Week 5 at Khayelisha and Mid Term Review

This week has been such a highlight for us. We started off working at Khayelisha and the school, managing to gain momentum on our various projects, which was really encouraging, and then on Wednesday we headed back to Durban for our Midterm Review. As our team is so far away from the city we were given the opportunity to arrive a day earlier than everyone else. So at 4am we all piled into the car, fuelled with excitement for the days ahead. A few hours later we found ourselves back in civilisation and on our way to Ushaka Marine – the local waterpark and aquarium. Patrick, Matt, and I were all keen to fit in as much as possible and headed to the waterslides as Katlego and Nonto chilled in the aquarium. As it was a school day in their winter (at 26 degrees) we had the place to ourselves, meaning we could run from slide to slide without delay. We all rediscovered our inner child as we span down each tube, full of delight as we hit the pools below. At 11.30 we met up as a team to watch the dolphin show, having never seen anything like it I was amazed at being so close, and was relieved to find out that the dolphins they used were actually rescues rather than captives. The creatures were so beautiful and graceful, it wasn’t difficult to see why the shows are a constant success.

After we dried off and had a quick mooch around the shops, we were greeted by Debbie to take us to where we’d be staying for the next few nights. The place was truly beautiful, it was in a location called Valley of a Thousand Hills, and we sat right at the top. Words cannot explain the views we were surrounded by.

The next day was equally exciting as we saw the arrival of all of the other volunteers; after being separated for a month it was so good to catch up and the site was filled with everyone hugging and laughing. We spent the day discussing what each team had been up to and the different ways in which we could improve ourselves and each other for the coming weeks. In the evening I brought out some henna which I had bought the day before, and by bedtime most people had some form of design on their arm or ankle.

On Friday we had the opportunity to take part in some team building activities at a game reserve called Spirit of Adventure. Despite having worked with each other for four weeks we still had a lot to learn from one another and it was a real insight into how we all operated. We were lucky enough to have the afternoon off and were all thrilled to have time to bond as a big team once again. Saturday was an early start as we headed back to Tugela Ferry, re-energised and ready to get stuck back into the work.

Prayer Requests

Nonto has an interview for a job on Sunday so we pray this goes well.

There are a lot of solar ovens to be made, Katlego is doing a fantastic job so we pray his motivation keeps us going.

We have started an idea for a business competition, we will start having meetings next week so we hope that this goes well.

Braai’s and Birthdays!

They-wa! What kind? How’s it?

So I basically said Hi, How are you? In “Coloured” slang.

Don’t worry, I know it’s not politically correct to us but the community we are staying in is called a “Coloured” community which is what we would call Mixed Race or Bi-racial. There are a few other ethnic groups such as Zulu and Indian but it is predominantly Coloured. So even though the language they speak is English, they also speak Deep slang, making it difficult for others to really understand what they are saying. But we are beginning to pick some things up.

We have also found ourselves very integrated into a local Church called Joy Chapel . Although it is one of 11 churches in Mariannridge, our South African Team leader, Tebogo lives with the Pastors’ family so we got a lift with them in the morning. The church is held for 2 hours from 9am to 11am, similar to most of the churches although it sometimes goes over, but it is hard to notice as so much is going on. The service is very loud from the worship team to the very energetic and youthful – spirited congregation. Even the grandma’s are up on their feet dancing.

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Services are held in English but often they sing a mixture of Zulu and Afrikaans songs as many tribes are represented in the church. One word I can use to best describe the ethos of the church is “free” in all senses of the word. From the way they worship to the way they embrace each and everybody. The members made us feel so welcome that we also attend cell group on Tuesdays and Youth on Fridays. Our first week in the church, we were asked to lead the Friday Youth session. The ages range from 15 to 25 years. As nervous as we were and without having an understanding of how the youth program is usually run, we accepted and we realised that South African kids are excited over the same things as any other kids. The famous game of “30 seconds” seemed to already be a big hit among them and their competitive edge meant that creativity was at its highest.

