A Fairy Tale about an Abbey Gate College Quest to Swaziland - Sense Africa
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A Fairy Tale about an Abbey Gate College Quest to Swaziland27th September '18

A Fairy Tale about Abbey Gate Colleges Quest in Swaziland by “Wicked Stepmother Karen Jackson.”

Are you sitting comfortably?  Let’s begin…

Once upon a time there were 14 Abbey Gate students who had a dream – to travel across the world to Africa, to a tiny little landlocked country and make a difference to a remote, mountain top community.  They made a wish and their Fairy Godmother Jenny, waved her magic wand.

It wasn’t going to be easy, Jenny told them they would have to work very hard to achieve their wish.  Many months of saving and begging the 14 students were joined by Princess Kirsty and their wicked stepmother Karen as they waited patiently at Manchester airport for King Marcus to arrive.

Finally their dream was to begin…

The silver Air France carriage flew them silently across the world, and they arrived virtually intact in Johannesburg, all their precious belongings gathered round their feet as they waited for young Jack’s wordly goods to appear on the carousel.  Alas it was not to be – young Jack was left bereft as he was told his belongings had a change of plan and decided to holiday at Charles de Gaulle airport instead.

Promises were made, phone numbers exchange and the group left the airport and began their four-hour journey to Swaziland.

The first stop was at a service station were animals gathered at their watering hole – they quickly bought their food – some having the healthy option of chicken burgers was others opted for the decadent flare of the giant waffle.

The journey continued as night began to fall, they queued impatiently at the Swaziland order.  Under the expert guidance of the driver Musa, they were soon hurtling down the long hill towards Mbabane further still to Mlilwane where Jenny was eagerly waiting, she had waved her magic wand, and a cosy hostel was soft beds and foods prepared for their arrival.  She had even arranged for two zebra to greet them. 14 exhausted students laid down their heads, and were soon dreaming of their journey and what was ahead.

The new day dawned bright and early, the 14 students were soon up and exploring their stunning surroundings.  After a warming breakfast, Jenny took the young students on a grand tour of her domain where there were a wide range of animals from the gentle nyala to the grinning of ferocious crocodiles.  This was a bit of expert tuition on animal recognition for later work.  Meals were also enjoyed around the campfire, with Hopalong Pumba, and his attendants racing through the campsite.

All too soon it was time to move to the project site.  Shopping needed to be done and Ed and Heather and their attendants push many trolleys around the supermarket, staring confusedly at the range of brands they didn’t recognise while wicked stepmother Karen scolded them for their choices.  Food was bought and stashed in the boot of King Marcus’s chariot, and the group forged ahead.

Up and up their carriage went, winding its way high into the mountains with Wawa at the helm, stunning views as rural community flashed past as the group continued even higher, dust clouds rose around them as they climbed to the top of the world.  Suddenly they were there – Mbita primary school lay drowsily in the Sunday afternoon sun its creamy yellow walls and red-brown skirted buildings rising from the dusty fields.  Across the road lay Auntie Linah’s house.  She opened her arms wide and granted the group the use of her humble home during their stay.

14 tired students erected their temporary shelters, pinning them to the ground to avoid them blowing off the mountain top.  A tasty meals was hastily prepared, alarms were set and the group called into their little homes.

The following morning dawned bright and early, it had rained during the night, but the sun was bright and the day was promising to be hot – breakfast was eaten, dishes washed and the group met their way up the path and across the road to the school.

And then the hard work began… Many kilograms of cement were mixed, many stones and rocks playfully removed from the pile of coarse sand as the group competed to find the largest one, ash blocks were carried, litter picked up and lessons taught in the classroom, tentatively at first, but confidence grew and the pupils welcomed them with open arms and hearts.

The days flew by, aching muscles were bathed with baby wipes or occasionally with a bucket and icy cold water, teeth were brushed at the outside sink where views of the sun rising in and the mist settling in the valley greeted them every morning and the hearts were at peace.

Visits were organised for the group to meet all the other pupils in the community, some at Mlindzini High School, others at the nearby Mlindzini Primary School.  At each new place the group were greeted warmly, dancing and singing was arranged and the group brought the delights of the Western world in the form of the Macarena and Chacha’s glide as well as the popular Hokey Kokey to their culture.  We in turn were mesmerised by their agility and their wonderful sense of rhythm. They also accompanied Auntie Lena to the very top of the nearby mountain to sit in silent contemplation and awe at what lay in front of them.

