Thursday, December 6, 2007

8 White Christmas Lights

Today during PreSchool, I had one of the sweetest moments I'm sure to treasure for a long time.

I am teaching my small ones the story of the Birth of Christ. The angel coming to Mary, traveling to Bethlehem, the shepherds, the wisemen, the camels, the whole bit. They know nothing of the Baby Jesus story. I started teaching Christmas this week with “Away in a Manger”… explaining what a crib is (where Baby Ishipo & Sipo & Roro & Tando sleep), what a manger and stables are and how hay is meant for feeding donkeys, not for sleeping… They are captivated. Pregnant moms and tiny crying babies are all parts of their daily lives, as well as donkeys (we have two in the backyard), so they highly relate to this story.

Earlier this week, at a Christmas store, I found a small ceramic Nativity set, complete with a wooden, moss-covered stable, and holes in the back for about 8 white Christmas lights. We are setting out one piece of the set at a time, in anticipation of Christmas Day. The first piece was just the stable. A few days ago, the donkey. Yesterday, the cow. But, today, today was a day I won’t forget.

At the end of every day, I read to the children. I always turn off the overhead light and close the curtains, to create some calm and peace for them. But today, as I darkened the room, I had them circle around our little Nativity scene which sets on a small table. I started telling them the story, focusing this time on the star shining over the stable, how the shepherds and wisemen followed its brightness to Baby Jesus. As I'm telling the story, I'm pushing the small bulbs through the holes in the back of the stable. When I finish, I set it on the table, and plug it in. The moment the stable lit up, all the children went silent and stared, little eyes quite wide. It was all quiet, until PhaPhama started singing “Away in a Manger”. The others joined. Aphelele and Phila came and sat on my lap and the other three crouched on their knees, hands folded on the table, heads resting on their hands, singing and soaking in the sweetness of the Birth of our Lord in a dingy moss-covered stable, lit up by 8 white Christmas lights…

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Meet Nwabisa

I want to introduce you to Nwabisa. (Nwa-BEE-suh)

She is one of my fab five in the classroom. Nwabisa is one of three sisters. She's the one in the middle.

We're not sure how old Nwabisa is, or when her birthdate falls. We guessed she was about five years old and decided to celebrate her 5th birthday in September.

Nwabisa and her sisters joined us around June.

When I met Nwabisa, it was late August. Her English language skills were at the bare minimum. She just smiled.

In August, she was very much not-adjusted to living in a home of love and food and gentleness. When I saw her, she was instantly adhered to me in some form. Touching, holding, squeezing my legs, my arms, my neck.. anything she could manage. It was as if she was very much afraid that this sweet attention I was giving her, would up and run away at any given moment.

Nwabisa has too much history for any five year old. Her little heart and little body have witnessed more than they ought. All three sisters have different dads. Nwabisa grew up in Markman, which is a township outside of Port Elizabeth.

Township life is rough, to say the least. During the Apartheid (the separateness of black and white), the townships were built by the government to house the black people. They are way out of town, and usually you can smell them before you can see them. Its just a flood of one-story crammed shacks for miles. The violence and danger in the townships are like no other. The poverty, the disease, the starvation and the uneducation are trademarks of township life. So that's where Nwabisa called home for the first five (?) years of her beginning.

Luckily, Nwabisa and her sisters' story was found out. She was rescued from her living hell and taken to a place of refuge. She is now trying to figure out what it means to not live in fear.

Nawbisa is raw. She has Markman still on the brain. There are moments in class when she leaves. Not physically, but psychologically she retreats to some god awful place. Her eyes stop being curious about life; they go empty into a blank stare.

Nwabisa is a living example of the tragedy that befalls so many young African children. But her story now has hope written at the end. She now has a fighting chance.

The change I've seen in this young girl over the last 3 months reminds me that God is still here. God hasn't deserted this continent. When the apathy, the primal condition, the backwardness of this land makes me wonder where its headed and why I'm here, I can look at her and see the flicker of change. The flicker of hope for this dark land.

Nwabisa's heart is softening. She is sweet, eager to please, eager to discover if the love I give her is leaving tomorrow. She tries desperately to keep my affection. She's still fighting fear. She's still fighting rejection, abandonment.

I must be proactive with her. I must be the one to initiate the hugs and kisses. I must be the first to tell her ndiyakuthanda. I love you.

So this is Nwabisa. A beautiful girl, fleeing the grasp of close disaster and looking towards the Light.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

First Week in South Africa

Blog One:

So here I am in Africa.. and Im trying to figure this thing out out!