Dear Rotarians

After much hounding from my parents, I have finally gotten around to writing another report! As usual I have been caught up in trying to do as much as possible before I have to leave Canada. First of all, I have to give an overdue thank you to the club. As you may know, I had a dilemma as I was raising money to buy a new air ticket so I did not have to leave before school ended. After a generous donation from the club of Algoa Bay I was able to purchase the new ticket. It came as a tremendous relief and I am incredibly thankful to the club. I certainly know you are reliable and I cannot begin to explain how much it has meant to me to be able to spend the extra time in Canada. So I will fill you in on some of the things I have now been able to do after being able to stay longer.

I have recently moved in with my fourth and final host family, the Jeffords. Bob, Bonnie, Kate (18) and Joel (16) are a great family to be with over the summer, as school ended in June. They live just out of the city and have a pool, games room and big backyard. Originally I was to be staying with the Van Den Bossche family until my departure, yet all the children left to work or attend summer camps, so it would just be me with my host mom. I then decided to move in with the Jefford family as Kate is one of my good friends from school so I knew them already. The Jeffords have taken me up to a cottage for a few days, to Canada’s Wonderland and many other fun things.

The last bit of school went really well. In grade 12 it is only necessary for students to take three courses per semester, but I was taking four. I then decided to drop English for a spare period as I really was not enjoying it. Instead, during the period I would have had English, I went around to different classes every day doing presentations about South Africa and the differences in the schooling. I also collected names of some kids interested in exchange, so hopefully some will consider coming to SA! The other subjects I took were Art, Sociology and Peer Leading. My first art project, a clay pot decorated with Ndebele art, came out very well. My other two projects, however, were not as successful. The bottom of one blew off in the kiln, and the teacher mistakenly broke the other one. Now I realise why I haven’t taken art before. I did well in Sociology and was just short of winning the subject award by 0.3%! Peer leading, where I acted as a teacher’s assistant for a grade 9 drama class, was certainly memorable. One of the projects I worked on was choreographing a dance for the kids to perform during year end assembly. It fell on 11 June, so I painted South African flags on all of their cheeks for the performance to mark the beginning of the world cup.

On the extramural side, the play I was involved in, The Giver, made it into the next level of the competition. We also won the most awards out of all school in that level of the competition. We then went on to perform in Hamilton, which is about three hours away. We stayed for a week and watched plays every night. Seeing as I had never been there, we even made a cast trip to Niagara Falls which was phenomenal. The standard was very high and only two plays made it on to the next level. Unfortunately we didn’t make it but it was still a memorable trip. I was also part of my school’s diversity day where I set up a South African booth and made koeksisters for everyone to try. I have also been very involved with my church and the youth. I have sung and spoke during church services, as well as at the youth meetings. They have a very active youth group and I have joined them on many, if not all, of the youth outings, including a 4 day camp. I was part of a group from my church who was recently involved in a big fundraiser for the Canadian Cancer Society. I am now volunteering at the day camp my church runs over the summer holidays where I help run activities for children from grades 1 to 8.

Staying later also meant that I was able to be in Canada for graduation and prom. This was a truly unique experience. Although I was not graduating with a diploma like my classmates, I was still able to dress up in a robe and walk across the stage like everybody else. So I decided to represent and bring a big South African flag across the stage with me, much to the enjoyment of the audience. I ended up winning awards for highest marks in Drama, Cosmetology and Peer leading, which I was quite pleased about. Prom was also a fabulous night. Not quite as big a deal as Alex’s Matric Dance, but still lovely. A group of my closest friends and I got together beforehand with our parents to take pictures before heading out to the event. The night was filled with lots of fun and memories.

On the Rotary side of things, there has also been a lot going on. I did my presentation for my host club and they really enjoyed it. There was a newspaper reporter at the meeting who wrote an article about it in the local newspaper. As previously mentioned I did many presentations at my high school, but I also did some for a local primary school in what was called education week. I also attended the District Conference where I was required to make a speech. It was great to meet many other new Rotarians and share my exchange experience with them. I attended a Rotary Youth Leadership Awards weekend and made lots of new friends. I was also required to speak there, and I’m hoping I have motivated some to come to South Africa one day! It was an awesome weekend where we learnt a lot about leadership.

Now as my exchange draws to a close, I am making the most out of the little time I have left. It has been an amazing experience that words cannot describe. As I dread saying goodbye to all my friends next month, I look forward to seeing all of you again. See you soon!

Katharine.