South Africa: the final chapter!

Sawubona…Hallo…Hello for the final time from SA 👋 (well technically we’re in Thailand right now!) We have had a very busy month! I really can’t believe our time in South Africa has come to an end.

After Jonny’s parents left us we got stuck back into volunteering. There was a day of depression after leaving the luxury of the Dugong Guesthouse 😧

What did we get up to in hospice?
The CEO of hospice – Mr Mac – returned from his holiday in Australia so we spent a day catching up with him and the task of revamping the hospice website began! Now, me and Jonny have NO experience in web design but thanks to WordPress I think we managed to pull it off reasonably well (it did take two weeks of working day and night to get it to the standard we wanted…🙈😂) We made it possible to donate online which should make it so much easier for overseas donations. And our Khanya Hospice Facebook (or Bookface as Mr Mac likes to call it) page got turned into the official Khanya Hospice page! Hospice is officially part of the 21st century 🙌

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My uncles hilarious take on our very UNSTAGED photo doing some Bookface work!

We managed to make it into almost every south coast newspaper as the Irish volunteers. Unfortunately Mr Mac was suffering with some jet lag when he sent the info off so I ended up in every paper as ‘Natalie Garland social worker’. I didn’t let him live that one down!

There were a few days when we did collections & deliveries for the hospice shops. We organised the medication cupboard. I made some thank you letters to be given out to people who donate goods for the shops. We programmed some cash registers for the shops but it was decided that they would be too complicated for the volunteers in the shops to use so we started selling them on Gumtree 🙊 we had a “staff appreciation” morning to thank the staff for all the work that they do – we made croissants & provided tea/coffee and buns; then there were lots of other odd jobs to keep us busy! We are so ready to go back to work…ahem!

On one of the days GT, a caregiver, phoned in sick so Jonny got the job of driving her car so that Lungi (another caregiver) was able to get out to see her patients. This wasn’t any normal driving experience. We were going into rural south African townships. A 4×4 probably would have been needed to get to some of the places that we went 😂🚙 he did an awesome job though!

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Designated driver!

This was another day where our eyes were opened to the poverty that some people live in in SA.

What we saw…
We visited a lady in her 30’s who has went blind from the side effects of her ARV’s (HIV meds). She lived in a traditional Zulu house which is made from sticks & mud. During the day when her brother is working she has to be locked in her house for her safety. I can’t even explain to you how hot it was in this house – it was so horrendous. Jonny & Lungi gave her some advice about medication to use for an eye infection she had. Thankfully she has a carer who comes 3 days a week along with hospice visiting once a week which gives her some quality of life.

The next patient was an older woman with HIV who seemed to be doing quite well. The biggest shock in this house was when her daughter walked past. She was skin & bones – something that is quite common with HIV patients. Lungi was so shocked by her condition that she went to speak to her but when she came back she told us that the girl had been rude to her and was refusing any help. Her poor mum was so worried. Lungi made a note and referred the girl to one of the nursing sisters as soon as we got back to hospice.

One of the worst cases of the day was another lady living in a mud hut. Her house was in behind quite a few big houses with their satellite TV dishes and big cars. The lady here also had HIV. Her grandson was living with her as his mother had disappeared and abandoned him. The lady had no income whatsoever as her daughter was collecting her government grant for her son. They had very little food other than a few beans which were boiling in a pot outside. I was so horrified. We asked Lungi would the people in the community who obviously had some money not see how poor these people were and help them out. She told us no one would do that. That is one thing on a huge list of things that frustrates me about SA – from our experience very few people within the township communities help each other. And it doesn’t help that their government does not lead by example. I won’t even get started on South African politics – all I will say is that I guarantee Nelson Mandela would be turning in his grave knowing that he fought for democracy yet corruption is leading the way (just Google Jacob Zuma and the ANC if you want to know more 🙈)

Anywho. Our last patient of the day was a patient we had seen on our first full week at hospice. He was the man with the picket fence & vegetable patch! He welcomed us into his home again and we had some lovely chat about his Zulu culture, he told us stories from life during apartheid and we told him some more about Northern Ireland. He told us that he had told all his neighbours that Seamus’ brother had been in his house and they all couldn’t believe it 😂 When we were leaving he told Lungi that he wanted to give her a present to say thank you for all her help. He went out the back and we started to hear a lot of noise from a distressed chicken. I was so worried that he was going to appear with a dead chicken. But no. He came back with the live chicken wrapped in a plastic bag. He was giving it to Lungi so she could use her rooster to make more chickens 🐔 she told us she only kills the white chickens anyway and this one was black so she was lucky! There’s even chicken racism in SA 😂

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A chicken in a bag...

That day was definitely an experience for the two of us.

Another day was spent with Sister Bernie who took us to see a new patient who had just been referred to hospice. She was in the local government hospital GJ Crookes. When we got to the hospital we had such difficulty finding where the lady was. The girl sitting at the “patient information” desk spoke really bad English. We were directed towards a ward and when we got here a woman wearing pj’s & slippers said “you look lost” – she pointed us towards the ward we were looking for. When we got outside the ward we saw a picture of the woman in her pj’s. She was the ward manager. Wouldn’t that be a nice way to go to work… Eventually we found the lady and what we saw shocked us so much. The lady was so badly dehydrated that her mouth was black. Trying to get some water for her was a nightmare – there were no cups in sight and another patient told us they don’t give out cups so she gave us a straw to try to get some fluids into this lady. The lady had basically been left to die 😥 The next mission was to find a nurse/doctor…something you would imagine to be easy in a HOSPITAL. But no. We asked 3 cleaners who were too busy on their phones to give a toss where we could find a doctor. They were useless. We finally found a doctor who we felt so sorry for – he was a junior doctor who had just been left in charge. He wasn’t able to give us much info but Sister Bernie got what she needed and we left. We then went to find the lady a social worker so that she could get out of that ward/hellhole. It’s sad to say but we were so happy for the lady when we found out that she had passed away the next day. She no longer had to suffer in that horrible place.

