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Youth for Understanding South Africa International Youth Exchange

CULTURAL EXCHANGE 2013

Youth for Understanding South Africa 8 Glen Avenue, Higgovale, Cape Town, 8001 PostNet Suite #254, Private Bag X1,Vlaeberg, 8018, South Africa Tel: + 27 021 – 946 3773; Fax: + 27 021 – 946 3783; e-mail: info@yfu.org.za


Youth for Understanding South Africa International Youth Exchange

The Cultural Exchange is a project, in which the YFU exchange students from all over the world visit a school, located in the rural areas of Mpumalanga for two weeks. They are matched with a student from their school that will be their host sibling for the time and they stay with their families. As during the rest of their exchange they have to attend school and obey the rules of the school and families. This Newsletter tells the stories of the experiences of our exchange students at five different schools during their cultural exchange.

TIKHONTELE SECONDARY SCHOOL: Ingvild Kessel (Norway), Hilma Kotkaniemi (Finland) and Stefan Steiner (Austria). “I spent 2 weeks in a township called Matsulu B, living in a local family. The living circumstances, food, education system and just in general the whole culture was really different from what I was used to, here in my Afrikaans family. Still I found it quite easy to adapt to the new “way of living” because of the loving and caring people I had around me. My family took me into their everyday-life and it was very exciting to see how their daily bases worked like. I had two younger sister, a younger brother, a sister my age, grandmother, mom and dad living under the same roof. It might sound like a lot of people but the house never felt too full. The family was so tight that they lived in a nice harmony with each other taking responsibility for their own actions. Even though everybody had to clean up after their selves, they still took care for each other and worked for the common best.”

The students with their Host siblings and the Principal

“Mine and my sisters’ day started at 5 o’clock in the morning when we woke up to iron everybody’s clothes. After we were done with the ironing we bathed the younger sister (3 years old), when she was fully dressed we took her to day care. Then we got ready for school ourselves and started walking to school 20 minutes before the first bell rang at school. The school day was really tough for me because the temperature easily rose up to 42 degrees. When the sun was scorching I got really sleepy, especially after the huge lunch we got from school. The lunch was free for everybody and it included Youth for Understanding South Africa 8 Glen Avenue, Higgovale, Cape Town, 8001 PostNet Suite #254, Private Bag X1,Vlaeberg, 8018, South Africa Tel: + 27 021 – 946 3773; Fax: + 27 021 – 946 3783; e-mail: info@yfu.org.za


Youth for Understanding South Africa International Youth Exchange pap/rise/stamps and beans/fish. After school we always had extra classes for the entire Matrix for one hour. When we were back home we started cleaning up the kitchen, doing the dishes and the laundry. When everything was clean and shiny again we started cooking. My sister had cooked to the whole family since she was 13 years old. Not even once I heard her complain about her household shores and always she finished everything with good results. I really look up to her; I have never met anyone else with that much strength, passion and determent. When everyone’s plate was ready we usually went out for a walk to meet up with the other kids or just went to sit outside. After the sun set we got back inside and ate with rest of the family, with our fingers. In that point of the night I was usually so exhausted of the sun and just went straight to bed but my sister still stayed awake with her homework. We repeated the same routine every day of the week except on Sunday when we went to church wearing white from head to toe” . “Even though this sounds like an awful cliché but the 2 weeks I spent there in the family of Sithole opened my eyes a bit more to the reality of life. They have to work for everything they got and they work so much harder than anyone else I know and still they don’t even get half of what we have in the 1st world countries. But that counts only for material objects. They’ve got so much talent, life, soul and emotions in them. Never have I heard people sing as beautifully together as I heard there. Never have I seen people love each other as truly as I saw there. Never have I known people who are fuller of life and joy as I knew there. Life has taught them to appreciate the small things in life. I got a lot out of their rich culture. The experience didn’t make me a better person, it gave me many examples of better personalities what to aim for.” Hilma

LEKAZI SECONDARY SCHOOL:

Lea Koehler (Germany), Laure Buchs (Switzerland) Valentin Fluri (Switzerland), Lena Schindler (Germany) and Hanne Ulriksen (Norway) Lena “Lekazi Secondary School welcomed us with open smiles and arms. From the first minute on we were part of the school community, even though we were so different to all the other students. Everyone was very interested in who we were, where we came from and, of course, what life in South Africa was like for us. For some people we were the first white kids they've ever seen in their live, what made us to kind of an attraction. Girls played with our hair for hours, everyone wanted to take photos with us, etc. All of us visited different classes which focused on physical science, accounting or history. The classes were very full and loud. I for example, couldn't even attend my host sister's classes, because there was no more space in the classroom, so I had to go into another class. The other students were very friendly and open to us. Even though we had some communication problems sometimes everyone did their very best to make us feel comfortable. Youth for Understanding South Africa 8 Glen Avenue, Higgovale, Cape Town, 8001 PostNet Suite #254, Private Bag X1,Vlaeberg, 8018, South Africa Tel: + 27 021 – 946 3773; Fax: + 27 021 – 946 3783; e-mail: info@yfu.org.za


