Ubuntu! I am because we are and we are (as we say at St Paul's Baptist Church) because God is.
Today we leave to go back to the United States with our time in South Africa well spent. We had our closing presentations on Wednesday and our community farewell on Thursday. It was awesome to see how much everyone appreciated our hard work. The head master of Brettonwood High School had so many positive things to say about the impact we have had (and will continue to have) on his students. He thanked us wholeheartedly and told us he would love to have us back at his school doing similar work with additional students.
I was sooooo proud of all of the students who organized and executed their own closing ceremony. The program consisted of the students welcoming their guests, discussing what they had been doing over the last month, discussing the meaningfulness of the program, and inviting the guests to enjoy refreshments and talk with their peers about why they took certain photos. They led the program themselves and it was so well received that the head master wants them to do it again this coming Monday for the student body during an assembly. At the end of their ceremony hugs were passed around, laughter filled the room, and there were even a few tears shed. The students were so happy about how everything turned out, so happy to know their photos meant something to someone other than themselves. I remember one student saying to me "Jasmine, this lady came up to my photo (a beautiful picture that showed two concrete pathways leading to different places), read my caption (a discussion about how we all have a choice - we ultimately decide where/how we end up), and cried." He was so excited that his art could move someone in that way. It was empowering to watch them be empowered , to watch them realize they could be powerful in their own way, to watch them see their talents come to life before their eyes, and to watch them receive praise from others that they may have otherwise never seen - it was an incredible experience.
I was also moved during the farewell to the community. The community mother - Ma Connie (or GoGo) shared some very kind words about how much she appreciated the interviews we did with community members. There were other women there who shared similar sentiments. They, like the head master from Brettonwood, also wanted to see us back in their community. After the semi formal community farewell, we said our final goodbyes to our mentees - yep more tears. I exchanged phone numbers and Facebook information with many of them and told them I would let them know when I return to South Africa (I hope to be back within the next year). After we had already boarded the van to leave, the girls begged Morgan and I to do one last traditional Zulu dance with them (Jackpots). Even though we mess it up every time, we happily did it with pride. I love doing that dang dance! Haha :)
I will surely miss the mentees, the kind community mothers, the funny community men, the slight warmth of the South African sun in winter, the beautiful waves of the Indian Ocean, the van rides with Tamlynn, the informative conversations with our UKZN peers, the learning spaces that were created in the most unexpected places, the random "Sawubona Sisi" from native South Africans who assumed I was Zulu, and many many more things. I look forward to resuming my life in the States and I am also looking forward to my return to Africa.
Bye for now,
PS - You will hear from me again about my adjustment back to life in the States.