Fulfilling...If I had to describe this past week in one word that is exactly the word I would chose...Fulfilling. From meeting and working with our UKZN partners to learning bits of isiZulu, to meeting and enjoying time shared with the KG community members , to spending time training, laughing with, and learning from our high school mentees - I am so full. I have the biggest smile on my face as I write this and my spirit is running over with gratitude and humility. God is good.
This past week was full of knowledge and on the job experience. Next week we are set to begin our various research projects. There is a lot to be done and I am confident that through the utilization of the many talents and gifts we have amongst my VCU and UKZN peers, we will achieve exactly what we set out to accomplish. The high school students seem very excited about the Photo Voice project and I am excited to see what photos and narratives they come up with as well. The students or as they say in Durban, the learners are very talented young people with bright minds and ideas. I was working with one young man this past week and I asked him to think about part of the research question - What places are important to me in my community?" One of the places he mentioned was the food clinic and when I asked him why that was important he said because "...a chain is only as strong as its weakest link." I don't think he knew how much that remark blessed me. It was so awesome to see that the well being of others was something that was very important to him. If only we could have more people in the world with that mindset...
I have also had some cool experiences traveling through the city. I love the fact that people assume that I am Zulu - it makes me feel more at home. Although I may only understand one word out of the 50 they say - I still love it. The surprised looks I get after I say "I'm sorry. I don't speak Zulu" are priceless as well. :) In my mind they are thinking - Wait, you are a Black woman in Durban, South Africa and you don't speak Zulu?!? Haha! That may not be what they are thinking but either way the surprised looks I get always make me laugh. I am learning some Zulu however, and I am trying to use it whenever I get the chance. But there are times when even though I know what to say, I don't say it. Sometimes is because of what I call "new language anxiety" (being scared to speak a new language because you don't want to say anything the wrong way) and other times its something completely different - more visceral than cerebral. Yesterday, I was in the grocery store and I walked passed another Black woman and she said "Unjani Sisi" (How are you sister). I knew how to respond in Zulu but I was so overjoyed that she called me sister that I couldn't speak - only smile. I foresee myself having many other similar moments here.
Another cool experience was going out with some of our faculty leadership team and some of our UKZN peers. We went to an art gallery and heard an AWESOME all women jazz band. They played few American songs but most of their music was in Zulu. Zulu jazz :) mmmmmmm LOVED IT!!! Some of it had a reggae feel, some reminded me of Bossanova, and some just a had a distinct flavor that was all its own. I am a fan of jazz music, domestic and international, so that was a real treat for me. Afterwards, we went to another place where we could dance. Almost all of the music played at this place was American. So we were on the dance floor (most of us were) shaking a tail feather. Haha! It was amazing. They actually played a song I really like (Moves Like Jagger) and the one-man live band allowed me to come up on stage and sing the last part of the song with him. My peers really got a kick out of that lol. It was a great way to unwind from such a busy week. I am looking forward to more of those moments with the group.
Any who - today is going to be relaxing and entertaining. We are hope to go back to the beach to see some traditional Zulu dances and then we are headed over to the taste of Durban. I really missed going to church this morning but I am working on setting up arrangements so I can go to a religious service (or two) next week. Today, I will settle for Bedside Baptist and I will be sure to be on my P's and Q's next week. Don't worry Mom :)
In closing, I have had a phenomenal experience thus far. I have learned a lot about South Africa, Durban, my peers, and myself in this past week and I hope that process continues.
Peace and Progress,