The Birth and death of a High school

 

The reason for this post is to put down in writing the issues that faced Imhoff waldorf High school that lasted precisely 8 years and then died prematurely, still in its youth. I was involved from long before its inception to almost its end. I wish to clarify things that seemed to have got lost along the way, and examine what led to its untimely end.Perhaps there are lessons to be learnt along the way.

 

THE SITUATION BEFORE THE HIGH SCHOOL

Imhoff Waldorf High school was born in January 2010, the year my son was in matric. It was conceived 9 months earlier, but in reality it was 6 years from the first pangs of need. I was the midwife and lucky to have had the privilege of bringing this amazing High school to birth. With me have been an incredible team and wonderful students, who have breathed life into it..even to its last breath, which will be on the 8th of December. We are already in mourning. How can such a vibrant school die at such a young age, is what we all ask? So hopefully this will put some perspective onto a brave endeavor.

I was connected to Imhoff through my son, being in the pioneering days of Imhoff primary school from 1989. My son went through the primary school. I loved the school. Its values were good. It strove to be inclusive and diverse, and costs were affordable to middle class people like myself but also had a strong sponsorship programme so that those of lesser means could attend. I was on the board at the time the idea was put forward in 2004. It was already too late for my son.

At that time there were only one and a half Waldorf High schools (Micheal Oak only went up to class 10, and had done so for 20 years. Somehow they got stuck there). It was becoming difficult to get Imhoff’s children into either one of these high schools, as demand was increasing from all the Waldorf primary schools in Cape Town area (There were 7 other primary schools that did not have high schools at the time). A survey was done by Dassenburg school,  that showed that by 2010 there would be a huge demand for Waldorf High schools. Both existing High schools involved travel for Imhoff parents and were not as affordable. So the question was asked: How can we provide Waldorf High schooling for our children at Imhoff that would be affordable and convenient.

All the small schools met with the Federation to thrash out the problem. We suggested that Constantia waldorf school, which was the biggest school, double stream in order to accommodate this demand. We suggested Michael oak complete its High school. because, the fact that it ended in class 10, put pressure on Constantia to accommodate them in class 11, so didn’t really solve the problem of creating space for High school children. Both ideas  were turned down, as neither school wanted to expand at that stage, and it was suggested that each school should solve its own problems.

A further issue was that Imhoff had been wanting to buy land for a number of years. Land was expensive in the area and hard to come by. A financial survey done in 2004 showed that the only way the school could afford to buy land and build a school was to have a High school, as the numbers were needed to increase the turnover of the school.

Also, it was found that Imhoff had a drop off of students in Class 6 and 7.  Fishoek had a local government middle school, and if students were not enrolled at an early stage, they would not get into Fishoek High school later, especially as Imhoff’s Kommetjie and Scarborough residents were outside the Fishoek zone. There was already high demand for Fishoek High school from Sun Valley primary, as they at that stage did not have a High school either. So upper primary classes would be small where parents sent their children to Fishoek to get in there before the grade 8 “rush”. As a result of all these factors, Imhoff decided it needed to start a High school also to help fill the upper primary classes. At that stage, there was no teachers willing to take the step, so it remained in limbo. In the meantime, Stellenbosch Waldorf school decided that they were not going to wait. They started their High school in 2008. I was involved in that, and saw that it just needed the step to be taken. Once started, it would carry its own energy.

Now starting a High school is easier said than done. Despite the need, both parents and children were not keen to be the first class to go up. You may ask why. Its a complex issue, but one of the key problems is that teenagers need older teenagers and a big school idea, especially those from Imhoff, as it is a small school as it is. Teenagers need a wider social net and everything that opens and shuts, so they would resist just being a small class with nothing except a teacher or two.

So we did a survey on the class 7’s of 2009 to see how many would be interested in the High school. A number were interested but not committed, and some were definitely keen. Our eye was on the then class 5’s who were all very keen to be part of pioneering a High school, and were a large class determined to stay together. By then the school was negotiating buying land and drawing up plans with an architect, despite not having money to do so. Now, even if we were eyeing class 5 for the High school, we needed the wider social net for them to feel happy to be there. It was kind of a catch 22 situation. So we decided to start the High school, even although it may be small to begin with. We only needed one classroom initially. The Board committed to building a temporary classroom on adjacent land that I negotiated from our landlord, together with a desperately needed playing field with GRASS (the current soccer field was a dust bowl). This was actually a huge achievement, as relations with the landlord had been soured over the years.

STARTING WITH VERY LITTLE

 

So we advertised the new high school, despite having nothing in place, and lo and behold, we got a number of applications from both outside and inside Imhoff. They were waiting for a commitment from Imhoff. We got support from Constantia Waldorf school, who agreed to refer students applying there from our catchment area who didnt manage to get in there, as they were at this stage seriously full in class 8. I conducted interviews with only an artists sketch of our prospective school, and no building in sight. When students asked where the High school was situated, I pointed through the trees showing them where the buildings would be. Its amazing what imagination can do. I also negotiated with a local sports teacher to start a sports programme. This was one of the FAQs of prospective students. What sports do you offer? And so we could offer a lot by tying into other schools and local private sports clubs that were already in existence without having to provide the equipment. This sports programme benefited the primary school as well, as they had little in the form of sports at that stage.

