February 14/15th

Can’t believe I’m back in my own bed, the past two weeks have flown by!

Our last day was on Valentine’s Day, which was quite appropriate considering how much I’ve grown to love Ikusasalethu! It was really difficult saying good bye to all the staff and learners, and unfortunately they all had to witness my ugly crying face – sorry guys.

There are so many things that I am thankful for but I won’t bore you by rabbling on, so I’ll just say one massive thank you to all the staff and learners at Ikusasalethu. Also a special thank you to Mrs Gilchrist and Mrs Bryson for making my time in South Africa so amazing, and also to Megan for sharing this experience with me. This journey has had such an impact on me, and I’m so grateful to all of you for giving me this opportunity that I’ll never forget. I have had such an amazing adventure, and my last thank you is to everyone who has supported me, to those who have helped me fundraise and also to all of you who have been reading this blog!

forever friends

I’m excited for my final year at Stonelaw as I’ll be able to continue with this partnership and keep in contact with all my new friends at Ikusasalethu. Back to Stonelaw on Monday!

Lots of love, hugs and kisses

from Rosy

xox

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February 14-15th

So Valentine’s day was our last day in South Africa.

It was such an emotional day – Rosy and I were upset basically from the first minute we were in school! At assembly, we were thanked and given little gifts from the Ikusasalethu family. It was so, so kind of them and we really do appreciate it so much. We also received letters and cards from learners, as well as beautiful roses! Thank you so much for that! I don’t think I’ve ever felt so valued and loved by people other than my family and it was such a special day.

We were delighted to receive copies of the school newsletter hot off the press and proud that our school partnership and visit featured a lot in it. Some quotes from the newsletter…

“This partnership has created a global status for our school… This has advanced our standard of education and has updated us about socio-cultural issues, mainly respect… Educationally we have gained a lot as the visit is not for pleasure but for an academic purpose… The standard of education in our school has improved and the school environment has become more comfortable to people of all ages and of both genders.” – Snothile Gumede

“The debate team is on war against gender inequality.” – Nosmilo Mazibuko

newsletters

We spent most of the day saying our goodbyes to our new friends. It was so upsetting and I cried – a lot (I blame Mr Mbuyazi’s speeches)! It is such an exalting feeling to know that I’ve made such an impact on people’s lives. Going to Africa, it was my goal to make even a tiny difference in at least one person’s life, and with the number of learners telling me I’ve inspired them and taught them new things – I think I have achieved my goal. I’m so proud of the learners I’ve come to love. It’s been wonderful to watch them grow with us for the past two weeks.

We were very impressed with the standard of posters and poems about Respect submitted by the learners from all grades. These are the prize winners. Well done, guys!

comp winners

Ikusasalethu learners enjoyed finding out more about their Scottish partners and wrote positive peer evaluations on the Inspire-Aspire posters done by Stonelaw learners.

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Mr Khathi, the Principal, had to leave early because he was going to an award ceremony in connection with last year’s matriculation (Grade 12) results. He is a lovely person and we were sad to say goodbye to him. Actually, we’ve still not told you about the school’s results! In Grade 12, learners sit seven subjects at Higher level and must pass five of them in order to gain an overall pass. Well, Ikusasalethu learners did brilliantly – 93% of 157 learners passed! One learner even got 100% in Maths! That shows what hard work and the right attitude can do even without the resources that we take for granted.

mr khati

Our last day was made special also because, when we were in Durban airport waiting for our flight, Mrs G received confirmation that the profits from Stonelaw High Fair Traders for 2013 (£6,000) were now transferred. This money will make a big difference to the lives of many of the most vulnerable learners, buying uniforms for 220 at Ikusasalethu and 54 at Indukebandla. It’s good to know that all the work of the fair trade group throughout the year results in something that definitely matters, because having a new uniform will raise the self esteem of individuals we really care about. That is immeasurable!

