Monday, June 26, 2017

GO SA Part 2: Let It Follow You Home

I've become that annoying writer rambler that apologizes at the beginning of every post for taking so long. This time, I really owe you an apology because it's been TWO MONTHS since I returned from my trip. I am so sorry—I was avoiding it like the plague because ouch, feelings. But now it's published and done! Read on and get it over with ;)

Tuesday–Thursday, 4/18–20
Each day we worked at the preschool in the morning and helped out at the soup kitchen in the evening. A few highlights:
    • Quizzing Clive and Phil during the long van rides became my very favorite part of the trip. I asked them every question that popped into my head because each conversation brought more understanding to South Africa's politics, history, and people. Sometimes trippers asked me to recap my latest van conversation because they were sitting in the back and missed the whole thing, which was pretty funny.
    • I befriended two littles in the Grade R: Johannes and Kelly. Both got a kick out of pronouncing my name ("Kendrrrrra," with a rolled r) and arguing over who would get a piggy back. Upon our first meeting, Johannes told me to call him Simba.

      Kelly and friends on a metal jungle gym
    • I also got to know Grade R's teacher, Eva. She's 22 and her mother is the principle of the school. She just recently got funding to attend college to study eduction. Watching her teach and care for her class all week inspired me. She's truly gifted in teaching!
    • The kids took yoga on Tuesday, music class on Wednesday, and played paracute on Thursday. It was delightful watching them get so into things I also loved as a child.
    mini yoga mats for mini bodies

    tell me your favorite game in preschool wasn't parachute

    • On Wednesday we located the evasive giraffes during our hike! Alex sounded a giraffe call (not kidding about that) and we all came running. They were tucked away about a mile away from our huts.

    Geoffrey when he's not at Toys 'R Us
    • On Thursday, Sara-Ruth and I taught the Easter story to Grades R and 00. It was difficult to explain the details of the story and I struggled with saying "die / death / dead" over and over to 5 and 6 year olds. But the kids held onto every word with giant eyes (thanks to Eva translating).

    • Painted exactly 16 "Spiderman" faces. I'm ashamed to call myself a graphic designer but the kids LOVED it.

    Friday, 4/21
    I was a bit prideful all week—journalling, praying, debriefing and generally doing my darndest to keep my emotions in check. I was determined not to be a service trip statistic by falling head over heels in love with well, everything. Silly me to think I could stand in the way of God doing stuff in my heart.

    • I finally got to go on a house visit during the morning session. Jade, a former Texan now interning with BTF, took four of us on an educational trip into the settlement.
    • We went to the home of Judy, mother of Linnea (a student at the day care). She welcomed us into her dark, 10x10' home with a huge smile. Most of the room was taken up by a queen bed and her possessions stacked high along the walls.
    • She seemed confused when we asked to wash her laundry but eventually decided that allowing us to tackle half of it was only polite.
    • After winding our way through the settlement to a tap, she showed us the ropes to washing by hand. Four white kids making a mess of her laundry was an absolute scene—locals couldn't walk by without chuckling or snapping a photo on their flip phones.
    • After hanging everything to dry, we laid hands on Judy to pray then headed back to the day care.
    Walking over the bridge that separated the school from the settlement

    Judy's entire home

    Jade carrying water like the locals do it
    • The rest of the morning consisted of the happiest, messiest ice cream social known to mankind. The kitchen didn't have a freezer so the ice cream we bought that morning needed to be scooped and served immediately. The kids were so delighted they hardly noticed we were serving the equivalent of flavored milk.
    the "don't judge how I eat my ice cream" look
    • We said our goodbyes to everyone (which mostly consisted of bear hugs and dog piles from the kids), straightened our faces, and piled once more into the vans.
    the sweetest goodbye hug
    • After a two hour drive, we arrived at Bakubong, the "rest" portion of our trip. Although this reserve was even more remote than Cradle Moon, I couldn't shake the feeling of being at Disney World. This place was deluxe.
    • We spent the afternoon gawking at wild elephants (the guests are the ones fenced in here, like a reverse zoo), teasing the monkeys by the pool, and indulging in rainforest showers.
    • Before we knew it, we were piling into our own safari vehicle and pulling out into the wild grasslands surrounding the hotel. I won't ruin the experience for any future trippers, but every second of that three-hour adventure was magic.
    • Dinner that night was prematurely nostalgic. I wanted to talk to everyone (what questions hadn't I asked yet?) and no one (maybe if I became a fly on the wall, time would go slower) at the same time. I settled on talking Phil and Clive's ears off long after dinner and then swapping stories with the rest of the team around the bar.
    Saturday, 4/22
    • I'm ashamed to say that my heart was heaviest this day—NOT when we were serving but instead, when I was leaving. Halfway through the two and a half hour drive to the airport I had the urge to jump out of the car and run back through the African plains. To what, I have no idea. I just wanted to hold onto the way the sun bounced off the blonde boulders, the articulate, thoughtful responses Phil gave to every single question, the laughter of my new set of friends in the back as they played games and sang songs.
    • You should know that we pulled into the airport bellowing "Africa" complete with hand motions choreographed, naturally, by me. We wished Phil and Clive goodbye and faced a six hour wait in the airport. I may or may not have dragged Michael around the airport (twice) in search of the perfect tourist sweatshirt. We failed to locate it so I'm considering designing it myself. Picture "I <3 ZA" with the South African flag (or animal print) inside the heart. Now you want one too, right?
    • I won't bore you with the details of going home—long story short, I made it. My roommate let me babble for hours, my cat looked at me like I was a ghost, and life went on.
    a tender farewell with my trusty, industrial-size water bottle that kept me overhydrated throughout the week. did I mention we drank 2 of these a day?

    I never expected coming home from Africa to be easy hasn't gotten easier. Not because of the culture shock or life lessons I took home (although they are a big part of the story) but because I don't want to face the things I'm feeling somewhere under all the layers of life. Part 1 was the beginning of the trip, full of facts and fun. Part 2 is technically the conclusion, but my journey feels so far from wrapped up.

    The first two weeks home were packed full of so much processing that I thought, "There! Figured that life-altering-trip out." HA. I am such an ENTJ: maximize the processing to minimize the feelings asap, plz. Truthfully, I delayed this post because I wanted to have a pretty little conclusion tied up in a bow for you. I actually drafted some takeways below this paragraph but copied them to a new post because they don't make enough sense to share. Or at least that's what I'm telling myself.

    Maybe I'll turn my takeways into part 3...but no promises. For now, it's clear I'm only at the beginning of something that I hope one day to be brave enough to share it with you. Okay, enough vulnerability for one month. Night!

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