Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Saying Goodbye


Photobucket Photobucket

Well, it's almost the end of my South African adventure. I can't believe I will be saying goodbye to everyone on Friday! My heart is full but heavy. I am so so thankful to have my parents here with me at the end of my journey. Having them here will make the goodbyes a little easier and the journey back a lot better. They arrived on Thursday evening after a full day of not hearing from them. A little after the time they told me they'd be pulling in and still not hearing from them or being able to get a hold of them, I was beginning to think they missed their flight or something. Just as I was about to prepare for another night on my own, I saw my dad walking behind my room. It was the most startling and disorienting moment because I knew they needed me to open the gate for them to get in! Turns out, they didn't have cell service or wi-fi on their phones the whole day and had no way to get a hold of me so when they pulled in my dad resorted to climbing the fence. Leave it to my dad. I was overjoyed to have them finally here and they took me to dinner in Franschhoek that night for dinner. I stayed over with them that night and the next morning they brought me to the school, bright and early for assembly. I'm really glad they got to be there for that and meet some of the kids beforehand. That afternoon after school they came back and hung out with the kids for the rest of the day just taking pictures and getting to know some of them.

Saturday was Caregiver's Day and I'd have to say, that day was one of the highlights of my time here. That day, almost every student got to see one of their relatives or friends who takes care of them at home. All of the caregivers arrived at the school on a big bus and I can't even describe the excitement the kids had when the bus pulled in. My dad was able to take some wonderful pictures of the arrivals and each student with their caregivers. It was so awesome to have my parents and I there to meet Zenande's adorable grandmother and for me to meet the caregivers of all the kids. The students got to show their caregivers around the school, introduce them to all their teachers, and eat with them before the entertainment began. After lunch, some of them performed a skit for them in Xhosa which was incredibly fun to watch even though I couldn't understand anything. After that the dance team performed, followed by an incredibly touching choir performance. Hearing those kids sing in perfect harmony always gives me chills. Their voices are what stay with me when I go back home. I still remember from 2006 when I came here the first time the kids singing Bambalela (Never Give Up) together and those being some of my favorite moments. Whenever I thought of South Africa, that song would come to my head, and it was as if it was calling me to come back. Since I've been here, I hadn't heard any of the kids sing it, which bummed me out a bit. But yesterday after school when my parents were working with some of the kids in the classroom I usually teach in, I ran upstairs to grab something and when I came back down I could hear some of the kids singing it, and as I entered into the classroom I saw that Azile, one of the 12th graders who has a BIG place in my heart leading some of the girls in the song. I was so overwhelmed with joy to finally hear it again from coming from kids I have grown to love so much that I wanted to pinch myself as it was happening. It brought so many memories back, and immediately I was overwhelmed with emotion. I sat down and as I was watching these amazing kids singing that song together and knowing I'd only get a couple more days of this, I started fighting back tears. I think my dad caught a glimpse of my near emotional melt down but I think I got it together before any of the kids could see. It was one of my top "pinch me" moments I've had here, and I know I'll always carry it with me.

After Caregiver's Day, my parents and I headed to Cape Town for a couple days. It was so great to get out and explore more of South Africa with them. I had been there before but never stayed there. We had an ocean view from our hotel and the weather was perfect. The night we arrived we had dinner on the Waterfront at sunset which was incredible. The next day we walked around the big outdoor market and bought a lot of gifts and souvenirs. And that night we got to have dinner with Sinethemba, one of the original Bridges students our family got close with during our two visits here. He has since graduated and is now attending the University of Cape Town. I got to see him in January here, but it was good seeing him again. My parents love him and I know he looks up to them a lot. I'm really glad we got to do that. Then the next day we headed to Stellenbosch, where my parents are staying for the rest of our time here. Today was a holiday, so the students didn't have school and my parents and I came over and spent time with some of the kids. My mom has been teaching sewing to a few of the girls and my dad has been doing art with some of them, but today he mostly hung out with the boys (who had specifically asked that my dad hang out with them and not the girls, so cute) and took pictures and helped me start to pack. Tomorrow we have one more full day of school before the kids head home on Friday. My parents and I fly out on Saturday, so I'm starting to pack up as much as I can so I don't have to do it all on Friday after the students leave. My mom had a good point that I should start packing up and taking stuff the kids made me off the wall so I won't have to do it after I say goodbye to them and am already sad. I think that would make me even more of a mess that I already know I will be.