I couldn’t possibly say everything I want to, because I’m pretty sure I’ll start crying again. I miss everyone so much already! But it truly has been such a privilege to spend two weeks with the staff and learners at Ikusasalethu, and see first hand where the profits from Stonelaw High Fair Traders go. We really appreciate all the support we have received in both South Africa and Scotland. It has been such a life-changing experience, and I think that the feeling of inspiration and love is mutual between myself and Ikusasalethu learners. I know that with the care and appreciation I have been shown in Africa, I have developed as a person and I can’t express my gratitude enough. You all mean so much to me, and will always have a special place in my heart. I hope that contact can continue between us, and I am positive that the partnership will continue to grow stronger. I am so grateful for the opportunity to represent Stonelaw, and I hope I have made you all proud!

Staff and learners of Ikusasalethu: thank you all so, so much. Thank you for showing me that there is a genuine goodness which exists in the world. Thank you for showing me the positive side of all situations. Thank you for making me more confident and appreciative. Thank you for making me feel like a part of your community. Thank you for making me feel like I belong in South Africa. Thank you for showing me a massive insight into your wonderful culture. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Always.

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All my love, Megan xxx

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February 13th

Today was our last full day at Ikusasalethu! I cannot believe how quickly the past two weeks have flown in!

We visited a Grade 9 class today along with Njabula and Andiswa, both Grade 11 learners, to deliver a peer education lesson on gender respect. The lesson went well and the young learners seemed very interested in the points we made, and were also more than happy to add in their own views and questions. Overlooking the peer education from the last two weeks I think it is safe to say that it is a very effective way of informing learners about issues in a way that they can understand and relate to.

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At break today Megan and I were visited by a few of the girls from our Grade 10 class. They came with handmade cards for us which were beautifully decorated with very kind messages on the inside. It was such a kind gesture that Megan and I started crying. I think that was when we truly realised how much we were going to miss everyone and how much of an impact the school had made on us in such a short period of time.

The evening was spent having dinner with the teachers, and it was lovely to get a final chance to spend time with them outside of the classroom.The food was great, but the company was even better!

last night

Love from Rosy and Megan

xox

February 12th

Today we visited Indukebandla Primary School, about a 10 minute drive from Ikusasalethu, for a couple of hours. It was so, so much fun to see the wee ones! They melt your heart – they’re just so cute! They’re all very well-behaved (well, they were when we visited) and their wee giggles make you want to pick them up and give them a cuddle! They’re very clever too – we visited one class where the teacher wasn’t present, and they had been teaching themselves! One of the wee ones was standing at the front of the room with a ruler pointing to words on the board as the class practised vocabulary. It was spectacular to watch. We also saw them taking turns dishing out their lunches then carrying the pots, plates etc. to the kitchen. There was the sad side, though. The school is by no means large and there are 750 learners there with 22 teachers – a lot of children packed into small classrooms. Just like wonderful people at Ikusasalethu, everyone is optimistic and cheerful. The positivity of the people here constantly amazes us.

indukabandla

Indukebandla

We also spent a period in class with Mrs B teaching today – a first for us! The learners made room for us to take a seat and we joined the learners in today’s topic – global warming: how can we be “greener”? It was actually quite an interesting lesson. We were put into teams of 4 or 5, and were given a statement to discuss, for example, my team (“The Satellites”) discussed the idea of losing low-lying land and animals due to global warming. We both really enjoyed being part of 10B for a period. It was also nice to be in one of Mrs B’s classes as it reminded me of Higher Geography last year!

brydog teaching

Today we began handing out the pens, some of which were donated by our schoolmates and teachers in Stonelaw. The learners here are so grateful and appreciative of what is “just a pen” to us at home. Seeing some of their faces light up at their new, fancy pens has really made me value what I have. I think when we return to Stonelaw next Monday (ah!) we’ll be grateful for the resources we take for granted.

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We’d like to say a massive thank you to everyone who donated pens! The learners appreciated it so much.

There was also a situation we had to deal with today, which we’d never experienced before.. A swarm of bees attacking Ikusasalethu! To sum it up in one word – terrifying. Having already been stung by a hornet this trip, it is safe to say I am rather cautious around stingy-horrible-flying-things. We ended up causing a bit of a scene when entering a class today. I screamed, Rosy screamed, Rosy ran, I ran, Rosy had to run again because the bee followed her, we were still screaming.. I bet you can imagine how funny the learners found that scenario! Regardless, we weren’t stung, so..1-0 Megan and Rosy.

