June 23, 2009

Lots of goodbyes

I’m writing this post from the Jo-burg airport, killing a long layover on my way out of South Africa for the last time. (For now.) It’s over.

I had to say goodbye to lots of people these last few days and weeks. That’s not an easy thing to do, especially when so many of them don’t quite understand just how far away it is I am going.

In lieu of any sustained reflection on the experience or the departure, I’m just going to post some pictures with a few captions to show you some of the people that have been in my life these past few years.

There was my Bible study group, which had a good-bye potluck for me.
Joe, Zama, and I were the only guys there that night.
There was Yoliswa, my fabulous Xhosa tutor these past two years. I’m still looking for conversation partners to keep my Xhosa up in the U.S.
There was my friend Adam, the only white medical student in Mthatha.
My missionary friend Matt came up for one last weekend in Mthatha. As luck would have it, when he left I had to push his car in my pajamas to pop the clutch.
There were professionals around Mthatha I’ve come to now in the course of my daily work. One is Sister Nellie, who is the driving force at Ngangalizwe Health Centre. After a relationship that was occasionally contentious, she was surprisingly magnanimous the last time I saw her.
There was also the deputy principal of Nozuko High School, who has been on me as long as I’ve known him to help him raise money to build a hall at the school so they can host events and generate income for the school. He works so hard with so little reward. I happened to show up during a parents’ meeting to vote on new members of the parents’ advisory board. He wanted me to run for the board and didn’t seem to understand that I was telling him I was leaving. He at least insisted I vote. I have never cast a less-informed ballot.
In Itipini, I had time to lead more round of morning prayers with the pre-school children.
Then I set out to visit all the many people in Itipini who have shaped my life, like the Nophondo clan that was busy washing their clothes when I went to see them…
...and the crowd in one of the shebeens
...and a former TB patient…
...and the daughter of a staff member who died while I’ve been in Itipini…
...and a woman whose name I love to say, Nomadamazana Malangeni, who is happily lost in a mental fog most days...
...and a current TB patient, who tried to hide his alcohol behind his foot and his cigarette in his hand when he saw me. (You can see the smoke coming from his hand.)…
...and Johnson, one of our watchmen…
...and Zanemvula, one of the few older men in Itipini I genuinely like and respect. I was so touched when his daughter died suddenly last year. As he is one of the taller people in Itipini, I gave him all the clothes I had decided to leave behind. I was a bit embarrassed I had three boxes worth of pants, shirts, sweaters, shoes, and much more to give away and my luggage was still way over weight. He liked it though…
...and then finally the staff, who gathered for a goodbye on my last afternoon.
I’m using the time in the airport to polish off a few more posts I’ve been meaning to write for a while so keep scrolling down to read more about these last few days in Itipini.

1 comments:

Judi said...

Very touching photos, Jess. You will be so missed in Itipini.