Today we had a lazy day. We couldn’t go get our student cards because the system was down again so we didn’t even head to university. The girls of House 8 stayed at home, watched movies, read, watched two birds do a “let’s get it on” dance in the front courtyard, went shopping and looked for a teapot.

Yesterday, however, was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. Helen, one of the heads of residence, took John (Canadian), Imke (Dutch), Matt (Missouri) and I to the township Mamelodi, where she works for a charity that operates out there.

The charity helps seven schools and several HIV clinics out in the township, which is about 20 min from Pretoria. We went to two of the primary schools and met the staff and kids. It was absolutely insane. Since little to no whites enter the townships, we were quite the curiosity. As soon as we stepped out of the car we were mobbed by children. They just swarmed us and wanted to touch us, shake hands, hug us and pose for our cameras. They were absolutely adorable. I couldn’t stop smiling. They loved posing for pictures and then asking to see them so they could find themselves in the picture.

They absolutely adored John. John is about 6’ 3”, has a shaved head and a goatee, and has tattoos. The kids just were in awe of him and began shouting/chanting “Big Show” at him. Apparently, John resembles the WWE wrestler “Big Show” and the kids thought that it was him. WWE and wrestling in general is quite popular South Africa.

It was great fun to go into several of the classrooms and Helen would have the kids play a guessing game to guess which country each of us came from.

We went and saw the libraries–which had books in English and the mother tongue of the school. One was a Zulu school, the other was a Sepedi school.

The discipline of children when they were in the classrooms was so different than kids back in the States. They sat quietly in their seats, even without the teacher being in the room. Even when we entered the room, there was more looks around to each other and whispering but not the usual roar of American elementary students. Then when Helen asked them how they were doing and how their holidays were etc.; they answered in unison and no crazy confusion of ten thousand different explanations. It was a different kind of discipline. There is more freedom when they are out of the classroom but in there is strict structure and expectations.

Talking to Helen, I am going to continue a reading program that some students started last year. I have all Thursday free so I will be going down to one of the schools and reading to the various classes and playing games with them in English to help them practice. It’s for the practice but also to give them attention, help and interaction on a more individual basis. The classes are quite large and teachers are overstretched and undertrained. The kids also can’t get the kind of interaction they need to succeed in school and with reading because most of their parents are completely or partly illiterate.

Matt is going to be helping the adults fill in forms they need for school registration, housing, government funds etc. because of the high rates of illiteracy.

Many of the exchange students are so interested in doing community work and helping those less fortunate. It’s awesome and it inspires me to do even more. I can’t wait to work with all of them and make a difference. Plus, I love reading and I can’t wait to share many of my favorite kids’ books. I am thinking I might get some you all back in the   States to maybe collect books etc. for the libraries. I am going on Thursday to go and read and I think “Big Show” is coming along. It should be pretty fun.

Another note, I was skyping my parents Sunday night and this HUMONGOUS cockroach scurried across the floor. The stupid thing popped out of nowhere and scared the living daylights outta me. I totally screamed like a little girl and climbed on top my chair. Imke and Krista ran in and saw the thing and went berserk too. The cockroaches here are like the ones back at home, EXCEPT ON STEROIDS. My parents couldn’t stop laughing as they listened to us scramble around trying to catch it under a trashcan and get it out. We did get it taken care of, but I checked under my bed and everywhere for more of the little buggers. PS, I took plenty of pictures of the cute kids and the cockroach of doom. They are on my mobile me account here.