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Rosy

Half way through last period today with 10E I was invited along to a Grade 9 (S2) Life Orientation class! They were all divided into groups and a member from each group presented a project. The topics were on issues such as teenage pregnancy and the effects of it: mental scarring, contraction and symptoms of HIV as well as preventions. At the end of the presentations the learners then asked questions regarding what was said about each topic and stated their own opinions. It was great to see such young learners take an interest in these really important issues and it was clear that they had all put a lot of effort into the projects as they were of a really high standard! I was very impressed with each group and all the learners were so lovely that it was a shame I didn’t get a chance to spend more time with them during our stay.

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We had to say goodbye to two of the classes we’ve been working with since we arrived – 10A and 10E. It was really quite emotional and we’re so sad that we don’t have any time left to spend with them! I don’t even want to think about the mess I’ll be on Friday when we’re really leaving if I got upset saying bye to people today! It’s been so, so amazing to see both classes grow with us, and see such an improvement in their English skills due to the Inspire>Aspire lessons. Their Inspire>Aspire posters were completed to such a high standard and Rosy, Mama G and I are so impressed and so proud of the learners! We’ve made some really good friends in both classes and took loads of photographs – I just hope it will be possible to keep in contact with some of them!

ia posters

We had more lovely visitors this afternoon at Wendy’s! Mr Mbuyazi brought his two beautiful daughters Omuhle and Aneliswa to see us. They are such well-behaved, independent children, who were very eloquent and confident when speaking to us. After teaching us some isiZulu, they played the isiZulu game on Mama G’s iPad and did extremely well. Such clever girls! They proceeded to play card games afterwards – a six and an eight year old playing card games so well, it was amazing! Mrs B also took them for a walk around the garden at Wendy’s, which I’m sure would have been educational, what with Mrs B’s extensive knowledge of pretty much everything! They were so much fun to be around, like little rays of sunshine. Mama G especially enjoyed being referred to as “auntie”, and we all enjoyed the cuddles!

jabulani daughters

For dinner tonight we were joined by Dr Ruth Bland, a consultant at Yorkhill in Glasgow, but who worked at the Africa Centre in Mtubatuba for 14 years and still comes back several times a year to oversee projects. Dr Bland is the woman we have to thank for the initiation of the partnership between Stonelaw and Ikusasalethu. She is such a lovely woman and it was a very pleasant evening. From her, we also learned more about the area and the projects going on at the centre, such as the health issues and consequences of HIV/AIDS faced by South Africans. Thank you for coming to visit us!

Love Megan and Rosy

xx

P.S. It was great to discover that the class reps from 10A went back to their class immediately from the talk show yesterday to relay the information discussed. They encouraged their fellow classmates to stop gender discrimination and value/respect all genders, including the idea that male and female teachers should be respected equally.

February 11th

There was a lot jam packed into today! When we arrived at school we were in class for the first three periods until break, then again in fourth. However periods five and six were spent doing the talk show!

The class representatives, a boy and a girl from each grade, and also some staff acted as an audience for the speakers. There were 7 participants including Megan and me from a variety of grades, and also a wonderful and very composed host from Grade 8, who was very impressive! During the talk show, issues of gender inequalities were discussed, specifically the changes in gender equality from the past to the present in different aspects of life, such as in education, work place, media, religion etc. I wasn’t sure what it was going to be like because I’ve never been part of a talk show, but it was amazing! Each of the points made by the participants was so interesting and thought provoking, they clearly feel very strongly about creating a future that has equality between all people. They all put so much work into it and had done a lot of research, so their knowledge of the issues really shone through and made their points so strong. I discussed schooling in the past compared to the present and how children nowadays all get equal opportunities no matter what their gender is. Learners in the audience were also great and had such good questions as well as statements to add onto what had already been said, and they also had such confidence whilst speaking and brought their points across very clearly. I was really grateful to be a part of the talk show because I felt that it is really important to discuss these issues now and take action as it means that equality and respect for all genders can be achieved sooner.

