Photo by Teresa Rafidi

Photo by Teresa Rafidi

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Africa Adieu: Saying Goodbye is Difficult to Do

Often when you think you're at the end of something, you're at the beginning of something else." ~Fred Rogers

Over these past couple of months, Woody and I have been wrapping up our projects as best we could and preparing ourselves for leaving the village. When we arrived in South Africa over 2 years ago, we never realized how difficult it would be to leave this place and the people whom we have grown to love.

We enjoy teaching people, helping people learn and watching their faces light up when they learn something new. It has also been an enlightening experience learning from all of the people around us. As Peace Corps volunteers, we have had a chance to work with and teach alongside many different people here in South Africa on a daily basis from community members, to school Principals, Deputy Principals, teachers, Admin clerks, general works, support staff, NGO workers and students. We are very glad that we were placed in the community that we were put in. Although we had both good days and bad days, we were welcomed with open arms to the community and we have enjoyed living in the village because people there have camaraderie and are very friendly. The people of our tiny community work together and help each other, and that holds much promise for the future of our village. Every time Woody and I needed to learn a new word in xiTsonga (Shangaan) or needed directions on how to get somewhere, there was always someone there to help us and show us the way. We have learned so much here and have met so many people that have become like family to us.

As we began packing to return home, we realized that there are an immeasurable amount of things that we couldn't pack into our suitcases. Our memories, friendships, and our totally unique experiences could never be quantified. Our time serving as Peace Corps Volunteers fostered experiences that will live with us forever and we will be bringing back with us much more than anything you can pack into luggage. For us, it will be very difficult to leave. South Africa has become our second home. However, we will not be leaving here with nothing. When we go back home, we will tell everyone how much we have learned and have grown here in South Africa, and how important to us are the people who work and live in our second home.

Here is a list of a few of things that we will miss about South Africa:

  •  The people! They never cease to surprise and amaze us.
  •  Although it does get hot at times here, at least there aren't 30 days straight of over 100℉ heat like there are back home in Texas. Even when it's so hot that it's the only topic of conversation, someone inevitably says “It will probably rain tomorrow”, and are usually right.
  •  The kindness of strangers and being able to hitch free rides with strangers without having to worry about your safety or being taken advantage of.
  •  The slow pace of life. It can be a good or a bad thing, but mostly, once you get used to it, it's easy to flow with.
  •  The wildlife and the landscape. The flora and fauna are so beautiful and have such a wide and sometimes strange variety, it's hard to get tired of it. . . (cows included).

The Conundrum of School Libraries (Article by Robin & Woody) 

One thing that we did get done in the last few months in our village was finishing setting up the new Literacy Centre and library at the high school including arranging furniture, organizing, cataloging, and labeling over 2,200 books, as well as painting a mural. We also established the Literacy Centre management committee of teachers and worked with the committee to develop objectives, rules and policies for the new Literacy Centre.

The study area of the new library
While it may seem that we have put a lot of work into this project, and that we've reached the end of that work, it is actually just the beginning. The teachers, student, and any other volunteers that help with this still have much work ahead of them, whether it's in developing and presenting lessons, showing the students how to utilize the library for schoolwork or fun, or even the basic job of running and maintaining the Literacy Centre.

Library Helpers playing on the
computers in the new library
While we wish we could be there to help with those jobs, it was time for us to hand it over to the school and give them the best advice we could offer: “In whatever fashion you can, use this resource, and allow the students and community to access it.” Our own opinions of what a Literacy Centre could or should be helped shape the structure and content of the centre. But now it is time for the school and the community to take the next step and shape the way it will be used, hopefully in a way that will benefit the most people, will be fair to all who visit, and will improve the overall literacy and academic performance of the school and community. Also, a big thanks to all of you who supported our Books for Africa project. The books will be arriving shortly for the new library! 
Three levels of Junior Novels
The Science and Technology section


My So Called Peace Corps Life (Article by Robin & Woody)

Education is, quite simply, peace-building by another name. It is the most effective form of defense spending there is.” ~Kofi Annan

This quote above by the former Secretary-General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, is one of my favorite quotes because it is very true and, in my opinion, it quite simply sums up the purpose and objective of the US Peace Corps program. If we can just improve or expand the education and experience of a few people, we can help to eliminate poverty, racial injustice, and war. Peace Corps volunteers help foster development while at the same time help to build good will and relationships with countries around the world.

While this may seem like an overly rosy view of the world, and perhaps a bit naïve, we've tried to understand it in a very pragmatic and realistic way. We did not expect drastic changes to happen over-night. We did not expect to “save Africa” or that every effort we made or every lesson we taught would be profound or transformational. Our only hope is that of the little things we were able to do, some perhaps even without the intent of being “development work”, enough would stick with people in the same way that their interactions with us have stuck with us. Maybe – just maybe – in our tiny little village in South Africa, we made just a small dent. And hopefully in time – days, weeks, or years later – someone will remember a small thing from our time spent with them. And hopefully that memory will be enough to change an “I can't” or an “I shouldn't” into an “I can” and an “I should”, especially if it's for the good of more than just that one person.


cheapest flights to Johannesburg said...

I can only imagine living in a beautiful place like that, it would really be too difficult to leave it all behind. Goodluck on your future endeavors.

cheapest flights to Johannesburg said...

I can only imagine living in a beautiful place like that, it would really be too difficult to leave it all behind. Goodluck on your future endeavors.

Namibia safari said...

You has a blast, what a wonderful story to tell in a wonderful way. Just going through each of your article. You did have it man