The past two days looked something like this on our agenda:
Monday -- 9am MaAfrika Tikkun
Tuesday -- 9am MaAfrika Tikkun
Excitement, right? I know. I'm the one who two days ago committed via blog that I was going to hammer out these couple days as best as possible... despite the uneventfulness of the schedule. But as this trip has shown me and continues to show me, never trust the mundane. Expected the unexpected. (ouch, cliché)
So here we are. Latter part of Tuesday. Mind officially blown for the 470,000th time. I have experienced a sort of gratification that comes in serving others, but also in seeing how they serve each other. I have learned that a 3-day gardening project is sweaty and dirty and produces one hell of a beautiful, useful plot of land. I have learned that there's always a spare minute to drop one's task-oriented nature and do the Cupid Shuffle. I have learned that I can chop an inordinate amount of onions in a half hour. I have learned that I have much to learn from my peers/classmates. And today I learned that, on any given day in South Africa, I WILL meet someone who makes me believe more and more in pure, loving human nature.
We had the opportunity to meet with Nate's colleague, Mark Gamble (previous COO of MaAfrika), last night. He did us the great service of sharing his experiences, his opinions on various matters and his fascinating outlook on issues facing South Africa. With much of the emphasis of this trip being on issues of race, it was refreshing to hear from a white, native South African. From a heavily racist upbringing, he has come out as a great advocate for social justice. This man has done and is doing great things for this part of the world, and I look forward to seeing what he does next. Our time with him was too short.
Due to our group being split up for various tasks at MaAfrika yesterday, I was unable to visit a mosque/soup kitchen/day care/home in Delft. But because of the new association with my peers, the family who runs this facility invited us all back today for lunch. Yes, overnight they prepared a full meal for about 30 people. When we arrived, we removed our shoes and sat at a table with a beautiful, white tablecloth. After distributing the dishes and utensils, multiple plates of curried rice and lamb(?), vegetables, chicken, fruit and a dessert of Jell-o ("jelly" in SA) and pudding were placed before us. It was incredible and easily one of the best meals I have ever had. Sure, it tasted fantastic, but there was a love and care in that food that supersedes most anything else I've eaten. For most of the meal, the room fell quiet. We could hear singing coming from the mosque in the room next door. It was the sweetest sound. The door leading outside to my right was eventually opened, as our hosts' granddaughters brought our desserts in. I then saw local community members, mostly children, holding empty plastic containers as they waited in line to be served from the adjacent soup kitchen... less than 15 feet from the immaculate table I sat at. This family and these people treated us like royalty while simultaneously extending a generous hand to their community. That is true compassion. It is more than a one time experience.. It is something I will, personally, take with me as an example of how to be.
I hate to blow through this next part, but it's taken me quite a while to get this far in the writing... Prior to our time at the mosque/soup kitchen/day care/home, we visited a Delft community center and the police station. I mean, really, could we get more diverse in one day? And also, could I totally see myself sending in my resume to the community center upon graduation? Uh... yeah! They are doing things there that are benefiting their community and its residents in brilliant ways. This is honestly where I saw myself. This may have been a glimmer (or a spotlight?) of what I've been looking for. There is no room for heavy hearts and pity here. They provide education, child care, social time, entrepreneurial opportunities, life skills, food. Ultimately, they provide hope. It was wonderful to see this sort of care for their fellow human, and deriving satisfaction from helping without expecting anything in return. Welcome to non-profit, right?! ha.
Before I sign-off, I'd like to give a quick shout-out to Gadija from MaAfrika who showed us around today. She is so heavily invested in the community of Delft and proves her commitment day after day. I have only come in contact with her on a couple occasions since we have worked with them, but I am smitten with her. As we walked across a sandy path laden with broken glass and rocks on our way from the community center to the police station, she expressed how she makes that walk every day to do her work. She has pride in her community, a sharp sense of humor and a boisterous style of speech that I am captivated by. She knows the people in her community. She makes connections. She does not merely show up to work. She is nothing less than fabulous.
And tomorrow I have to say goodbye to her... and Anthea... and the kids of Delft. Not sure how that'll go, but we'll all have to lean on each other. With a trip to Robben Island immediately following, it should be one emotionally draining day. But I'll keep on pressing through.
So much for that sparse, little agenda...
Now you should listen to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7wog9630VCM after reading this. Just sayin'. I'm trying to amp up your experience.