After deciding that it would be best to give the orphanage children experiences rather than material things, I put forward the idea of taking the kids to the beach during the school holidays. The idea was well received, but of course, not knowing my way around here, I had to rely on Madame Rose and the other staff to take care of the details for me. We set the date for Friday. Rita from the tuck shop said she could organise transport and I was given a list of ingredients to buy at the market for the cooked lunch we were to take with us.
Rose from the hostel came with me to the market at 7am on the Friday, which was a big help, especially when it came to buying the fish. Most fish is sold whole and smoked, often very black and wafting malodorously through the marketplace. But Rose took me to a place where they sold fresh frozen fish, which was pulled out of a freezer with bare hands and weighed on a scale that had already been used to weigh various fishes and meats that morning, without the benefit of protective barriers. I also bought 15 cups of rice, some onions, tomato paste, stock cubes and curry powder.
When I got to the orphanage, people were just getting up in the most leisurely fashion, and someone was beginning to cook the morning meal. Rita was sent to buy charcoal to cook the lunch and others were sent to get drinking water to take with us. Meanwhile I bathed and dressed the small children. Then there was a relaxed breakfast, by which time it was 11am – the time I had thought we’d be arriving at the beach! But this was Africa time, so I had to be patient.
The fish were cut up into pieces – heads, tails, bones and all, and deep fried in oil, and a sauce of tomato and onion was prepared while the rice was cooked in another pot. When all was ready, at about 1.30pm, the driver was called. He arrived a half hour later and another half hour was spent loading up the van.
I had imagined a large coach or 2 or 3 minivans, but just the one van arrived. The loading up process reminded me of those Guinness World Record attempts to pack as many people as possible into a mini. Everybody sitting on a seat had someone sitting on their lap, children were wedged in behind the driver’s seat and the big pots of food and drink were loaded in the back and held in place by the half-open back door that was tied down with ropes. Forty men, women, children and babies and their luggage somehow squeezed into that van.
The 40 minute trip was interrupted by a flat tyre just before we got there, so we all piled out while the driver changed the wheel. We finally got to the beach at about 3pm.
For the next 3 hours everybody ran around on the sand and splashed in the sea, laughing and yelling. Some of the little ones were initially scared of the water but eventually most of them were laughing as the waves splashed their toes. I took lots of photos of everyone having so much fun (they will be on FB tomorrow).
After an hour or so, the food was brought out and served in bowls on the sand. Then it was back to the water again for more fun. At 7pm the driver returned to take everyone home. I was staying at the beach for the weekend, so I watched as they all squeezed in the van again and I waved goodbye as they set off, all waving and calling out ‘thank you’.
This trip was made possible by the money that people so generously gave for the orphanage water. The balance after paying the water bill has been used for nappies, school chairs, towels, textbooks and pencils, and now this beach trip. Thank you so much to all of you who made this possible. It’s a memory I will treasure for a lifetime, as I’m sure the children will too.