It's amazing how connected you can get with a person or a place in such a short amount of time. I've never been one to like trips where you jet in and jet out quickly, but have always chosen the travel plans where I spend a long enough time to know the ones around me, get a lay of the land, and begin to feel at home... I can't believe I've only been here in Ulu for two weeks because it feels like I am part of a family here. I only have a day and a half left, but if I think about it too hard I'll cry, so I will just keep cherishing every sound, every humid breath of air, every warm hello from the faces I've come to know and love.
Today was my last class at Mawewe, and the first time I had to say goodbye. I think Mr. Sibuyi thought I was a little nutso because I just kept thanking him, and I think I shook his hand and smiled at him half dozen times in my last half hour there. (David, please tell him I'm really a normal person!) Nthambi, Mavis, and Gerald met me in the library this morning, as did my sweetest Mpilo, and we went over things like formatting the memory card, making sure you wipe the lens with a soft cloth every so often, how to upload photos to the laptop, and encouraging the creation of a photo club. Then, from my backpack, I pulled out a huge stack of photographs from our week together and spread them all over the table, their smiles beamed as they sifted through the papers giggling. I could hear their excited chatter in Shangaan as they taped the photos into the frames I brought them. It was really pure magic seeing their faces illuminate as their friends funneled in the room pointing and commenting on their photographs. I thought I was going to have to surgically remove the cameras from their bodies, as they kept them around their necks the whole day, periodically grabbing friends for a snapshot or posing someone with flowers.
Even with all of this, I have to admit that my favorite part of today was when I got to see the photos that the three of them took after school when they went home. We gathered around my laptop as each one explained to me who was in the photos; "That is me with my dad" "That is my friend, and my mother", "This is my baby niece, In English her name is Beautiful, and her second name is Thankful. Her brother's name is Smile", "This is my grandmother making marula beer", I got to see a glimpse of their life, finally. I got to see their personality, their family, what is important to them. And, it was all possible because of a camera. Isn't it beautiful, that a small piece of technology can be the thing that brings you together and breaks the barrier of different worlds. Looking up at their sweet faces as they smiled and proudly explained their photographs to me is what I came here for... Nothing can beat how special it felt to be a part of this journey with them. There are now three more angels engraved in my soul. So blessed, so blessed, so blessed.
Here are some of Mavis's photos from her evening with the camera...
The following are images from our nice little gallery show today in the library!