We always underestimate the importance of the little events and the simple things that bring us joy. Always looking for the next big moment that rocks our world, we are not grateful for what is often right in front of our noses. A goal of mine for this program was to make the extra effort to recognize all of the little things that have brought me joy. Spending much time in the township of Nomzamo and all of the leftover time with the nine other student-athletes from Duke and Stanford, I have realized that all of these small events show the world as quite miraculous.
Walking down the street of Nomzamo, kids all rushed to the gates of their homes chanting what we thought was “PIZZA PIZZA PIZZA.” Confused and disappointed ourselves that we did not have any pizza, we all realized they were not excited about the false belief that we had pizza, but in fact, they were excited for us. It was not “PIZZA” they were chanting, but “TEACHER” instead.
“This group has the remarkable quality of adapting and molding to every situation we have been placed into…They have been able to take a rainy and cloudy weekend and turn it into one of the best weekends of my life with their hugs, smiles, and super close up selfies that let me to know with 100% certainty that these people are lifetime friends who have created lifetime memories.”
The everyday lengthy car rides where we blast music, much to the chagrin of our driver I am sure, is another wonder to me. Impressed by our insane knowledge of 2000’s pop music, the unstoppable giggling, the confident belting of incorrect song lyrics, and the cramped backseat dancing, it is clear that being around these other student-athletes brings all of us joy.
I see the generous nature of the children who scramble to help us carry anything and everything ranging from our personal bags to very long Netball poles. Always looking for ways to help the teachers, the children are so giving with their time, effort, and kindness towards us.
Seeing Gordon’s Bay in absolute downpour creates gratitude that even this small amount of water during the intense drought will still provide some relief. It is easy to hear about the terrible drought in South Africa when thousands of miles away at home. But even with the small exposure we have had in this short week through the two minute showers, limited toilet flushes, and catching your shower water with a bucket, we have seen just a tiny glimpse into how the lack of water can impact daily South African life and are grateful for this rain.
It is also the simple every night event of cramming 10 student-athletes on a couch clearly made for no more than 5. Not wanting to make anybody sit on the ground, we grunt as we squish as closely as possible, trying to take advantage of every inch of space the couch has to offer. Once everyone has made it into their place, there is nowhere to move and little room to breathe, yet everyone is content with their numb arms because everyone is together on that couch.
And yet the biggest part of my experience so far is realizing the 9 other student-athletes in this program are the most kind, genuine, smart, generous, and outrageously hilarious group of people I have ever had the privilege of being a part of. This group has the remarkable quality of adapting and molding to every situation we have been placed into. Diving into the new and difficult role of teacher, they have been able to balance keeping order with loud and rambunctious children with keeping their unparalleled ability to make those around them laugh and feel loved. They have been able to take a rainy and cloudy weekend and turn it into one of the best weekends of my life with their hugs, smiles, and super close up selfies that let me to know with 100% certainty that these people are lifetime friends who have created lifetime memories. I thank them, I love them, and I am eternally grateful for all they have done for me, and those they touch with their contagious laughter.