The other FAQ was whether we were going to go all the way to matric. We had no idea, but we had to make that commitment to do everything in our power to make it happen. Without that, we would not have got the commitment from the parents that was needed. It was a crucial issue that led to this class going all the way to matric and keeping our High school strong.

GETTING GOING

Then Our landlord offered us a house close by. It had been used by Mr Opperman who was the farm manager and who died mid year.  Originally he had converted what were a series of chicken runs into a house. So the rooms were small. With the advice of a local engineer, we could convert it into 2 classrooms and a kitchen at the grand price of R5000! And so we had our new High school..just far enough away to be separate from the primary school, with a grass field in between. By then we had 13 students definitely committed and two teachers. One full and one part time, myself and Alexandra James Gets. She was the English, drama teacher, and I was the Maths, science and biology teacher..not to mention art, crafts, gardening, even woodwork and general dogsbody on the Board and the college. We also borrowed teachers from Constantia, swapping time with myself when I was not teaching at Imhoff. We ran a full on Waldorf curriculum using experienced teachers like Ed Fox and Howard Dobson on a part time basis.  Der Freunde donated 10 000 for equipment, and we stretched that money very far, buying sewing machines and science equipment.. science benches that could be wheeled in and out. The school bought new desks and chairs and a blackboard. It was seen as an investment into our future permanent school. Howard Dobson became our Federation mentor (a Federation requirement to be a waldorf school), and we ran teacher training sessions which we opened up to our parent body to help cover costs and prepare future teachers that we would need over time.

Janis came a bit later to teach IsiXhosa, and we had Maike teaching eurhythmy to students who had never done eurythmy before.  We had a great group of students who were fully prepared to pioneer the High school.

It was important for the High school to not draw on the primary school financially, and at the end of the year, we were the only area of the school to actually make a profit..a small one, but nevertheless, the viability was there.

There were many problems, which is what is expected when you are dealing with the vulnerable teenage years, but we solved them as we went. It was like rowing a boat on choppy waters. What kept us afloat and excited was faith and creative thinking. What we were NOT doing, was going backwards. We never faulted in looking forwards to a long future even though we did not have a plan beyond class 9. Nobody knew that of course, other than the inner circle of the college. I never doubted that we would find a solution.

THE NEXT YEAR

So, our next group of class 8’s numbered 10 and came from a class that had a rocky time in primary school. They had had 3 teachers in primary school, which is unusual, normally they only have one. What started as a large class of close on 30 in class 1, ended in 10 in class 7.  We took in some children from outside Imhoff and ended with 15. One of the problems of taking on people who had no Waldorf education, is that they were often struggling, with parents desperate to find a solution.  This second class had some social issues, with strong-minded students who resisted getting on with others. So at the end of class 8 we lost 5. After that, it remained a small class, despite new people coming. The pioneer class, however grew in strength and number. Ulric, an ex- Waldorf student himself, joined us to offer Woodwork and metalwork

CLASS 10

The question then arose about offering class 10. The college then questioned for the first time whether the High school could continue up. For me, this was a shock, as I thought that everyone was behind the High school, to find it was not so. I was the only High school member on the college at that stage. At this point the High school felt unsupported by the primary and the rest of the school back tracked on building any new classrooms. The High school had already expanded the crafts into a second building nearby, courtesy of our landlord. Yes, we were paying for it, but it was all covered by fees.

We set out in search of a solution deciding to separate the High school from the primary. We found a place in Noordhoek that used to be a school and so had education status. It was more expensive, but then we had more students and could still cover the costs. The school bought desks, chairs and we received some donations of boards from Michael oak, but essentially the equipment we had bought two years before using the Freunde donation stretched enough.

CLASS 11

Again, when we had to decide for class 11, although we had the space, the college and board questioned us going ahead. Again we had to convince them that it was worth it. This took a Big circle and added to our stress and there was a sense that the High school was still not supported by the rest of the school, especially now we were on separate campuses.  This was shown in other ways, and I think this was where a rift developed. We had a new board made of mostly Primary school parents. All we actually needed then was a eurythmy room, which we found within walking distance, thanks to a parent who ran a yoga studio there.

At this stage, the High school was the only part of the school that was registered with the department of Education. We were still covering costs, but it was then decided to charge the High school an admin fee. Nevertheless, we still covered expenses which included much higher rent. By this time we had a secretary, two full time teachers, the rest drawn from our parent body mostly and on various percentages depending on their teaching load. But it was vibrant and exciting. Charisse came in to teach drama and English when Alexandra left, and Tracey taught art. Matthew and Kath came in to teach class 8 and 9 We landed with a difficult class 8 class with some extremely naughty students, who again came from a primary school class that had 3 different teachers, and was not very cohesive socially.

By this stage, Michael Oak had decided to continue its High school into class 11. Also Sun Valley primary decided to open their very expensive private school to the general public with government support. Sandy Dowling, a parent had also started a small home school offering the cambridge matric. This drew some of our prospective students away from us.  (Stellenbosch, which was quite far out and so didnt really affect us, were one step ahead of us, offering class 12.)

Nevertheless, our classes were essentially full for our spaces, (which were quite small and could accommodate only 20 students in each classroom.)

CLASS 12SAMSUNG

20140315_093850.jpgOur first Parsival Journey from Cape Point to Table Mountain. Our original group in class 11.

