Sunday, July 22, 2012


Tomorrow morning, I will board my plane to come home. Leaving South Africa is hard and a very bitter-sweet endeavor. I have learned so much in my year here that it is hard to put into words. Some of my greatest teachers and friends have been my high school students. Their stories, trials, and their absolute eagerness to learn has inspired me in so many ways. My group of about 20 students, meeting three times a week, has become a family; the most lively and spunky one you can imagine. Leaving them makes my heart ache and I pray that they will continue to support each other the way we have all supported each other this year.

Nozuko's school motto is: "The sky is the limit"

My other and most important teachers have been my South African family. Nonzuzo Sibusana, a university student at UNISA, has been my best friend and confidant here and has taught me more about Xhosa culture and about life than I could have ever thought possible. She is 21, but has wisdom and courage beyond her years. She has been my best teacher of language, constantly testing and correcting my Xhosa, my insight into seemingly cultural mysteries, my shoulder I could always lean on, and ears that would always listen. As anyone that has met her can tell you, she has a great sense of humor and I will never forget the countless hours we spent laughing about this or that or Chuck Norris. Nonzuzo and her family have been my family on this side. Their home has been my home away from home. Where I was treated differently because I was American by others, she and her family accepted me as one of their own (instead of treating me like a guest or a walking ATM) and excused many a social faux pa without batting an eye. When I spent time at their home, I was treated just like everyone else and it was wonderful. They will always have my heart and when I come back to South Africa, it will be because of them.

Nonzuzo and me at Tsitsa Falls

Goodbyes are hard and I’ve never been good at them. These goodbyes that I’ve been saying the last couple days have been some of the hardest I have ever experienced because there are so many things left open-ended. I wonder if and when our people at Rotary will get housing, if my students will be able to attend school next year without support from the Project, what Mthatha is going to be like without AMM anymore. I will never be able to come back to this world I’ve been living in this year because it is all breaking apart and scattering to the winds presently.  And if it was going to be hard to let go of this place to begin with, it is infinitely harder now without any closure or a knowledge that the good work being done by AMM will continue when I leave. As they say, though, all good things must come to an end. Life will go on for me and for everyone here. So, Mzansi, it has been real. Ndiyakukhumbula qoqoqo. I will remember you always.


Thursday, July 12, 2012


The conditions at Rotary Hall continue to worsen. Trash is piling up on the fringes, people and their belongings are covered in dust, and disease and body lice are spreading like wild-fire. We are still doing all we can to stay on top on the municipality to get housing for the 200 some-odd people living there. In the meantime, we are still taking bread every day and doing a weekly shop to keep people’s nutrition up. I try to spend some time there with the kids every couple days to play games and offer some kind of entertainment for them, but it is still difficult with the language barrier, even after 11 months’ time, to do any kind of organized activities. People are beginning to get restless and, worse, seem to be losing hope. Looking back at pictures that were taken just over a month ago, it is hard to believe that this is the same lot of people. They look so downtrodden and discouraged when each day brings only empty promises of housing and no results. Going there is like re-opening a wound every day and I get so angry when I think about all of the events that have led to this. These actions – the bulldozing, the displacement, the complete disregard for the dignity of these people – are like events straight out of the Apartheid era when demolishing settlements and forcing people to move was common ground. Only now they are done by the people’s government; brother opposing brother. It saddens me that in this country where there have been many great strides made towards reconciling and righting the past, this kind of stuff is still happening. Though Apartheid is over and has been for 18 years, I think there is still another step; there will still yet be another reawakening in South Africa. The racial tensions and the massive gap between rich and poor are still so tangible and so thick. I was reading today and came across something that Nelson Mandela said that I think sums this up:

"For to be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others."

Though South Africa is free of the bondage of Apartheid, it is still a long way from freedom.

Thanks for tuning in-

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Hula Hoops!

I've been taking the hula hoops and balls from the preschool out to Rotary Hall every couple days for the kids to play with in the field behind the hall. We're sharing hula-hooping tricks and I'm getting my butt handed to me at soccer, but it is fun for all parties involved. Some of the kids are really honing their skills and getting insanely good at hula-hooping! How many kids do you know that can walk and hula-hoop while singing and clapping?