive. The road

Sani pass shop

Sani pass shop

takes you past a small border post into a piece of no man’s land. The landscape that so far had looked like the South African country side I’ve been getting used to, turned into something that looked like an old Western and then suddenly resembled the image I have of Mongolia. Dry reddish brown earth with men riding horses in ruthless winds. Another border post welcomes you into the mountain land of Lesotho and up the Sani pass. We drove a bit further, parked the car and started walking. Hit by a freezing wind and silenced by lack of breath caused by the strenuous walk and the sudden altitude we climbed to the top. Up there we struggled to not get knocked over by the wind DSC00206as we looked at the view of endless mountains and nothing more. With runny noses and verwaaide (the only English word I can think of is windswept, but that sounds a bit weird to me) heads we did the way easier walk back down. After a much deserved lunch at ‘ The highest pub of Africa’ we got back into the car with some stranded hitchhikers and back into South Africa. I find that South Africa is similar to Brazil in many

Peter at the top

Peter at the top

ways even though the culture and atmosphere are completely different. Both countries belong to the BRICSs (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa), or a group emerging economies. This means they are in a more or less similar economic position or transition, sadly with all the issues that seem to be inextricably linked to it. Two participants of the meeting last week came from India. Another completely different country, but the socio-economic issues they spoke about were very much recognized by the South Africans in the group. There’s an enormous gap between rich and poor which DSC00213creates cities with great differences between the groups in society. But it makes me remember Brazil most is in the little things of daily life, that I often notice because they’re so different from the Netherlands. The stores that seem to sell almost everything except for the thing you were looking for (weird girl asking for a toothbrush holder) and even though they employ a huge amount of people you often wait for ages because no one ever seems to be in a hurry.  The love for food,

This was supposed to be more spectacular, so just imagine the roaring wind with it :)

This photo was supposed to be much more spectacular, but just imagine a roaring wind and me falling over 😉

music, dance and laughter. The passion for family and god. The unbelievable strength of people who fight one battle against life after the other. The streets that trick you with lovely food smells, to then surprise you with a sudden sickening stench of god knows what. The welcoming people that ask me many questions about the place I come from. The minibuses used as public transport of which the driver is accompanied by a guy responsible for payment and shouting the different destinations out of the window. Guys that start to stare at you from a 30m distance, with no evident attempt to be subtle. Even though Brazilian men often tend DSC00196to be less polite then the South Africans, they are united in their lack of shame. In groups they’re even more confident and creative comments are followed by loud laughter. Hello baby how are you? You’re so beautiful will you marry me? Where are you going, why are you leaving me? I heard a new and very original one last week, which I couldn’t help but laugh at: Hello DSC00188 - Copylove do you remember me? My name is A Good Boy. One of the things I like so much about being abroad is that it makes you learn so much about home. And it really makes you appreciate things that you normally take for granted. I reaaally am looking forward to riding my bike and leaving home late at night to go and have a drink in a bar with my friends. I’m very happy with the way I planned this thing. Some more time left here in Maritzburg, 2.5 weeks holiday with Levi and then Christmas at home with my family 🙂 Perfect! DSC00216

Lots of love for everyone! xx

p.s. I’m sorry that the text is placed a bit weirdly, stupid WordPress does not allow me to change it.. 😉

A South African Birthday

Monday 15 My second week at the office was pretty good. I’m starting to get used to everything and everyone around me. It feels weird to be living this whole other life for a little while, but it feels great too. Its such a nice opportunity to just try something completely different. I’ve developed quite a nice routine during the week, which I don’t really have in normal life. I get up at 7/7:15 and leave home at 8 for my 20 minute walk to the office. At about 16:30 I leave the office and pass the supermarket on my way home.

Flowers in my front yard :)

Flowers in my front yard 🙂

My evening usually consists of cooking/eating, taking a bath, watching a movie or an episode of House and reading Harry Potter. I feels quite nice, I feel relaxed. I’ve been sleeping very well also, probably because I don’t seem to have much to worry about at the moment. I always have trouble combining all different things in life, with a head full of stuff that needs to happen. Here I have just one thing to focus on and the evenings and weekends are completely free of work or school stuff. It always happens on holidays or longer trips like these, that people realize what they want or need to change in life. More time outside, more cooking, more sleeping or more relaxing. However after a week back in normal life, this relaxed holiday vibe seems to have disappeared almost completely and all the good intentions with it. Well at least I’ll try it for three/four months and I’ll probably be looking forward to my normal chaotic student life by then 🙂

Couldn't leave this one behind!

