Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Smiling Faces

Thobela (Hello - Good Day ) from Masealama!

I am filled with so much as I write this blog post to you! -   Avocados, mountains, dirty feet, pap (South African food), smiles and most importantly a heart filled with JOY!  I absolutely cannot believe that I have been here only two weeks. While much of this new experience has had its challenges, there is quite a bit that feels so natural and like it is home. I just want to give you a picture of what my day to day has looked like for the past couple of weeks.

Post may seem lengthy... Brief summary in the last paragraph!   :)

                  Masealama Countryside

                                      Entrance to the creche

Let’s start with my daily routine. Each morning I wake and feel the dirt below my feet as I start my short walk to the crèche.  Along the way, I see people walking with wheelbarrows to go get water or wood, which is quite a distance away.    
While I walk this dirt path I am greeted by so many friendly faces!   I hear kids yelling “legoa legoa(Pronounced Lahora.  Not going to lie, I first was offended thinking they were calling me an insulting name - I’m sure you can figure that one out -  and then I thought they were calling me Laura but I soon learned that “legoa”  means white person)

As I arrive at the crèche the giggles and cries consume me. There are children everywhere and to corral them is quite the challenge. Some know my name, but others call me Alex (the last YAGM volunteer…who was a guy!).  Daily I am amazed at how hard working all the women are here at the crèche.   Whether it is cooking, changing the children, teaching or disciplining; these women do it all.  I don’t have a specific job, but try to help out in any way that I can. I have mastered pouring porridge, carrying babies on my back and teaching ‘The Itsy Bitsy Spider’!  No one day is the same and I find myself learning more and more about myself, this culture and the people who surround me.

                         The Smiling faces -  as the kids get dropped at the creche

 I leave the crèche in the early afternoon and walk home to find the kids at the grade school waiting to kick a football around with me. I score a few goals and they teach me Sepedi  (the local language).   I am so thankful for their ability to put a smile on my face daily.  I leave them and sometimes head up to the youth center where I hang out with teenagers and am entertained by their gifts of creative arts. So much dancing and marimba playing I can’t handle it!!

My nights are quite a contrast to my busied days - surrounded by many others.  I live alone, with no cell phone service or Internet, which at times can get very lonely. Some nights are harder than others, but I have found myself enjoying this alone time as a way for me to reflect on all that I have been learning and seeing throughout the day.

I need to give a little “shout out” to my wonderful mother who organized daily letters for me to open throughout the year.  You all need to know that those letters have gotten me through the good and the bad days. It is so hard to only read about one a day, if it was up to me I would be through them all already! :)  So I thank everyone back home who wrote a letter and has kept me in their prayers these past few weeks. I cannot even express the depth of my gratitude towards it all!

I could go on and on about my days here,  but I will save for next blog entry.  Here is my quick summary of my experience so far.

Masealama is beautiful.
The people of Masealama are wonderful.
Feeling at home.
Life is good.
God is good!

 Tšhegofatšo (Blessings), 

Sunday, September 1, 2013


These past few weeks I have felt as though I have been in a constant state of saying goodbye. Two and a half weeks ago I said goodbye to my closest friends and family at home, a week later I left an amazing group of 60 new friends, and tonight I will be saying goodbye to 13 other amazing individuals that I have bonded with during orientation both in Chicago and throughout orientation in South Africa. It will be hard to leave this amazing support group, but it is comforting to know that we will be seeing each other in just a few short months. 
As I am getting packed up for the last time, my head is spinning and I am feeling a whirlwind of emotions. Here are just a few things that I have learned, seen and felt this past week in South Africa.

Last Friday, the 10 of us began our long journey across the world and landed in Johannesburg, South Africa. I arrived feeling jet lagged, adventurous and to be honest really cold. I mean I was told that it gets cold in SA, but it really can get cold! I was fortunate enough to be running on pure adrenaline that the brisk air was masked by my excitement. While in Johannesburg our schedule was pretty packed with sessions about what this year may entail and some important ways to deal with that. The most memorable part of my time in Johannesburg was going to a local ELCSA church in a township called Wattville. It was not until I arrived in that church that I really felt as though I was in South Africa. The service was in three languages, English, Zulu and Sotho and the energy inside of that church was energy I had never experienced before. Singing. Clapping. And more singing.

On Tuesday we made a 6 hour transport to another large city in South Africa called Pietermaritzburg. Our time spent here was a lot of learning about the culture of South Africa. We learned how to spend South African money (Rands), how to shop on a stipend, and how to use a common form of transportation called a kombi. Those bus/taxis are quite the experience! There is no doubt that I am going to stumble in some ways, but spending a good portion of this week practicing with everyone here I at least feel a little bit more confident about being on my own. Oh my goodness, so soon!

I am sitting here trying to think of more to tell you all, but I am so distracted by God’s beauty in this country through this amazing sunset and the wonderful people I am surrounded by as we begin to eat our “family dinner” together.

While this moment is quite bittersweet, I am feeling blessed and ready to go!