This adventure is drawing to a close and the students are tired but still in good spirits. They continue to work well together, engaging in conversation with each other, exhibiting kindness, putting individual needs aside for the needs of the group. They continue to ask probing questions, engage in conversations with local people, and exhibit flexibility in their sleeping and eating experiences.
It had been my goal to publish this blog on a regular basis, but access to the Internet was sporadic at best. At the mission, Internet was often down for days at a time, while sometimes it was on in the morning, but off in the afternoon. During our last week, our travels led to remote locations that did not have access. In their journals, students commented that they found it freeing to be disconnected from technology.
I have been proud and honored to be a part of this dynamic, moving group. I wish to thank those who raised these individuals. These students constantly exhibited a flexibility and adaptability with their living conditions. They have slept on floors. They have slept on mattresses. They have slept outdoors and in noisy surroundings. They have slept with animals in the vicinity and with the possibility of insects. They have slept in open dorm rooms with up to eight people, yet they managed to find their own space and respect the space of others.
The students exhibited flexibility in their culinary tastes and eating locations. They ate maize meal and meat cooked by street vendors, found fruit wherever they could, ate steamed bread at almost every meal, longed for the opportunity to eat salads and vegetables. They expressed (at least to me) no longing for fast food, and they readily engaged in the culinary experiences of the culture. Tonight they will be served a traditional Zulu meal containing sour milk, steam bread, cut cabbage, chicken feet, beans, mielie meal, and tripe. The cooks wanted to offer a side meal of macaroni and cheese, but we convinced them that the students would want the Zulu cuisine. The cooks found that surprising and pleasing. It has been intriguing how embracing the language and cuisine of a culture, if only in a limited way, provides an interconnectedness that is respectful and genuine.
My thanks to the students. They have provided a dynamic and memorable experience for me. My thanks to…
Amanda – for your laughter and buoyant personality/p>
Austin – for your calm, steady personality. Your smile graced my life many times.
Camille – for calm, quiet resourcefulness and gentle wit.
Emma – for your quick and joyful laugh, and your joy in cooking.
Jocelyn – for your constant good spirits even when you were sick and for your courage not to complain even when the initial analysis would have meant remaining in Africa longer.
John – for your constant smile, your keen interest in the topography around you, and your deeply rooted interest in agriculture
Kylie – for your work ethic. You are on one of the hardest workers I have met–always ready with a quick smile
Leah – for your friendly spirit and your organizational skills that kept information flowing during our travels.
Mariah – for your laughter, your great spirit for life and your invaluable first semester nursing wisdom and counsel.
Megan – for your good humor, your musical knowledge and your willingness to provide a variety of music on our long van rides
Natalia – for your constant pleasant demeanor, your hiking abilities and your willingness to engage all members of the traveling community.
Natasha – for your quiet, thoughtful leadership. We needed an older sister’s skills on this trip
Sam – thank you for actively engaging in conversation with local people and always finding more information about the culture. Your sketches were wonderful.
Terra – thank you for your ever-present joyful spirit and your insightful comments on our relationship to the earth
Tiffany – thank you for your warm generous smile, your unending energy to hike, and your incredible work ethic.
To family members who support and nurture these students. You would have been proud of them. We constantly received comments about their presence. With tears in her eyes, the village matriarch thanked us for being a student group that respected her language enough to learn it and respected her culture enough to engage in learning the dances, eating the food, and wearing the special clothes. For me, this was the highest compliment the group could receive. This respect does not come overnight, but it is nurtured by a caring community that shapes, supports and encourages experimentation and expects flexibility. Thank you for your influence in their lives.
I was honored to be in their presence.