A Bolivian Kiss!

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Laguna la blanca

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Lesson of happiness

The first things you see when you drive in to one of the townships is the garbage that lays everywhere, stray dogs, shacks that are packed together like cans. Then you see the kids with torn clothes, and the stains that will show that it has covered the small bodies for at least two weeks. They are what we in the modern world would say the image of poor. You will immediately think to yourself that these people are miserable, they have nothing, and the smiling faces that are running to your car is because you can give them something. Your hands is holding tight to your purse or the pocket where you have secretly hid your money. You look sceptic around to who is taking a special notice of your movements. I was like that. Little did I then realize that my time spent with them would change my perspective of the world.

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I have been volunteering at the school for disabled children at Da noon (one of Cape Town’s many townships) for 8 weeks now, and in strange ways I have got to know these people more than I thought was possible. In my tea break, I was talking to an American student that was there one week to volunteer with ISV (International Student Volunteering). She said to me that she had heard so much wonderful things about Norway, where I am from, and that this must be hard for me to witness. She mentioned things like that we have the best healthcare system. We have little to nothing unemployment as well as low crime rate along with other things. It sounds wonderful she said with a smile, and I caught myself in nodding in agreement. What she was saying, that is the same I see written in black and white in the newspaper back home, and I am after all a proud Norwegian. What I had witnessed in the past months bare witness of that, and I did consider myself lucky. When I looked around me, the township was a different world. Here they did not have a welfare system to catch them when things went wrong, and the biggest lesson the children learned here, was how to make it on their own. Then she with a smile said; “Norwegians is measured to be the happiest country. Is that true?” She looked at me for confirmation, and as I was about to answer I looked around me again. Had I not read something similar in the newspaper back home? I could not help but think back to one of my old posts. (You can find it here: https://oslogeek.wordpress.com/2014/04/13/do-you-complain-about-the-weather/)

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My eyes followed the different scenery that the township was, and I compared it to Oslo, and then to where I grew up. My gaze stopped by two Xhosa ladies who was preparing their dinner on the street, and further to another woman who put up her laundry to the wired fence in front of her shack. They laughed and shouted comments to each other, before one of them reprimanded a random child for stepping to close to the open fire with a smack on the bum. I could not deny that it was different. However, what was it that could establish that Norwegians was happier then these people? My eyes continued and stopped by a group of children who drummed sticks to a barrel in synch with the vivid drums that floated from the many shacks. A group of youngsters passed us, and two girls giggled shy as I smiled and they measured me from top to toe. The smiles and openly curious looks I saw struck a nerve, because now I know. They look because I am different, and I stick out. It would be the same as someone is dressing up back home. We would look because he looks funny. I saw a boy carry his younger sister on his back, and then a new woman keeping an eye on a group of children who played between the rusty barrels that was on fire to keep the heat in the South African winter. For them this was normal, and my life back home was just different. For example, I love my younger brother, but I would never have carried him around, forced or voluntary.

- SA CT 161

One of the projects coordinators from the township cleared his throat and looked at me anticipating an answer, and it reminded me that I had to say something. I knew he had grown up in these townships, and I recognized the curios look in him, that I always saw around me. “I do not know what to answer to that,” I finally said and shrugged. “Because when I look around me now, and when I think back to the people in Norway, Norwegians do not seem happier than for example these people.”

The South African coordinator smiled wide. “I do not think happiness can be measured he said. Happiness for me will not mean the same as happiness for you, and for every person we meet happiness will mean something different.”

I could not help but smile. It was expressed with such humbleness, but for me, the lesson would last a lifetime. “So simple and so true” I replied. “If happiness could be measured in the smiles you gave away every day, the people in Da noon would be high up on the happiness barometer.”

When I got home to the volunteer house that day, what he had said lingered in my mind, and if I am lucky, I will never forget it. However, the people in Danoon thought me something else, and that is to always give a smile away. I might not be the happiest person in the world, but I might even fool myself in to think that by keep smiling. 

Posted in Africa, Bits and bobs, South Africa, The conundrum of my life, Travel, Volunteering | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

TIA – This is Africa

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Before I left on my volunteering trip to Cape Town, I naively thought I was gone have plenty of free time and almost be bored during the evenings. Write on my blog each week, or even every day. Well strangely enough volunteering is actually work, and it will keep you busy. After five weeks, I have still not had time to write anything. The time goes so quickly by, and I feel an urge to look over my shoulder to see what it is that is pushing me so fast forward. Therefore, here is my first apology of many, to my friends, that I have not written anything before now. I will absolutely try to write more in the weeks to come. This time I am wiser, and I will not make any promises.

Very little has gone as planned on this trip, but that is the charm of travelling, and I will try to keep the wining to the minimum. When I first arrived it was quickly clear that I was quite much older than most of the people here. The only one, who seem to be close to my age, is the funder. Even the coordinators was in their early twenties. As most situations in life you have to take it as it is. The second challenge was that no one seemed to be aware that the business project even existed. Is that even an option, one of the volunteer asked with big eyes? Here they are all working with children half day, and then we split up in to the projects in the afternoon, the coordinator explained. That forced me to take a step back and just consume and understand the information given to me. In reality I screamed inside my head for a way out, and could not believe that it was happening.

