Each day is filled with new faces and new smiles. When we entered the primary school I watched as little eyes looked at us. Their smiles only showed after a friendly wave from someone in our group. Their dark eyes have so much wonder and warmth. They had a performance for us with dancing and singing. Oh, how I wish I could dance like they do. We were split into pairs to sit in classrooms to “observe.” See, the funny thing is we didn’t really blend into the back of the class like we thought we could. Shelby and I were greeted by lots of kids pulling at us. We were surrounded by fifteen kids in the back of the class. They eagerly taught us Sesotho words as the teacher taught a lesson to the other students. Before we knew it, the teacher was gone and we were left alone with about 30 sixth graders. The two of us burned time by playing games and entertaining them by taking pictures. I took a video and they all jumped up and down, pushing one another. The children were full of energy and excitement. I left the classroom feeling exhausted and overwhelmed.
Our group went to a different primary school a week later and I prayed the teacher was going to be in the class. Nathaniel and I were assigned to help with the Phys. Ed. class outside, which I was excited about. We led relay races with Kindergarten age kids. I had them stand in a line and act out their favorite animal as we walked to the other side of the field. It was by far my favorite part of the day. They were so happy and hyper! There was a lunch break time for the students and it was madness. Kids were climbing on things, pushing each other and running around. I did not see any teachers around anywhere. I have been learning so much by seeing how teachers and schools are run differently. It is not right or wrong, just different. These South Africa children are given the opportunity to express themselves freely and are impressively very confident in themselves.
I also noticed a lot of confidence from the high school students we met when visiting two high schools. One girl asked me why I wasn’t talking and I told her I was not sure what to say. She pointed around her class and said, “Everyone here is talkative, everyone is outgoing.” She was right and everyone was bold. It seemed to come across as being cocky or self-centered, but I am now thinking that South Africans are not afraid to express themselves while Americans are self-conscious and concerned how others will perceive them. I’ve learned so much from going to the schools and meeting new people.
-Paballo (aka Kari Denlinger)
Though every day so far here in Africa has been a journal worthy day, there are some experiences that have me running to pen and paper. I was outside my house asking Brendan if he thought I should keep carrying around an old bed sheet that I hadn’t used yet. I decided not to keep it, and asked Mme Nora if she would have any use for it. She exclaimed “Yes!” and embraced me and kissed me. She continued to thank me and told me that she would always think of me when she used it. I’ve never seen thankfulness like that before. Random experiences like this are much more telling of the mindset of the people here than what any book can convey.
-Tankiso (aka Kevin Martin)
All my days run together here in Africa. So many new experiences take place every day; it’s hard to keep up. Independent African Churches and schools are very different than those in America. The Church Service reminded me of how I pictured a cult. There was a lot of chanting while dancing around in a circle. Who knows how long it lasted, for we had to leave before it was over, having stayed there over two and a half hours. They don’t have any agenda on Sunday and overlook the growling of their stomachs in order to stay and fellowship, praising God.
When our parade of white people arrived at the high school, a flood of African students were filling the buildings. They were staring and whistling as we walked into a classroom. They welcomed us with African songs, poems, and dances. We also performed a couple songs and a skit. They really enjoyed our rendition of “Call Me Maybe” (Harlan’s favorite song) and the local students joined with us the 2nd time around.
The skit was a bit more serious, displaying several scenes of domestic violence. The students were knowledgeable about the seriousness of the subject and how it affects their own country. The grim truth of reality didn’t dampen our spirits for long. We started dancing again and the mood was lightened. There was so much laughter and fist pumping after Mila was brought into the circle and was kissed by an African boy as part of the dance. Harlan said this was significant for them because it showed we don’t thinking they’re unclean, but equal to us. They have so much spirit and freedom in the way they express themselves.
-Dineo (aka Shelby Helmuth)