We also spent some time with the children at the house of safety. This was probably one of the most rewarding parts of the past 6 weeks for me. The joy that these children got from seeing us was just amazing. And we got so much joy getting to know each of their wee personalities.

Last weekend we threw a “pizza party” for them. This was a huge success – lots of full tummies & happy faces. The girls sang a song for us and we got lots of letters & pictures from them. It was so nice! (I want to say a massive thank you to people from home who donated money towards this – you know who you are!)

Our final day with the children was on Saturday and it was pretty emotional. I felt so bad that we had to leave them. I found it especially hard leaving Thapelo, who I had become so close to. I gave him a teddy with a picture of us on it and the big grin on his cute wee face made me so happy. Leaving wasn’t such a happy experience 😭😭 but we have made a promise to the children that we will keep in touch & visit them again some day. We also hope to continue to support them when we get home.

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Our beautiful little lady friend doing a twirl in her pretty dress!


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Our evenings and weekends were also super busy…

🏡 We had one rough week in hospice where the alarm went off a couple of times in the middle of the night. Every. Single. Night. It was really scary for us (as everyday you read a horror story of someone being robbed or murdered in the middle of the night!) It totally ruined our sleep and we walked around like zombies. So, we were treated to a weekend at the home of one of the lady’s who works in hospice – Jan! It was so good to get a weekend of good sleep. We hung out with Jan, her cats & her African Grey bird!

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Jack the African Grey!


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Dude the cat!

🍴 We took Dhava, Selvie & their grandson out for dinner to thank them for spoiling us with many culinary delights during our time in Umkomaas. Jonny and I are basically Indian now from all the time we spent with these three.

🌊 We also took Jaedyn swimming one day as he had told us he really wanted to learn how to swim. Jonny and I realised we definitely don’t have the patience to be swimming instructors 😂 but we had lots of laughs with Jaedyn!

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Wish i'd learnt to swim somewhere like this!

🎵 We went to see Mumford & Sons at Durban’s Botanic Gardens. They were EPIC!!!!

👫 We went for a few evening strolls in Umkomaas. Aaaand we saw a black pig casually wandering around the streets. As you do…
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🏡 We spent a lovely weekend with Mr Mac’s family. Colleen (his daughter) and Clint visited us in NI a few years ago so it was really good to catch up with them and their expanding family! Their kiddies Rachy & Carly are the cutest 😍 we had a lovely Braai on the Saturday night and then went to a game park on the Sunday morning!

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This rhino was casually hanging out on the grass at the entrance to the park...


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A mysterious Asian elephant...in Africa!


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An African elephant where it should be!


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So close to these big pussy cats!

🍖 We had a lovely Braai at the Dugong Guesthouse one Friday evening!
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🐚 We spent many days at the beautiful tidal pool at Park Rynie beach.

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The tidal pool!


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🐡 We went to uShaka marine world and water park with a Dutch volunteer, Michelle, who joined us at hospice 2 weeks ago! It was a fun day but I did end up with a bruised head & a burn on my back from the slides. Ouch! 👎
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👵 We spent a morning with one of the hospice board members in the retirement village she lives in. Jonny and I fitted in a little too well 😂 Jessie & her husband Hamilton gave us a guided tour of their village and we had a lot of laughs!

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Michelle, us, Jessie & Hamilton!

👖 We had a few shopping trips to some of SA’s huuuge shopping centres! Much to Jonny’s annoyance 😂

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I LOOOOOVE shopping...

🐒 We visited a friend of Jan’s who runs a monkey sanctuary from her house!! Tracey takes in monkeys who have been knocked down or orphaned and gets them fixed up. She had a cage of new baby monkeys which she is hand raising. It was crazy seeing the attachment the baby monkeys had to her! It was a very surreal experience. We learnt that monkeys poo A LOT!
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Tracey also had about 5 dogs (it was basically a zoo 😂) and one had just had puppies. They were so adorable 🐶❤

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Just one of the many dogs!


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🌅 For our last week in SA we were treated to total luxury. Pam, the lady who runs the Dugong Guesthouse, let us come to stay with her. We couldn’t have finished our stay in South Africa any better than this. Our bedroom looked right out at the sea and every morning & night we could hear the waves crashing in the distance. This made us want to stay in SA forever. We really enjoyed getting to know Pam and had a lovely Braai with her on our final night in KwaZulu-Natal 😋

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The perfect end to our SA adventure!


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Chilling with one of Pam's doggies - meet Angie!


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Hanging with Pam's African Grey!

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Jonny getting lessons from the Braai mistress!

🍕 We had some pizza and beers with Dillan who had taken us out on our first weekend in KZN!

Aaaand that was about it! South Africa will always be a very special place to us ❤❤ Despite all the frustrations with crime & corruption we do love the place. And highly recommend everyone pays it a visit at some point in their life – it is beautiful! We’re kinda worried about coming home now as we feel we’ve got so used to the African way of life. Thanks so much to all our new friends & extended “family” who made us so welcome in KZN 😘

The final part of our adventure is back where it all started in Thailand. Of course we had to finish with a wee trip back to our favourite turtle island 🐢 😍 We made the trip from Cape Town yesterday and arrived in Bangkok today. We can’t get out quick enough – we’re heading to the train station in half an hour to catch the train to Tao 😍

Until next time 👋 x

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