Some lessons learned about inclusion from a road trip through South Africa

We recently went on a road trip through South Africa which allowed me many different spaces and places to introspect and reflect on inclusion.

Cathedral Peak in the distance

Cathedral Peak in the distance

We met such incredible people along the way and it was wonderful to chat to them even for brief moments (I do like to chat, but more than that I am actually interested in connecting with other people who cross my path). So we are back from our road trip- Cape Town- Karoo National Park- Bloemfontein- Cathedral Peak in the Giants Castle Nature Reserve in the Northern Drakensberg Mountain Range of Kwazulu Natal – Hluhluwe and Ubombo- Durban- Bloemfontein – Nieu Bethesda – Graaff Reniet and back home to Cape Town. Our children returning we believe, with more of a perspective about South Africa- geographically, socio-economically, racially and also about the privilege they live with because they live in a big city and have access to so many things!

I am grateful to Brandan who drove every single safe, km… All 3800 of them, don’t judge this as a sexist, patriarchal arrangement! Someone had to do the navigation, check on the snacks,keep the kids entertained or remind Brandan of his turn in the current game we were playing. As well as knitting,  reading and we had decided beforehand that that person would be me! We spent a lot of time together as a family and I enjoyed this tremendously-an opportunity to spend time with our two precious gifts- our children Kai and Ella, when I spend most of my working life with other people’s precious gifts! It was joy-filled to spend so much time with the love of my life-Brandan, practising being patient and kind- it’s a road trip it would have been be painful any other way! Kai and Ella were very accommodating of the changing landscapes and the different provinces, cities and beds we slept in every couple of nights. When they developed laughing and giggling fitsimage (at times which were just inconvenient for us as adults) usually just as were we were finding our accommodation, listening carefully to directions or on long swathes of road with not too much to see outside except the exceptional landscape perfectly suited for a silent retreat….. we were reminded that laughing uncontrollably should be an essential part of sibling life and life in general for children- we really paused to think and question why we were asking out giggling children to stop!

This was an amazing holiday- we took our children to the place of my birth high atop a mountain in the north east corner of rural KZN, to Bethesda Hospital. It started as a mission hospital built by the Methodist church and now is a provincial hospital in KZN serving a very large community!

Walking down one of the original passages of Bethesda hospital.

Walking down one of the original passages of Bethesda hospital.

We inserted a mini reunion with my parents and sister, her husband and their children for the weekend in Durban and they had the happiest day ever with their cousins at USHAKA marine world in Durban and fitted in some swimming in the Indian Ocean during July – wonderful!

One of the highlights was our last night in Hluhluwe, KZN playing a game called… how would you describe (insert name of person)? You choose a family member and all the other players describe how they would describe the person and then you choose the next person. I would suggest you play the game on short drives and long ones and as often as possible- because everyday we reveal more of who we are to the people around us! As we drove to Moses Mahbida stadium with my parents shortly after arriving in Durban, Ella suggested we play the game in the car and it was so affirming for everyone! In terms of intergenerational relationships, hearing Ella hear my parents affirm me and affirm each other and then she was beaming when we were affirming her! Games like these, which make us think about each other and our characters, can help us round the edges off our neuroses and expand the reasons for being more creative/generous/loving/ joyful!!!!

Preparing for this trip I looked up some games and ideas to make the long car journeys interesting. We generally drove about 500-600km when we were moving from place to place and one activity I did not think of was one our daughter decided upon and this is a really good idea- and it certainly kept her entertained. In terms of temperament, she is more of a social being than her brother, he loves people too but is much more comfortable in silence, like his dad. Ella on the other hand is more like me and enjoys and feels quite energized with long interactions with people. So we started a dialogue journal, well Ella did, she would write me a note on my iPhone and insert a picture and would include a question, which meant I had to reply. It was a very enjoyable way to fill some of the hours that took longer than others. If your child is not as comfortable writing, you could do voice notes to each other and send those back  and forth. See examples of some of our notes.imageimage

A final thank you to the people we met on our travels…some we knew well, some we met and some we will never know!

On our last night away, in the freezing -1 degree, town of Graaff Reniet, our holiday serendipitously collided with the last night of our special friends, the Tooke family’s holiday. Ella and Matt Tooke are in the same Grade 2 class at Pinelands North. Matt has Rubenstein-Taybi syndrome and because of his parents bravery and advocacy (but not solely based on this) and because our school is an Inclusive school, this has ensured that Ella and Matt, are classmates and friends. This may not have been possible just a couple of years ago in South Africa.

Ella and MattElla and Matt

Matt is one of the most amazing people I have met and I see him a lot- everyday at school, besides our social interactions as two families. At school I see Matt walking down the passages, lining up for computers, reading with his facilitator Lisa, presenting drama’s with his friends, signing to his teacher while sitting on the carpet with the rest of his class, playing with his friends at break, using the app his mom has placed on his iPad based on the concept is he is covering in class. He is currently showing other teachers what is possible when we include those who have every right to belong! Matt is paving a new path for many other children and this makes me incredibly proud to know him and his family. This is the link to Matt’s blog http://www.matthewtooke.blogspot.com

I also have a new awe, awareness and respect for the many,many truck drivers we passed on our travels. I believe that many of them play a big role on our roads as they silently care/ guide/ show Ubuntu through the use of their hazards, moving over to the side, acknowledging your presence on the road and making the journey safer than it would be otherwise. I think they have a very tough job and want to salute those who made this experience what it was.

To the kind attendant at the garage outside Hluhluwe who came running out with the Mail and Guardian I left at the counter! To the family friend we literally bumped into at Cathedral Peak, the son of one of my mother’s most cherished friends, (who sadly passed away this year) who had actually visited my family at our home in Ubombo where I had lived from 1977-1980 and could share his experiences of their family holiday at the place of my birth. To the enthusiastic/passionate attendant at the iphonography  stand at Gateway Mall in Umhlanga who shared with us his dream for graffiti to be recognized as an art form. We got talking because he was standing in front of Brandan’s 2014 iphonography submission … a photograph called “fish” which Brandan took while standing in line at our local Fish and Chip Shop back in Cape Town. He has since given the block mounted photo to the owner of the store where it now hangs on the walls. There is kindness in the world, in South Africa…Inclusion is Love!

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About Rose-Anne Reynolds

I am head of Inclusive Support at Pinelands North Primary School in Pinelands, Cape Town, South Africa. I am passionate about inclusion, children, embracing diversity, multilingualism, tolerance, joy and love in abundance. I am married to Brandan Reynolds who is an editorial cartoonist and political commentator, we have two children Kai and Ella.
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