Is it hard to believe that I have been in South Africa for seven weeks now; but then I look at my near-empty bank account and hairiness and think, “Yeah…seven weeks, that’s about right”. Just kidding, I have shaved. Once. But in all seriousness, it is going to be ridiculously hard to leave. I have had so many amazing experiences since being here.
For two days Last week Eric came to placement in childcare with me. Initially, it was so that he could meet my kids, and put faces to whom I was always talking about. The necessity of his presence though came when the teaching assistant walked out and quit on Tuesday. Although I still had Teacher Mary, she sometimes had things to do outside of the classroom, or on Thursday’s case, an hour and a half meeting with the principal. This would not have been a problem if it didn’t mean leaving Eric, and myself with 22 running, screaming, climbing, and all-around-verbing children. Well everything except listening; they do not like to waste their time on things like listening.
After Teacher Mary left, many of the children had to pee. This was a reasonable enough request, as everyone who knows Eric will know that he likes to go about the bathroom about every 12 minutes. So we decided to corral the children, and head to the toilets. Huge mistake. We all have the moment that we will look back on forever, and think, “Why was I so stupid? How could I have been such a fool?”. Yes, Eric and I were outsmarted by a class of three to four year olds, and you would have been too. They’re faster than they look, and there’s just so many. And so it begins: between our portable, outside classroom and the bathrooms is a playground. Now, as a three to four year-old child, would you go to the toilet, or the playground if you teacher left you with a sub? Probably the playground. As a 22 year-old that allegedly has a college degree, I too would go to the playground. And that’s with the real teacher. But back to our class; about half of the kids were on an active jailbreak, while the other half were standing and jumping on the tables in the classroom.
Eric and I have done the “stupidly cute” thing of finishing each other’s sentences, which isn’t hard, we’re usually thinking about food, or going on a walk that might end with food. Though, for the first time in our relationship, I believe we shared an actual conversation with just looks.
Me: “Umm. So this isn’t going as well as I thought it would.”
Eric: “I know. What do we do?”
Me: “I’m not entirely sure, but let’s keep trying to corral them, and take them in.”
Eric: [takes two children into class, three run out] “Yeah, this isn’t working. Umm Nik Naks?”
Luckily, one of the assistant teachers from another room saw us struggle to peel children off the swings to drag them into the classroom, and yelled at the children to get them all back in order. The South African accent really does the trick, as our polite American pleading of: “Please stop playing and come back in so we can learn, thank you”, just does not seem to work. I have heard from other volunteers that the teacher that so valiantly helped us disciplines her class by pretending to cut off their arms and legs with a real knife. Knowing this, there’s no way I would have listened to myself, and especially Eric. Eric was laughing the entire time. “Hey! Conrad! We’re going inside now! Hahaha”, all the while as he was making jailbreak jokes. But hey, we got them all back in, and most parents got their children back in one piece that day.
Although I am heartbroken to leave these crafty critters here, I am so happy that I was able to spend the last month and a half working with them. I could not have imagined a normal summer working at some normal internship. I have learned so much throughout my time at IU, in Freiburg, as well as here in South Africa. Although you may see children color what they think looks like a person, and later try and play in the toilet, these, and all children are incredibly smart. You think you’ve hidden the gummy candy? Think again, because they just somehow managed to get it off of the ten-foot shelf. I have been so blessed to have worked with these kiddos, and with such amazing folks this past month and a half. And now that my time in South Africa is coming to an end, part of me is absolutely terrified to go back home and attempt to find a job, but the other part of me that isn’t binge-eating Nik Naks is aware that I will do well at whatever I end up doing because of my experience here, as well as the support I have back home. And by support, I mean dad’s money, because I spent all my money on these smiling faces.
Seriously, look how happy they are. You would have gone crazy in the school supply section of Checkers too.
They're cute, and they know it. Eric and Donald, me and Doreen.
I repeat, they are fast.