After all the excitement at the care point yesterday, I could not wait to get there again this morning. I’m not going to say I had energy because Nescafe can only take me so far but I was anxiously anticipating our time with the kids. We were shuttled all over town and back and forth to the care point by two drivers, Gift (Sipewo) and Sandile. I have no idea if I spelled their names right so if someone reading this from our team knows, please correct me. Anyway, they were so patient with us and our endless questions of “How do you say cow in Siswati?” or “Are we there yet?” so I just wanted to give them a huge shout out and thanks! Our trip would not have been the same without their conversations.
The day began the same as we drove up to the care point, down the dusty, water eroded dirt road. There was an anticipation of getting to work now that we were familiar with what we were going to be doing, or so we thought. There was a change of plans with our construction project (a local team had been brought in to labor on it so there wasn’t a need for more hands on deck) and the kids were called to class so we were left to fill time until VBS would start. The D team, the local disciple team that works with the kids weekly, was there so some of us got into conversations with them about their experiences and what brought them to do the work that they do, but some of us were left wandering in search of something to do. Action. I wanted to be a verb, a person doing something in my limited time here and I felt a little frustration to be standing at the care point but not able to do anything. We had been told that there would be down time so it was not a surprise, but I know each of us wanted to do all that we could. It was a subtle frustration – God send me and spend me, I give you my all – but I want to be spent in action. It was in this down time that I realised why God had brought me here.
On the first day, I had passed by the go-go’s, the grandmothers in the community, that were quietly cooking up a meal for the children. I smiled as I passed by but they were busy and I had many kids to go greet. My SiSwati language skills were extremely limited and I figured that I could practice on the masses of kids who would be more willing to forgive my linguistic fumblings. Feeling emboldened by a full day of “speaking” with preschoolers, I decided to approach the women. I walked up to the three women that were cooking that day and greeted them, praying that I got it just right and that they didn’t all laugh under their breath or carry on in more SiSwati than I could handle. My fear was completely unfounded as each woman smiled broadly at me and greeted me with warmth. A younger woman, Khosi, who was able to speak some English, became my instant translator and liason to the other women. We talked about our families and I shared my pictures (interesting to note – they asked multiple times if Kurtiss was Swazi. It got me to thinking that maybe they hadn’t seen many african-americans coming to visit, only white people, and defined americans as such). There were many moments of silence as one conversation would end but before another would be birthed. It was comfortable to be in their presence and I felt at ease.
I’m not going to say that we solved all the worlds problems with our conversations but we made a connection, a human connection. As I asked them about their families and homes it struck me how very much we were alike: we have husbands that we want to love us, we have children that we want the best for, we have dreams of what we can do with our lives. We are united in our humanity. I know it sounds like I should have known this stuff but it hit me over the head that day and I really got it.
The rest of the day was spent in skits for bible school, sitting in the shade while the children ate lunch and trying to get a little closer to the more resistant older children. There were many exciting things to keep busy with but my mind kept wandering back to the ladies and watching them work. They had put out the fire, stacked up the wood, and scraped the large pots clean, all in preparation to do it all again tomorrow. They sat in the warm sun before beginning the journey home. I asked how far some of them had to walk but their answer was simply, “In that direction, over the hills.”
The children had eaten, school was over and the sun was hanging low in the sky as we loaded our van and made our way back to the house. There were more things for us to do, eat dinner, prepare for tomorrows festivities, try and contact home via the dial-up internet connection, but I just wanted to sit and process. My head was exploding with things we had seen and people we had talked to and I needed to digest it all to make some sense of it. I had expected the emotional fatigue but I did not expect the physical fatigue I felt as a result of being “open” to all the new experiences. It was oddly exhausting. My roommate and I were in the same boat so we enjoyed some quiet downtime and then shared many delirious laughs while watching ‘South African Idol’. Seriously, there is a whole channel dedicated to the search for the next great singer in South Africa. It was just what the doctor ordered.