Coming to South Africa to work with children, we all expected to learn from the people we worked with since being in a new country obviously brings new perspectives and ideas. But we never realized the massive impact our Stanford/Duke counterparts would make on our lives during our time here.
10 Things I have learned from Max:
“Max is always the first on the sports field tossing the rugby ball or kicking around the soccer ball with the kids. Sometimes it might be hard to see the impact you’ve made on those around you, but with Max, his impact on Nonzamo is clear when we see the children sprint towards him every day, pulling him to go play with them.” – Amelia
1. How to properly hold a karaoke microphone: Very few have enough courage to sing a song in front of one person, let alone an entire restaurant filled with strangers in a completely foreign country. But with complete confidence and disregard for possible embarrassment, Max Feldman walked up to that microphone and made all of us swoon with his rendition of “Mambo number 5.”
2. Staying patient in patience-testing situations: Often our sports camp feels like we are herding cats; right when we think we have everything under control and all of the kids are listening, they all run off again and we have to start over. Even more difficult than running drills is refereeing the live games, and Max tends to find himself in the latter position. Trying to organize, coach, and support a swarm of hyper-excited kids all while yelling out the rules that they blatantly break would test many people’s patience. But with Max, I have only seen a few exasperated glances and sighs but many more smiles and encouraging words towards the kids.
3. How to have ridiculous agility and athletic abilities: On Sunday while we were in Cape Town having lunch, we all decided to sit down on the rocks a few feet above the water. After a foreshadowing comment of “What if a big wave came and wiped all of us out? That would be hilarious” legitimately five seconds later, a wave crashed on the rocks and got me and the few others closest to the water completely soaked. Frantically scrambling off the rocks, I look behind me and Max is completely dry. In the split seconds we had between seeing a water heading towards us and being completely wet, Max managed to grab all of his clothing, lunch, and phone and get off the rocks with no sign of water. Meanwhile I was left with wet pants and a water logged salad. Seeing this athletic feat right in front of me made his elite soccer standing at Duke very clear.
4. How to uncontrollably laugh: Max and I are the two people on the trip who can never quite hold it together when something funny happens. Long after everyone has recovered from a joke or a ridiculous event, Max and I are still gasping for air, unable to let go of the hysterical situation. By the way, Max is the only other person my age who also uses the word “hysterical”, which only proves how amazing he is.
5. How to bring a smile to everyone’s face: Not only does he bring joy to me and the rest of the ACE group, but he also has made a remarkable impact on the children of Nonzamo with his commitment to the kids. Max is always the first on the sports field tossing the rugby ball or kicking around the soccer ball with the kids. Sometimes it might be hard to see the impact you’ve made on those around you, but with Max, his impact on Nonzamo is clear when we see the children sprint towards him every day, pulling him to go play with them.
6. How to compact yourself as much as possible: As I explained in my first blog, the couch all ten of us decide to sit on at the accommodation is only meant for around five. Naturally everyone has to squish but Max has an uncanny ability and willingness to make himself ridiculously small. This only speaks to his selflessness and how he gives up his own comfort for the comfort of others.
7. How to rock a crazy jacket: During the first weekend in Cape Town, Max bought this bright green and purple puffy jacket. And when I say bright, I mean BRIGHT. And not only is this jacket bright, but the purple and green is also patterned in very intense swirls that fill the fabric. Only the most confident people could ever pull this look off, and clearly Max is very confident, as he has worn it every moment possible.
8. How to become a master chef: Humans are a creature of habit and intense desire for sweets, and Max is no exception. At every single meal, you can count on Max to have made a Peanut Butter and Nutella sandwich, at one point having 6 in one day. Maybe this masterpiece isn’t the highest in neither nutrients nor vitamins, but it certainly is the highest in happiness and smiles.
9. How to say “I’m sorry” in situations that aren’t your fault: When four backpacks were stolen this weekend from the locked vehicle, Max said that he was “sorry” and that he “felt so badly” a ridiculous number of times. Though clearly Max was not a suspect, he continuously provided his support and sympathy, by helping all of those affected pick out new toothbrushes.
10. How to sacrifice yourself for the project: During our last week in South Africa, we are building a new playground for the kids in Nonzamo where Max and I (and Anja) are working on our creation made purely of tires. The first day we painted all of the tires for hours, however, Max then remembered he was allergic to paint significantly after he had already gotten paint on himself. Even though he was totally fine and got the paint off in time before his hand got red, he was isolated to an area of the grass where he would not come in contact with any more paint and where he could only provide moral and vocal support.