One thing that South Africans love to do is have a Braai. This is pretty much a Bbq but it is very popular and brings everyone together all year round. They normally eat every type of meat including ‘wors’ which is similar to sausage but bigger and is indigenous to the people of South Africa. We were invited to Kaylen’s birthday, one of the girls from the church, who had a “Bring and Braai” which meant that we literally had to bring our own meat. We also got to try Chakalaka, which was like a very sweet salsa sauce that went very well with the Braai meat and Puthu, a Zulu delicacy, similar to potato mixed with sweetcorn, butter and salt.

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One of the South African volunteers, Jabu came across an outdoor Braai on his morning jogs and we decided to check it out also. It was pretty much an outdoor restaurant where you are able to purchase your own meat at the counter, pick your seasoning and then go outside to cook it to your liking on the grills provided. The restaurant itself was situated on the side of the road, meaning that it was very open with music blasting, while people came in big groups to cook their meat, drink and dance. Our initial plan was to walk there, but one of the church members from Joy Chapel, Basil, was driving passed and gave us a lift. We also invited him to join us. Thank God we did as we would not have managed the walk back because of the amount we ate!

Last weekend, we joined forces with City Celebration which are a dance network that visit many different communities, sharing the art of dance with young girls in particular and encouraging them to express themselves in many different ways. We expected 100 girls, however only 20 turned up. The numbers were disappointing but when we asked the local people, they informed us that it was very common of the Mariannridge community to promise that they will come but never show up. Despite the turn out, we didn’t want to give up so we invited girls who we saw on the street playing or were walking passed and encouraged them to come in and take part. We also found a lot of young boys on the streets that seemed to be very bored and were causing a nuisance, so we invited them in also. After all the efforts, there were around 35 kids. The second dilemma we faced was that we were providing lunch and therefore had a lot of food left over. But God had a much better plan. Luckily, we had only decided to make a few of the sandwiches until we knew how many people were coming. The rest of the bread was still sealed so we donated the rest to Uncle Ralph for him to distribute to the local houses. This was such a blessing in the end and we were really happy that things all worked out so well. We were also asked to lead a few games for the kids including the Okey Kokey!  And of course, face painting was involved! By the end of the day, we were exhausted but not tired enough to say no to yet another Braai! This time we were invited by the YLT (Youth Leadership Team) who were another group of students implementing a spirit of active citizenship in the community. We intend to collaborate with them in a few upcoming projects so stay tuned for this.

We still need prayer in regards to our upcoming projects which involve planning for a sports day in the primary school and a big litter campaign to clean up the streets of Mariannridge.

We are all still doing very well in terms of health and team bonding so we thank God for that.

So I am just rushing off to a meeting but will post another blog next week. Thank you very much for all the prayers and support, we are so grateful and we pray that God continues to bless us and that we trust for God’s hand to be in everything that we do.

Thanks again and God bless

Gayle

Greetings from Mariannridge!

Sanibonani or Sanibona as many people say in slang meaning Hi everyone!

So we are the Mariannridge team, and although we have been very delayed in giving everyone an update on how we are doing, I am currently using a very unstable wifi connection so please bear with us.

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So, I think the team and I can gladly say that for the 4 weeks we have completed so far, Mariannridge has certainly captured our hearts and made us feel like we are part of their community and that Mariannridge is a part of us. From the day we arrived, we were introduced to Uncle Ralph who is the co-ordinator of Church Alliance for Social Transformation – C.A.S.T. and runs the Ridge Café, which has turned into our meeting place and where we always start our day.

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—  By the way, we realise that in African tradition, anyone older than you is referred to as either Aunty or Uncle and if they are really old, are normally referred to as Ouma which is Afrikaans for Grandma.—

The next few days we spent getting to know the township in which we will be spending most if not all of our time. So we were treated to a grand tour of the local residency, nicknamed ‘F-Section’, located moments away from our meeting place. We very quickly found that it contained many drunks, drug users, overcrowding and is also where Barney and Jabu stay. Good luck guys! We also got to know that it is the essence of Mariannridge and we found that residing in the middle of it meant that we can really understand what it means to live in “the Ghettos” which in Zulu is called “Asinamali” — direct translation: “We don’t have money”!!!

