Sunday, August 17, 2008

"That Person"

Everyone, at one time or another has been thankful not to be “that person.” You know, the one who trips up the stairs, doesn’t think before speaking and immediately regrets it, is experiencing unfortunate circumstances or is remembered for something they’d rather not be and you think to yourself, “I’m glad I’m not him/her.” Most people would rather be known for their uniqueness, personal attributes, talents, accomplishments, and people would know them as the person who did something great. We all want to be different, just not so different that we stick out. It’s basic human nature. Another common trait of human nature is the desire to be with people who are like us. Simply put, like attracts like.
Living in a poor, black, rural community has forced my social and emotional comfort zone to stretch in ways I never would have imagined. At first glance I am nothing like the people who surround me so it has forced me to find our likenesses. In the eyes of the people in my village I am the first white person in the world to learn Sepedi. I’m the white girl who washes her clothes by hand, takes bucket bathes, does the dishes, knows how to cook pap and eats it too (the staple porridge that requires quite a technique to cook), who uses an outhouse, eats with her hands, uses public transportation and so on and so on. I’m the one who is visiting their schools, talking to the teachers and shaking the hand of every learner. I am, to them, “that person,” the one who is like no one they have ever met.
People look at me strangely everyday, everywhere I go. They are only curious about me. Although I’ve always known that it took a long time and a few tears to get used to. Today I smile, greet them and take pleasure in their immediate changes. They want to know more; where am I from, why am I here, what do I think about their people, how is it different from my home, and how is South Africa treating me. I am humbled and honored to be living with a celebrity status. It has given me the opportunity to shift their views, change their perspectives and help them develop a better understanding of, not only white people, but Americans. Being different from everyone around you can be one of the most difficult and challenging things, but it’s how you choose to use the opportunity that guides your ability to cope, adjust, accept and, in the end, be accepted yourself.
It’s been five months since I moved to Moshate. I have met over five thousand learners and a hundred teachers by spending time at nine different schools in my village and surrounding area. Most of the taxi drivers know me by name and people holler from afar to greet me when I am anywhere this side of the tar road. I don’t feel like a stranger around my home anymore and when I show up at celebrations or community events I am greeted with smiles and hugs from so many people. Its moments like that I forget I am white. So when I’m laughed at, stared at or simply treated differently I must remind myself that both good and bad are parts of living a life as “that person.”

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Updated Dream List

I got the $5000 grant I applied for. I'm so excited to be starting an Arts Program at Aletuke. The benefits of this new program will run high and wide. I'm on a search for story books that have a healthy lesson to be learned. With those types of stories it's fun to create an activity to go with the story. Right now I'm very interested in "The Story of 1000 Paper Cranes" and "The Giving Tree." If anyone would like to donate and send one of these stories that would rock my world. Please let me know if you are planning to do so and I will eliminate it from this posting. Embroidery floss is a hot commodity and is very expensive here (about $1.00 per skein). I received some already and would love to get more.

If anyone has any resources for teaching life skills/lessons and complimentary craft activities those would be great. I'm always looking for new ideas for all ages.

I would love to have a big bucket of Legos for the kids to play with. For all you folks who have a bucket left over from the kids that is shoved in the back of your closet, send them on over. My kids would do flips over them. ANY creative manipulatives would be awesome.

I have received a donation to purchase an LCD projector. We plan to create a movie theater at the center for the community and use it as an income generating project. Again, if you have any movies you are willing to part with that would be terrific. We can use VHS and DVD.

The results of a big survey we took of all the children we serve and their guardians show that these children are in dire need of almost all basic items. To keep the list short and simple yet containing items easily collected we would love any of the following:

SOCKS- ages 5 to 19
UNDERWEAR- ages 5 to 19 boys and girls (most of our children only have 1 or 2 pairs at best- boys wear more tighty-whitey style here)
FEMININE PADS/TAMPONS (girls are using more pads)

I'm going to work on bigger and heavier items from here like bath towels, soap, pillows, bed sheets and blankets.
If you want to collect $ for me to purchase from this end a towel costs about $3. A nice heavy blanket for winter nights (which are really cold- I had 4 blankets on my bed this winter) are about $20 each. Contact me for money transfer info.

Anything that gets sent to me should be in an envelop of some kind if possible and be sent to: Darcy Stillman, Box 3350, Mokopane, 0600, South Africa (five lines total). Thanks for all the support so far.

Last but not least, if anyone wants to simply make a gift of cash that is always appreciated.

Sending peace and love to all you people who are keeping up with my life here.