10 Things I have learned from Amelia:
“Amelia is always so happy and smiling with such a positive outlook on life. Everyone loves that she laughs at every single joke no matter how bad it is. You’ll never feel awkward or bad for telling a bad joke with Amelia. This has taught me to always be positive and happy go lucky no matter if you have just had 20 kids propose to you, went to the gym for 2+ hours, and cooked dinner.” – Max
1. How to take the perfect selfie: Amelia is amazing at taking selfies and takes really funny ones with all of us and they always make my day. This has taught me to always stay positive and bright and to always cherish the moment! Don’t take things too seriously because no matter how ugly or funny you look in a selfie there are always those other great moments and pictures!
2. How to handle difficult situations calmly: So unfortunately Amelia and 3 others got their bags stolen from a locked vehicle when we were on our tour of the Cape of Good Hope. However from this situation and from handling kids at camp I learned how to be composed in the face of challenges and setbacks from her.
3. How not to yawn: Amelia had a funky yawn and it always makes everyone laugh. It sounds like she is having an asthma attack and she acts like nothing is different. Although it makes all of us laugh, Amelia always embraces her quirks and differences and it’s awesome to see. She’s also shown me to always love yourself for your quirks. Everyone on this trip does something odd or funny that they sometimes get made fun for but Amelia always makes you feel good about it and shows you that you are just being you.
4. How to sing: Amelia loves to sing and every time in the car no matter what song comes on or if anyone else is singing or not she will be singing the words! I love seeing her enthusiasm and joy at singing and it has taught and shown me that I need to find more things in life that I am that enthusiastic for.
5. How to reject various proposals from many different men: On the last day of camp, Amelia was proposed to by many of our campers and they almost wouldn’t let her leave because they loved her so much. For those of you who don’t know what we have been doing, we have been working in a small township called Nomzamo in Gordon’s Bay, South Africa. We have been running a sports camp to help teach local children how to play different sports while also having health and nutrition classes. With this came amazing bonds that were formed and many of the campers especially loved Amelia.
6. How to win a rugby game: I begrudgingly will admit that Amelia is much better than me at rugby. One day at camp we demonstrated how to play a Duke vs Stanford rugby game to teach the kids how to play. This mock game was a fiercely contested 1 minute of play ending with Amelia juking me out and scoring the winning “try.” From this I learned from her how to be a quick learner, how to ask questions and adapt, and how to be ruthless to your opponents!
7. How to be patient and persistent: Amelia had a couple of very cute and very young girls follow her around during the sports camp. The first days they would cling to Amelia and wouldn’t leave her side and they didn’t want to join in the rugby game. Through this sports camp, we both have learned that there are specific gender rules. These rules spread into sports and cause boys to think that soccer and rugby is a male sport and girls to think that netball is solely female. However, Amelia persisted and kept trying to get the girls to join the rugby game. By the end of the camp they were always excited to come and play in the games.
8. How to be the meanest person on the planet: This is clearly a joke. Amelia is the nicest person on the face of the earth! She is always listening and encouraging people as well as always giving people compliments. We can’t spend a car ride without her telling someone else “your hair looks amazing” or showing them a fantastic picture she took of them. She is the epitome of how to treat others the way you want to be treated and I can only hope to be one-tenth as nice as her.
9. How to be quiet when someone tells a bad joke: Once again if you know Amelia then you know this is so so so false. Amelia is always so happy and smiling with such a positive outlook on life. Everyone loves that she laughs at every single joke no matter how bad it is. You’ll never feel awkward or bad for telling a bad joke with Amelia. This has taught me to always be positive and happy go lucky no matter if you have just had 20 kids propose to you, went to the gym for 2+ hours, and cooked dinner. Despite all of this she will still giggle hysterically at all of your terrible dad jokes.
10. How to be a great friend: Although we have only been together for 2 weeks Amelia and I (As well as everyone else!) have become great friends and we are always laughing and having fun. She is already one of my great friends and has taught me a lot about friendship and myself.
As you can see, we have clearly learned not to take anything too seriously, but in all seriousness, we have learned so much from each other, have taken too many pictures with each other, and we have become lifetime friends. We are so grateful that ACE has given us this opportunity to meet and we are so sad we only have one week left.