Thursday, January 22, 2009

A Wonderful Time in Johannesburg

We had a wonderful time in Johannesburg. We stayed with Cynthia Hugo, the Director of the Read Foundation. She has magnificent gardens and a beautiful home, and we were treated royally. We spent one day visiting schools in Soweto and then worked with teachers for the following two days. These teachers all work with Read and they were leaders in their schools. We had wonderful, full days writing and talking about writing practice. A number of them said that they'd like to come to next summer's SAWP Writing Institute, and I told them that if they can get the plane tickets, they are welcome.

Johannesburg is a vital busy city with lots of traffic jams. I loved the practice of morning tea during our working days. The food was wonderful. We have only a few days left and then it's time to return home. Working in South Africa had been a life changing experience!

Friday, January 16, 2009

All of Us

Limpopo Writing Project Day 8

Today was a day of celebrations and goodbyes. We shared our photo gallery and played Ngokoana's theme song from the summer, Islands in the ? (I'm not sure about the title.) The song was so beautiful and the pictures so touching that we found ourselves dancing to the music. Pretty soon we all started line dancing together, every one of us! Then we shared our final stories, which were wonderful and from the heart. We had a certificate ceremony and Mary Lou and I were surprised to receive certificates, a gift of Dr. Makalela's new books and cards thanking us, The San Antonio Writing Project and my parent's for their financial donation and belief in the project.

Then Mari stood up representing the group and thanked us for all our support, followed by Grace who offered a parting prayer. Then everyone stood up and sang the South African National Anthem. It was hard not to cry.

Tomorrow we leave for Joburg. There have been so many highlights of our time in Limpopo. Of course the workshop and the wonderful teachers ranks high on our list. Ngokoana's wonderful hospitality and the many meals and experiences that she provided for us. Her husband's wonderful bar-b-que or every kind of South African meat available to us. Buying material with Ngokoana in the market. The wonderful day in Venda with Ngokoana and Mosima. Spending time with Ngokoana's wonderful 4 year old daughter, and watching her start her first day ever of school. Ngokoana's Uncle Selaelo who took us to dinner.

Other major highlights include visiting Nakedi's home and meeting her family and visiting Leketi's village and meeting his Mother and 90 year old Grandmother. The trip was more than we could have hoped for and the experiences are something that we will never forget. We feel that we are as lucky at the brilliant stars that light up the Southern Hemisphere sky and we are so grateful for these amazing experiences.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Limpopo Writing Project Day 6

Thanks to all who responded! As you can see, even Ngokoana has responded back! We'll be in the computer room tomorrow afternoon so I'll encourage everyone to write back. I also want to say hello and give a warm welcome to all my students who will be starting class this week without me. I'm so sorry to miss the first day of class, and I wanted you to know that I'm thinking of you. You'll be in good hands with Dr. Lillemon. I want to say hello to her, too.

Today is day 6 of the workshop that will be ending way too soon for me! Next week I work with teachers in Johannesburg. Today we shared two teacher demonstrations and then I shared a demonstration on revision. We wrote in the afternoon, shared with our writing groups and then had our book discussions. I'm in the group that is reading the autobiography of Nelson Mandela. What a strong and brilliant man he is.

Yes, Shannon, it is amazing that we can communicate with each other. I've told the South African teachers that you all want to have your students write to theirs, and they are excited about it. Thanks Laurie, Nora, Leona, Lisa, Rachel and everyone else for responding, and please keep posting! Yes, Kalpana, it would be amazing to have a writing project in India, and if anyone can make this dream come true, it's you!

We have to do some big time fund-raising for the Limpopo Writing Project when I get back. Everything has been more expensive than we planned and we keep digging into our pockets to keep the project going. Even the two lap-tops that we spent $50 mailing required another $335 rand when they arrived here. So please think of ideas to help us raise money.

Ngokoana has been an amazing host introducing us to lots of people, feeding us and showing us the countyside. Yesterday (Sunday) her friend, Mosima drove us far into the bush to the Venda country to see a famous potter. We saw where she fires her pottery and got a chance to talk with her and to tour the grounds. After lunch, we took winding dirt roads up and down a mountain and saw people with cattle and goats that would block our road. The road itself was very rocky and there a few scary moments when I wondered if the car would survive. The local people though were wonderful and encouraged us to keep going up the mountain. We were looking for a lake, but as often happens, the journey was really the destination.

In my last blog I meant to say that the Limpopo region looks a lot like South Texas except that it also has mountains. It rained today so it was cooler and much more pleasant. I wish that all of you were here with us enjoying this magical country. It's great to have your comments though. Please keep them coming.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Limpopo Writing Project Day 4

The teachers have been writing about their lives, getting on the internet and presenting their teaching demonstrations. Their writing is wonderful, on a variety of subjects that touches our hearts. The weather is very hot,just like the summers in San Antonio. Our classroom is not air-conditioned but the teachers take it in stride, it's the Americans who are wilting.

We went to the Indian market and bought some beautiful fabrics after class. Ngokoana is keeping us busy sightseeing, inviting us to dinners and introducing us to her family, relatives and friends. Nakedi is staying on campus because we are far from her home, like all the other participants. They are both doing a great job co-directing the project with Dr. Makalela. This project is more like a retreat or summer camp since the teachers are staying on campus and we are catering all their meals. They are together day and night. We're even working tomorrow, Saturday, but we have Sunday off. We have bonded and I look forward to working with them everyday.

This part of South Africa looks a lot like South Africa with hills (and mountains) and beautiful plants and trees. We're amazed at how many of them we have at home, but then they came from South Africa to the U.S. All the teachers send their best wishes and look forward to connecting with you.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Hello from South Africa

This is my first chance to write even though we've been gone over a week now. My internet access is very spotty. We celebrated the New Years in a plane traveling from London to Joburg. We flew up to Kruger National Park which we explored with our friends Miriam and Cheo Martinez. We saw zebras, giraffes, elephants, rhinos, hippos, impalas, water buffaloes, monkeys and baboons. I spent my birthday there and then Leketi picked us up in the evening and drove us to Polowane.

We were very exited to see Nakedi and Ngokoana as they were to see us. We gave them regards from everyone and they've sent them all back to you. They were most surprised and delighted to hear that Leona is getting married!

We've now finished the second day of the First Limpopo Writing Project Summer Institute, the first of it's kind in South Africa. We have 11 teachers plus the Director and Co-Directors. The teachers are excited to be participating and also send their thanks to all of you who have made this possible.

I'll follow with more updates when I can. Please send comments and I'll share them with the group.