Wednesday, May 19, 2010

back to 'ubuntu'.

You know you live in South Africa when you go for your Saturday morning run and see what you are convinced is yet another pesky monkey... but upon closer inspection, it turns out to just be a cat.

And then you go two days without running water because "the reservoir is empty" and have to fill up buckets, jugs, anything you can find-- just to be able to wash dishes and brush your teeth-- when the eThekwini Municipality water truck trundles down the street.  You learn why Zulu women carry their heavy loads on their heads; who knew it would be much easier to walk back up Warwickshire Crescent once you learn to maintain balance with a couple of kilos on your head?  And then, after dutifully accepting that you'll have to suffer one more day before trekking to the parish at Kloof for a shower, the water spurts out of the taps and for the next couple of days, every time you turn on the tap you'll be thankful for the gift of running water.

Amidst homesickness, frustration, even fatigue, it's hard to forget where I am. Constantly being reminded of my surroundings has helped to bring me back to the reasons I decided to sign up for this crazy experience.
I stand at morning prayer with my students at St. Leo's, basking in the smiles on their faces, humbled by the devout way they close their eyes and fold their hands while they pray.  I watch the boys of Cottage 4 at St. Theresa's Home for Boys struggle through the choreography during a dance class, and can't help loving them even when they won't sit down to do homework.  They're getting ready to perform at Moses Mabhida stadium here in Durban during the World Cup, and the prospect of seeing them on TV might be the thing I look forward to most during this FIFA fever craziness.

I share frustration, sadness, and laughter with the three other girls in my community-- even sometimes sharing silence too-- and our level of comfort and closeness with one another is such a good thing to have.  We may spend every waking moment together, but we can't be completely tired of each other yet, and we're not, if our excitement about a weekend away together is anything to go by!

It's not easy to be a volunteer, and I have to admit that May has been the toughest month personally so far, but with the midway point in sight, I'm trying really hard to keep in mind the fleeting nature of time.  Before I have a chance to absorb all my experiences and feelings during my time here, that time will have passed and I'll be back in the US, heartbroken to have left my year here in the past.

And so, I'm repositioning myself and getting back to where I was before-- excited, motivated, and feeling very lucky to be able to nurture the friendships and relationships that South Africa's ubuntu has given me.
I am, because we are.

"A person with Ubuntu is open and available to others, affirming of others, does not feel threatened that others are able and good, for he or she has a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that he or she belongs in a greater whole and is diminished when others are humiliated or diminished, when others are tortured or oppressed."
- Archbishop Desmond Tutu