Now we had to decide on class 12. Our landlord was trying to sell the property we were on,  but it was too expensive for what it was and besides we didnt have the money, as the school was still negotiating to buy land at Imhoff to build on. It was also really too small.

At this stage, Solole nature reserve, which had gone bankrupt became available to rent, via a connection of a parent, Clive.  It had been bought by the council who were prepared to let it out at a good rate while they put plans in for a much needed fire station. We had to fix it up, as it had been vandalised quite extensively and the thatch needed repairing. Thus far we had spent every December holiday since 2010, either moving the school or doing repairs, so this was nothing new.

It was a beautiful space and big enough to house a full High school…but….we had it for 3 years only. Other plans were in the offing, however. A banker friend of Clives had offered to put up the money to buy the land for the primary school, with a proviso that they buy a portion for themselves. They would then build a high school there that they would rent to Imhoff High school, but also run their own post school education classes. It all seemed ideal.

MATRIC
By then we had our first matric class. We were registered to offer matric, by no mean feat, classes were running. We had 5 full time teachers, being joined by Maggie, Irene, Lorna and Carol Drew. Also Sandise very capably took on the Eurythmy..never an easy thing in the High school. We had a few high school parents on the Board, Irene joined the college,  It looked like nothing could go wrong, wrong wrong…

How wrong can you be.

By then I was stressed and exhausted. I felt that I was always defending the High school to a group of naysayers on Board and college. Much as words were said that denied that, the reality was that the Board was made of Executive types with primary school children who had little sense for the High school. I needed a sabbatical and to decide my own future. I was not getting any younger. I do believe teaching has a time limit. Janis and Tracey had joined the college and Janis the board at that stage. We also had two high school parents there. Our great supporter at the board was Clive. Part of my reason for leaving for sabbatical was to let the school firm up its feet.

WHAT HAPPENED NEXT
While I was away, a few tragedies happened: Firstly, Amani, a popular class 8 student, was tragically killed. After this his class dissipated somewhat. Secondly, but what was crucial, I think, is that Clive left the board. It was here that the banker,  who was to build our High school felt, correctly I think, that Imhoff was not committed enough to the High school endeavour.  So Imhoff Campus withdrew from the arrangement to build the High school.  Thirdly, the Imhoff board then decided to rather build the High school on the primary land, despite having no means to do so.

Fourthly, after the first matric, which was very successful, the college and board decided not to offer matric to the second group, as the class was too small to offer choices (there were 10 students, as there were in the beginning). Fifthly, and crucially, this decision was taken without consultation of the teachers or the parents to find a way of compromising, and so this sent shock waves through the school. I bumped into very irate parents on my return from sabbatical, who were not consulted.

After this confidence was leaking and so students from lower down also withdrew. Stopping a process in this way would inevitably bring results further down. This was known by High school teachers, but they were again not consulted. No alternatives were given except to send the students to Michael Oak, which was now offering matric.  It was forgotten that one of the reasons why Michael Oak decided to go further in their High school was because they lost students after class 9, where they left to go to other High schools that offered matric. Parents need to know there is an end point. This fact of the backlash further down was not seen by the college or board, as they were not involved in the everyday High school.

The decision that was taken from a financial savings perspective brought further financial restrictions through lack of foresight.

At a very late stage the board and college then put the High school on notice to close due to a deficit in the region of 100 000, mainly created by sponsored students who had no sponsors. The High school teachers then took it into their own hands to raise funds for the sponsored students in order to save the school. (There are dedicated people who generally do this, but for some reason sponsorship money was not allocated to the High school). This was already too late, and despite raising the deficit, the college and board decided to close the upper High school, again without consultation. They would build 3 classrooms for classes 8, 9 and 10 on the new land they had bought, ( although they still have to pay for it, and had no money to build). This already would shrink the school and thus lose the greater social atmosphere vital to a high school.

As a result of these cutbacks, new students for 2018 did not materialise by September, naturally enough, through the fact of the cancelling of the upper classes. Although this was very early to decide (many students applied later than this in previous years, even up to December), the board and college then decided to close the entire High school, again without consultation. Teachers were given severance notices, and class 11 was sent to Constantia Waldorf school for the final term. 15 students were to be interviewed, but they were told not to go ahead.

HOW TO KILL A HIGH SCHOOL

A sadness now descends on the dissipated high school, and a confusion as to what actually happened, who made the decisions, how and why. Only 3 members remain on the board and a key primary school teacher has resigned prematurely. A Waldorf school normally prides itself in circle management. No decision is made without the players involved in the decision. All big decisions were made at “Big Circle” meetings. This involved relevant parents and teachers and not just Board and College.

The other question is why were the High school notified of the financial situation at such a late stage to make gathering the funds so difficult? and further, why was the decision to close the entire High school so soon before the end of the year, even although there were 15 ppeople who had applied for class 8? one of the bigger questions for me was why did the school stop offering matric without trying to find a compromise with the parents and students? Waldorf schoosl have offered matric with far less students than this. This is what set the entire house of cards tumbling. The main question again and again is why were decisions taken without consultation with the people involved. This is not how Waldorf schools operate.

