Thursday, December 13, 2007

Part Eight: The First Day of School

We were terrified about dancing. I mean...let's be honest...when a group of white college students dances in front of an assembly of African teens, do you expect them to be impressed?

They laughed. We knew they would, and hoped that they wouldn't, but we weren't surprised when they did.

After our assembly, we broke up into groups of two or three and taught classes. I didn't quite know what to say. How was I supposed to start? Would they ask me questions? How should I relate to them? What did I want to say? What if they didn't pay attention? Who in the world decided that I was capable of talking to African teens about abstinence when I wouldn't feel comfortable doing the same thing in my native country?

My first day at Mweshipandeka High School was too full and too real.

The young man who feigned disinterest while Robin was talking, but later came to ask me questions about HIV. He didn't want to get tested, because he was afraid to test positive. He couldn't have been older than sixteen.

A Grade 12 classroom with no books on the shelves.

Things that were heartbreakingly difficult to hear, and impossible to respond to: "I've heard that in the United States, they have the cure for AIDS, but they just want us Africans to suffer."

Kaylen and I walked into a Grade 9 Home Sciences class. They didn't have a teacher. As soon as we entered the classroom, the girls started screaming. "Can we hug you?" they squealed. We both said yes, and had girls running toward the front of the classroom. After a few minutes, most of them returned to their seats. They asked about the United States. Did we know any famous people? (No.) Were we movie stars? (Of course not.) What do you think of Namibia? (It's a very nice country, and I love the people.) We talked about sex, relationships, abstinence. One of the girls in the back asked if we were missionaries. I was taken aback, because yes, I was a missionary, and I hadn't realized it. The thought of being a missionary terrified me. This girl, Priscilla, wanted to be a missionary, and wanted to know how you become a missionary.

Those Grade 9 girls stole my heart that day. For the rest of the trip, all I wanted to do was hang out with them, laugh with them, mentor them. They were so incredibly open, and wanted to tell me everything about their lives: the good, the bad, the embarrassing, the exciting.

After their class, I went back to the gym and nearly cried when telling one of my teammates about the amazing love that these girls had shown me. These girls were yearning for someone to guide them, listen to them, care about them.

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