homestay or guesthouse … where shall I stay?

By Kate Stefanko. Filed in volunteer stories  |  
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Where there are lots of  accommodation options for volunteers – as is the case in Port Elizabeth – it can be a difficult decision. Shall I stay in the township;

in a guest house; township in the week & guest house or trips away at weekends … ???

guesthouse Port elizabeth

We provide general information about location options, costs etc., and are always willing to help as much as we can … but what really helps with the decision-making is for volunteers to find out what others think … so we introduce them to each other and enable them to chat away and share their thoughts!

Volunteer Val to previous volunteers:

Hello! Kate has told me that you have been on a placement in Port Elizabeth and that you stayed with Mikie. I plan to be going in January/February 2012 and I’m deciding where to stay. I’m thinking I would like to support Mikie and that it would be more interesting to stay with her than at a hotel but I would like you to tell me a bit about the area eg;  can I go walking there quite safely, is it near a town with a few shops, did you get bored or was there always something to do. I just want to get a feel of how it would be for me for a month. I stayed with a local family in Jamaica in the summer and it was great. I walked along the beach to a Sandals and it looked so boring in comparison.
Many thanks for your help.
Best wishes, Val

and back come the replies – full of helpful information and things to think about:

Hi Val!
Sure. I will be happy to share my experience of staying with Miki with you. I must say she is truly a gem and holds a special place in my heart. Was like a mum to me there. I do miss her. When you stay with her please send my hellos.

As for the area I found the steady buzz of New Brighton life interesting. There were people always out and about. I did develop friends and I went with them especially if we went out at night.

During the day I felt safe to walk to the store, internet cafe, etc alone or again with friends. I think regardless of who you are with keep your wits about you. If something didn’t feel right to me I would avoid that area, place, or thing. Again coming from living around an urban area I felt overall safe. I was even able to navigate the local combees to go to the mall (Green Acres. Which is a nice mall by the way) and Summerstrand. I say get to know the area first then when you feel comfy go and explore more.

As for things to do, I was content hanging with my friends at Mikie’s house. I did meet with other volunteers and went to dinner with them on one occasion. I went to a movie, did some shopping at the mall, and frequented the internet cafe. Mikie is good at taking you with her and her family is good with you coming to gatherings. We went to the Transkei for a graduation celebration. I had fun. Mikie and I also went to the cool flea market at Kings Beach before I left. Nice place to look for gifts for friends and family. Also we had Braai’s when we could afford them. Mmmm…how I miss a good braai. Although they would laugh at me now since I am a vegetarian. Lol

Sorry…I am afraid I am rambling. I will end it here. I hope this helps. I will say I enjoyed living with Miki. I learned so much from her and others that I met about SA culture, events, and people that it has left an indelible mark in me. I do have more stories to share (soccer games, rugby matches, and an overnight retreat with the kids from Emmanuel), but I digress.

If you do have any additional questions feel free to ask.
Cheers, Karen

Hi Valerie,
No problem contacting me.
I stayed with Mikie for 2 weeks.  I really enjoyed it, and I’m glad I stayed there because it made the whole experience more complete.  There were other volunteers there at the same time as me who stayed in a hotel in Port Elizabeth and my feeling was that they struggled to immerse themselves in the volunteering experience and every evening became very removed from the experience – though I recommend you also speak to someone who did this for their point of view – they may advise that this was critical to help them to deal with some of the more difficult things that they saw and did during the days, and this is worth considering.

Mikie’s accommodation is comfortable – I had my own room and practically my own bathroom.  In the neighborhood there are some shops and you are pretty safe to walk around in daylight.  People come and go from the house, and Mikie herself is great company.  There is a town not too far that Mikie will take you too – there is shopping and a cinema, ice-cream etc.  I wouldn’t want to mislead you though – Mikie’s house is in a very black area with little amenities.

It isn’t “exciting” – in the sense that it has nothing touristy about it.  The point of staying with her would be to see real life, meet real people, hear their stories.  We spent many evenings just sitting in front of the TV, or cooking … just chatting.  I didn’t get bored, but equally, it was very quiet and I’m someone who can happily survive with a quiet life!

Personally – I think that if you volunteer in these areas you should immerse yourself.  I have gone twice to SA and both times lived as much as was reasonably possible among the community.  This enriches your understanding and connection with the people – and their respect of you – however, this does lessen the fun/touristic/holiday element of your time.

I think if you go for a month, it’s perfectly reasonable (and probably critical for sanity) that you would do other things on the weekends (I always did!) and that you would actively figure out how to enjoy some of the down-time … Paul and the Calabash team, can always help with ideas.

Sorry if that’s not very helpful … Mikie was fantastic and I would recommend it, but you need to think about the pros and cons!

Please don’t hesitate to ask if there’s anything else I can do to help!
Regards,
Emma

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