Couldn’t leave this one behind!

This week I’ve mostly been doing some administrative stuff, and trying to make a start with my research. PACSA’s office has boxes and boxes and boxes full of old stuff and I’ve been sorting it out. Although this is quite a boring task, I’ve enjoyed going through a bit of PACSA history. Newspaper articles, reports, papers and campaign flyers. A lot of files had Jacintha’s name on it, which was quite funny to see. I’ve been writing an introduction and some theoretic stuff for my research, but I still have to figure out where it’s going exactly. I’ll try to finish that part this month and do all the data collection in October. On Wednesday Sonia took me to the movie theater, which was very nice 🙂 Like in Brazil, almost every South African city has at least one huge mall, with a movie theater inside. Since we don’t really have this back home I always find the idea of a mall a bit weird, but it is quite convienient to have everything in one big building. Many young people like to hang out at the mall and spend their free time checking out all the shops and eating pizza. Sonia explained she feels comfortable letting her daughter go to the mall with friends, since its safer here than downtown.

My weekend home

My weekend home 🙂

This weekend I stayed with Daniela and Peter again and Thato was there as well. On Saturday morning I was making some breakfast when heard Daniela shouting from the living room: “Come here quickly please!” Tiggy, one of their cats, is diabetic and his blood sugar was extremely low. We rushed him to the vet, who put him on a glucose drip. We sat with him in a room that smelled horrible, made even worse by the fact that the very nervous kitty had peed in my lap during the ride in the car. He had to stay the night at the vet so we went back home.

Another beautiful picnic spot

Another beautiful picnic spot

The next day we could take a very relieved Tiggy back home, and after that we went for another great picnic with dog Pippa. No, staying with Daniela and Peter is not for animal haters or people with allergies. Luckily I love them and enjoy the company very much 🙂 Wednesday 17 Yesterday I joined Mervyn and a couple of other staff members for a round table meeting on Hunger in South Africa organised by PACSA and Oxfam GB. It was a very interesting day and the different presentations provided the group with a lot of basic information on food security in South Africa. Julie (one of PACSA’s process facilitators) spoke about PACSA’s food price barometer. Once a month PACSA releases information on the costs of basic elements of life, like food and transport. I’ve specified my research, at it will revolve around the connection between gender and food security. Rising food prices put a huge strain poor families and women are often the ones that suffer the most in this situation. The next two weeks I will be reading a lot on these topics, to figure out what issues are exactly involved. After that I can hopefully interview different people on their point of view and experience. Tomorrow is my birthday! And I already had a cake and people singing for me this morning 🙂 Wedsnedy morning at 10 is tea time and since most of the staff is usually in the office for that Sonia decided to just do it a day early.

Gift from Anne & Eli, thank you! :D

Gift from Anne & Eli, thank you! 😀

Wednesday 24 Thursday was my birthday! In the morning I joined PACSA’s program staff for a meeting with representatives from all the community groups PACSA supports. It was very nice to meet people from the groups and see how many different people are involved. However I did not realize that most of the meeting would be in Zulu, so I deciced to go back to the office after lunch. At 6 Daniela (who had just arrived on a plane from Uppington in Eastern Cape) and Peter came to pick me up. We had a very nice birthday dinner together with Gail. Daniela had decorated the table and they even bought me some presents! 🙂

Birthday me!

Birthday me!

Birthday table! :D

Birthday table! 😀

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Elephant pants! 😀

This weekend was also the weekend of the Hilton Film & Arts Festival. The school terrain transforms into a big craft market and all the different buildings become theater venues. I went to see three very nice and very different theater shows with Daniela and Peter and I went to a piano concert on my own, which was very beautiful. I bought a couple of souvenirs and all in all we had a great weekend. One festival down and another one to go! On Sunday evening I joined Mervyn and his family for dinner which was very nice. He’s been apologizing for being so busy and not having much time to speak to me, but he really wants to help me with my research, which is great.

The War Horse at Hilton Festival

The War Horse at Hilton Festival

Abangobi group members

Abangobi group members

Yesterday Thulas (process facilitator) took me to Sweetwater, a village outside the city. One of Thulas’ groups, called Abangobi (pronounced Aban-click-nobi), is located in this area. Abangobi is a men’s support group and they work with HIV infected men in the area. It was very interesting to see how different this part of the district is. On the way there Thulas explained the many difficulties this community faces. The infrastructure is very limited and many people have to walk far and uphill to the taxi taking them into town. When they have to be at work at 7, they start walking at 5 in the morning. People are awfully isolated in this area, which also struggles with limited access to quality food, water and electricity. We met with some group members and they spoke about the issues they face, which was very interesting.