I can't even begin to describe how my heart feels right now, but I know it will never be the same. God has allowed me to grow and learn so much here, and has filled my heart to the brim. I know I will come back. Whether it be in a year or two or five.... I have to. I will leave a piece of my heart here. I knew that after my first trip here, but I know it even more know. I am so thankful for all of you who have supported me in and through this venture. Thank you for your financial support, prayers, and encouraging words. Without all of it, I probably wouldn't be here. I'll try to update you all about my journey back after London when I am back home. Until then, I am sending my last greetings from South Africa!!!

"You will go out in joy and be lead forth in peace; The mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands." --Isaiah 55:12

Tuesday, March 13, 2012



null Photobucket

Well oh well, I can't believe I'm nearing the end of my journey here, and what a ride it has been. Next week is my last week here, and as the title of this post explains, these last couple weeks are feeling pretty bittersweet. Three months is an odd amount of time to spend in a foreign place and an environment like this. It's just enough time to finally get into the swing of things and form relationships, but then it's over. I just have to trust and know that God wanted me here for this amount of time for a reason, and leave it at that. I know things would get harder for me here if I were to stay longer, but I know at the same time it's not going to be easy leaving this place. I just hope and pray that my adjustment back into "normal life" back home is a smooth one.

Today is the kickoff of the two weeks of final exams the students will be having. They have about two exams each day, and are studying a lot in between. Fortunately, exam days are half days and are over after lunch....that is, for a while at least till it's prep time (study time) in the evenings. These kids have a lot ahead of them before they head back home for break, so keep them in your prayers as they take their exams and pray that they don't get overwhelmed or stressed. I finished writing up and printing out the finals for my class last night and once again experienced an I-can't-believe-I'm-actually-teaching moment. After spending an extra hour at the school in the extreme heat and re-stapling all the exams after realizing I had stapled them wrong and then stapling my thumb in the process, I had even greater respect for the teachers and all the crazy hard work they do here. I only had to write one exam (well, two if you include the changes I made for my younger class), while many of these teachers had to write and print out several, and then have grading them all to look forward to! Goodness gracious to be a teacher. God has carried me through this term like I can't believe. I just can't imagine doing this for more than one class.

As you can see in the pictures, I made the most of my last weekend on my own here by spending the entire weekend hanging out at the school with the kids. I managed to draw many more of them and a few of them even drew me! (see picture below right). I love seeing their different interpretations in my portraits :) Onika and Nwabisa, two of my adorable and outgoing younger students surprised me at my door on Sunday morning to fetch me for church and we had just enough time for a little walk and a spontaneous photo shoot beforehand (top picture). And today I hung out a bit with Thandazwa and Zelda (see picture below left), two beautiful older students who are so sweet and quiet and I still hadn't felt quite connected with as much as I wanted to till today. I feel like I finally broke through to them a bit and brought out their wonderful personalities. It's moments like those that I know I'll carry with me when I get home.

In other happy news, now I only have to wait TWO more days till my parents arrive!!! They'll arrive Thursday evening and pick me up that night for a late dinner in Franschhoek. I got them on the schedule to help out at the school in the afternoons and I know many of the students are excited to meet them. I feel like they're always asking, "When do your parents arrive?" It'll be so great having them here and getting a taste of my world from the past few months. They'll be here for Caregiver's Day on Saturday, where all the students' caregivers visit the school to meet the teachers and get a glimpse into their lives here. I know there is also a choir and a dance performance planned so I'm looking forward to that. I know it will mean a lot to Zenande to have my parents and I here on that day so I'm really glad we'll be here to meet her caretaker. Then we're off to Cape Town for the rest of the weekend and arrive back on Monday! I'm excited to get away for a couple days and explore. I don't feel like I've ventured very far from the school since I got here, and I'm counting on my parents to take me out and about as much as possible before we leave :)

