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My green thumb grew in Cape Town . 2010 (EN)

I had already been in Cape Town for a year in 2007 without knowing the Aachen-Cape Town Partnership, although I had already lived and studied in Aachen at that time. I fortunately got in contact with the partnership, through Uta or Norbert – I don’t even remember where and when we met and how that came about. And then I was allowed to join in! I was integrated and felt comfortable there. I also thought: „I can contribute something. I can also give something, because I had already met lots of people and had this special feeling about Cape Town.“ I also had mega wanderlust to go back to Cape Town. The year 2007 had been great and those three and a half months of Healthy Schools in Grassy Park in 2010 were the icing on the cake. It was so enriching, it was so colourful – I met so many different people who all gave me something to take away! I also think I gave them something on their way, because I just felt like spreading positive energy and laughter.

This hospitable unbiased thinking of many! I will never forget, for example, when I first met Aubrey de Wet (Rest in Peace) at Fairview Primary in his office – that smile, it was just delightful! I just thought, „Wow, who is that!“ With his twinkling eyes and totally open smile, he looked at me as if we already knew each other, yet he only knew Norbert. That’s why I’m grateful to this day.

Sometimes I watch the video “Healthy Schools in Grassy Park” with my children. And I always think to myself: „I was able to get to know people there, who I wouldn’t have met without the partnership.” That’s why it was such a great experience. I also liked this project so much because I think I still live it today. Often, when I’m working in my garden, I tell my 3 children, back then there was a Mrs. Dollie, and then there was the NGO Seed, of which someone told us about permaculture, and then we built a garden. That’s what I do in my greenhouse today. That’s just beautiful.

I have now started building a school garden this year in one of my schools in France. There I teach my learners and show them: we can sow and plant something, we can make the garden more beautiful and learn many things. They are all so excited. This enthusiasm about nature, garden, fruits and plants had also been very clear at Perivale Primary in South Africa, where we created a school-garden. I am still touched today. We all did it really well together, something wonderful came out of it.

I stayed in contact with Mrs. Dollie for a long time. She talked quite a lot about how she works together with the learners. I found it quite interesting how they go to school there. I liked it back then to see the position of the teachers there and how they talked to the kids. It was so much less school-strict than in Germany or in France. It’s different, but nevertheless the respect of the learners towards the teachers is there.

My time in Cape Town can be summarized under the generic term encounters, encounters of the most colourful kind and greenest kind. My green thumb has grown there. To touch earth – African earth – was very valuable for me. It touched and shaped me.

For example, when we were at the Abalimi-gardens and I was able to experience what the women do there, how they cultivate gardens with few resources and how enthusiastic they showed us what grows there. When we strolled through I thought: „Wait a minute, this is just incredible – gardens are growing everywhere!“ That’s not really the image you have of a township. Because the township – and we got to experience that – that’s usually a lot of dust and a lot of dirt, and that’s also a lot of concrete and tin and sand. And to see something is growing, something is sprouting there, that definitely touched me the most.

Basically, I was able to experience that people who for the most part have much less than me are mega-creative in very different ways, have lots of ideas, simply have desire, have energy – this positive energy to change something, to give, to share. And to share with me! I always felt like I was treated equally. People of course looked at me, a lot and often – that one is white and blond. People, especially kids, would come up to me and say, „Wow, your eyes, your blue eyes!“ But everyone accepted me in the most natural way. It’s definitely been a good lesson for life for me – then as a student and now as a mother.

Monika Gripon-Galla

Born in Katowice, Poland, my family immigrated to Germany in 1987, when I was four. I didn’t know then, but this step was part of my personal history and a life with many different identities began…

Aachen became my hometown, where I studied Political Science and Sociology. Within my studies, I decided to travel to South Africa, Cape Town, for a year in order to work for a NGO called Cafda (Cape Flats Development Association), in order to finish my Master degree with a case study of this organization, in order to find out where I want to go and what life has to offer so far away from home. But home is where love is – this is what I learned in Cape Town already in 2007/2008, a year, which changed my life…

In 2010 I was part of the Healthy Schools in Grassy Park-project mentored by the Aachen-Cape Town Partnership. Norbert, Uta and I collaborated with three schools in the townships. This project opened my eyes and intensified my interest in gardening, nature, healthy food and education.

Today I live in Cherbourg, France, with my husband, who I met in Cape Town – of course – and my three children. There I work as a German teacher.

„Thanks to all these different people I’ve met in Poland, Germany, South Africa and France my life’s good, colourful and worth it!“