Most of my time during this YASC year has been devoted to the work at the school and life at the monastery. However, there are other aspects of my life here that may seem much smaller compared to the actual work I was sent here to do but that I find just as important in deepening my relationship with the people around me and in helping to keep me motivated. Here are a few of those aspects:
Learning South African Slang – Ask any of my friends back in the States and they’ll tell you that I love repeating nonsensical sayings and phrases throughout the day. Well, I’ve been able to keep to my old ways thanks primarily to one of the workers at the monastery named Themba. Themba works on the grounds crew at the monastery and he also drives the combi (bus) for the school. He is one of those people who always has a smile on his face, and I have never once found him in a bad mood. One of my favorite things about Themba, besides his many nicknames (Tata Sima, Umfundisi, Tata Umfundisi, Bhuti, Mr. Fix It), is the pleasure he gets out of teaching me all sorts of South African and Xhosa slang. I have a great time practicing all the many different greetings and sayings with him and the rest of the grounds crew at the monastery. I love yelling Xhosa slang at Themba and crew across the monastery grounds as I make my way up to school in the morning.
Baboons and Puff Adders – These two are a little more serious because these animals can be quite dangerous, and I’ve seen both of them on the monastery grounds. In fact, I had an encounter with a snake in the chapel at the monastery and it took me nearly 30 minutes the get the creature out of the church! I’ve been told to especially keep an eye out for these animals when I go for runs around the monastery. I just think there’s something exciting about living in an area where you’ll see baboons on the side of the road and never know where a Puff Adder may be lurking.
Watching Wrestling with Makhulu – Nomhamhasi, also known to many as Makhulu (grandmother in Xhosa), has been like a second mother to me since I have been in South Africa. She works at the Holy Cross School, has helped raise more than 10 children (most of whom aren’t her own), and is a strong presence at the monastery. She is a warm person to be around and she loves to give big hugs. When not at school, I often like to make trips to here home in order to sit, chat and drink tea. Makhulu is also a huge WWE wrestling fan, and lately I’ve had a great time sipping tea at her home as we watch wrestling.
Practicing Xhosa – I’ve been taking lessons with a teacher in town and my Xhosa is still terrible. But, I’m always picking up on new sayings and commands working at a school where the language is predominately spoken. The students and the teachers enjoy trying to teach me the language. The teachers especially get a kick out of hearing me struggle through pronunciation of the language and we always have a good time in between class working on my Xhosa.
There are certain aspects of life that we often tend to overlook but help to deepen our relationships with the people and things around us and help make us who we are.