Sunday, February 17, 2013

The First Tear Shed

Aside from the tearful goodbye at the airport, South Africa has been nothing but growing and laughing.  In the past couple days, KHouse has basically been on cloud nine with our emotions: Valentine’s Day, meeting Judy, hiking Table Mountain, Mzoli’s, our first family dinner, and KIM.  Though I already explained Valentine’s Day, I should probably fill you in on the rest.

Judith Mayotte is the founder of the Marquette South Africa Service Learning Program.  She just happened to be visiting Cape Town this semester so we were so incredibly blessed to meet this wonderful woman.  She is quite possibly the most amazing woman I will ever meet in my life (sorry mom, you’re a VERY close second.  I promise).  Though I cannot even begin to describe the things she has done, I can try to tell a little about what she told.  She is extremely humble, to the point where losing her leg in southern Sudan during the war was just a minor point in her stories.  Through attending a Catholic high school and ultimately converting to Catholicism, she became a nun.  After ten years of this life, she decided during Vatican II that it wouldn’t be right for her after the changes were implemented.  She left the convent, but not the faith.  She attended Marquette University for her PHD and found the love of her life.  They married and three years later he died from cancer.  It was then that she found her passion in helping refugees.  She traveled to every war zone during these years, lived with the refugees, and ultimately was forced to retire this lifestyle due to the loss of her leg in the Sudan war.  While trying to airlift food into these refugees, a 200-pound bag of grain dropping at about 120mph fell on her leg.  She came back to Seattle where she was teaching and asked to be on a board with Desmond Tutu.  In the midst of this, Marquette had also asked her to be “a chair of some sort within the University.”   (She can’t even remember the titles she held!!)  When Marquette asked her to make a service learning abroad program, she was sure to make it in Cape Town because this is the place she knew the most people who would help her.  She had such a deep love for South Africa because during the apartheid, instead of choosing war, this country chose reconciliation.  Judy could have been stuck in another war zone, but because of the choice for reconciliation she wasn’t.  She truly has a deep love for every South African because of it.  She has nothing but kind words to say about these amazing people.

Judy began the program with 3 days of classes at UWC and 2 days of service at various sites.  She and a few students exclusively from Marquette lived in the same house (KHouse) we live in now.  She chose UWC instead of UCT because of UWC’s involvement in the apartheid.  UWC was made during the apartheid era for blacks and colored students.  Though it has changed since the apartheid ended, it still is very much local black and colored South African college students—most of the international students attend the University of Cape Town.  We will also be able to meet Desmond Tutu as a house and talk with him due to all the work she has done with him.  Though he is on a ‘semester at sea’ boat right now, he will be coming back to Cape Town at the end of March so we will be meeting him soon enough!

Though I could ramble on about this woman for pages and pages, I won’t keep you much longer.  The above information is just some of the things she has done, excluding her polio, work for the Clinton administration, her book (Disposable People? The Plight of Refugees), being a University professor, and an Emmy-winning producer—the things she didn’t tell us.  We looked up more about her life and found that even her Wikipedia page barely does her justice. 

The two things I will always remember from Judy are:
You can get through any ups and downs in life as long as you’re doing something you’re passionate about.”
“Human beings should never be afraid of human beings—no matter their race or age.  We are all human beings.”

I truly believe I met a future saint on Friday. 

Comparatively, hiking Table Mountain was nothing!  Saturday, we had planned a sunset hike up Table Mountain because we would then be able to take the cable cars down after sunset.  We got about half way up and found out the cable cars were no longer running.  At that point, I decided (being the wimp that I am..)  I had heard enough about the danger of hiking in the dark and wasn’t going to risk it.  A few of us hiked back down while it was still light and watched the sunset at the bottom—still pretty gorgeous, I must say.

After quite the full weekend, we just all wanted more adventure.  Mzoli’s it was!!  Mzoli’s is a huge meat shop in the township of Gugulethu.  Every Sunday they have a huge braai (BBQ) open to the public.  Thank God X-Man (the second Marquette driver who helps Pearnel) was willing to drive us and stay with us the entire time.  We walked in to what looked like a tiny butcher shop, smaller than Thuringer for those of you in Arlington.  X-Man ordered all the meat for us and we were brought into the back room.  After walking through a short, claustrophobic hallway, we were brought into another small room with huge, fired-up grills.  We handed the pan of meat to the men at the grills and were off to find a seat outside in a great, big tent—the party tent, if you will!!  It was really cool to be able to interact with people of South Africa and international students while still helping Gugulethu financially.

Tonight began our first ‘family dinner’ and ‘family meeting.’  Our delicious homemade lasagna, salad, and garlic bread was made by the wonderful Jamie and Jack.  The family meeting idea began in Lizzy’s family and Steph decided she wanted to implement it in our house.  We altered the Owen’s family itinerary a bit and fit it to the KHouse needs.  The meeting was completely optional because it was just something we wanted to try.  Everyone in the house ended up attending and squeezing in Rob and Andrew’s bedroom.  We opened with a prayer and focused the majority of our time on ‘pits and peaks’-highs and lows, if you will.  We also used a cross as a talking piece, so only the person with the cross in their hand was able to talk.  This made sure that everyone was heard and everyone got a chance to speak.  When living in a house with 22 people, I have observed that most of the things shared are happy ones.  We tend to always be laughing and sharing things about South Africa that we have experienced.   This is such an amazing quality, but there are times when tears are necessary and things need to be let out.  It wasn’t until this meeting that we were able to share our low points, even if they had to do with home.  When everyone had a chance to talk, we ended with another prayer.  This time was very much needed and will continue to be shared every Sunday night.

Thank you so much for all the thoughts and prayers from home.  This experience wouldn’t be the same without them.   I continually feel God’s presence in KHouse and in my own life.  

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