Whew! An absolutely PACKED Saturday, and all super fun things (minus the viciousness that naturally accompanies big games of Capture the Flag).
I woke up early in order to catch the 8am bus to Camphill, a school for mentally disabled kids in the agricultural district of Bamalete-Tlokweng, about an hour out of Gabs. For this service program, MaP students play with the youngest children at Camphill once or twice a month. Of course, I regretted skipping breakfast and running for the bus at 7:59am because everyone else was running late, too, and we ended up leaving around 8:20am.
I enjoyed the bus ride—there were six students on the trip and we had a long drive both ways, so we chatted about random stuff, they asked a few questions about college and my impression of Bots thus far, and we played Heads Up! Heads Up! is hands down my favorite game, so I was super excited to see someone whip it out on their phone, but I worry I went a little too hard while belting out random top 40 hits for the song categories. For my turn to guess, I chose the Game of Thrones category, and it reminded me that I NEED TO OBTAIN AND CATCH UP on the past three episodes. At least five or six people have told me that they have the downloads and can give them to me, but I don't have a USB and also keep forgetting to follow through. But it needs to happen so I can stop living in fear of spoilers.
Anyways, as for the service itself—we arrived at the school after driving through the Bots countryside. About twenty young kids (probably ages 6-8) sat in a small wooden room, where I assumed they had just finished eating breakfast. As we volunteers walked in, a few kids put up their hands for fist bumps or high fives, and one boy ran over and smelled the front of each of our shirts, but the kids generally stared from their seats. The first thing I noticed is how COLD everyone looked. They were all bundled up in jackets with hats; and while it was a bit chillier here than in the city, I was fairly comfortable with the 55ish degree Fahrenheit weather (the depth of winter here).
When we took the kids outside, however, they came to life and circled around us. One boy immediately became my buddy for the day, and pretty much held my hand for the entire time we were there. Depending on the kids' varying levels of ability and understanding, the MaP students led a few games and helped the kids on a slide and fireman's pole in the school yard. Apparently, the norm is to take the kids on a long walk, since they need exercise and to stretch out their muscles, but today was deemed too cold for that. It was also a unique day because a company was donating to the school. Five or six company representatives came with a truck full of flowers, and first had the kids sit in a circle inside while they talked about their company in English (I was honestly confused by this because the kids only spoke Setswana, and most were not at all interested in the speeches), and then led them outside to begin to plant the flowers. I enjoyed sitting inside because 1) the boy sat on my left, whom I taught how to press the "light" button on my watch, which he proceeded to press a thousand times, and 2) a small girl took my right arm, wrapped it around herself, and cozied up into my side.
I LOVE everything about playing with small kids and having them lead you by your hand or pat your hair or hug you. But one thing I had trouble with today was the fact that many of these kids were drooling, and one boy had sores on his face, and another had mild skin growths on his hands, and most had runny noses that had gotten crusty. Slightly unrelated but one boy also would come around the backs of the interns and try to put his hands either up our shirts or down our pants. And when I saw these things on the kids my natural response was to be a bit less willing to engage, which made me feel bad and was something I think I internally battled a few times during the day. One girl who was drooling quite heavily came up to me while the adults were digging holes for the flowers, wrapped her arms around my waist, and put her face right into my stomach. At first I was super aware that now I had a ton of drool all over me, but we ended up standing still in a hug like that for at least five minutes (I think she might have been cold?) as we watched the flowers being planted, and it ended up being one of my favorite memories of the experience.
After returning from Camphill, I joined Jazil, Harsh, Siqi, Jocelyn, Jack, and Austin at a Chinese food restaurant next to Choppies, where we had been invited by a few students. It turns out that one of the girls' mom owns the restaurant! And she began bringing out dish after dish of tofu, chicken/corn/egg soup, noodles, vegetables, dumplings, and so on. The food was different from the szechuan style of cooking I was expecting, but soooo goooodddddd compared to the caf food we're used to. We were there for at least two hours eating and talking, and there was just so much food. This cannot be emphasized enough: SO MUCH GOOD FOOD!!
Next, onto our game of Capture the Flag. About twenty students showed up, so I thought we would've been fine just playing on the soccer field; but last year the interns held massive campus-wide games and that's what the kids were most interested in. It was a bit wild! As always, tempers flared during/after the first game when each team ardently believed the other cheated for hiding their flag (a frisbee) in a certain place, and I kind of worry that everyone there made enemies. But such is the nature of the game. After my team won the first match (woohoo!), we started a second one but students began being picked up by parents and such so we called it off a bit before dinner. Three hours of Capture the Flag was a long time for me, and I was also slightly taken aback by how personal smack talk became and how competitive a favorite childhood game ended up being. So I'm not sure if I would personally like to lead another game, even though it seems as though most of the kids ultimately had fun. We shall see!
That pretty much ends the important parts of the day. Austin is leaving tomorrow early afternoon, so we all went out tonight to send him off, and ended up checking out a restaurant called Bull & Bush, a place at Riverwalk, and then a roof lounge (with a pool!) at the Masa Square Hotel. It was a fun night, though we're all sad to see him go! He's been a large part of all of us settling in and feeling comfortable here, so I hope we get a chance to tell him that tomorrow.
Good night for now!