Monday, July 31, 2006

I can't explain how lovely it was to sleep in my own bed last night, even at the moment when My Cat sat on me: she's heavier than I remember!!

The last two weeks of the GOLD project went just as well as the first week, although very different. We were mostly in the regions around Jo'burg, and the disparity between rich and poor is phenomenal: from the townships and shacks to the suburbs' gated communities with high walls electric fences, and armed guards. Some of the latter areas felt of little more than paranoia (although I met at least 2 people who'd been car-jacked on their own drives in these areas, so I can understand it in a way). In contrast, the townships we visited (Soweto, Kwa-Thema, Katlehong, Daveyton... and others than I've forgotten the name of!) all had a strong community feel and a real buzz, and the people there were really lovely. In fact, all of the South Africans we met were very positive about their country inspite of it's short-comings and told us to tell all of our friends how great South Africa is. In recognition of this debt I owe them: South Africa is fab and you should go if you get the chance.

The trainings themsleves went well. We worked mostly with Guides, Rangers and Guiders, although we also ran sessions for Brownies and for school pupils, both girls-only and mixed sex groups. Some sessions were short (just 30 minutes or an hour) but others lasted a whole day. As a team of six we got through 1,100 condoms! Given that we'd only taken 300 out to SA with us, we became very intimate with the clinics in the areas we visited!!

Now, though, GOLD's finished (just a debrief weekend in September) and it's time to think of the next challenge - moving house. We have a man with a van booked for next Monday but there's a huge amount of work to do before then. Many of the rooms have plaster lifting from the walls because of damp, and the previous inhabitants' choice of colours doesn't exactly coincide with ours. I'm off there later this morning to start washing down walls, polyfilla-ing (there are more nails sticking out of the walls than there's wall itself!) and generally stressing about the prospect. I'll get some photos of it all too, for some before/after action. New carpets have been put down already but the work on the kitchen and bathroom isn't scheduled to start for a while, so I'm not sure when it will all be finished. Now is the time for the Changing Rooms team to arrive!!

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Back in the UK. South Africa was great, but it's nice to be home: I've stroked the cats, fondled the courgettes and pumpkins, and been to look at our new flat. To say that there's a lot of work to do is an understatement.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Well, we've just finished our first week of trainings in South Africa, and they all seemed to go well. The most successful were the condom games, but a lot of the more emotive sessions on prejudice and on people's response to HIV were also good - we were lucky to be working with a group of peer educators who had been selected as the best from their regions, and that certainly showed in the questions that they asked and their approach to trainings. Campfires South African style have also been fantastic - singing, clapping, dancing, harmony - all without obvious leadership or direction. We haven't been away from the National Guide Centre (in Jo'burg) since we arrived, apart from two trips to a local shopping mall and a brief stop at Makro to buy resources. As a result, I don't really feel like I've seen South Africa, but that will all change tomorrow, I suspect - we're off to Constitution Hill and the Aparteid Museum. We've been warned to take tissues: it could be an emotional day.

The weather has been great, although the Guides on the training course reckoned that it's really cold. Admittedly it's been clear and frosty at night, but it's been sunny during the day, and temperatures have been quite high in the sun. Certainly I won't be heading back to the UK without a tan (albeit a tan that stops at mid-arm and ankles!)

After this weekend of sight-seeing, we're off to Soweto for some trainings and home hospitality, and then on to Rustenberg (to the north west of Johannesburg) for more trainings and homestay. We've hired a Kombi (minibus) to get around, so that will make life easier. We've also been promised a real South African braai (spelling?!) on our last Friday night here - I can't wait! Let's hope that the next two weeks are as good as this one has been.