Today was a hard day. A windy, tough, hard day. But it was a good day.
As you might be able to tell by the style of writing, Monika Milz (our English teacher) has travelled back to Windhoek this morning with the one of our students and his mom. His family originally had traveling plans but he wanted to part of the trip as far as he could so the arrangement was made that he would be picked up near Aus. I so appreciate the commitment made by the whole family! Monika also needed to attend to family matters in Windhoek so it was the perfect opportunity to be able to do so. She was writing the amazing blog posts up till now and so the job is now up to me, the Business studies teacher. 😉
Our morning started off well, a delicious breakfast of cooked oats and off we went. As soon as the students started off, the cold east wind started. Growing up at the coast made me think that the east wind would be a warm wind - I was wrong, very wrong. After 35 kilometres we decided that it would be best for us to rather load the bikes and head to Aus instead of having the students being blown across the road.
After a scrumptious lunch, we had some down time in the campsite area with some of the boys playing soccer and everyone discovering all the treasures that are to be found in the general dealer stores of these small towns.
We decided to visit the Prisoner of War Camp here in Aus which is where 1552 German soldiers were kept after the conclusion of peace in July 1915 between the Union forces in South Africa and German forces.
Our next stop was the Commonwealth War Graveyard where there are 118 graves of German and South African soldiers from the World War 1. Most of the graves are dated October/November 1918 which is when influenza epidemic swept through the country and the Prisoner of War camp. It was a stark reminder of the fragility of life and how we all have a limited time on this earth. This was made even more personal with the grave of Mr Coetzee’s great great grandmother who was a nurse in the Prisoner of War camp and who also succumbed to the influenza epidemic that swept through the camp.
As teachers we are given an incredible opportunity every day to impact and help shape the lives of so many young people and this trip has brought that to the forefront yet again. This trip hasn’t always been easy for the students. The days were cold and the nights colder with the wind bringing many challenges, especially today. But today I saw students dig deep and hang in there when all they wanted to do was climb back on the warm bus, I saw students helping each other when they were barely moving forward themselves. I saw students choosing not to complain when there was quite a bit they could complain about. I saw students working together to load bikes faster than we have before so that everyone could climb into the warm bus.
The cycle challenge is about so much more than just cycling, it is about discovering that you can do so much more than you thought you could, it is about making new friends and talking and planning about how you can stay friends when you are back at school with everyone else. It is about the realisation of how privileged we all are and what incredible opportunities we are given.
It has been a really good day.