“The voyage of discovery is not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.” —Marcel Proust
I came to Africa knowing that my perspective on many things—social change, world issues, and my part in this story—would inevitably shift when met with the reality of living here. The first part of a changed perspective is seeing things as they are, not as you imagined them to be. This week, I found myself encountering a few realities that have helped me to see life here with new eyes. I’ll share a few of those stories with you now.
Last week, I had the opportunity to work in a creche, or childcare center, which are quite common in SA. I walked into a wooden shack about the size of my bedroom, a few faded posters on the wall, thirty pairs of beautiful eyes looking at me with wonder and awe. Fortunately, play is a universal language, and I soon became fast friends with these little ones as I learned the rules of playground politics. By “playground politics”, I mean the fenced in piece of yard with an old piano, some piles of trash, and tires (tires are a very trendy plaything here).
As we spent the day playing and learning how to communicate without me knowing a word of Xhosa or they a word of English, my eyes were opened to a first unfortunate truth. One child at the creche was sick with multiple infections. Although there are doctors and clinics available in the area, both this child and his parents are HIV positive, and the parents feared taking him to the doctor because of what others in the community would think. Without the support and permission of his parents, there was little we could do for this sweet boy except try and get a social worker involved in the case, which could take months. My heart was burning with sorrow and anger as we left the creche, but I tried to think about the boy’s parents and the stigmas associated with having HIV and AIDS. I realized that it’s one thing to have the capacity to treat different diseases and another to change people’s minds and hearts who are impacted by them. Both are equally difficult yet equally important.
As I have settled into my role as a teacher at Emzomnawe, I’ve also become more and more aware of how vastly important education is of both teachers and students. It’s one thing to know something; it’s another to be able to communicate that to somebody else. A good deal of the work that most of the teachers and I do is revisiting basic skills and trying to explain why things are the way they are. This is a challenge in itself, especially if something has been learned the wrong way for years. If I could wave a magic wand over the areas we’re working in, I would add twice the amount of teachers with a few years of training. I could not be more thankful for the teachers in my life, and can understand now how difficult and important of a job that they have.
As I look towards the week ahead I could not be more excited about this Thursday! I’ve been planning a lesson for our Junior School of Excellence about art, which is its own way of seeing the world. This was one of my original goals going into South Africa, and I cannot wait to see how it goes!