As Helen bumped and scraped the little car up towards the High School (current home of the Music Academy) on October 1st, the broad sweep of the Keiskamma River and the rolling ocean came into view. We tumbled out of the car to be greeted with the big smiles of the Music Academy students. Lihle stepped forward and, very sweetly and formally, welcomed me to Hamburg. Standing there, on top of the hill, was a very special moment. I had been looking forward to coming here from the UK to work with the Music Academy for months, with a mixture of excitement and trepidation, and suddenly, under a huge blue sky and buffeted by Eastern Cape winds, I was here!
Another special moment came on the following morning as we arrived in the middle of the Sunday workshop session, as the students were practising movements from the Corelli Christmas Concerto. I had not heard them play live until then, and the beautiful sounds they were creating together, with such attention, care and professionalism, touched my heart.
Since that first weekend I've been swept into the business of life here, quickly trying to get up-to-speed with everything that lies ahead. Christmas Concert tour to be planned, instrumental lessons to be arranged, funding bids to be written and submitted and lots of people to meet and names to learn. Trying to squeeze and manoeuvre my tongue in order to create the subtle clicks that punctuate the Xhosa language raises many a giggle from the students!
Jen Hoyer and Lisa, our German volunteer, have been my saviours. As 'old hands', having been here for 2 months and 1 month respectively, they have been such a help to this English Offcomer. And of course, Helen, who invited me to come and be a part of her fantastic vision for these young people! (More on that Big Picture in future blogs!) Big thanks to you all, and to the other wonderful folk who have welcomed me so generously into this extraordinary place.
And just a footnote - last week we took one of the younger students to have an eye test at Specsavers in East London. We have just discovered that they provide a free service to under-12s, with free prescription glasses, so that's something we shall follow up with other students too and our only outlay is our travel to town. When we finally got back to the village in the evening we had to drop two students off at their homes which lie well off the beaten track. Fortunately, Unathi was also in the car to voice her enouragement as I precariously nudged our vehicle ( an unsuitable, low-slung, white little job) over giant potholes and across fields...('what track?!') Dogs barked at us as we stuttered and stalled in the darkness. And just for a moment, I wondered, was this what my daughter had had in mind when she urged me as I left; 'Now you be careful there Mum......'