I want to share my South African experiences with beloved friends and family, from 9,500 miles away!
Please read about my life, and be sure to tell me about yours!

Monday, May 2, 2011

the beginning of the end. or the beginning of the beginning...

“Baby, I asked you not to keep me waiting. I told you not to keep me waiting. Now the afternoon is fading on.” –Avett Brothers

I have ten days left in South Africa. I can’t really even comprehend this.

I thought of going home. It was the first time I really thought about what it would be like to be inside my house again. My house is so big- spacious, welcoming, clean (except for my messiness). There aren’t cockroaches and geckos and other critters that have become utterly normal to live with. My homestays have been in modest, small homes. My house, while pretty normal for the US, dwarfs them. In every way. Our furniture, our fans, our electricity, our carpet, our brooms and vacuums and self-wringing mops, our dishwasher, our backyard, our mailbox--- thinking about these things makes me wonder how it will feel to return.

I’m on the second-to-last leg of this adventure. I need to type up my paper- “Independent Study Project”- about working with the women in the prison. I don’t know what to say. I don’t know even what to say when people ask. The depth of emotion I feel when I think of my time there, those women, what it felt like to hear their stories and see their selves, expressed--- the depth of that is something I haven’t finished processing (and maybe never will). Their joys and sorrows, pain, beliefs, expressions of beauty and goodness; all of this is swirling inside of me, churning and throbbing.

Right now, this is what I want my life to be. I want to spend my life listening to peoples’ stories, learning from them. So many times during the prison, I left thinking, “I could do this forever and feel fulfilled.” Maybe I should be an attorney, maybe that is my calling, but it could be different. It could be something I wasn’t looking for, but fills my spirit. I thought that to help people I would have to be tired and drained and affect policy change. This clashed with my awareness that my strength lays in close relationships and the importance of people in my happiness.

In my Chicago community, we once did a reflection that asked, simply- “What would you give your life for? What would you live and die for?” The answer that flooded me immediately was, “Ending rape.” But how do you do that? I know my passion lies in women’s issues, but how do I end those issues? I can challenge societal constructs that keep women subordinate to men, but I cannot stop each rape from occurring. This time with the women in the prison addressed that desire in a different way. Through art, the offenders were able to express themselves, their lives, and their emotions in a way they didn’t know of before. If I can help create that space for processing, expression, and reflection, I think that could be my impact. That could be my living and dying.

But again, time and experience changes it all… so after a few years, we’ll see, I guess… This is the big push to the end, especially with this paper. I’m trying to process both the joy of returning home and the pain of leaving loved ones here. Always the two together.

No comments:

Post a Comment