So a typical day consists of:

Morning worship and devotion with the team and whoever wants to join, from 8-9am at the ridge Cafe which is where we spend most of our time. Then we have a morning meeting to plan our day and also discuss our ideas. We often meet with Jenny who is the Mariannridge Coordinating Committee (MCC) coordinator and she gives us a complete run down of the things we can and cannot do. Thank God for her as she has been working for MCC for the past 9 years and despite the setbacks and disappointments from failed projects, she still has hope and encourages us, giving us ideas of what we can do. This usually runs from 9-10am.

At 10:05am, Nomvelo and I coach the high school Netball team who are currently preparing to play a match against another school. I felt that the current coach needed some encouragement in commanding the children to play better and listen to her but she seems to often have an excuse as to why she cannot attend the practice.

Then from 10:30 we run a literacy programme for grade 3 learners who are slightly behind than their peers in their reading abilities. The purpose is to encourage grade 3’s to read confidently and practice reading comprehension. Between, Barney, myself and Tebogo, we have two classes each who read to us for 30 minutes and then return to their classes. We play games with them to do with reading and try to make it fun. We noticed that there is a wide range of abilities in one class which gives a good indication as to why the teachers find it difficult to engage the entire class.

Then at 12:00, we break for lunch. Then the day’s vary from this point depending on where each day takes us. Sometimes we spend the afternoon just bonding with the local community members, be it playing snooker, going swimming in the local swimming pool, or hanging out at the pastor’s house to take advantage of the wifi connection!

In our second week, the buzz around town was certainly to do with the xenophobic attacks happening just a few miles from us. So we were able to visit a refugee camp in Chatsworth, a neighbouring town which was one of the biggest refugee camps in Durban. At its highest capacity the number of refugees reached just under 3000 people including children. It was by far the most emotional and heart breaking moment of our placement and we were all moved at the sheer size of the people who had been displaced from their homes and could not go to work or open their shops as they feared for their lives. We volunteered along with other community workers in the area, religious organizations and local churches to distribute out lunch for all the xenophobic victims. It was a challenge but it was also eye opening in that we were face to face with real life victims experiencing real life issues.

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Prayer requests are:

-Thank God for the safe arrival of all the teams in their designated placements.

-That God continues to lead us in where the needs are and how we can make the best impact in the community that we are working in.

-That we are able to build a good relationship with the teachers in the schools and encourage and motivate them in their jobs.

-That the team continues to bond with each other and no problems or illnesses come our way. (we are all fine so far)

-That we all settle well in our host families and maintain a good relationship with them throughout.

Keep checking for more updates on how we are doing and progressing.

Thank you for all your support and prayers for us. We are feeling very blessed to be here and that everything is going well so far. God Bless!

Gayle

Hello from Focus on iThemba

Hi everyone!

After travelling for over 32 hours the UK volunteers finally arrived here on the 11th of April! We stayed at a pastoral centre/ hostel which just fit all 47 members of our team (we’ve been split up into eight smaller teams who are located across KwaZulu Natal within this). We had a pretty chilled day on the Sunday, we went to a church in Durban centre and then had the afternoon to relax, do lots of chatting, played some games and got to know each other better. Orientation started at eight on Monday morning- we had to be up for breakfast by seven- which was a bit of a shock to everyone from England! We’ve discovered over the five weeks we’ve been here that everyone will be awake by six and have started going about their day- half seven is a lie in! However, we’ve also discovered that South African ‘midnight’ is nine o clock, and we’ve have got used to being in bed and ready to go to sleep by eight- sometimes earlier if load shedding happens! So our days at orientation were long, we’d start at eight am, and then we’d finish by nine pm (seven pm one day which was fab!), with the odd toilet break, and then dinner and lunch thrown in, it’s safe to say we were all shattered by the time we’d finished the week! Our evenings tended to be filled with lots of cups of tea, singing various songs with the girls and a guitar! And also enjoying the hot showers whilst we had some! After our week of orientation finished, groups started going to their host homes on the Friday afternoon. Some of us weren’t leaving until late Friday evening, or until Saturday morning (as we did) and so we had an afternoon at the beach and had a chance to buy some ice-cream which was a brilliant day- the beach is beautiful and the sea wasn’t freezing which is always a bonus! Our team consists of five people, three of us from England (Me, Jo and Constance our team leader) and two from South Africa (Nokwe who is my South African counterpart and Nonku who’s Jo’s counterpart).