Abangobi

Sweetwater

Today is Heritage Day, which means the office is closed. Everyone at the office was complaining about the fact that the free day was in the middle of the week, but they also seemed quite happy to have some time of. Next weekend is the PACSA Film & Arts festival and we’ll be busy making sure everything runs smoothly the whole weekend. I’m very excited for the festival, it will surely be very different from the Hilton one. The program has a couple of very interesting documentaries on local issues. I’ll let you guys know how it was! Xxxx AnnaDSC00136 Abangobi Abangobi

Welcome to Maritzburg

Tuesday

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Chilling area

I’m in South Africa! It feels very weird to finally be here. The last few weeks have gone by so fast! I was so busy with leaving that I didn’t have much time to think about how it was going to be after I’d arrived. Yesterday afternoon I said goodbye to friends and family at Schiphol Airport. After I’d passed customs I felt sad for a moment because saying goodbye sucks, especially with a new relationship.. I started feeling much better once I was on the plane. No going back, no more things that have to be done, too late

My giant house

My giant house

to worry. While travelling solo can be lonely and frustrating sometimes, I also learned to appreciate it during my time in Brazil. On these long flights or bus journeys, you’ve suddenly got loads of time to think. Luckily everything went well, my luggage survived two transfers, I survived a tiny airplane and arrived at Pietermaritzburg Airport. Mervyn, who is the director of PACSA , picked me up from the airport. Mervyn is a very enthusiastic and kind man, who always seems to be too busy, especially since his personal assistant left. DSC00104He immediately started talking to me about everything that was going on. He took me to the office where I was introduced to a couple of people. So far everyone has been very nice and welcoming. After that Ncu (pronounced with a click, which I’m still practicing), who is one of the process facilitators, took me to Church Land Programme. CLP is another organization that owns a two units (like duplex apartments) and usually rents it out to people that need to stay in town for one of their projects. I have my own unit, which has two floors

My room with pictures! :D (thanks Levi & Eli)

My room with pictures! 😀 (thanks Levi & Eli)

and two bedrooms with each two single beds. Incredibly big for just one small person, it’s the first time I’ve had an upstairs, a bath and a little garden! If feels pretty strange living in such a big house, while some the of people PACSA works with are among the poorest of South African society. However, there’s a possibility other people will be staying here every now and then. A very sweet woman named Lindo, who organizes everything regarding the units, has ensured me about 10 times she would discuss that with me first. After all that fuss I sat down on the couch, absolutely exhausted, but also happy to finally be in Maritzburg.

Wednesday Today was my first day at PACSA. This morning I was picked up by Nareshnie, PACSA’s financial manager. She explained a couple of things to me and told me I would not have to do much on that first day. She pointed me towards a couple of things I could read on the website and I set up some things for my research.

My little desk!

Every Wednesday 10 ‘o clock is tea time at PACSA. All colleagues meet in the sitting room for a little break with a cup of tea with loads of sugar and muffins. We discussed the Film & Arts festival that’s coming up soon. In the afternoon, Ncu took me for a drive around town and he pointed me to a couple of sights in town. Maritzburg is a pretty quiet city with not much to do. However the people at the office have already come up with all kinds activities and trips for me. Among the sights are City Hall and the train station, both nice old buildings. However since only a couple of trains leave per day, the train station is quite deserted. Most people walk, use cars, buses or minibuses called taxi’s. I will

Little baby crossing the road :)

Little baby crossing the road 🙂

have to find some kind of exercise without my bicycle. However considering the fact that I neither have a car nor a drivers licence, I will probably be walking a lot. Which is fine because the city isn’t too big and I live pretty close to PACSA. Mervyn has told me I shouldn’t be going out too much on my own after dark, but during the day it should be fine. Multiple people at the office have urged me to call them if I need anything. As Ncu and I passed the Indian quarter he said: “They’re the rich guys, the millionaires with the big houses. They own all the shops in this area.” Apart from some Indians, there’s also a white and a coloured community. However the population is dominated by black people, mainly Zulu people. Ncu tells me about the divide that still very much exists between the different ethnic groups. Luckily the PACSA staff is pretty mixed. The language I hear most in the office is Zulu. Every now and then I recognize some English words they mix in, which sounds great. Receptionist Zama has promised me she would teach me some Zulu words. Ncu and I end our tour in one of the poorer areas in the city, where he can often be found for his work. He has to deliver something to a woman who is a member one of the project groups. Little kids in school uniforms curiously look at us and they wave as we drive away. Tomorrow I will be joining Ncu and Sibu (Sibusiso, also a process facilitator) to a lecture in Durban. This morning I got a call from Daniela, Jacintha always stays with her when she’s in town and they became friends. Daniela is staying in Umdloti (pronounced something like Oemshloti/Oemfloti), a little coast town north of Durban, for a conference and she said I could join her there for a nice relaxing weekend 🙂