The question still remains as to how the primary school is going to afford to build and pay off its large loan with only a primary school. The fact remains that upper classes in the primary school will become depleted as they were before when there was no High school. What was to be the High school, has now been sold to a Montessori school in direct competition, and next door to Imhoff. (Strangely enough they feel quite confident of starting their own High school, with less students as what was at Imhoff High school.)

I also wonder that if it was the primary school leaking, would they have saved the high school and closed the primary? It makes you consider what is called support. I can think of many things that could have been done and would have been done if it was the primary school in this situation. I remain worried for the future also of the primary school. Its not only the foolish decision that was the problem, it was how it was done. If everyone had been consulted, new solutions could have been found. Am I wrong?

 

 

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Trees beautiful trees.

After visiting England, where the trees are so huge and beautiful,

and I became so fascinated with them, it has been great to see so many beautiful trees in KwazuluNatal. I can see why Durban was a favoured colonisation place for Brits. Amazing trees are everywhere here and have the space to grow to their fullest extent. There is nothing like a fully stretched out tree even in an industrial area.20170610_090512

In Durban luckily the alien police have not attacked the trees that line the streets, and so you will find a host of the best trees from around the world. In this HOT climate you can always find cool parking. The trees take precedence in the street, as you can see here, 20170111_103209and it has been amazing to see different trees blossoming at different times of the year.   At the moment all the coral trees are blossoming their red flowers. Its red season.

A little while ago it was orange with these amazing trees from Madagascar flowering along the streets.

Previous to that was these red flowering wide spreading trees. The red flowers made a crown on top.20170118_111834

On many of my walks, next to the houses are these unexpected fairy glades.

Of course my favourite place is the Durban botanical gardens. What I like most is that it is FREE to go in at any time, unlike the fee at Kirstenbosch. Its not that I resent the fee at Kirstenbosch..which is actually cheap compared to England where I paid R500 for a much lesser experience! (see previous post on the Eden project ..okay you can use your ticket for a year, but have no option for a once off visit.) The trees here are so exotic! This was a repository of all the corners of the Empire, a mini Kew gardens.

The intention behind the gardens was not  positive, as most colonial enterprises, and many plants were “stolen” in order to create a sort of “seed bank”, as medicine was essentially herbal at the time. Many of the trees come from India and Madagascar and further east. But they have been allowed to grow and grow and are stunning! I have been going back often to visit the changes over the seasons.

The first trees that really struck me were these cannonball trees. Mainly because the heady scent of the exotic flowers were so strong, I had to stop. I couldnt see the cannonballs but later in the year I found them in the place of the flowers.

There are simply HUGE banyan trees. (The ones here are small compared to ones in India that spread over 2 acres and people even make houses inside them)  These are fig type trees that spread sideways with roots that drip down from the branches. They are grown for good luck and are a symbol of immortality.

Banyan trees are thought to have spiritual significance, with the Lord Shiva being the branches (he has many arms), the Lord Vishnu the bark of the tree, and the Lord Brahma, the great God,  the large powerful roots of the tree. They have been used medicinally for centuries.

This is the legendary Bodi tree that the Lord Buddha sat under meditating to find enlightenment

There are other wild fig species with incredible trunks.

The palms are truly majestic 20170410_095224and there are these ancient Woods and many cycads that were brought here a few hundred years ago and are also huge.

There is a fern garden with magical tree ferns  and ponds with lotus flowers,

lots of water birds and a couple of pelicans

and a special grotto with exquisite orchids.

My all time favourite are still fever trees, with their distinctive yellow trunks.

They were called fever trees because they looked like they had jaundice and were near to malaria areas. The bark is also used to cure fevers .Other medicinal trees are cinnamon (once more valuable than gold) with multiple health benefits including lowering cholesterol and blood sugar , rauvolfia caffra( called african quinine..very important in conquering africa). The bark has been used traditionally for many things including malaria. Look at http://tropical.theferns.info/viewtropical.php?id=Rauvolfia+caffra for more.

 

A sunken garden is very neat and reminiscent of English country gardens, I say.20170126_105714

New developments are this butterfly park where all the flowers grown are to attract certain butterflies.

As with Kirstenbosch they have music evenings and open air movies. I havent yet been to any, but fully intend to go. People use the gardens for special occasions like birthdays.

There is a lovely old fashioned tea garden run by volunteers with HUGE crumpets and scones and tea.

The best is the monkeys that race through the trees and a host of feral cats that watch you while you drink your tea. 20170204_113144

 

Driving in Durban

One of the things that shock you the most in Durban is the driving, especially if you come from generally polite Cape Town and having spent a year in ultra-polite England. (although their motorways are a lot like Durban)

Here its like everyone is on steroids the minute they enter the road system. Everone hoots all the time for every misdemeaner, like taking one second to take off at the robot, or DARING to switch lanes even if you have signalled and checked for cars..there is always another racing into your bum.

Cars pass both left and right no matter what you do. They are always going the fastest they can, and trying to get ahead of the person in front no matter who they are and even if ,or especially if, cars are piled in front. Cutting across three or four lanes vertically is quite normal, and simply stopping in ANY lane by putting on their hazard lights is considered sufficient excuse.

I tried driving in the left lane, but discovered that, since there is no yellow line, as in other south african cities, the left lane IS the yellow line. After some close shaves in cars stopping without warning right in front of me, and lanes suddenly leaving the motorway, I decided to try the second lane. This is infinitey safer, but beware as the left lane then becomes the passing lane as well as the right. It feels a bit like a kyalami race track.