So, we’ve been at our host home for over a month now- time has flown by! We arrived at about 9am on Saturday 18th of April and were welcomed with huge smiles, hugs and lots of love! Constance, Nokwe and I are staying with a South African Gogo (grandma) in a house which she moved out of so we could stay which is amazingly generous! Jo and Nonku are living in another house slightly further down the road from us (after a slightly difficult first week in a house with such a kind hearted Gogo but was unfortunately not suitable for Jo and Nonku to live in and so they were moved to be closer to us, and are now with an amazing family in a beautiful house). For our first week we (Jeni, Constance and Nokwe) were cooked for, had our washing done and were pretty much spoilt rotten- however this was due to a slight lack in communication about the money which was provided for our food so we’re now cooking, cleaning and washing for ourselves which in some ways has been quite a blessing as it means we’re able to eat what we want, and at the times we’d like so no more evening meals at 3.30! Nonku helps with the cooking and cleaning in her host home. We all have a working toilet inside which is a luxury here but we have to fill up the tank every time we want to flush it as there is no running water in the house as something to do with some tap somewhere is broken and the house will apparently get flooded, so we have to fetch it from outside to wash up, have baths (using a bowl full of cold water mixed with boiling water and a jug- we’re all so excited to have a real shower when we get home!) cook, and everything else. Gogo also has two women working for her as she is too old (she’s said this herself!) to look after her house on her own, and they’re both lovely, one speaks fluent English which is fab, and the other doesn’t speak much other than basic hello’s and stuff.

We’ve mainly been working at a crèche called Siyajabula in the Embo Valley (a rural area) alongside an organisation called Focus on iThemba. The children are all hilarious- one of them told Nokwe she thought Jeni was an angel because she’s so white which made us all laugh! We’re getting used to being fed a lot of plastic food by the children at the crèche who love coming up to us and hearing us go ‘nomnomnom’! A typical day at Siyajabula would be to get up and have breakfast at about seven/ half seven, walk down to the crèche for eight/half eight and then help the teachers out with breakfast- we give out bowls of porridge and then feed the younger children who can’t yet feed themselves, then its lesson time (at this point we usually go and work in the garden for a bit, or do some admin in the office as we’re more of a distraction than a help! Nokwe sometimes helps run the lesson for the 3-5 year olds which she’s brilliant at), then it’s outside play time for the children. After this its lunchtime where we again dish out food to all the children and help those who can’t feed themselves, then the children go to sleep while we clean, and sometimes give Gogo Elizabeth a computer lesson before the ‘official’ end of the day. However- as some of you may have guessed- people here are very chilled and so some children are picked up 2-3 hours after the end of the day. We normally come home between half 1 and 3 as the crèche shuts at this point for aftercare of the children who haven’t been picked up yet. We tend to go back to Nonku’s house to do admin/paperwork, make resources for the creches and prepare for the next day, and then we’ll separate and have dinner before going to sleep for the next day.

Every Tuesday we go to Siyabaphephisa crèche where we get to paint one of the two classrooms. We have also been doing the ECD assessment report (a report of which the goal is to help them become registered with the government to allow the crèches to receive funding and support-however this can take years to achieve!) with the owner Bright. Hopefully we can help her crèche to get closer to be registered by the Department of Social Development. This Thursday Khanya is driving us to Sizakancane crèche. We haven’t been to this crèche since week 2! So as you can imagine there is a lot of work to be done.

In the next few weeks, we hope to deliver First Aid, Child Protection, and Hygiene training at all three crèches as well as completing all the ECD reports, and delivering some of the teaching resources we’ve been making!

If you have time your prayers would be wonderful for the following things:

  • Continued bonding as a team- we’re all getting on really well which is wonderful!
  • Thankfulness that we’ve all arrived safely, are living in safe host homes, and that we’ve not had any major problems.
  • For continued good health- no-one is ill at the moment (fingers crossed!) but there’s a lot of flu/colds going round that we don’t want to catch!
  • Last but not least, that we’ll continue to build positive relationships with the people we’re working with at the three crèches, iThemba, the local community we’re living within, the people that we’re staying with and that through everything we do we’ll shine out the love of Jesus! J

Thank you all for your support, love and prayers!