Morning beach walk

Morning beach walk

Sunday I just got back from Hilton, where Daniela and Peter live. Peter teaches at the Hilton College, a boys boarding school. They live on the campus terrain in a very nice and comfy (or gezellig as we Dutch people would say 🙂 )home with amazing views. The school terrain is enormous and 60 percent of it consists of nature, of which part is a game reserve. From the huge back yard you can spot zebra’s, warthogs and wildebeest, which is absolutely amazing to me.

Umdloti Beach

Umdloti Beach

The conference we went to on Thursday regarded an international project for which Durban has been selected called 100 Resilient Cities. Its aim is to address all kinds of structural issues in a city in order to make it less vulnerable to sudden shocks. It was quite overwhelming, because I did not really know we were actually going. However, it was nice to recognize a lot of issues that were also discussed in my courses at university. After the conference, Ncu and Sibu dropped me off at the Umdloti Beach Resort. Daniela took me to the apartment she was staying

I can see you there..

I can see you there human..

at with Sonia, PACSA’s admin officer. The apartment had and incredible view on the ocean, that I could admire right from my bunk bed. They immediately warned me about the monkeys that would invade the apartment with the first opportunity. In the evening I joined Daniela’s international group in for a meal.

Monkey sign! :)

Monkey sign! 🙂

The next day I spent with Sonia, who just got out of another conference. We had a very relaxing day with a beach walk and lots of reading (Maya I’m very happy you put Harry Potter on the E-reader 🙂 ). At night, we again joined the group for dinner. We drove to Durban for a meal in a revolving restaurant at the top floor of a high building, with amazing views of the city at night. On Saturday morning, Sonia’s family came for a visit and we went to the beach. I had a lovely swim in very warm weather that the South Africans call spring. Two weeks ago I had checked the weather forecast and it showed 10-15 Celcius. Mervyn told me that it was even snowing a little bit higher up, but right now it’s easily 25 in the afternoon. Daniela’s conference ended and after lunch we drove up to Durban to visit her son Thato. Thato is a funny and friendly kid, he invited me to come up to Durban and hang out with his friends. South Africa’s bigger cities have an extremely high crime rate a lot of safety issues one of which is carjacking, so we drove out of the city before dark.

Best back yard!

Best back yard ever!

At their very cosy home I was introduced to Peter and Daniela’s sister in law Gail, but they were not the only members of the household. After being greeted very enthusiastically by their lovely dog Pippa, cats were slowly starting to appear from every corner. It is clear Daniela loves her animals, she even wore a cat jersey in uMdloti because she was missing her five kitties. I woke up to a gorgeous view and felt the very relaxed. I now realise how hectic the last few weeks at home have been for me. It feels nice to have one thing to focus on for three months. Being away from home like this, I can suddenly put a lot of things to rest. I can see clearly why Jacintha and Daniela have become friends. They’re both passionate people, who find it hard to sit still. I recognize things in Daniela’s humor and interests, that are very similar with Jacintha.

Impala

Impala

Where other people take their dog out to the park, Pippa is used to more spectacular walks. We drove out to Hiltons nature reserve, where we had a great and very hot walk, with again stunning views. After that we packed a picnic and drove up to the game reserve. Having a picnic right in the middle of a game reserve, at their favorite spot where they used to celebrate their son’s birthdays when they were little. We saw warthogs, impala’s and giraffes from up close, it was absolutely beautiful.

Hilton nature reserve

Hilton nature reserve

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Bush Picnic – With Daniela

Walking the dog

Walking the dog

                      Monday Today I sat in on a staff meeting. It took long and I was overwhelmed by the amount of new information, but it was very interesting. All the process facilitators talk about what is going with their projects and share stories from the field. Right now, they’re also dealing the issue of having to fill positions within the organization. I still really have to settle in, but I’m starting to learn how everything works around her. I’ve been assigned a couple of small tasks and we’re trying to figure out how much time I will be spending on both the research and the internship. I’ve been away from home for a week now, it feels much longer. I think this project is going to be very interesting and challenging, I look forward to it. DSC00087