Aloha! Bonjour! Hello!
I guess Sawubona! ( the Zulu word for ‘hello’) would be far more appropriate than all the former, seeing as I was far far away in the land of warriors and a culture so rich I could do nothing else but marvel –
This dialogue will go on for ages without me actually telling you where I was, if I don’t cut my self short. The reason for my long, really really long absence was South Africa. I was in South Africa for three months. Volunteering with the charity Tearfund, partnering with local communities to help reduce the vulnerability of children within the area.To say it changed my life would be so cliché, but also the truest way I could express my feelings. I find myself at a complete loss for words when people ask me how it was, because it became home far quicker than I realised. Despite being so far away from all that I had come to consider home, from family and friends, from the familiar (e.g the London Underground, the hustle and bustle and swift-footedness of people), something about South Africa arrested me right from the first week I was there and stayed with me all through my sojourn.
So much went on during my time there that if I were to explain just exactly what we did on a daily basis, this post would never end. From planning community days to helping out at an HIV clinic, to teaching ten year olds Christmas carols and dancing with zero to five year olds at crèche, I did everything and more than I expected I would whilst out there. Going was a way of escaping the pressures of life and expectations at home and forging a better idea of where I wanted my life to go next for well, almost forever. I wanted to go away to make a difference in the world, yes, but also to make a difference in my life. To learn to live fearlessly. To be confident of my place in the world. To chase my dreams, or something. To find something, despite having no clue what that ‘thing’ was.
Writing this is hard, because I still do not know how exactly to explain what a phenomenal experience this was. The love I felt from people I had only known a short while was overwhelming. The sheer beauty of our surroundings made me appreciate God in ways I had never been able to before – there was all this land, all green and beautiful, these never ending valleys around us that you could do nothing but marvel at its untouched beauty. There were my kids at school, in torn shorts and ill – fitting uniforms with the brightest smiles you ever did see and dreams that made your heart smile. There were babies. Babies who smiled when you tickled them, and children who you hugged fiercely because that would be the only time they felt any semblance of affection shown towards them. There were friendly faces, housekeepers who became friends and chefs who became ‘aunties’. There was laughter, like we had spent the entirety of our lives together and were bonded by more than friendship.
In South Africa I found love – made friends from different parts of my own country that I was completely clueless about. I learned to sew like a pro (that is a major lie. Not a pro, but maybe a semi almost pro. If that makes any sense), learned some Zulu (which I am forgetting quite quickly, much to my dismay), rediscovered my love of knitting and crochet. Most importantly though, I learned to appreciate my awesome; that which makes me unique and special before God’s eyes. I know, I went away to help others supposedly less fortunate than myself but they ended up teaching me all the lessons. Weird or what?
Here’s to South Africa ’14. You have etched indelible marks on my heart forever.