So our first day back at the orphanage after Kruger National Park, just happened to be my birthday!!! And I LOVE my birthday!!! I was happy to be celebrating in South Africa and with people that I’d become very close to and that made it special for me. I started out by sleeping in, then heading to the nursery to see the others and to see the kiddies, who then proceeded to sing happy birthday to me, which was so cute! I got some bday cuddles in with my favourite baby, and then we headed to the Apartheid Museum. For those of you who don’t know, Apartheid was a (I’m going to quote Wikipedia here) “system of of racial segregation in South Africa enforced through legislation by the governing party (the NP) from 1948 to 1994.” It was a really horrible system (in some ways, similar to what happened in the U.S.), and Mandela’s fight against the system and for equality is why he was in prison for 27 years. The museum was really interesting, and when you pay your entrance fee, you are given a piece of paper with either “White” or “Non-White”, and there are two entrances, dependent on which one you were issued. There is a lot to read and watch, and so we spent most of the day there (and I still didn’t really finish, I kind of rushed through some stuff since I was way behind everyone else). There was a Nelson Mandela exhibit, which was fascinating. He was an amazing person and I look forward to learning more about him and to reading his book when I get home. Since we were there for most of the day, we had lunch there, which was really good, as we all got something different and shared (except for Roberta since she’s a vegetarian) and I tried bobotie, a traditional South African dish. I also got a birthday call from my mom, which was amazing, it was so nice to hear from her!
Once we were finally museumed out, we headed to the mall for some free wifi and to get some groceries and then back to the orphanage. Roberta made a really yummy pasta dish for dinner (I highly recommend having an Italian in your volunteer group, lol) and then we had the yummy cake (with candles and Happy birthday singing) that Loren had baked for me while I was at Kruger. Then I got a beautiful necklace as my birthday gift. All in all, it was a wonderful birthday, and I’m so happy I got to spend it with Roberta, Antoine and Loren, they really made me feel special, thanks guys, I loved it!!!
The next day was back to our regular orphanage routine. We got up early at 6:30am and headed to the nursery for baths, playtime and breakfast. I got to check out the new baby that had arrived while we were gone, an unusual one for the Soweto orphanage, as she is white. I swear, I really had to examine her face to check if she was actually white or if she was albino. But she’s actually white. It doesn’t happen very often, as they get children from the surrounding community, and Soweto is nearly all black, but every once in a while, when the other orphanage (in a predominantly white area) is short on space, a white baby arrives. She was tiny, only 10 days old when she arrived. And after only seeing black children for a while, she kind of looked weird, lol, like a ghost.
Anyway, after our morning break, we each took a child, and headed with the lady in charge to a doctor’s clinic, where the children get assessed for adoption. We spent a few hours there, before heading back to the orphanage, just in time to say goodbye to my and Antoine’s baby (he was our absolute favourite, such a cutie) as he was leaving with his adoptive parents that day. So happy for him, but we were so sad to see him go. One thing about the orphanage, not all of the children are up for adoption, and not all are orphans. Some are there because of neglect, or abuse (some have scars), or because the living situation isn’t good, or the parents are alcoholics or are not working, or many other reasons. Some are up for adoption, some are up for foster care, some will be there until they are 18, and some will eventually go back to their families. Some mothers and grannies visit (although if the child is up for adoption the mother is not allowed to visit). Since I’ve been here, I’ve seen quite a few family members visit, a few children go to foster families, one was adopted and one was returned to her family. It’s definitely a mix, and for the most part we as volunteers don’t have the background as to why they are here, although as I’ve gotten more comfortable and gotten to know some of the ladies better, I have asked about a few of the kids. For some of the kids, being in the orphanage is so much better than being with their families. One little boy who had arrived just before I did (which I didn’t know at the time) and has a lot of scars, was very, very clingy to me when I first arrived, and would cry if I couldn’t hold him or if I had to put him down. But in the time that I’ve been there, he’s become much happier and sure of himself, and plays happily with the other children and doesn’t require the constant attention and reassurance he used to need. So there are definitely some sad stories, but sometimes there is hope as well.
So now that I’ve brought you all down, I will attempt to bring you back up. The day after the clinic was Antoine and Loren’s last full day in Soweto, so we went to the mall for some free wifi, souvenir shopping, lunch in a restaurant and some pampering. Roberta got her hair braided, Loren got a manicure and I got a pedicure. We tried to convince Antoine to get something done, but he refused, no matter how much we told him that real men get pedicures!!! When we got home I made it a real spa day by re-dyeing my hair. Then we had our last supper (lol) together, followed by another (sort of) birthday cake that Loren made and then taking a couple hundred selfies on the couch together, lol. It was a pretty great day. Oh, except for the fact that I lost my glasses on the way home from the mall. I put on my sunglasses on the way out, and put my regular glasses back in my purse, but didn’t zip it up, so they either fell out, or someone took them out, or I took them out in taxi to get to something else and then forgot to put them back in. Typical of me, so I’m sure most of you are not surprised, lol. So now I have to wear my sunglasses (they’re prescription) all the time, even inside and in the evening, it’s so much fun! (that was sarcastic in case you couldn’t tell). The only blip in an otherwise great day.
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