Youth for Understanding South Africa International Youth Exchange

In break time we were welcome to grab a warm meal the school handed out to the students for free, or buy some little snacks like peri-peri chips at a little market in the schoolyard. I enjoyed spending my breaks together with my host sister and friends in the school's little church service, which was held by a boy in my class; netball games in the schoolyard or simply chatting, dancing and singing together. The teachers were also really friendly and offered us their help whenever necessary. When some of us had problems the responsible people rushed to help and solved the problem. The lessons itself were mostly quite relaxed and a lot of fun. The teachers tried to let us be part of the lessons, asked us several question and gave us some extra explanation and help to, e.g., learn SiSwati and more about their culture. Unfortunately we couldn't see any Swatimen and - women wearing the traditional clothes and teaching us some rituals. All in all we had two amazing weeks in Lekazi and will always look back at these days with joy. Thank you, Lekazi Secondary School!!”

The four students with their host siblings on the last day.

TINHLONHLA SECONDARY SCHOOL:

Augustin Vuadens (Switzerland), Leonie Blum (Germany), Helle Backer (Norway), Louisa Choffat (Switzerland), Lena Sachsenhofer (Austria) “From the 15 to the 28 of February I and 4 other exchange students stayed in Jeppes Reef, a rural area close to Malelane and we experienced THE Africa that we see in the movies! These two weeks I shared my bed with 2 of my 9 host sisters (I also had 5 hostbrothers), I lived without running water that means I had to bath in a little basin and it was a challenge to brush teeth or even drink a glass of water, I ate pap with my hands every day (except for sunday, that was our riceday)! In our school, where we spent most of the time (every day from 6:30 to 16:00 o'clock) the students were very open-hearted and friendly and they made it very easy for us to make friends and to have an amazing time! After my host sister and me returned from school we had to wash our uniform by hand, I helped my Youth for Understanding South Africa 8 Glen Avenue, Higgovale, Cape Town, 8001 PostNet Suite #254, Private Bag X1,Vlaeberg, 8018, South Africa Tel: + 27 021 – 946 3773; Fax: + 27 021 – 946 3783; e-mail: info@yfu.org.za


Youth for Understanding South Africa International Youth Exchange little host silblings with their homework and at 8 o'clock the whole family came together in the mother’s room to watch generations! During the weekend I worked on the field, went to a funeral and I was even for a day in Swaziland which was also a great day! These two weeks I just had the really necessary things to live but I never felt so welcome and home before and I want to thank my host family and Tinhlonhla High School for making these experiences possible for us!” Lena

Fernanda with from her school

children

SOPHUNGANE COMBINED SCHOOL: Amelie Zapf (Germany), Fernanda de la Fuente (Chile), Jonas Teschner (Germany), Ane Skottun (Norway) and Paula Popp (Germany) “Before it started I was a little bit nervous because I did not know much about the family, school and the place. But when I arrived they received me with open arms. In my house there were always lots of people that wanted to meet me. My family was really nice and they wanted the best for me. In my case I stayed in a house with all the necessary things. First day of school we had to present ourselves in the morning assembly. We went to class normally for two weeks, my sister was with me just the first day and then I sat with other girls. In school the people were really friendly, open to us and nice. I made lots of friends. I tried to do everything in their way like eating with my hands and the food that they are used to eat, walking to school, going to their church, washing my clothes with my hands and more. I am really glad to have met all these people in Hoyi, I learnt a lot and I hope I taught them something too, I will never forget them and that amazing experience.” Fernanda

Youth for Understanding South Africa 8 Glen Avenue, Higgovale, Cape Town, 8001 PostNet Suite #254, Private Bag X1,Vlaeberg, 8018, South Africa Tel: + 27 021 – 946 3773; Fax: + 27 021 – 946 3783; e-mail: info@yfu.org.za


Youth for Understanding South Africa International Youth Exchange

The students and their host siblings, while Felix hands over the certificate to the Deputy Principal

MEHLUBOVU SECONDARY SCHOOL: Isabela Viera (Brazil), Frederika Glaeser, an intern from Germany.