Soon the week was over, the students quickly took down their homes, flung their belongings into bags and dragged them across the grassy slope as Wawa waited impatiently on the road – and then they were off, down the mountain they were jolted and bumped, racing to their next destination on the other side of this tiny but beautiful country.

Hlane turned out to be an oasis – flushing toilets and lovely hot showers – next to a watering hole where hippos bathe and rhinos slumbered.  Camp was quickly set up, as the group race to be finished before their Sunset Safari – real wild animals at close quarters, elephants, lions and an abundance of antelope, zebra and wildebeest were spotted as camera flashed and excited comments were made.

The Sunset Safari was followed by an early morning start as the group embarked on a dawn safari and a promise of walking with the rhinos late in the day.  The group stood hushed in awe as a great beast grazed just metres away from where they stood – could we get any better than this?

The adventure continued the next day with an overnight safari – hours of walking along animal tracks and crawling through prickly thorn bushes followed until finally they emerged exhausted in a clearing where gazebos have been set up and comfortable beds and roll mats awaited them.  They sat around the campsite next to a river where a crocodile bathed, whilst dinner was prepared – impala and warthog meat was roasted to perfection and served with mealie pap and salad, such a delicious feast!

But the Gods were not kind, and threw down rain as the night unfolded – huddled in their warm beds the group lay, thankful that they were not on the outer edges and were safe and dry!

The group rose to the smell of eggs being scrambled and toast being made on the open fire.  Stuffed with the delicious food they made their weary way back to base camp.  Tents were hastily dropped and bags packed to await Wawa and his carriage.  But it was not to be – plans change, some rejoiced at the opportunity of a longer time lazing by the waterhole, others decided to sleep under the stars again rather than remake their homes.

Fairy Godmother Jenny was very sorry she had to disappoint them, so she arranged for King Marcus to provide a large cream cake as a peace offering, which was quickly devoured.  The following day Wawa and his carriage arrived and whisked the group to their next destination, Mbuluzi Game Reserve, where the group were eager to help with the conservation work.

Again, homes were set up, the kitchen organised and the group set about exploring their surroundings.  The following morning Tal, the Lord of the Manor, arrived and explained to the group what work they would be required to undertake; some were to count the wild animals in the reserve where as others were to help Sir Phil with the landscaping of the Manor.  Quickly groups are decided and whilst King Marcus and Princess Kirsty took the group out in his carriage, wicked stepmother Karen ordered her slaves to begin the hard task of digging, raking, planting trees and pulling out grass.

Many wild animals were spotted and lovingly counted, meals were enjoyed by the flickering light of the campfire and overworked head torches and weary bodies were cocooned in their little homes as they listened to the fish eagle calling in the early hours of the morning.

Soon it was time to return to the mountaintop community to finish the task they began.  Hearts fills with joy and expectation as once again the group jolted their way higher and higher up the mountain with Wawa at the reins, urging the carriage ever onwards.  Soon they were at the top of the world again – greeted warmly with open arms, the group set up camp the last time.

The next morning they raced eagerly up the path to the school, keen to complete the project.  Paint was quickly mixed and applied, soil was landscaped and litter and building rubbish cleared for they had but one day to prepare for the grand ceremony.

Task completed the group went early to bed that night, knowing they would be donning their finest clothes to present their gift to the community – a lovely new kitchen that would feed the hungry pupils who travelled many miles to school each day.

As guests of honour they were granted special seats and many praises and gifts were bestowed upon them, but nothing can surpass the joy the students felt at the opportunity they be granted to make a difference and fulfil their dreams.

Soon the weary group will be boarding the silver Air France carriage and flying silently back to their own kingdom – each of them will be taking with them the memories of a life changing experience that nothing can ever take away from them.

And so the story ended – or did it?  Because those 14 students went back to their homes and told everyone about their dream and how Fairy Godmother Jenny has helped make it a reality, and they told everyone about the tiny little landlocked country that was so beautiful, and the mountain top community that was struggling so much, but it welcome them with open arms and showered them with loving gifts, and they knew that they would be another group of students who would easily grasp the opportunity.

They knew this story would never end…

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