Most people blame the taxis, and they certainly are guilty of all the misdemeaners expressed above..the worst one being HOOTING..mainly for custom. I think all taxis need a special sound for custom so that they dont use their general hooters, as after a while you begin to switch off to all hooters. This is a dangerous thing to do. In England it is a finable offence to hoot for any other reason than an emergency so you rarely hear hooters. (British people are also solaw abiding mainly because their fines are HUGE, and you get fined more if you protest in court..a bit of a police state,I would say).

Anyway, I forgive all taxis because every taxi takes ten cars off the road. Imagine how many cars there would be if everyone in a taxi had a car? So I always am grateful and allow taxis their idiosynchronicities. Also, I have used them occasionally and they are far and away the best form of transport in South Africa. they are fast and efficient, air conditioned (often), not overcrowded, as most people think and will go anywhere and stop anywhere..unlike buses. They are also cheap for what you get.

I put the blame on the roads in Durban. The fact that there is no yellow lane ensures that the inner lane is a disaster area. Also, the road markings are bad, and you willsuddenly find that you are supposed to be in a right lane even altough you are going left off a highway. Also there are many offramps and roads that come into an intersection at an angle to meet a robot that is both red and green! Yes. unless you know the road, you dont now if you are supposed to stop or go or which robot slightly angled you should obey. Notice the robots in the photo below.20170406_064741

I just about killed myself taking this photo.

Durban has a glut of one way streets. Despite this, I must say they work well. I have rarely sat in traffic for long. The robots seem quite co-ordinated as a result, so despite theis photo, the traffic is not bad compared to other cities,its just that you have to constantly be vigilant that someone is not going to stop or turn in front of you suddenly.

More usual is HUGE trucks. As Durban is an industrial city, huge trucks are everywhere, and they dont drive slowly either..so its quite common to meet them in The right lane speeding with 10 new cars on their platforms or a number of containers. Can be quite fightening when they are on either side.

Durban also has high and huge highways, mainly because they ave to cater for high and huge trucks. I have not yet managed to get a photo of the astounding wall paintings on the N3 by graffiti artist Faith 47. I will post them up when I do. 20170327_162024There is an amazing vibe at the taxi and bus terminus, and I deliberately drive through just for a bit of it even though I risk my life getting around the thousands of taxis. the photo above is of the taxi rank area. There is loud music with a real African vibe and lots of market stalls selling everything from muti to plastic. 20170327_161938

I have been trying to get photos of the many white beggars in Durban. The only other place I have seen so many white beggars is in England. I’ve been told its because the weather is good that the Joburg beggars migrate to Durban, and back to Joburg in summer where the pickings are richer. I have an aversion to giving money to a white beggar, especially if they are young and fit. This is because I know they have been given every opportunity to not be on the street and have not taken them. (My bit of racism..sorry)

Homoeopathy at Durban University of technology..starting my course

We began our course with a blitzkrieg of mathematics to “clear up common errors” ..a so called bridging course. However, if you had any wobbles around maths, you would have wobbled more. The lecturer was very engaging..but perhaps too much so as he kept going off at a tangent and spending ages chatting about the origin of numbers in history and then raced over the actual issues. (reminded me a bit of Howard and other older waldorf teachers). I had not done physics since school for a very good reason but suddenly had to remember how to work out vectors. Luckily there was no calculus, as I would have been lost. I have totally forgotten logs and as I taught only up to cl 11, I had to relook at it. Also here it is very much applied.

Luckily having taught maths, I had all the algebra at my fingertips..a little bit of refreshing on trig..something I had avoided. Luckily I was also clued up on all manner of Cartesian planes.

Although I think people got a bit irritated by the lecturer going off on a tangent, he allowed a lot of interaction and error and in the end, we got to know each other much better  than otherwise. I learnt 4 names: Taylor, Lihle and siphesetle are all doing homoeopathy. Ben is doing chiropractice. A couple of others I now know by face if not name. There are a fair amount of Afrikaans speakers.!

A number have studied elsewhere for a year or so. (Lihle and Ben and a little afrikaans chicky, Heleen and one guy has a BSc too.)IMG-20170215-WA0002.jpg

There is a real mishmash of colours and creeds. Many African languages, Indian, Coloured, White, Taiwanese, Afrikaans, English. Hindu, Muslim including a couple in Hajibs, Christian. The lecturer made sure that we mixed and matched the colors in the rainbow nation. From this, we could see that all of us had issues and so made us less shy of each other. Also I did not feel so old, although I was clearly the oldest in the class..even older than the lecturer. It was a good way to begin. Also we were about 200 people from all the health science faculty: Environmental health, dental, radiology, chiropractice, homoeopathy, medical technology.

I must say I love the mixing of cultures..there is a great vibe.