Feld

Katrin Parcetich (Germany), Ana Gaptie (Mexico), (Germany), Kourus Ahmadi (Austria) and Felix

I was given the opportunity to visit one of the schools, Mehlubovu Secondary School, with five other students. In this article I would like to describe, what I experienced in these two weeks, the difficulties and the opportunities of the Cultural Exchange. th

We arrived at our schools on Friday the 15 of February. Most of us were picked up by our families and it felt like the beginning of an exchange year all over again: New school, new families, new language and a new culture. I for myself lived with my new brother Nhlanhla, in a house with DSTV (private satellite TV) but no running water. I lived in a house, where the TV was playing either Gospel Music or WWE Wrestling. We had a fully equipped bathroom but cooked water on the stove to wash ourselves. We had a working stove, but the best tasting food came right from the fireside. The trash was collected in a black plastic bag but burned in the back yard. Youth for Understanding South Africa 8 Glen Avenue, Higgovale, Cape Town, 8001 PostNet Suite #254, Private Bag X1,Vlaeberg, 8018, South Africa Tel: + 27 021 – 946 3773; Fax: + 27 021 – 946 3783; e-mail: info@yfu.org.za


Youth for Understanding South Africa International Youth Exchange This sounds a little but like I am complaining about, how my family lived but that is definitely not the case. What I am trying to do, is to explain what I myself and the students saw within the first couple of hours that we arrived in our new homes. Most of us have never seen anything like it and will probably not be confronted again with it in our future. My first reflex was to feel sorry, for the comparably low standard of living of this family. But I would have waited forever, had I expected any kinds of complaints or bitterness. And that is the first and maybe the most important lesson I have learned during these two weeks: Happiness doesn’t come from what you have or own, it comes from finding it within yourself and from being able to feel satisfied with what you have. School. The students simply went to class with their host siblings, taking the same classes. I found myself in the teacher’s room most of the time, talking to the staff, exchanging thoughts and knowledge, sometimes even the movies we have on our laptops. I so had the opportunity to look at the situation in the school from both perspectives: As a student, participating in classes and as a teacher, trying to overcome the suboptimal circumstances. When I talk of suboptimal circumstances I mean the overcrowded classrooms, the heat and the fans that make more noise than they help to cool down the air. What surprised me the most was the will of many of the students to do well in their classes and to fulfill every exercise their teachers gave them. I would for example find my host brother and three of his friends doing their math’s homework until 12 o’clock at night, a time I would have given up long before. On the other hand, it is not deniable that the majority of the students had strong difficulties to follow the lessons. The age average in most classes is about one or two years too high for the grade they are in, due to students who fail grades at least once. When I asked the teachers, where these issues come from they did not only blame the budget and money problems but also told me that the root of these issues is that in many cases the students come from a very uneducated background and do not have enough support at home to concentrate on school. What I resumed for myself, is that the issues, the schools in the rural areas have are not only to be resolved with money, which they need desperately but that it will also take a lot of time to establish a certain standard of education in this country, that will help to improve the situation. Bonus. Kruger Park and the Samora Machel Memorial. The school gave me, the exchange students and our host siblings the opportunity to visit the Samora Machel Memorial and Kruger Park during the school time. This felt like a bonus to us, since we certainly did not expect to be able to go on such trips during the cultural exchange. Even though, we weren’t all too lucky when it comes to seeing plenty of animals, we really appreciated what the school did for us and at least we can say now, that we have been to Kruger National Park, once in our life! Goodbye! In the end I think one could say, that these have been two of the longest weeks of our life, long because of the many impressions we collected, the many people we have met, the things we learned about their culture and ourselves and the many experiences we made during a comparably short time. But one could also say that they have been two of the shortest weeks of our life, short because they flew by and could have been much longer! Youth for Understanding South Africa 8 Glen Avenue, Higgovale, Cape Town, 8001 PostNet Suite #254, Private Bag X1,Vlaeberg, 8018, South Africa Tel: + 27 021 – 946 3773; Fax: + 27 021 – 946 3783; e-mail: info@yfu.org.za


Youth for Understanding South Africa International Youth Exchange Overall the cultural exchange definitely helped the participating students to keep completing the puzzle of the South African culture that they have been putting together over the last months. It also helped us to learn a lot about ourselves and I am quite sure, most of them would agree with me that these have definitely been two of the most important weeks in our life so far. Felix

The students and Felix with their host siblings

Youth for Understanding South Africa 8 Glen Avenue, Higgovale, Cape Town, 8001 PostNet Suite #254, Private Bag X1,Vlaeberg, 8018, South Africa Tel: + 27 021 – 946 3773; Fax: + 27 021 – 946 3783; e-mail: info@yfu.org.za

YFU South Africa Newsletter - Cultural Exchange  

This special edition newsletter has stories of the cultural exchange.

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