Khayelisha Week Four

It’s incredible to think that we have now been in South Africa for a month, so much has happened yet it’s passed so quickly.

This past week has been really incredible, we started off on Monday up at the bore hole investigating the water issue. To show us how deep the pipes went, Laurens (who works with Khayelisha) dropped a pebble down the hole and we were amazed to hear that there was a splash of water as it hit the bottom. We all kept our fingers crossed in the hopes that it was more than a puddle. After lowering the pipe and giving it a test we were so grateful to find water pouring out at the other end. This hole was completely dry just last week yet somehow God has answered our prayers and provided for the people here. There are still some issues regarding the water but we are encouraged to have gotten this far and we continue to pray for solutions.

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Tuesday saw the start of our life skills lessons on ‘Poverty’ and ‘Human Trafficking’. We were relieved to find that the students really listened to a lot of what was being said and reacted in a way that provided us hope. They weren’t easy subjects to teach, nor to listen to, yet we are glad to be given such important topics.

We were finally able to start on the solar ovens this week, which we have all been looking forward to. Our first job was to dust them down and give them three coats of paint, and with each coat taking a day to dry, this took a while to work on. We hope to finish twenty of them by the 28th May, so far we have eight, but we continue with determination, after all the sooner they’re finished the sooner we can test them out (yum).

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There was some excitement on Wednesday this week, as we greeted Debbie and Tracey, where we shared our progress and were able to hear about how the other teams were getting on. As much as we love being out in Tugela Ferry we are sad not to keep contact with the other volunteers, we are so excited to be reunited with them next week for the midterm review, it’ll be so good to hear everyone’s stories.

Prayer Requests

We pray that water issue continues to improve, so much has happened yet there is still much to overcome.

That we finish the solar ovens on time. It would be so great to deliver all twenty to the care workers.

That we arrive safely back in Durban, and we get the chance to reconnect with the other teams.

Our life skills lessons next week are on Children’s rights, something we are all passionate about so we also pray that these go well.

Khayelisha Week Two

This past week has been a real insight into the area of Tugela Ferry, where we are based. We’ve been working on a number of different projects and have spoken to a wide variety of people, all of whom have inspired us in multiple ways. We started the week off with work on the library, it wasn’t particularly hard work but it was time consuming and tedious. In attempt to make it more interesting we blasted the music and began filming for a video we intend to put together.

Most of our week has been spent in the school doing lesson cover for maths and science, as well as teaching our life skills sessions; time management for grade 8 and 9 (which is a bit of an unheard novelty in South Africa), and HIV/AIDS to grades 4,5,6, and 10. Nonto was definitely the hero of the hour in these lessons as she captivated each class she was in.

Unfortunately we haven’t had as much time as we would like at the Khayelisha project but we hope that this will change next week. We already find ourselves researching recipes we could experiment with in the solar ovens (that we are still to build). Our stomachs grumble at the thought.

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A challenge that most of us face is the language barrier. Zulu is a particularly difficult language to come to grips with, the clicks and rhythm that comes so easily to those here, have caused us westerners to stumble. It really is a musical language and we are envious of the chants we hear daily. However, we persevere; we attend lessons every Tuesday in an aim to better ourselves. Nonto and Katlego laugh as we practice (badly). Our favourite words (the ones we can remember) are amanzi (water), woza (come), and inlovu (elephant).

This past weekend has been fantastic, we had a chance to meet up with the Pastor of the mission church (which works alongside the school and Khayelisha) and discussed with him our ideas for the community. It was fascinating hearing how he has strived in the area, and we feel encouraged to pursue our passion to help in the area.

Sunday was our relaxation day, which we thoroughly enjoyed as we took the opportunity to have our first braai (bbq) down by the river.

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At times this week has been quite stressful, but we have found rewards in unlikely places and are excited to work with so many inspirational people.

Prayer Requests

Our life skills lessons next week consist of Human Trafficking, and Poverty, both of which are difficult subjects. It would be great if our message comes across strong and effective.