Durban, if I haven’t mentioned a hundred times is HOT and humid. Luckily some of the lecture rooms are air conditioned..but they are closed during breaks..so we sit in the shade of the lovely big trees…

but it is still hot. I ice a bottle of water that I carry with me and keep an ice brick or two in a cool box in my car that I take out at lunch time to help me least the afternoon. I use it like a hot water bottle, except its cold. You HAVE to wear shorts or a skirt,otherwise you die (except on overcast days)..even then you die unless the wind is blowing. This is a little gimmick that I found at a flea market. It contains polymer beads that hold water and release it slowly to keep you cool. 20170216_135230

Durban University of Technology is a vast campus having 4 campuses across Durban..all in quite far walking distance. and there is a real maze of classrooms and lecture rooms and laboratories all linked by a maze of path ways. 20170208_064252.jpgThey offer a HUGe amount of subjects from art and drama to design, journalism and engineering, hotel school,

marketing and of course Health sciences. Here they offer radiology, nursing, chiropractice, homoeopathy, environmemtal health, medical technology.  the grounds vary, but there are lovely big trees and nooks and crannies and places to sit. Wifi is all over, so people spend a lot of time on their cellphones during breaks but we are not allowed to use them in class at all. The classrooms are airconditioned and have internet. The laboratories have good quality equipment..see these amazing zeiss microscopes.20170216_141636 I must say I prefer chalk and talk myself, as a lot of time is wasted setting up. However, all lectures and slides are posted onto a student website called blackboard so you can access anything. We all have dut emails and any notifications  go there as well. so if the university is closed for any reason, teaching can continue to some degree. The security is quite physical..classrooms are barred..trying to be tasteful, you can only enter with a student card.20170201_122339

We do a lot of practicals: anatomy (is dissection of a human body), physiology, microbiology and microscope work (histology) and also physics and chemistry. We also do diagnostics on each other in small clinic rooms.

Our class has a whatssapp group and we chatter away although we don’t know each other yet.img-20170208-wa0004 I can see that we will become firm friends at the end of this course as the University gives us many opportunities to do so and I am impressed with this. We have a course called personal and professional development where we discuss more personal issues, and go deeper into our reasons for being, with some journalling. On the whole its is a much more personal space than any other University..possibly related to the Health faculty that seems pretty organised. They have made real efforts to welcome us and make sure we attend lectures and pracs. They have even given us equipment and books.

We have only had one week of lectures so far. Much of it I know from my Bsc and am considering getting credit for some of it. But I have been helping the other students and feel good about that. I will report more on the actual content, which I am enjoying nevertheless. Many are just out of school and very nervous. The teaching, however is excellent. Engaging and thorough. There is no excuse for failing. The support is incredible.

The Trip Home..To Cape Town in 2 days

So after my very filling breakfast, I walked around the Durban waterfront comparing it in my head to old photographs from when we were small.

It hadnt changed that much..still had the kiddies pools 20161001_135757and cable car. 20161001_135817the sea was heaving with swimmers, 20161001_140003

but I felt that I needed to get out of the city before I would swim in the WARM sea. (Cape Towns waters are freezing). So I headed  via the coastal road.

We used to come to Amanzimtoti, which is now considered a suburb of Durban, in our holidays in our youth. It hadnt changed very much..just smartened up a bit. Then went on to Scottborough camp site, 20161001_160753

where we spent some summers camping in a canvas tent until my mother complained that she was not getting a holiday. After that we stayed at holiday flats and cheap hotels.

The campsite at Scottborough was EXACTLY the same  as 40 years ago..next to the railway and right on the beach.

The sand is quite different to cape Town. Yellow and grainy.20161001_165410

So I set up my flimsy tent that I had bought in England and never used and shlepped back to SA. I was going to have a early night for the first time in 4 days.20161001_164532 Well the weather decided differently. After a wonderful day, a storm came up and almost blew my tent away. So I had to get up in the middle of the night to lift some heavy rocks to anchor it. After that I had a decent-ish night.

I was up early to get on the road as I had to be back in CT at a certain time. I decided to go a slightly different way, but still short cutting through the Karoo. Luckily the weather was overcast, as it can get very hot. there were beautiful views over the cane fields and the rolling hills of the Transkei. A bit more populated but still rural.

I was pacing myself and tried to take photos from my car rather than stop..a dangerous thing to do.

As I was going through the Transkei, just outside the Capital city, there were roadworks again. This time they had speed bumps..bad ones that you couldnt see and you could not go faster than 40m an hour over. I can understand why they had speed bumps, as this is the road that the taxis take to go to and from Cape Town and there it is always a race..nothing else would have slowed them down. Well we went for miles this way…it was too late to turn back and find another route.   Transkei was very pretty..houses on every hill, just like the Cotswolds in England. (see if you can guess which is which). Transkei is like I imagine England to have been long ago when they lived in Rondawels always perched on top of a hill..thats why the roads are so twisty.

You could see that development was happening, as the roofs were made of iron rather than thatch and walls made  brick rather than clay and often was square rather than round and even double story. At least  couple of family members work in big cities and support their families in the Transkei. There are few work opportunities here. Mostly the inhabitants are grandparents and children.

A little while later we came to more stop and goes. It was quite funny because every time we stopped, the doors of the many taxis would open up on all sides and all the men would hasten to the bush to pee. I wondered about the women.

I went through the mountain Zebra national park and saw what looked like albino springbokke. I had to stop because it was so unusual. Not a good photo you can just see the white buck running away. 20161002_175515 When I googled it, I found that there are 4 colour phases of Springbok. The white was not albino, and you could get black and copper colour,. (The website gave me the grillies, though because of how they wrote about them. (It was a hunting website)..as trophies to collect. “Besides the Common Springbok, there are three color phases that have become popular to collect. They are black, white and copper springbok. It is a fun and challenging quest that makes a colorful quartet in any trophy room when mounted together.” I live in a different world it seems.

