Wednesday, August 11, 2010

in the line of duty.

When the end of a month approaches, I often find myself feeling a bit down.  I don't know where the feeling comes from, but I do know that unfortunately, I'm not the only one in my community who gets the end-of-the-month blues.  And July was no different.  With the World Cup over, the weather much chillier, and work back in full swing again, we were all feeling a bit blue as July came to an end.
And then August arrived, but instead of perking up, the weather took a turn for the colder and my mood didn't improve much.  There are the usual frustrations that accompany work, and anyone who has volunteered in a program like mine (or who has lived with a group of people he or she cares about) knows that living in community isn't always a walk in the park.  But something about the past two weeks has really made me feel exasperated, and after a tear-filled conversation with Mum on Saturday night, I decided that something needed to be done about it.  I'm not the type to count down the days until this year is over, though when December comes, I think I'll be ready to hand the job over to someone else.  I scribbled down a list of things that make me really happy here, and thought I'd share a few thoughts.

Things Worth Smiling About
1.  Walking through the schoolyard at St. Leo's and hearing children of all ages call out, "Hi Miss Sinead!" when I'd expected having to change my name when I started teaching.  Even if I sometimes get called Shanela, which means "to sweep" in Zulu, I'm okay with that.

2.  Seeing the sun rise in the morning-- yes this does remind me that my wakeup is very early here, but the colors in the sky over the valley at 6:30 in the morning are just breathtaking.

3.  Moments at St. Theresa's like on Tuesday, when Philane was in charge of cooking dinner. I peeked my head in the kitchen every few minutes to see if he was okay, and not long before I left for the evening, he presented me with the finished product: a small dish of rice, tomatoes, potatoes, onions, and pilchards (with a little dab of mayo on the side; it's all about the presentation) to try.  I can't even remember what it tasted like, but the look on his face when I broached the topic of culinary school was something worth remembering ("You mean a kitchen?  A big one?  Of my own?")

4.  When teaching grammar and sentence structure seems to be futile, and then Mary-Kate and I are standing in the classroom, teaching nouns.  We divide them into people, places, and things, and ask the class to give examples of each.  When trying to get the kids to say "learners" two weeks ago, the following happened:
Teacher: Okay, so what are you guys?
Thabiso: People!
Teacher:  Good, that's right.  Now, what kind of people?
Thabiso: Black people!

5.  Seeing Visa/Vie and Altiplano at the Durban International Film Festival (we also saw My Hunter's Heart but it was absolutely atrocious).  Getting to participate in the film festival was really unexpected and a pleasant surprise for the most part.  If you have Netflix, I recommend adding Altiplano to it immediately.  Amazing film.

And last but not least, Becky, my best friend from college and former roommate extraordinaire, is coming to visit... and arrives tomorrow!  She's en route from LA to Atlanta right now, and then flies to Johannesburg.  She'll meet me in Cape Town tomorrow night, and we'll be spending the weekend there, before coming back to Durban for ten days.  It'll be so nice to have a familiar face around for the next two weeks.  Becky was a Jesuit Volunteer in San Francisco until the end of last week, so having someone here who has an idea of the volunteer lifestyle will be great.  I went to visit her in SF in November of last year; I can't wait to show her my life here in South Africa!
The past couple of weeks have been really draining, especially because there was a massive strike brewing for all public workers, including teachers, at the beginning of the week.  It looks as though things are operating as normal now, but police officers visited St. Leo's on Tuesday to make sure we were safe-- as the only school remaining open in the Molweni area, we were at risk when the wrath of other teachers threatened us.  Hopefully settlements will be agreed upon soon, and schools and hospitals won't suffer too much.
That being said, I still feel as if there's nowhere else I'm supposed to be.  The above are just a few of the reasons I get up in the morning, and though it's easy to get bogged down by the rough patches, making an effort to stand in the winter sunshine every once in a while is really worth it.


  1. i'm glad your list of things to smile about is long despite feeling homesick sometimes :) have a great, wonderful, amazing time with becky! (i'm so jealous!)

  2. I love Item 4. Nice one, and enjoy Cape Town.