Waking up this morning I had a strange feeling running through my thoughts. I was trying to figure out what this country has done to me, and I can't put a finger on what it is exactly...but I know it's profound and strong. I found myself reflecting on how my experience has been here, and in light of the huge braai (American BBQ x 10) we had last night I realized it is the people here that have carved their own space in my heart. The beauty of South Africa, and its sense of Ubuntu is revealing itself more and more as my departure date looms in the (very) near future. At our braai last night we had visitors from all walks of life. Nate's friends (who were white) intermingling with our diverse group, and about 12 of the MaAfrika staff ranging from ages 20-65 and were Coloured, Xhosa, and anything else. People from every class, race, age, and gender were together celebrating nothing other than the beauty of life and good spirits. That community feeling, the sense of humanity was raw and untouched. I loved the fact that even though we had only met these people a handful of times yet we enjoyed each other's company like no other, and that our goodbyes were only "see you soon's" with a big hug and a kiss on the cheek.
During many conversations I was asked when I would be going back home to the states and I always solemnly replied, "On Saturday..." with a frown. I noticed that every time I had this conversation the next question would be, "Well are you coming back?"My reply is always that I have no choice but to come back. I knew who I was before I came to South Africa but my experiences here have illuminated who I thought I was, allowed me to challenge it, and have made me a better person because of it. On New Years, as we were celebrating with the locals on Long Street, I made a resolution for the future and promise to myself that I will come back to this astoundingly wonderful place. And I do not break promises.
Last night, a woman part of the MaAfrika Tikkun health department and I talked about what she has learned from us being here. We always talk about the wonderful things we as a group have learned and what we have been given, but Doreen opened my eyes to a different side. She explained that we have given so much to the people we have come in contact with simply by being here. She said that we motivate her, we motivate the kids that we met and we motivate all of the people in the townships that we visited - just by being there. It made me seriously question what really needs to happen in order to induce 'change'. She also stated that a big part about her work is that education is everything. I agreed wholeheartedly, and became proud of myself in that moment for everything I have accomplished in my life. I was appreciative of my privileges, and where they have led me.
While on the brink of going home to the states, I am trying to figure out how to describe South Africa and how my experience has been to those who are inquiring. Well family, that is close to impossible because no words, pictures, videos, or journal entries can properly depict the beauty and wonder that is South Africa. It is the untold feeling that I have had the privilege to experience. It is the history and remembrance of then, versus now. It is the hope and faith in forgiveness that is healing the Rainbow Nation. It is the music that echoes through the valleys of Table Mountain. It is the food that is made and given without asking. It is the fact that the people here live like humans, and don't change for anything - or anyone.
It is all of this, but so so so much more.