by Shay Munroe, Greenheart Travel Volunteer in South Africa
Two days after biding my farewells to the fierce cold in the states, I arrived in Cintsa East, South Africa. The heat was both welcoming and overwhelming (due to my unprepared winter outfit). I had always wanted to come to Africa and I was finally here. It happened. The town of Cintsa consisted of a couple bars and restaurants, a neighborhood, beautiful beaches, and a township. A township is where many black people live in poor conditions. This is where I would be volunteering for the next month in a preschool.
My first day teaching was Valentine’s Day so we rummaged through all the paper at the school to find enough pink paper for the 30 or so students in the Grade R class (preschool). At 8:30am, I got dropped off along with a couple other volunteers at the entrance of the Cintsa township. We all walked down the dusty, dirt road filled with potholes to the public school. Moving through the township was something I’d never experienced before. Being so close to what was actually going on in the world was satiating.
These “homes” appeared as shacks in my eyes glued together with scraps found about the earth. Random dogs would prance along with their rib cages sticking out. As we got closer to the school, I spotted a student ringing an old bell announcing the commencement of the school day. A couple stragglers’ backpacks danced to the rhythm of their run; already late for school. Tiny sweat droplets began to form on the children’s faces due to the intensifying heat. Hundreds of smiles greeted me as I turned into the schoolyard. They tugged at every limb of my body, wanting to be held and played with. I couldn’t take my eyes off these beautiful children. Their massive, dark chocolate eyes were overfilling with joy and excitement, erasing any worry in the world. I was hooked.