Painting and Playing all day long: Day 45

There's nothing louder and simultaneously as comforting as rain on a tin roof, even during monsoons. This must be what makes the Cape Town area look so clear, clean, and lush. And surely, when we emerged from our rooms that second day in False Bay, the world was dripping and new. Into Masi again, we went into a few creches where children from the township can receive child care and an education while their parents work, in hopes that they will someday be at the same academic level as their peers. The first one was hooked up, resources stacking the shelves in an organized, well-labeled fashion. At our arrival, one volunteer was reading a book in English, and a teacher next to her translated the story in Xhosa, chocked full of clicks and tongue smacks. Activity time commenced with drawing and painting, and we tried getting our hands and minds in there with the kids. I ended up stacking toys with young 5 and 6 year olds, trying to teach them colors and shapes. One teacher came over, asking me if I've been "teaching her children". When the kids nodded their heads, she looked really touched, and I was filled with...dare I say...glee.

The second creche wasn't nearly as organized, discipline-oriented, or effective in making a difference for the kids. These 2 and 3 year olds, as well as babies, pretty much danced around a building erected by previous volunteers and entertained themselves. Part of the process, though, of programs coming in to help various establishments is waiting for an invitation and a genuine intention to progress towards something sustainable. Though this creche had made great leaps towards improving the conditions for the kids, moving them from a flooded and moldy room in the back of the house to a clean, dry, well-lit structure, they didn't have daily routines or enough activities to calm their busy minds and bodies. Luckily the ones at this creche move on to the previous creche and receive the skills that will get them somewhere.

And the women that run these places often don't receive enough donations to function but must work themselves on the weekends and evenings for funds to run their creche. That's some noble, admirable dedication right there.

Our volunteer coordinators, Ally and Isabelle, treated us to a much appreciated meal and took us to our final destination of an orphanage in a colored community. Something Ally informed us of early on is the use of racial terms in accepted speech. In South Africa, people describe others as white, black, or colored. Simply using these words does not imply anything derogatory. The term "colored" differentiates those who have dark skin and other influences of Arabic, Asian, and so on. Anywho, the orphanage is better than many that exist in America today and had been visited by Melinda Gates. They had resources, though an odd stance on nutrition (the meals of custard answered questions about the quite round babies). We played for a bit after a tour of the facilities and returned to our hostel, feeling pretty content from the incredible treatment we received for two days straight.

Thomas Jefferson was a fan of travel: "Travel makes you wiser, but less happy." In a sense, I think he was on target, but global and social awareness can also bring a feeling of hope and enlightenment that can empower and please. I didn't feel happy seeing children and adults living hard lives that I observed as a cushy tourist. But I loved being witness to their strong characters and seeing the moments of success that emerge from the hardships. You can hear about the problems in South Africa and easily forget about them. You can see the problems in South Africa and remember them well. You can do something for the struggles, learn about the solutions, and interact with South Africans and understand viscerally until the end of your days. For this reason, I volunteer, because I don't ever want these hard realities to be easy to forget.