A month back in the UK!

It has been a while since I last posted as I have simply been so busy! I was so excited as I went home for the weekend, the first time since I had returned from South Africa. It was so lovely to see my family! And yesterday as I opened my first chocolate of my Advent calendar, I realised it was a month ago that I was landing back at Heathrow. It has gone exceptionally quick and I am still feeling the effects and impact of my trip every day. You might think I’ve been going on about it long enough, but it really has made me think about things differently and sometimes it’s nice and also a little heart-wrenching to think of those children back in the school – the children I taught, the teachers I worked and laughed with, and the entirely different world that I had the pleasure of being a part of for a short while. 

Anyway, after my sentimental beginning, time to launch back into the re-telling of my trip. I left my last post with the anticipation of another exciting weekend ahead. 

A bit like England, South Africa’s weather was a little temperamental particularly in October where it is peaking between Spring and Summer. Fortunately, the weather held out for us as we headed out to the nearby town of Sedgefield where there was a market. This market was nothing like I had ever been in before, and I was in my element. The food was incredible and so much variety. I had nutella pancakes which surpassed any pancakes I have had at home (sorry England, but that’s just the way it is!) As to be expected from many markets in countries across the world, some of the owners can be very pushy and will do anything to stop you moving on to the next stall without making a purchase. I didn’t upset too many of the owners though because there was so much I wanted to buy. Up until then, I had done very well with not spending much money (a tough feat if you know me!) But I bought lots of lovely souvenirs including a painted dish for my mum, a painted canvas, and a gold hand-stitched pillow case with an elephant on it.

I also got a henna tattoo, something I have wanted to get done ever since I was a child! I was later told by one of the women that it signifies engagement and marriage depending on the design etc. I’m not quite sure if it was part of the African culture or if she was referring to a Muslim tradition as someone else told me that too. Don’t quote me on it as I’m not sure what henna indicates exactly, but something to try and find out! It must have been of some significance though as all of the children at school were staring at my arm and pulling up my sleeve and asking if I was married. It was a little embarrassing as I had had no idea at the time, but I had to answer copious questions – some in English, whilst other exclamations were in Xhosa so I had no idea what they might have been saying about me! 

Anyway, back to Saturday’s outing! Next stop was a beach at Sedgefield which was so picturesque and being the typical tourists that we were, we stopped for photos. However, deceivingly the current is very strong so we didn’t go for a swim. There were some children playing in the shallow water though and were being swept along by the current, and it looked great fun. The health and safety guidelines in England would never allow for such fun!! We did head down to the beach, however, and attempt some stereotypical “glamour” shots on the beach. I was a bit wary to step on jellyfish which I had been told lay hidden in the sand. I know they are a potential hazard but I think I was being played for a bit of a joke on this occasion! 

The beach had its own little beach bar right next door and so we went there for a cocktail. It felt bizarre to be drinking at 1 in the afternoon in the burning sun in October – something I definitely couldn’t do in England! After busy weeks in the school, it is really nice to have some time to wind down, relax and see the culture and beauty of the country. 

Later that afternoon, we headed to Leisure Island as they had a festival that afternoon also. It was similar to the one at Sedgefield although there were differences because as I said before, the majority of people living on the island are white – some Afrikaans and others English or tourists. It did have quite an English feel to it, which was nice as I felt back at home – although I guess that does slightly defeat the object of going to another country to experience their culture!! 

As the weather was so lovely, we had gone back to the house to change into shorts. That didn’t prove such a good idea when the winds picked up and we suddenly felt a bit silly and typical Brits feeling completely inappropriately dressed! We headed home after that to warm up after the sudden weather change.

That evening, we talked about our plans for the following day – we had mentioned paragliding (which I wasn’t sure about as I’m not great with heights and it seemed a little too exhilarating for my liking!). We also wanted to go on a whale and dolphin watching and that was our plan for Sunday. 

Sunday morning arrived and I was feeling a little nervous. This trip certainly pushed me to challenge and overcome my fears. I’d never really been on a boat other than a ferry to the Isle of Wight, and when I saw the size of the boat I felt my heart in my throat. It was small, only seating about 15 people and was open-top. The guides told us that unfortunately, the waters were very strong and that the trip would not be very pleasant because the sea would be too choppy. There was very low cloud which would make it very hard to spot the animals also. It was very honest of the company to say this and offer to rearrange our trip for the following afternoon after our teaching at the school. This got me thinking and doubting whether I wanted to go on the trip after all, but all will be revealed in the next post. 

Instead of the whale watching, we instead hired bikes for just 100R each – approximately £6! We decided to make the 7 mile trip to the Knysna Heads, which is a popular spectacle of Knysna. I haven’t rode a bike in a long time so we were all a bit shaky at first. Luckily, we had steadied ourselves by the time we had to ride on the side of a main road! I don’t trust riding on the road in England let alone in South Africa where I had no clue of the rules of the road, if there were any! Thankfully, we had no major problems and soon arrived at the Knysna, sweaty and hungry. We went to a recommended cafe, the East Head Cafe and if you ever happen to be in Knynsa, it is definitely worth a visit. Lovely food and beautiful views. I had a sweet potato enchilada which was so tasty, something I definitely need to try making at home! I also had freshly squeezed apple juice which was well…interesting in both colour, taste and texture. It was quite nice though once you got used to it! I was getting quite good with trying new foods! We walked alongside the Heads which is the opening out into the sea formed by two cliffs named the Knysna Heads. 

After our cycle back, and then a walk home, we were feeling tired yet strangely refreshed from the fresh sea air. We had a lovely Mexican night that evening with chicken fajitas and nachos. We spent many of our evenings chatting about various things from our backgrounds, families, life back in England to philosophical topics which led to quite heated debates. Safe to say I learnt quite a lot from those evenings too. 

In my next post (which hopefully won’t be too far from now) I’ll write and show pictures of my exciting whale watching trip – yes I did face my fears and go! After that, only a few more days to write about before my adventure came to an end. 

Jasmine 

 

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2 thoughts on “A month back in the UK!

  1. Hey Jas, this is a superb, cultural, personally challenging and even gastronomis adventure that I am so glad you had the opportunity to do. Cannot, personally see any downsides apart from your reflective dilemnas but believe me you have done THIS and have made others and equally importantly yourself a bigger and better person. Just be proud

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