Tuesday, February 15, 2011

“Listen exquisitely and embrace the people of the world” –Judy Mayotte

Author. Nun. Emmy award recipient. Professor. Amputee. Presidential Adviser.
Quite a resume, however, Judy Mayotte had the biggest impact on my life when she moved to Cape Town to found the Marquette University South Africa Service Learning Program.

The past weekend, our group of 20 students had the opportunity to visit Judy’s house in Cape Town for lunch.  Needless to say, we all went in thinking we would get a free meal and we would meet the woman who founded our program, but we were all shocked at what we learned.  Judy is an amazingly accomplished woman, who has been everywhere and done everything in her life.  Her credentials range from television producer of the series “Portrait of America” to Clinton’s Special Adviser on refugee issues.  She is actually moving back to America next month to work on the Obama campaign.  So cool.  Google her.  She's amazing.  Despite all this, she is extremely down to earth, and during our time at her house on Sunday, I learned much about her life, but it seemed to me that she was more interested in how we were adjusting to Cape Town and our service sites. 

My time at my service site has been interesting to say the least.  After being left in the office by myself the whole first day, I didn’t have very high expectations going in to the second day.  Day 2 was completely different than the first day.  Upon entering Zimasa, a teacher came up to me and told me that I would be working with her teaching English and Biology to grade 6.  I followed her to the classroom, where she began teaching the students nouns, verbs, and prepositions.  She then gave them an in-class assignment to complete and then she left, telling me she would be right back.  She didn’t come back for an hour, so after the kids finished their work, I just let them chat among themselves.  The language barrier makes it tough, because although I know that they know some English, I’m not sure how much they understand.  When the teacher came back, she looked at their assignments and then left again, explaining that she had a doctor appointment to go to, and telling me that they had worked on nutrition lately. 

So here I am, a strange American in a classroom with 44 South African children who are just staring at me, probably just as confused about the situation as I am.  I started teaching them about the food pyramid (good thing I paid attention in health in high school), and then I let a few of them read aloud to the class out of their English textbook, which they were really good at.  Next, they all just stood up and starting singing and praying in isiXhosa.  When they were finished, they all just walked out of the classroom.  I followed them and asked a teacher outside what was going on.  He replied that it was snack time.  Guess I missed that memo.  When they returned, I had run out of ideas, and still had an hour before Pearnel came to pick me up,so I had each of them say their name, age, favorite sport, and favorite animal, which took up a healthy hour and a half.  When I told the teacher next door that I was leaving he told me that they could just stay in the classroom unsupervised, so I said goodbye to them and they began following me out of the classroom when I left.  I had a panic attack because I thought they were trying to leave- but no, they just wanted to hug me goodbye.  All 44 of them.  It was awesome.     

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