Notes from the Field: Gone But Not Forgotten

 


Pam Baker, 2010 Teach with Africa Fellow, teaches English at High Tech High International in San Diego, CA. After a summer teaching in South Africa, the 2010 TwA Fellows returned to the US this week.

Woke up for the last time in this great little apartment.

While I was getting ready, sweet little Kevin came in and delivered hand-written notes for all of us. I had to fight not to cry when I read that—I figure once I start I won’t be able to stop, so I’m trying to postpone it for as long as I can.

After lunch, we had a community meeting with the whole school, which was basically a farewell for us. Two students led the meeting, presenting us with cards, presents, songs. We were called up to the front and asked to share a few words. Marc went first and was so sweet and articulate about what this time has meant to us all. He got a little choked up at the end, which of course got everyone crying. John was next and was just as sweet and sincere in his comments—and he also got choked up.

Then it was my turn. I couldn’t even speak for a few minutes. I just had to stand there and compose myself. I was finally able to squeak out a few words about how full my heart was, how grateful we were for the love and kindness they had shown us, and how much we would miss them.

Next, Nomkhitha got up and read a poem.

She started by saying that I had encouraged her to write again, that she had stopped writing and that now she was writing again and she’d written a poem for us.

I was able to compose myself after a little bit, but after the last song (the LEAP school song), Wisani sat down next to me and read me a poem that he had written for me.

It started like this, “This American woman with an African soul…”

Well, you can imagine what happened next. I put my face in my hands and DID openly sob. And then Nomkhitha came up and shared another poem she had written for me with the refrain “Every child is my child…”

These were seriously the most beautiful poems I’ve ever heard in my life. I’ve never been so moved and I’ll never forget these special moments with these wonderful students.

About an hour later, we were packed and ready to head to the train station, which would take us to the airport. The school was let out early and we rode on the bus along with the entire school to the train station.

Once there, the students stood outside and sang to us for about a half hour with such joy and gratitude—dancing as they sang—I tried so hard to memorize every face in that group.

When they were done singing, I walked over to give Nomkhitha and Wisani one last hug, but even as I was walking over to them, the students were rushing toward all of us, giving us hugs and saying “thank you” and “don’t forget us”.

As if we could ever forget them…

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