I was not going to travel too late to find a place to stay, so as night fell I entered Graaff- Reinet and passed a small reserve. Although it had a sign saying it was open, it was closed but a kind guard took my details and gave me the key to a very fancy tented camp. He didnt know how much it would cost me, and at this stage I didnt care. He couldnt take money so I said I would pay in the morning. He gave me the gate code and I had a wonderful luxurious night..outdoor showers and toilets..but so tastefully done. I had no food with me, but the self catering facilities were top class.

I managed to do some walking around and although the camp was full, it didnt feel like it. I took this photo from the deck overlooking a dam..looks like a ghost also got in on it.20161002_201741

In the morning, it was so cold (after a hot day) that there was ice on my windscreen. 20161003_061137

I had to be on the road early as I had to be in Cape Town by 4pm. Luckily I heard people arriving to open the gate..but the office was still closed and another gate stopped me from going further. I couldnt afford to waste an hour, so I wrote a note with my details, left the keys  and ..having the gate code of the entrance (not the exit), I opened the entrance gate from the other side and left. I expected to hear from them and still wondered what they were going to charge, but have never. So thank you for that free night. I will come back some day as I would have liked to spend longer there.

So, I considered visiting my friend Diana who has a farm in Ladismith, but was running out of time. I will go another time. I stopped in at my sister for some tea. She was very ill with presumably a dose of flu that had come on very suddenly, but she covered it well. Only later she told me that she almost died as its seems she had actually an extreme allergic reaction to something and had to call the ambulance for oxygen as she couldnt breathe. She thinks it is the sprays that drift across the wheat fields. I worry about her being alone in RSE. But she is quite sensible, I think, and has since recovered.

So, hot and sweaty I arrived in Cape Town. I still had to go home, gather my clothes, go to deliver my car in town (50km away) as my sons girlfriend, Pia,  was borrowing it, had supper out in Obs, spilt a milk bottle in my handbag, then went back with my son to the house I was sitting before I could have a radox bath and crash again at midnight. I think I was crazy to drive up and down so far in such a short time..but what the heck, I got to see a good cross section of the country in a short time.

A cross section of the SA country in 4 days

I seem to do a lot of things in four days (see previous posts). The last time was London..well there its kind of a whole country in a few square miles. Well, this time I went across South Africa to Durban by the sea from Cape Town by the other sea. Why was I so foolish? Well I was heading for an interview at Durban University of Technology to study Homoeopathy next year. Only 2 places offer Homoeopathy, the other one is in Johannesburg, so there was really no choice. Also, they only take 35 students per year and ONLY ONE “mature” student..and that had to be me.

Now, I didnt realise that Durban was further away from Cape Town than Johannesburg and even further than Windhoek in Namibia. 1700 km to be more or less exact . Thats more than the whole of England from top to bottom. (England is 1349km from John O’ Groats to Lands end). Okay, we dont have lots of villages where you have to go 30 miles an hour to slow you down.  We have long straight and hot roads that go straight there, right? Well not quite. So I estimated that it would take me 2 days to get there quite easily at 100km per hour on average..I didnt intend to drive at the average speed of 140 like other South Africans. Well, it didnt quite work out like that either. Also I have a millenium Toyota (ie over 15 years old)…but it has a reconditioned engine.20160818_112845 I did consider flying, but not only would I have spewed huge amounts of pollution into the air (apparently 6 to 47 times as much as by car per person! Especially short flights, as the runway fuel is the most damaging. http://www.yaleclimateconnections.org/2015/09/evolving-climate-math-of-flying-vs-driving/). Besides, I am still in travelling mode, and wanted to get an idea of the country I had been neglecting for so many years. What is South Africa like now? The last time I had been to Durban was 10 years ago, when my son and I went for a round trip to see all the skate parks with his BMX on the back.

So off I set, visiting my dear sister along the way. She lives in Riviersonderend, a sweet little village 200km from Cape Town, with many skeletons in the cupboard. But thats another story better told by her.

A quick cup of tea, and I had to get a bit further..like another 400km to George. Looking for a place to camp was not so easy…it was out of season so everything was closed at about 5. I finally found a rondawel (a typical South African round building..last used in Europe at stonehenge 3000BC, for those who dont know) where I spent the night. .serenaded by frogs, as it was on a river. I finally nodded off at 12pm, woke at 5am to continue my drive. (5 hours sleep). I went for a little walk before I left in the morning, and found some wonderful medicinal plants everywhere. Although this place was a typical RESORT, in the most typical south african way.(.including the black and white TV),

it gave me a sense that it was a haunt of some sangoma or other.

