Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Final Entry

I arrived back home last Wednesday (March 5th). I never expected it would take a week to recover, but I'm only now feeling like I'm really here. I've had a couple "I need to go back" moments since being home, and I have to remind myself that it's finished. At least, for now.

A lot of people have asked me along the way "how have you changed?" I honestly don't know, and probably won't for a few weeks yet. I can say that I'm more cognizant of what I have and what I need. It's sad how much junk I've purchased over the years just for the sake of buying it. For example, I cleaned out a spare bedroom (that acts as a big collection point for all kinds of things) the other day. I ended up tossing five cordless phone systems. Five! We've only been in our house for 10 years, and in that time we've bought and thrown aside five perfectly good phones just because others looked better. I also counted six computers that were sitting unused (granted, some are old technology but they'd still work for something). That's really sad. I really need to stop spending money on bright and shiny things and start helping people in my own community.

I start my new job next week. I'll be in pharmacy management again, doing similar things to my old job. It'll be on a smaller scale, with regular hours and no travel. That will be a big change for me - I was used to 60-hour weeks and up to 50% travel. I hope to enroll in some language classes, take guitar lessons, and maybe even fulfill a long-standing dream of getting a pilot's license. But then, I could take a few months to relax and see what life brings. We'll see.

A couple follow-ups from Guguletu:
1. Marvin came back from Botswana last Monday, the day before I left. He was in tough shape. He had lost weight and was probably under 120 pounds, if at that. He was so weak he could barely walk. He hadn't eaten in three days because he had no appetite - he had food with him but just couldn't stomach it. He moved in with a family member, who promised to look after him.

I saw Marvin again on Tuesday and he was looking a little more perky. He had been to the clinic, and his doctor was making arrangements to have him hospitalized for a couple weeks so that he could regain his strength. Marvin was also looking at ways to move to Johannesburg so that he'd be closer to his son. I think he'll probably do that within the next couple months. I just hope he's able to recover and get healthy. It would be very sad to lose a good friend.

2. Nancy is still positive about getting a new house. I didn't see her before I left because she was only returning from the Eastern Cape on Wednesday morning. I did wire her money for a new house, and I have no doubt she will continue to look for one. Unless she needs the money for food, that is.

3. Maxwell was busy planting new vegetables in our garden last week. The green peppers from the previously planting were still doing well. He was going to put in some carrots, spinach, and other summer vegetables. I hope he sticks with it and that someone can fund the winter planting in September.

4. Siyaya is still planning to come to the US in June-July 2008. If you live in Washington DC, Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York City, Chicago, Minneapolis, Dallas, or Pensacola and want more details, please write to me. It will be a fantastic show and you will not be disappointed.

That's all I have. Sincere thanks to everyone who supported my adventure, who read my blog and write to me (or who just read it), and everyone who prayed for me to return safely. I have no regrets about going and would do it all over again. I hope others have the chance to take some time and do something they've dreamed about.

No more to come.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

A Most Excellent Day

I had a great day today.

1. I got a nice acknowledgment during church this morning. I heard them talking about me, and saw that they took a special collection. Well, it was for me! The congregation gave over R600 to thank me for spending "my year of living dangerously" with them. This was probably one of the most meaningful things I've seen, as I know many people don't have extra money to give. They also gave me a nice gift for my wife to thank her for saying "yes" when I said I wanted to come.

After services, the church leaders held a tea for me. The orphan children all came and thanked me for what I had done for them. They said I was an inspiration, that they now knew that people cared and that they had a future. Noluyolo gave me a big hug and started crying. That was hard - I really hope she can make it out. A few of the other leaders thanked me for my humility and help, which felt really good.

I jokingly told them that I was sad because I just figured out how to sing in Xhosa and now it's time to go. Not too many people laughed - something was lost in the translation, I'm sure.

2. This afternoon, my baseball team had a couple scrimmages against a very good under-12 team. It was great for the kids to see "real" baseball - the other team didn't hold back at all. They pitched hard, stole bases and even bunted once. But my kids stuck in there, even scoring a run and closing one defensive inning with three solid outs (the other innings ended because of too many runs scored by the opponents). I told them I was leaving when we got back to their school and they all clapped for me. I think they'll keep going and I'm excited to see how far they've gotten when I come back.

3. I'm off now to wrap up my day with a big plate of sushi. Or maybe a pizza.

More to come.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Three Days and Counting...

This will probably be my last blog entry. I canceled my Internet service, so I'm now using Internet cafes. That makes spending hours writing a little tough. Plus, I don't think I'll much more to say since I'm officially done at the Centre and the clinic. That's not to say I won't be doing anything, but just not too much. I'm sure I'll have much more to write once I've been able to assimilate everything I've seen and heard. A lot of people have asked how this year has changed me, and I can honestly say "I don't know." I'll comment on that once I've gotten back to my "normal" life and started to sense a change in my thinking, biases and perspectives. Some of you may see it before I do - feel free to point it out.

I'll be leaving a bit of money behind when I leave, about R20,000. Nearly all of that was donated by family, friends and people I hardly know. I'm leaving it with Spiwo with instructions on where to spend it, mostly with the vulnerable children and a couple very needy families. Some of it will also help kick-start the food pantry Zethu is hoping to start this year. Rest assured it will all go to people who deparately need it. And, a big Thank You to everyone who did contribute along the way. It really made me feel that my work here was important and that people were behind me 100%.

My last few days were quiet and anticlimactic. I worked two days at the clinic and Tami wasn't there for either one. I talked to him on Thursday and it never crossed his mind that it was my last day. But, that's very much in line with the lack of thanks I got from him. The rest of the staff either forgot or didn't care much as they didn't say anything either. Spiwo said that they won't understand what I did until I'm gone - that may be true but it doesn't give one warm fuzzies.

I finished at the Centre yesterday and it was much of the same. I think many people really didn't know I was leaving. I told a couple people on Wednesday and they were shocked. In truth, I liked it that way better than having a big celebration, but a small acknowledgment would have been nice, too. I gave each of the cooks a scarf as thanks for taking care of me. They were very appreciative and I think they will really miss me.

I didn't see many other people. I have to be in Guguletu on Monday to drop off some things, so I'll make a few calls then.

On a fun note, we've set up some baseball games with a local team, the Phillipi Angels, for tomorrow. It should be lots of fun for the kids, and the coaches, too. I'll be sure to write about that later.

More to come.