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A week into the Exchange - a day that will live long... 12th February 2015

Wednesday 11th February - today was a day where Surbiton and South West London felt a long, long way away.  It was definitely one of those stand-out days that will remain with me, and hopefully the boys, forever.  A report cannot fully do today justice but I will do what I can to help you capture it a little.

It has been our busiest day so far, full of incredible moments and new experiences.  We began the day with news of last night's grand 150th launch at G-Live filtering through.  It sounds as though the Marimba video came across well.  The boys then had 'Chapel' (a whole school assembly with a definite Christian theme), followed by the first two lessons of the day.  

We then set off on the Cape Town City Sightseeing open top bus tour, on another quite glorious day.  Starting at the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens, we travelled west along the Table Mountain area, through beautiful hills, trees and winelands.  Our first scheduled stop was at Imizamo Yethu Township, for a guided tour of the area.  This stop was meant to last approximately 35 minutes, but so interested/intrigued/amazed/challenged/moved were we that we ended up spending over 1 1/2 hours there.  

A word to sum up today would be 'contrasts' - our township guide, 'Mobeka', spoke passionately about the contrasts in the area, with a roundabout at the entrance to the township acting as a dividing zone, once due to Apartheid, now due to wealth and poverty.  We headed one side of the road deep into the ever expanding township, right into the heart of social degradation and the poverty stricken community.  What faced us was, on the one hand inspirational, as people admirably got on with life and made the most of any resources they could, yet on the other hand was saddening as a very real, visual reminder of the inequalities in this world stood before us.  

Pictures of despair were mixed in with glimpses of hope and stories of support and sacrifice.  The boys saw before them a real-life situation, a million miles from their SW London homes and lifestyles, and yet physically less than one mile from a rich, affluent suburb of Cape Town.  I am sure the boys will be able to tell you in detail their experience of that township.  The highlight had to be a visit to the community primary school, where 95 young children were schooled and looked after by just three ladies.  The SHS boys were a credit in this environment, happily engaging with, talking to and high-fiving the kids, sharing smiles with them, and leaving with some lasting memories.  It was an emotional time as the world's contrasts were so clear, and yet we left smiling, touched by the genuine warmth and joy of these young kids.  It was quite a challenge for us all and one I hope the boys can remember and use to help shape their worldview and thinking.

On leaving Imizamo Yethu we headed west and then north, around Hout Bay and along some quite stunning coastline.  We stopped for lunch at a Pizzeria at Camps Bay where the white beach and beautiful sea was breathtaking.  We then headed north east, along the coast, through the very affluent Clifton area with its own amazing coastline, round Bantry Bay, along Sea Point, and then all along the Beach Road, past the Football World Cup Stadium, before heading on into Cape Town itself.  We disembarked outside the Aquarium on the Waterfront.  We had seen a lot on the tour but were also hit with a sense of wanting to see and experience more in the remaining time we have here.  We won't be able to see everything but it truly is a region of endless attractions that we have just caught a tiny glimpse of so far.  A glimpse maybe, - but a glimpse that touched us all deeply and will be embedded in our minds.

The day did not end there!  Mr Steynor picked us up and drove us straight to Bishops, where the boys were signed up to play in their first ever game of Water Polo.  4 of the 6 boys had never even had a training session, yet alone played a game before, and the two that had just had the one session earlier this week for a few minutes.  Our boys threw themselves into the game, despite not knowing the rules and regularly being confused by the blowing of the whistle.  It was so good of the WPPS staff and boys to allow our guys to be part of the Under 13C team and experience something else brand new.  I'd like to be able to report a glorious first ever SHS victory in water polo, and yet, alas, it was not to be, however great fun was enjoyed as well as a  totally exhausting experience.

From there the boys returned to be with their hosts for the evening.  I sense the boys will sleep well tonight after a very full, active day.  I do hope that memories of this morning will not have faded, and in fact, never will. 


Mr Akhurst

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