Every day is more of an adjustment here in Joburg. Including, unfortunately, for my stomach. I spent today in bed, “adjusting”. But every day I learn something new and get a little more used to life in urban Africa. Will I ever fully adjust? No, because there’s no frozen yogurt here. But so far, so good. One funny thing I’ve learned is that the foul-smelling grey mush that is stewed at the orphanage every day and given to the kids (and parents who show up, too) with beans is called “pop”. It’s made of maize meal, and you eat it with your hands. I haven’t tried it yet because most things we cook with at the orphanage undergo a sketchy-at-best cleaning process, and I’m afraid I’ll get sick (or, I guess, sicker). But I told them that where I’m from, if you asked for “pop” they would bring you a coca-cola, and the kids just laughed and laughed.
Tuesday was my first day teaching baking to the kids. They were very enthusiastic and I have such a great group of them! But if I’m being very honest here, that first class was a tiny bit of a disaster. I told the directors that I would only be able to teach ten—but then, we tried to divide them up by age and the oldest group had about fourteen kids, Uncle (one of the founders and the sweetest man I’ve ever met in my life) asked me if I wouldn’t mind having fourteen. Of course, I said I would make it work with fourteen. But then, the little kids wanted to “watch”. And before I never it the room was brimming over with about 25 kids under thirteen—with me being the only one to wrangle them in. With all that buzz, they were far to intrigued to listen to me. It was a pleasant little surprise to find that the cookie sheets I brought didn’t fit in the oven, so we cooked them in smaller batches on pans. By the time they would come out of the oven, there would be about 15 kids lined up right next to it with their hands outstretched. Which is cute, but I was way too worried about a two-year-old trying to stick his hand in the oven to take a picture for you (sorry).
Even though almost all the recipes that I have are pretty healthy (since it would be a tad hypocritical as I’m also teaching health), I made chocolate chip cookies with the kids on Tuesday in a crude attempt to win their affections. THEY’VE NEVER HAD COOKIES BEFORE! And even though they liked them, they were insistent that I wasn’t baking them for long enough. “They must be hard, you see!!” “Must turn dark!” Apperantly African children prefer their cookies scorched black? Someone tell them they’re missing out! I tried…
I have had some great times in the afternoon with the kids, though! They love to play, and play in groups so well! Plus, you should see them dance. There’s so much joy in their games—they love for them to be loud and are always involving even the littlest ones in them. I’m going to try to upload a video of them dressing up little Debra as they played “wedding”. They are never short on imagination or smiles, and we could all learn a lot from them! But there are hard things, too. They play “doctor” and diagnose HIV as a game. And once, when they were parading up the stairs of the apartments singing and dancing (this was when they were playing “wedding”), a man ran out from an upper apartment and the kids bolted. I, um, followed pretty close behind them. When we got inside I asked why we had run, and Emile told me that the man would “sometimes pour hot water on us…or otherwise hit us…because he does not like our noise.” It really does break your heart. Even though I’m around to listen to them, play with them, teach them, hug them (and more importantly, people like Uncle and Miky and Godfrey are always around)…what these kids really need is to be taken far away from here. I really hope they can get the money to build the new orphanage out in Limpopo soon. They ask about it all the time, and I know the sunshine and safety there would be incredible for them.
Thanks for taking the time to read this, y’all. All your encouragements keep me going.
P.S. Tomorrow is Miky (my roommate, and wonderful friend here)’s first day as a vegetarian. I have inspired her. I’ll let you all know how long that lasts—haha.