Smile Because it Happened

25 Feb

It was with an extremely heavy heart that I bid the learners of Moses //Gareob goodbye today.  Although we all knew this day would come, nothing could have really prepared us for the sudden tightening of the throat, the stinging of the eyes, or the emptiness in our hearts.    As cliche as that may sound, that really is the best way to describe this feeling– empty.

Only one month ago, Kari, Bri, Janelle, and I were wandering into the Moses campus, awkwardly standing in the back of the stuffy staff room, attempting to look like we could belong there.  We departed today, stomachs full of cookies and sweets the staff had pitched in to feed us, feeling like we belonged nowhere else.


Belinda & I letting loose, giving the “Jessie & me” photo a close imitation

 

I taught normally for the entire day.  I had the grade 7s do the Glitter Handshake activity, similar to the STD transmission simulation from earlier.  Mostly,
I really wanted Belinda to watch how it was done so that she could do it in future classes.  If you’ve never seen this simulation before, it’s a powerful one.  One student gets glitter put into his/her hand at the beginning of class secretly.  You then instruct the class to shake the hands of three people from different table groups.  The glitter from the one student will get onto almost everyone’s hands and it shows how quickly HIV is transmitted from person to person in an extremely visual way. (Glitter is actually one of the most evil substances on the planet, so it’s a good metaphor).

 


Eliser was my first “infected” student who helped spread the Glitter virus.


Setting them loose to shake hands…absolute pandemonium
:]

 


Fighting his way through the other learners in hopes to shake my hand

 


Stressing the importance of condoms in the face of such a rapidly-spreading virus

 

During break, Shade (Sha-day) invited me over to house for a minute to see it.  This was SO great because I have yet to do a home visit! I only went on one with one of Bri’s students, but I really wanted to do my own.  Well, as luck would have it, I was able to power-walk through Katutura (not a big deal at all) with four girls and visit both Shade’s & Martha’s houses.

Martha in front of her gate

 

***

 

Back at school, Shade told me it was her greatest ambition to become a singer and travel to the States.  Yesterday she sang for me and it actually brought tears to my eyes because I was so impressed & proud of her.  Now I understand why mothers get so unreasonably emotional.  It’s not unreasonable at all, as it turns out.  The pride you feel just wants to burst outside of you– and for me, it tends to burst out in the form of tears.

Here’s my girl, singing her little heart out one last time:

—>http://www.viddler.com/explore/Jillcepal/videos/4/

 

***

 

The kids, however, could sense my anxiety all day and acted accordingly.  They were noisy, jittery, and goofy.  Honestly though, it was exactly how I wanted them to be.

Here, you can watch Terrance performing “La Cucaracha,” which I taught him on Athletic’s Day.  The boy has an amazing ability to retain things after hearing them once.  He also raps Bri’s Valentine’s Day Rap constantly.

—>http://www.viddler.com/explore/Jillcepal/videos/5/

 

After the long day, it was time for the dreaded goodbyes.  I’d held it together during every lesson, every dismissal handshake, every beg for me to stay.  By the end of 8th period, my bag was overflowing with love notes.  The classroom was packed with students wanting to say bye and asking to have their pictures taken.  Belinda, kind woman, took my camera and got some shots so I could focus on the learners.


Little Johaness, right below me, broke my heart.
He asked me when I would be coming back.  The moment I answered “Never,” I lost it.
He cried into my chest once I said it and I could hardly stand to let go.

 


Some more of the kiddos

 


Even more

 


Trying to hold it together, but I’m starting to slip.

 

***

 

At the orphanage, the same tearfest continued.  Regardless, it was nice to see their smiling faces one last time.

It was the most heartbreaking to watch Bianca and Jessica Porter.  They had developed a really close bond over the month.  I kept coughing up sobs as I watched Bianca shivering and spluttering into Jessica’s chest.  Then I would collect myself for a few minutes and suddenly Jess would start bawling beside me.  Since she never, ever cries, this just made emotion wash over me all over again.

 


Despite the tears, Gustav asked me to come see his room for the last time, goofy no matter the circumstances. He told me to “catch a picture” of him before he planted a big wet one on me.

Sooner than we would have liked, Shane was honking for us outside and it was time to leave.

 

 

We leave Namibia with old shells of ourselves.  We’re definitely the same spunky, silly, quirky girls we were when we left the States, but suddenly, we’ve turned into professionals, into caregivers, into women.
We’ve felt such a powerful surge of love and protection towards the children we’ve taught, it’s changed us completely.  They always say experiences like this will change you forever, but it’s only now that I realize just how much.

 

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