I don’t have a very big “report” to file today (though I will get my “preach” on below). Yesterday morning during class, I enjoyed the girls’ reports on shark-cage diving (yikes!, Kym & Kjersten) and cheetah petting (purrrr, Crystal & Jennifer). Courtney and Kelsey were off at Miracle Kidz (way to go holding those babies!). Yesterday afternoon, the girls took the train to Muizenberg/St. James to the beach to enjoy a nice “winter” day collecting seashells and soaking up some sun (& I’m sure doing some homework too). 😉
Today, the seven of us will gather to do a bit of debriefing, including discussing our time here of course, as well as completing some questionnaires (i.e., an evaluation of the program from our partner organization AIFS [the American Institute of Foreign Study], and some research surveys from me…they did baseline surveys before we left; I am interested in the impact of this type of experience on one’s level of ethnocentrism and views on meaning in life).
The only photos today are of two signs: (1) the crosswalk sign we’ve all become accustomed to here (with both Afrikaans & English) and (2) the street sign of Good Hope Studies on short and sweet Mariendahl Avenue Lane. I haven’t asked what’s up, but street signs have two types of categories with the name, such as both avenue and lane; oh yeah, and “weg” is short for some sort of street but I have no clue what. That’s all I’ve got to say on the street sign…I just thought it was a nice shot with the winter flowers in the background.
I have a bit more to say about the crosswalk sign, which cracks me up…here are its directions: “PRESS BUTTON – WAIT TILL TRAFFIC STOPS – CROSS QUICKLY.” I like the tip on waiting until the traffic stops (duh!), and I love how it makes no mention of the pedestrian light that is supposed to change from a little red person to a green one. Maybe that’s because that little green man is seen for only about 3 seconds before he goes away, hence the third directive, “cross quickly.” That third command should be accompanied by a jillion exclamation points for emphasis…or maybe ginormous lettering with red glittery paint and little white flashing lights (ok, point made; I will stop now…not weird, just different [see prior post by that title]).
I took the picture of the crosswalk sign on my walk to church Sunday morning, so I’ve been thinking about it a few days. “Cross quickly.” Yes, that is an important rule for crossing these Cape Town streets, as well as streets, avenues, lanes, and “wegs” (?) in most bustling cities around the world. Yes, I want my children to know that rule when there are cars on the road, a locomotive on the tracks, or crocodiles in the river.
However, that is the opposite of what I want my kids to know – what I want my students to know – what I want to know – about the people and experiences we encounter throughout our lives. Crossing quickly may result in missing out on what is waiting to be discovered, whether in a new (or old) relationship, an orange-red sunset, a warm cup of coffee, an honest conversation, a dish of creamy gelato, the laughter (or tears) of a friend, the magnificence of the ocean, the pain of another.
Crossing quickly works well in some circumstances; it even keeps us alive. But what if we cross through our lives more slowly, savoring the moments God gives us…appreciating the daily gifts all around us? For it is these moments that nourish our minds and nurture our souls. This, too, keeps us alive and truly living.
I am thankful we did not cross quickly during our walk through Langa Township last week. Today the students turned in reflection papers on that experience, so I know how deeply they were impacted by it. We did not cross quickly in the barracks-style apartments; we did not cross quickly in the shanty-town shacks. We did not cross quickly by the sangoma (the traditional healer), even though we kind of wanted to at the time.
By crossing slowly, we were able to better understand the circumstances and people of Langa Township. By crossing slowly we were able to show we are interested in them and care about them, despite being uncomfortable “touring” their homes (this was no street of dreams). By crossing slowly, I can tell you that each young woman was forever changed…
She will tell her friends and family about what she learned; she will show them pictures and share stories of Langa and its people. She will be spurred on to get involved in issues of social justice that touch her heart. She will not be complacent or say, “that’s too big of a problem; too much for me to tackle.” Instead, she will ask herself, “what can I do at this point in time for this one?”
Let’s cross slowly today…let’s find the meaning in each moment, and experience it as a gift. I think we’ll all have a better day – a better lifetime of days – if we do.