You can leave South Africa, but South Africa will never leave you.

vukani-campWritten by Mirjam Greiner

As I reflect back on my voluntary year at the Mpumalanga Regional Office of SCOUTS South Africa I realize that I leave 11 wonderful months behind me. Months full of highlights and a few low points, adventures and experiences that have shaped me in the person who I am now. I have learned a lot about South Africa, the different cultures, typical food and especially Scouting in the Mpumalanga Region with its cubs, scouts, rovers and adult leaders.

The camps I attended are the highlights of my time there. Be it the closing camps or the BP camps of the districts, the Rover summer camp or the environmental educational camp. Whilst helping to plan and participate in a few of these camps I experienced the similarities and differences between scouting in South Africa compared to Germany.  I got to know a lot of different kids and youth from all districts of Mpumalanga. I was taught new games such as “Mosquito, mosquito catch it” and songs like “Campfire is burning”. I learned how to “flag break” and “flag down” as well as how to run a campfire properly. I experienced the motivation, happiness, patience and the positive moral which the participants had during the camp. There were always a few cubs, scouts or rovers singing, dancing or laughing. It made me smile and I felt so happy and proud to be part of this big Scouting

The moments that I’ll never forget are the weekends that I could spend with my friends in their townships. I’m so grateful that some of the rovers shared a lot of their daily life routines with me, that they explained what they’re interested in, what bothers them, which difficulties and challenges they have in life, but also what motivates them and makes them happy. I drove with them in taxis to their home, got to know their siblings and friends and sometimes more family members. My South African friends took me with them to their favorite taverns and taught me some South African dance moves. They also showed me where they buy their food and what they like to cook and eat. Due to that I experienced something new regarding food. I was surprised to eat chicken feet, cow stomach or chips with peri peri sauce and un-toasted toast. Without my friends, I wouldn’t know how to greet respectfully and friendly and how to talk using basic words and sentences in their mother tongue siSwati. I learned a lot and am very grateful to my South African friends. I very much appreciate it!

For that reason I would like to say “Ngiyabonga kakhulu – Thank you very much – Vielen lieben Dank” from the bottom of my heart to all the people who accompanied me through my gap year. I’d like to say thank you to the National Property Chairman Babe Mdaka and the Regional Commissioner Mom Lucy who welcomed me warmly and taught me so much about Scouting. Thank you to the Regional Manager Sharon who wasn’t only my direct boss and colleague, but a friend that I enjoyed spending free time with. Thank you especially to Team Stout, that means the Rovers Senzo, Maxwell, Lunga, Nicholas and Vuyo. Without you five guys I wouldn’t have seen, experienced and learned that much. I knew that I could always count on you guys, I always felt safe and I had so much fun with you. Thank you to the German Scout organization DPSG that prepared me very well for my voluntary year and not only supported me during the stay but helped me reflect afterwards. Thank you to all the people who supported me financially or with a good advice. And thank you to my parents who also did their part to make this year abroad possible for me!

I’m now opening a new chapter in my life as I am studying in Augsburg in order to become a mathematics and physics teacher. But, one thing is for sure … I’ll come and visit Mpumalanga and my South African scouting family again – because: You can leave South Africa, but South Africa will never leave you.

By Mirjam Greiner