As always, thanks for your continual prayer and support. I know it has gotten me through these past few months and kept me going through the good and tough times. Be praying for my parents as they start making their way over here tomorrow! They still have quite a trek ahead of them. Until next week which will be my last post from South Africa!!!!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012



null Photobucket

{Top collage (clockwise from top left): Azile, Yanga, Onika, and Kanyo (bottom two are sisters); Bottom left collage: Vuyokazi, Sive, Emelie, Bongiwe; Bottom right collage: Vuyisa, Nomfundo, Thandile, Nwabisa}

Well hello all! To be quite honest, it's getting harder and harder to blog the closer my departure gets. I have been experiencing such waves of emotions thinking about leaving this place. It's going to be very hard. I've grown so used to my life here, and even though it's been a challenge, it has all been beyond worth it. I've been stretched here more than I ever have in my life. In a way I feel like I've grown here in the past couple months more than I have in the last five years. I don't want to go home feeling useless. I think that is my biggest fear about returning home. But I have to remember it doesn't have to stop there. I can keep contributing to this place in my own way. Let's just say I have a few things up my sleeve right now, and it may have to do with art ;)

Speaking of art, almost all of the kids have been relentlessly begging me to draw them. As you can see above, I've been chipping away one by one with portrait sessions after school and am hoping to have enough time to draw all those who want to be drawn before I leave. At first I was dragging my heels and getting frustrated with how many of them would not leave me alone about it, but now I'm the one going up to some of them offering to do the honors. When I first arrived here I actually felt pretty rusty in my artistic abilities and had little motivation to be drawing up a storm outside of class. I had been going through a pretty extensive artistic dry spell at home and was having a hard time imagining myself teaching it when I was doing so little on my own. (Yeah, I admit it now). And now I am surprised to find that instead of my art classes really inspiring me to pick up the pencil, it has been the students outside of class that have inspired me. Drawing them has become some of my favorite moments just to spend time with them, as a bunch of them usually gather around me to watch. I've found that the more I draw them, the easier it gets, and thanks to the kids I no longer feel rusty! Now that I'm on a roll I feel inspired to try to draw as much as I can before I go. I want my sketchbook filled with drawings of the students here as something to show people and remember them by. I've been making sure to give the students copies too :)

This week has gotten a lot easier, thanks to all the prayers I've been receiving from so many of you. Someone here was really encouraging to me when she heard about it too which was a major blessing. To tell you the truth, the circumstance in and of itself probably wouldn't be as hard on some people as it has been on me. I just wasn't sturdy enough to handle it well. But of course I can to anything through Christ who strengthens me and He has brought me through the roughest part. And in other good news, I was generously offered to borrow a laptop they keep at the Retreat Center here to use in the evenings and over the weekends! That has been a major blessing to me and has allowed me to continue to email and blog and stay entertained in my down time. So thanks Kristy and Matt! :)

In school news, we are now in our last full week of classes before finals start next week. Crazy! The last two weeks the kids are here will be mostly filled with finals, but they will only be half days. I've already put together a rough version of the final, so my next big hurdle will be grading all of them afterwards. I'm trying to prepare myself by doing as much over all grading before I have to tackle the final grading so that I won't be overwhelmed. It's things like these make me so aware of my inexperience in teaching, and I still get moments where I can't believe I'm actually here doing this. It's pretty amusing and amazing at the same time and I know it's only by the grace of God that I am able to.

Lastly, let me just say that I'm SO incredibly excited that my parents are officially on my continent!!! Slowly but surely they are making their way over here. Right now they're in Ethiopia, where tomorrow they'll be getting on a plane for Rwanda. They'll be in Rwanda for about a week before arriving here next Thursday. I can't wait!!!! Keep them in your prayers as they travel over. My poor mom is in the process of passing a kidney stone so be praying for little discomfort for her throughout her trip. And of course, keep me in your prayers too as the end of my time here is quickly approaching. Only a few weeks left! Thank you all for all the prayers you've already made and all the support and encouragement I've had from so many of you. It has helped me tremendously throughout my time here. Till next week!