There was a beautiful landscape across the river where an irritating sound came from..like a couple of flies, and I realised it was workers riding lawnmowers over a golf estate. Welcome to civilization. 20160930_064457

Following wrong directions, and realising my Afrikaans was not as good as I thought, I headed off, got a speeding fine for going 78 in a STUPID 60 km zone (downhill on a pass outside a built up area. Consolation was that the fine was only 400 rands as opposed to 2000 in Britain for going 37 in a 30 zone.) Realising I was on the coastal road which was much longer than any other, I decided to cut inland back to the short cut road I intended to be on, on an old road I hadnt been on for years..thinking that it must have improved. (It used to be  a windey dirt road..very beautiful) Prince Alfred Pass..yes, colonial throwbacks everywhere..George..prince Alfred…Baden Powell drive (the coastal road outside capetown), Durban (sit Benjamin D’Urban).

Well, it was very beautiful still..if not more so, as it is now a reserve of tropical forests and ENORMOUS trees..but the road is worse.

Well it took me 3 hours to go 75 km. Not only because I couldnt go more than 30km per hour, but because it was so beautiful, I HAD to stop and photograph. I WILL be back to look properly…but not in the rainy season, as I can see that the roads wash away regularly. I did come across a strange sculpture at one point.

From here to karoo..dry straight hot roads..beautiful in an endless way. I had lost a lot of time and had to get to Port Shepstone (colonial) at least, as my interview at DUT was at 9.30 am the next day.20160930_113608

Well, it doesnt help to calculate when there are road works along the way..you know, STOP wait ten minutes (and go). This Karoo town had ENORMOUS cacti. 20160930_132125

It was getting dark as Ii went through the edges of the Transkei. This was when the roads lost all their signs, started winding up and down hectically and no one dimmed their lights..it also started to have waves of thick mist and light rain. The views were likely spectacular, but I could not see them, where I was going, where the next town was and how far away..so I drove blindly. By now, my neck was killing me and my bum was totally numb, and my eyes were glassy. I stopped in a typical one street town for petrol..nothing else was open for trade..not even KFC. Luckily I had some dry biscuits and cold tea in my flask. .

At this point, I knew I would need to drive through the night to get anywhere.

50km from Port Shepstone (more colonial), driving through cloud banks, I decide I was going to crash..as in sleep, if I didnt want to crash..as in accident. So I turned off the road into an inlet…there were no lights, so I assumed I was in the middle of nowhere, folded back my seat and slept uncomfortably.

In the morning I discovered I was in a sugar cane field. At least I knew I was close to Durban. I got going at 5 (another night of 5 hours sleep), coffee at the garage and off to Durbs by the sea via a convenient motorway. I wisely decided to leave the sight seeing till later.

Durban was a revelation of hooting taxis and busyness. I dont think it was the safest place, judging by the security walls.

I hadnt had breakfast, but decided to find my place of Interview. Of course I hadnt banked on the fact that because of the #Feesmustfall protests, the place was closed. Luckily I found an open gate. and found that the interview was still on. I hastily bought a couple of apples from a vendor…they do not have breakfast places in downtown Durban.. only chicken outlets..it was a bit early for that.

I was last to be interviewed, as my case was special..being so “mature”, so I was only released at 12. No tea was offered only water. All the Interviewees were YOUNG..still at school and very nervous..so I had some use in allaying their fears. These were pictures of some of the homoeopathic remedies on the wall.

I was interviewed by a true cross selection of the Durban population: Afrikaans, English, Zulu and Indian..all women. It was a good interview, and I was instantly offered a place..the only “mature” student. After that, I realised that I could eat a horse, raced off to the waterfront and finally sat down to an ENORMOUS breakfast with coffee served in a POT, while looking over the sea front. BLISS.

I will report further on the trip home.

 

 

Finding a garden to garden

Having spent a year doing a lot of gardening at Ruskin Mill, I was itching to get my fingers into South African soil. However, since all I owned could fit into my car, I had to go find one. Luckily for me, Alice Linton, a Scottish lady, who had to urgently go to Scotland to her 92 year old mother had such a one. I am now house sitting a beautiful house overlooking the sea and three lovely dogs that I walk daily. As a result, the pounds that I put on eating all the carbs in England have started falling off. (I am also eating a lot more protein and fat, thanks to the banting diet.)20160918_122254Okay, this does look like an English breakfast, but its got a lot more (for much less)

So, this is the garden a month ago:

and this is it today.

Things definitely grow here despite the mingy rain and the sandy soil. Of course the place is literally buzzing with bees. and butterflies and all manner of insect life..something I missed at Ruskin Mill, where animal life has fled. Birds twitter all day rather than the squawking of crows. Here are some of the multitude of fruits that I cant keep up with.20161105_084901these bees were devouring the nectar.

Oops here are some of the multitude of fruits that I cant keep up with. I have given to friends, family and everyone who loves them. Sorry you are missing them, Alice.img-20161016-wa0000

I am living in this very retro cottage:

everything is retro, including the bath:

I have this wonderful view over the sea

and go for dog walks to all these places a spit from the house:

The dogs love moleing in the dunes or running in water

Nights were dark and you can see almost 360 degrees of stars. (couldnt photograph those) Tonight is the gibbous moon. But its the sounds that grab you. Frogs croak all night and now that has been replaced by crickets and cicadas (christmas beetles to us..as they come around christmas).

We celebrated my son’s 25th birthday, and so we invited friends to a real south African braai, and despite (or because of) their age, there were cartwheels on the lawn as the sun went down.

I am now planting out the HUGE amount of tomatoes you seeded, Alice,  and I cant find enough space. You will bear the fruits of these when you return. Lucky you.20161105_085041