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Megan

I was so impressed with the learners in Ikusasalethu. As Rosy said, they made such interesting points about gender issues and presented their ideas in a clear and concise manner. As learners participating, we were granted complete control of the organisation and presentation, and the learners from Ikusasalethu had such amazing ideas on how the issues should be addressed. I was so engrossed in what others were saying as it is so obvious how strongly they feel about our rights as human beings, and I think I speak for everyone involved when I say I was totally engaged from the beginning. Personally, I addressed the issue of gender stereotyping and the sexualisation of females in the media, and the consequences of such. I think it is such an incredible thing that the learners really want to take action and put a stop to gender inequality – one learner from Grade 12, Lindane, even initiated a pledge for every learner in the room to take. We all pledged to take action and continue addressing the issues of gender respect until equality between all human beings has been achieved. Hopefully we can use what happened in Ikusasalethu’s science lab today to teach other children (and adults!) that all beings have the right to be respected and valued, and we MUST end discrimination and stereotyping between genders.

Mrs B

I arrived from teaching in the latter stages of the debate and was immediately impressed with how focused everyone was. Each speaker was listened to with attention and their contributions applauded. All the contributors spoke fluently with real passion and commitment. The discussion was chaired with professional assurance by a young girl. Overall the learners showed great maturity both in their opinions and in the manner they expressed them.

Mama G

I want to stress that today’s gender respect talk show was initiated and planned completely by the learners without teacher input. During two lunchtime meetings a group of Ikusasalethu learners, along with Megan and Rosy, agreed on the format and content of the talk show. The learners decided that all classes must be represented in the audience so that their passionate message of gender respect could be cascaded to the whole school. Determined to take a stand in changing others’ negative attitudes, they obviously felt empowered and their performance was inspirational. What a fantastic group of young people – I was extremely proud of all of them!
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” (Margaret Mead)

After school the teachers very kindly took us to visit a bird park, where we got to see so many beautiful and exotic birds. There was also a pool there that we all dipped our feet into, which was lovely and cooling, and some of the teachers and their children also went in for a swim. It was a great day out!

bird park spa bird park pool

Love Rosy and Megan

xox

February 10th

Today in school we started the next section of Inspire>Aspire, which is how we see our future and how we will achieve our vision of a better world. It’s really heart-warming to see so many learners who want to be scientists to find the cure for HIV/AIDS and doctors/nurses to help treat people who are suffering and give people a better quality of life.

Rosy and I also had the chance to lead two Grade 9 classes under Mrs G’s guidance: we discussed gender issues. The topic led on to subjects such as bullying, and I personally shared a lot with the class, which was difficult but therapeutic as I think me speaking from personal experience really let the class see how violence/bullying affects people in the long term. It was stimulating for both of us to be involved in peer education. It has given us a little more confidence in speaking in front of many people (there were over 50 learners in each class) and we both really enjoyed the challenge, and look forward to more peer education in the coming days!

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I also popped into class with Mrs B for a wee five minutes to take some snaps.. But I had to leave quickly as the learners stopped listening to Mrs B’s lesson on desertification to pose for the camera. Sorry, Mrs B!

brydog

After school today, Mr Sibisi came to Wendy’s with his family to visit us! It was so lovely to see baby Simbonge and little Maka. Such well behaved, beautiful children! The wee one is a bundle of joy. I think we’ve all fallen in love with her!

sibisi family

At around 6pm, Mr Mbuyazi arrived to pick us up and take us to Mr Mlambo’s home where we had a delicious (nandi) dinner with some of the staff from Ikusasalethu. It was such a pleasant evening. We’re made to feel so welcome and so comfortable with the staff, we don’t feel like we’re sitting with teachers but instead with friends. It’s so nice to see how the staff at school are so friendly with each other – it’s such a tight-knit community.

andi's

Love Megan and Rosy

xx

February 9th

This morning we all enjoyed a long lie till 8am, I still think that it’s crazy that I now consider that to be a long lie. We had a lovely breakfast in Wendy’s and were then joined by Mr Sibisi who was taking us out for the day!