Our Zulu needs to improve (a lot).

We’re a passionate team with many ideas, we pray that we can focus on the right things for the community and ensure that our time is spent wisely.

The boys have now moved up to Hebron (the boys site), so we pray that we are still able to communicate with them, and we manage to find time to socialise with them as well as work. The water is still an issue, so again we hope that this is solved soon.

Embracing the Zulu life!

Sanibonani! Ninjani? (Hello! How are you?)

Siyaphila! (We are fine!) We have been living in Zulu host homes for almost a month now, and what was once very new and very different is gradually becoming normal! For us UK volunteers, it took a lot of getting used to!

We are living in a beautiful community called KwaNyuswa in the Valley of 1000 hills. The views here are breath-taking and on a clear day you can see for miles and miles into the distance. I wish you could capture the sheer beauty on camera, but a photo doesn’t even come close to showing how amazing it is.

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The first and most noticeable difference between our life in the UK and the Zulu lifestyle is the food. No complaints at all, it is delicious! But very different too; Zulu culture, similar to many African cultures, is to eat in order to fill up so that you can last as long as possible before your next meal. That means that every meal is very VERY carbohydrate heavy, with a minimum of 1, usually 2 large portions of starch: rice, pasta, potatoes and “maize meal” which can be cooked in lots of different ways – porridge for breakfast, pap (sticky) or phutu (grainy) for lunch and dinner. The majority of meals will have some sort of a stew – beef curry, chicken soup, fish stew, mostly fairly spicy and really tasty, with lots of sauce to soak into the rest of your plate. The main vegetables here are pumpkins and butternut squashes, as well as tomatoes, onions and carrots which go nicely in soups. For our packed lunches, peanut butter and apricot jam sandwiches have become a regular favourite, along with avocados, bananas, apples and delicious, juicy, in-season oranges. Yum!

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The second difference in our host homes is the lack of running warm water. Bathing is interesting – some of us are lucky enough to have a tap in the house, and others have to fill up a bucket at the tap outside. Then you heat up some water in the kettle and pour it into a wide shallow bucket. “Bucket baths” basically consist of lots of splashing – you pour the water over you, lather up, then splash it over you to clean off all the dirt and dust! It took some practice to get the right technique, but it’s becoming easier now. And a gecho in the bathroom is a common sight!

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We wash all our clothes by hand in buckets which, if you’re not used to it, gives you blisters very quickly. But the plus side is that everything dries really quickly on the washing line out in the sun!

Once a day we have “load shedding” which is a 2 hour period where the electricity goes off. It’s not too bad if you know what time it’s happening because you can prepare and make sure everything is charged up and you’ve got a torch nearby if you need it, but it can be a pain when it comes unexpectedly! The absolute worst is when it means that dinner is delayed by 2 hours.

An interesting part of life in KwaNyuswa is the transport. Public transport doesn’t exist, so we get to and from the HACT offices in local taxis, which are minibuses that comfortably seat 13 people but quite often squeeze in around 17 or more. Once everyone is in, you get out your money and amalgamate it as a row, then pass it to the front. The unlucky person who gets the front seat then sorts out everyone’s change and passes it back down. It’s a process that requires honesty and trust from all the passengers, because there are lots of opportunities to quietly pocket someone else’s taxi fare, but no one ever does. It’s something we have grown to admire about South Africans.

Living with a host family is a really special experience that we value a lot – it has allowed us to really connect with the community and live how they live, as well as practicing our Zulu. Here are a few Zulu phrases we have learnt:

Ngicela amanzi? – please may I have water?
Ngiyajabula – I am happy
Ngilambile – I am hungry (an important one to know!!!)
Ngikhathele – I am tired
Ikuphi ithoyilethe? – where is the toilet?
Ngiyabonga – thank you

We’ve also learnt phrases that are useful for playing cards with the kids:

Ithuba lakho – your turn
Thatha – pick up
Unakho… – do you have…?
Sizodlala kusasa – we will play tomorrow
Kuhle – well done

If you have any questions about what it’s like to live in a Zulu community, please leave a comment below! We hope you’re enjoying your luxurious bath tubs, washing machines and ant-free homes!