When I turned up the first day at Skandaal camp, I was terrified. Not for the children, all children are adorable in their own ways, but I was so painfully aware of my lack of experiences that I thought I was doomed to fail. In Skandaal there was about 20 kids, in the age from 2 til 6, and we were 10 volunteers. That is only 2 children per volunteer, and amazing. I can do this I thought and my spirit was high. It was a school that was run by the organisation Save, and we really succeeded in teaching the children everything from alphabet to counting, and I enjoyed my day. Then I volunteered to move to the Elundini project in Du Noon, which were short on staff. Things took a new turn, and from the start, I realized that the two projects belongs to two different worlds.

- SA CT 60

They quickly placed me in the star class, which had children with severe mentally disabilities. If I thought I was not qualified for Skandaal camp, it soon became clear that I had gone from ash to lightning fire. This was a school for 80 children. 40 of them was disabled in some way, both mentally and physically, and the rest was able children with a need for preschool. With only three volunteers and with understaffed teachers, it was challenging. They were placed in a temporary building that was in poor shape, and they missed electricity, system, order or other material a school needs. This was the life in the Townships, run by locals and the organisation we worked for was only there to help with resources. We were there to assist to assist only. The teachers was friendly, and the longer I worked there, the more I admired the work they did. Although I did not always agree on their methods, they did their best and out of love for their community. It was a huge bonus and a rear opportunity to get close to the people in a world that are usually closed to someone like me.
- SA CT 75
After some time, we got the business project started as well. The Coordinators asked me if I wanted to move out of the Elundini project, but at that point, I was involved and had my own plans for what I might be able to do for them. So here we are, I am starting the business project in the afternoon and spend my days in the school Elundini. So when you think of it, I got two for one, and more then I bargained for, which is great.

It took approximately four weeks before I approached the headmaster for what I had observed that they needed. It was not an easy task, because the people in the Xhosa culture is very proud. It was not like Skandaal were we could just suggest something, and they would say yes. In Elundini they were more likely to say no to changes then to agree with us. I said that we wanted to fundraise some money and help them, but I needed to know exactly what they needed. I presented a list of changes to them, and asked if they agreed or had other input. After a few meetings, we came down with a list of needs that they as well agreed with. I felt that I was getting closer to what they really needed.

The next step was to get funds, so we were able to help them. I put up a request on facebook, to see if the people back home was interested in helping the school that I had come to be so found of, and the responds was overwhelming. The other volunteers quickly got involved, and the project Elundini was a reality. It did not take long before the organisation I worked for started requesting to get the lists so they as well could continue to help Elundini. I would dare to say we have created a cooperation and an awareness of the Elundini School that exceeded my expectations.

- SA CT 74

The lesson I received in this is that it always is what you make of it, and if you want to make a difference you can not wait for the opportunity but you will need to create your own. Strangly enough I found my element where I did not expect it to be. Now I do not want to leave the school, and I am already planning on how I can come back. I want to see it finished, and I want to see the results moving forward.

Thank you to all of you that have shared my journey in South Africa, but also a big thank you to everyone back home for your enormous responds and help. Without you, I would not have been able to accomplish what we have so far.

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Just another Saturday…

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You can say you have one of these days when… You start in the morning being conned by two highly professional scam artists in the ATM. Then spend the rest of the day climbing table mountain because you got lost, … Continue reading

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One of seven billion…

One of seven billion...

I am one of the seven billion humanbeings in this world. Mentally, emotionally and intellectually we are the same. ~ Dalai Lama

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Live free!

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To me that will be to follow the path that is before me, and actively seek opportunities. Take the possibility that present itself and not look back. To not be restrained what other people think of me, and not let society set the rules for my life. To live freely by my own moral code, and not follow when it feels wrong.

So am I able to live free?
Not always, but I try…

You see… I do worry of what other people think. I know it is stupid but I just can’t help it. I also feel bound by the codes that society sets, although I know it is limiting. I am even held back by my own fear and mislead by my past and baggage. I am not always sure how that baggage got there.

But I am learning, and I am aware of my limits. I try to bring my shortcomings in to the light. And to me that is accepting who I am. Then I can change it and grab my freedom. I can make a conscious choice of not letting something steer me in a direction I do not want to go. I realize that I will never be fully trained, and I am schooled in life every day.

I continue to fight towards my goal of living free, because within me I have the recipe.

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What is the deal with younger men and older woman?

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I mean I do not have a problem seeing why an older woman would want a younger man. He is eager, fit and looks good. He is also more likely to accommodate you in the way you want, rather than … Continue reading

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Norwegians complain about the weather!

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If you are Norwegian, then you for sure have spent hours of complaining about the weather. If you however meet one from the senior generation they will have a saying: There is no such thing as bad weather, it only … Continue reading

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Forró, capoeira, and Kiting to Bob Marley at Canoa Quebrada!

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The name means the broken canoe, and I never got an answer to why it was called that. Some mumbled of a Native Brazilian legend. But the name of this amazing place should be Paradise with a capital P. This … Continue reading

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Jazz, beads and Creole food in unique New Orleans.

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How can you describe a city like New Orleans, or a state like Louisiana as a foreigner? It is so full of flavor and adventure that it is almost impossible to visualize if you have not been there. It in … Continue reading

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