~~ Happy Holidays y’all! After each term is completed, all South African schools go on one week of holiday, which means for us a lot of fun-filled adventures this week! However, there was a slightly educational component to the week as Amy and I spent time playing educational games and activities and reading stories to the young homeschooled children.
Our big adventure of the week was going to Qunu and Mthatha, the home village of my personal hero Nelson Mandela. Mandela to this day plays such an important role in the entire South African community and it is great for the children to see where he comes from. Mthatha is over a 2 hour long drive from Komga so on the way I interspersed fun facts and quiz questions regarding Madiba’s life and efforts. The children were very responsive and loved to participate which was definitely a highlight of the trip. When we arrived, the large Mandela Museum was still under repair; however, there was another smaller museum that we were able to go to for a while. It had several anti-apartheid artifacts and newspaper clippings along with native animals and history of the city. This kept the kids occupied until it was time for lunch and then we packed everyone in and drove twenty minutes to Qunu. Qunu is a small, rural village in the Transkei region of the Eastern Cape and is also a part of South Africa that is underserved and impoverished. But, Qunu is known to the rest of the world as the birthplace of our great leader where he spent his young childhood. In Qunu, we stopped at the Nelson Mandela Museum and in front of Mandela’s last home which is designed exactly like the home Mandela was imprisoned for nine years in Cape Town because he liked it so much. There is no big attraction and we were the only people in the entire museum, but what is great about Qunu is that it makes Mandela seem just like another common man. Our tour guide knew Mandela from the village and it’s remarkable to see that although he is a world legend, to this village he is just another elder. All of us could sense he presence and I felt especially honored to simply be walking through the same grasslands as he did. His gravesite and home are closed off to the public, but you can see it from the distance. Some of the other volunteers seemed a tad disappointed with how small each activity or attraction was, but I think the intimacy of everything was my favorite part. Overall, it was a wonderful adventure and I am so glad I was able to check it off my bucket list. The picture of me and three of the children is in Qunu.
Other activities we did this week were a spelling bee, swimming at the beach, and taking the young children to the lion’s park - each were a delight! It was great to spend time with the children outside of the classroom setting and simply just having fun.
Now as my stay begins to wind down, I have to face the hard part of this journey that I never want to endure: saying goodbye. Jeanien spent the weekend here and we stayed up for hours discussing all of her insights and my experiences in these short months together. She has mentored me greatly and I would not have had the same experiences without her. It was hard to say goodbye to her, but I know that our paths will cross again. Then the hostel children who go to high school, trade or special needs schools in the city left for the week. It was very difficult to say goodbye to them as most of them are just shy of my age and we have become close friends. I know I will see them again someday, but it is always hard not knowing when that will be. These goodbyes are the beginning to a long line of goodbyes I will have these next few days.
I had an extensive meeting with Amy who will be taking over for me starting tomorrow and it already brings tears to my eyes as I hand over my files and final reports for those two boys. They will most definitely be the hardest goodbye because we have experienced so much growth and a rollercoaster of emotions together that I am saddened to even think that I have to transition them over to Amy. Luckily I still have a few days and I am going to spend as much time just being with all of the children until the very end when I will say my final goodbyes.
I have only a few more days at Open Arms and have completed my time as a teacher as well as my last full week. These next few days I look forward to performing several miscellaneous tasks that I need to accomplish, as well as just doing as much as I can with the children in 72 hours. Cheers to my final days!