We went to Cape Vidal where we saw hippos, buffalos, warthogs, lizards, spiders and loads more amazing animals. It was a really gorgeous day today in South Africa so it was perfect for seeing all the different sights. However despite using a tonne of sun cream Megan and I still got burnt, so we look like lil tomatoes.

We also went to the beach and swam in the Indian Ocean! We first went to Mission Rocks, and we were able to hop about the rocks and see into the rockpools – the crabs here are so much cooler compared to back home! We then moved to Cape Vidal where the water was so beautiful and blue, we could even see all the colourful fish swimming underneath it! The waves here are massive and its such fun to swim in. Whilst we were in the water however, some cheeky monkeys came down and opened up our bags – they pulled everything out of Megan’s bag and stole the chewing gum out mine. Little rascals!

On the road home from our adventure we had dinner with Mr Sibisi in St Lucia. Now we’re back at Wendy’s getting ready for our last week of school at Ikusasalethu, I still cannot believe how quickly the first week has gone in!

cape vidal hippo

cape vidal beach

cape vidal

Love from Rosy and Megan
xox

February 8th

Well today has been v. busy!

Our day began at 3:30am as we had to get up early to go on the safari. As you could probably guess, we weren’t particularly happy about rising at ridiculous o’clock, but by the time we were in the vehicle, we were buzzing! Gavin, one half of the couple who owns Wendy’s, was taking us on the game drive – this we were happy about! Gavin is hilarious and is so knowledgeable, so the trip was educational as well as fascinating.

Instead of me talking about every animal individually, I’ll just list what we saw: elephants, giraffes, zebra, warthogs, buffalo, wildebeests, antelope, and hyenas – as well as a variety of birds and bugs.

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We stopped for breakfast/lunch at a picnic table, and Gavin cooked us a bush meal! Bacon, sausages, eggs, onions, tomato and toast – it was very beautiful! But, of course, typical Megan.. Just before eating, I was stung by a hornet! It was one of the most painful things I’ve ever experienced and I lost feeling in two of my fingers. The ache in my hand is still there, but thanks to Gavin and his magic spittle-and-tobacco mixture and Mama G’s zap-it gun (I was electrocuted!) and ammonia, the pain is very bearable. My saviours!

After the safari, we came home to rest only for a short while before we had to head out again. We were going to Emdoneni Lodge – a cat rehab centre. On the way there, we stopped off at a market so we could pick up some souvenirs. The things sold ranged from a variety of fruits to paintings to jewellery to dishes to weird scary masks. Got to love markets, eh? Look forward to your souvenirs. x x

At the Lodge, there were cheetahs, caracals, African wildcats and servals (my favourites). We were taken on a guided tour around the cat enclosures, and allowed to enter to take photographs beside them eating their dinner (zebra). We even got cuddles from our lovely new friends! The Lodge was such an amazing experience and Rosy and I are now sporting “I made friends with the cheetah at Emdoneni” t-shirts.

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We feel so thankful and appreciative that tonight we’re getting a few extra hours of sleep – we don’t have to get up till 8am! What a long lie (yaaaaaaaay). Very excited for what we have planned for tomorrow.. Stay tuned to read about what we get up to!

Love, Megan and Rosy

xx

February 7th

Schoooooool

Today at school we continued with the next part of Inspire>Aspire which was our Inspirational Figures. The first two periods were spent with the biggest classes, with the number of pupils reaching 76 in one of them! The bigger classes are our favourites because there are so many different wonderful personalities!

We’d like to thank Mr Mhlongo for allowing us to join his Grade 12 maths class. We had a lot of fun today sketching cubic functions. He was such a great help to me as I struggle with maths, and even wrote me out a note to help me understand it when back in Scotland!

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After break (the equivalent of our lunch) the periods were shorter so that the school day finished earlier to allow the pupils to clean the classrooms. Imagine asking Stonelaw pupils to clean the classrooms at the end of the week – they don’t even like being told to pick up their litter! The boys would move the desks to the side of the room and wash them, and the girls would sweep then mop the floor. The boys wash the windows and wipe the chalkboard, however it is a joint effort to sweep the area outside their classroom. A lot of hard work for a Friday afternoon! It was great to see the learners working together to keep their own classrooms clean!

