Puppies and ponies and 59 kids ages 1 to 18. That pretty much sums up my weekend. This week, South Africa celebrated International Mandela Day (which is actually on July 18) in honor of Nelson Mandela’s birthday. Iziko did something, naturally, and I had the chance to lead almost sixty kids through three museums: the Slave Lodge, the National Gallery, and the South African Museums. The kids arrived on a Wednesday morning, and to be honest, that was probably the most challenging experience I’ve had since I’ve been interning here. First of all, the range of ages and interests was so vast that I had trouble rallying all the kids up to get them from one location to the next. Holding hands and hiking from the Annexe (by the National Gallery) through the Company Gardens and to the Slave Lodge took—what would naturally be seven minutes—a good twenty minutes and kids immediately dispersed from our organized line to catch pigeons and squirrels and speak to the silver painted man that sat on a bucket as a performance piece, asking for money. When we’d gotten to the museum, all the kids wanted to do was touch, everything! The signs, the maps, the hundred year old treasure chest that they claimed was a “coffin!” The second struggle for the day happened to be my accent. Sometimes I’d just call out to the kids and they’d give me this funky look that finally took me a while to realize that I’m sounding completely crazy to them. I relied as best I could on the other volunteers and my mentor for them to shout out instructions. But looking back at the day, I would consider the event a success. For the older students I lead into the National Gallery, I loved watching them take in William Kentridge’s video, sound piece. Some just sat down on the ground in front of one screen watching and listening while others wandered from panel to panel pointing at the changing images. I think that made my week. For the younger kids who we took to natural history museum, I loved seeing each kid’s face light up at the sight of the towering dinosaur and whale bones. They screeched with joy, and once again, we completely lost our hold on them as the organized chain we’d created to get through the space broke hold.
But the week celebrating Mandela Day didn’t end there, and on Friday, Billy, Ashley, and I went to Grassy Park with the Mobile Museum. Parked at a animal shelter, after we’d helped set up the museum, we did various chores for the shelter like organizing food bags and (my favorite) playing with the cute, cuddly puppies. Following that morning, we took an Uber down the coast to a farm where we’d planned a horseback riding trip. Upon eating lunch and purchasing grown honey, we saddled up for a two hour trail ride along the beach. Seriously: beach ride, mountain range, complete with a South African sunset.