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Mrs Gilchrist and Megan went on a search to find the learner from the football photos, who appeared in almost every shot! The mystery player turned out to be a boy from Grade 11 called Skhanyiso Mthembu. Mrs G has named him the man of the match, and took his photo beside the game shots. He was really appreciative that we took his photo because although he had received football certificates in the past he had never seen a picture of himself in action, so it was really nice to be able to make him feel proud of his amazing talent.

footballer

We also got some photos with our friends in class 10A!

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The talk show that was planned for today has been postponed till next week, so stay tuned for that!

Love Rosy and Megan

xox

February 6th

I bet you won’t believe what I’m about to tell you. Everyone who knows Rosy knows she’s never on time, but in fact, today, Rosy Anna Howitt was a whole 10 minutes early this morning! That was 4:20am in UK time! Go Rosy! Maybe she’s turned over a new leaf in South Africa?

We began our school day today with a free period, but we chose to pop into a Grade 8 (S1) class to introduce ourselves. We offered to answer any questions they had, and they asked a few questions regarding sports in Stonelaw. When Rosy mentioned that she’s a dancer and a cheerleader, they wanted her to demonstrate! In a second, Rosy was hiding behind me and refusing – kiddin’ on she’s shy. The Grade 8’s are adorable – a lot more friendly than the S1’s in Stonelaw!

We’d also like to take the chance here to congratulate Ms Mthembu on her recent engagement! Halala Ms Mthembu! Rosy, Mrs G, Mrs B and I wish you all the best. You’re going to be such a beautiful bride!

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Today in class with Mama G, we moved on to the next part of Inspire>Aspire – inspirational figures. This is a really interesting part of the lesson as we’ve both learned quite a bit about some incredible people, including Graca Machel (Madiba’s wife) and Sibusiso Vilane (the first black African man to climb Everest). When we finally managed to get the projector to work (honestly – in Scotland we don’t value electricity enough), we watched Mama G’s presentations on inspirational figures, and were just as engrossed as Ikusasalethu learners.

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Today we were also interviewed for the Zululand Fever newspaper! Pictures were taken of us, along with the learners who are participating in tomorrow’s talkshow. The issue comes out on Thursday so we’ll be able to see it before we leave. It’ll be quite interesting to be in an African newspaper!

For the last period of the day, we went into a Grade 12 class to discuss gender issues and the impact of the lessons Mama G had taught the same class in her previous visit. It’s really nice to spend time with them. Being in Ikusasalethu and experiencing how hard the learners work has made both Rosy and I feel like we slack off a lot, and has made us more determined than ever to do well in our exams.

School finished early today, as on some Thursdays there are sports after school! We went up to the netball court to watch a teachers vs. learners game, in which Mrs B and Rosy participated. It was like the Old Firm of Ikusasalethu (without the violence)! It was such fun to watch the game and see the supporters cheering and dancing and singing in their South African way – we need more of this enthusiasm in Scotland! After netball, we drove a little way down the road to a football pitch, where there was another teachers vs. learners game. This was also really fun to watch and I ended up getting a little sunburn on my face and my arms! First time we’ve caught the sun since we arrived!

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Tonight, after getting sunburn, it ended up raining – as in, tropical, torrential rain! Rosy and I decided to don our raincoats (while in shorts and flipflops) and go a walk around Wendy’s, jumping in puddles, acting about 6 years old. I can’t tell you how satisfying rainshowers are in Africa! We got round to the pool and decided to dip our feet in, to be surprised by how warm it was. Of course, we had to go in! So we ran back to the room, realised our front door was locked (as we’d come out the back), had to knock on Mrs B’s door to cut through and get to our room, and put on our bikinis to go for a swim! The pool was lovely and we ended up staying in for about an hour. It was nice and dark outside and so relaxing in the rain. We were called out at about 7:20pm for dinner, which was amazing – as usual – hats off to Ntombi (the chef)!

Today was fantastic and we can’t believe that tomorrow is the end of our first week at Ikusasalethu. It’s flown in!

Love Megan and Rosy

xx