I would first like to start off by saying Happy Thanksgiving! I can’t believe it’s already that time of year again. I don’t think I’m the only one who thinks it came pretty quickly too. And before you know it, Christmas will be right around the corner!
In South Africa, Thanksgiving isn’t celebrated, so we didn’t do anything special. But this Saturday, Karen is hosting a special Thanksgiving meal for us, which is an all day event. That means getting there at 9am, baking amazing American Thanksgiving food, and watching Lord of the Rings. All. Day. Long. I really can’t ask for a better Thanksgiving 10,000 miles away from home.
These people here have become my family; especially the people I work with at Masibumbane. When I think about having to leave them, I get choked up. (Good thing I still have 8 more months here!) The language barrier was really hard at first; they would act like they’d know what I was saying, but i knew they had no idea. That’s when I took it upon myself to start learning their language. I wanted to form a relationship with these people; I wanted them to know that I was here to fully immerse into their culture. So by taking the time to write down Zulu words and phrases and to ask them questions, I began to learn the beautiful language. The saddest part about it is realizing that no one in the states speaks Zulu. Gah.
Yesterday was a rough Thanksgiving. I missed my family a lot, and Skyping them just seemed to make it worse; it made me want to be with them even more. I knew the family traditions that were going to happen that day, I knew where everyone was going to be, I knew who was making what food, I knew everything that was going down. And knowing that made me selfish. I wanted to go home. I was tired of being here, I’ve had enough. I just want to celebrate this day with my family. But before I fell asleep last night, I laid my head on my pillow, and remembered what Mama Olga had told me on Wednesday.
There was a young girl sitting beside me named Paleso. Absolutely stunning and beautiful Zulu girl. Mama Olga needed my help with something; Paleso needed a ride to Hilton to pick up eye drops for her eyes, and the taxi’s weren’t coming. Paleso needed to go ASAP, so she asked me for my help. While we were waiting for Nat to come and get us from the soup kitchen at Mpophomeni, Mama Olga started telling me a little bit about Paleso’s life.
Paleso is 17 years old; the oldest of her and her five siblings. Her parents both died. She and her siblings are orphaned, and she takes care of them. My mind was blown.
Okay, I thought. She’s 17, in the 10th grade, taking care of herself AND her younger siblings, while both of her parents are dead.
It makes the petty things I call ‘problems’ not be so big anymore.
So as I was laying there remembering what Olga had told me, I got out my iPod and made a quick note on the things I was grateful for. After I re-read it, they were things I don’t think I’ve ever taken the time to be grateful for in my life until that moment.
I’m grateful I have never been abused or raped.
I’m grateful that I am not living with HIV/AIDS or TB.
I’m grateful that I have a mom and dad who love me.
I’m grateful that both of my sisters are alive.
I’m grateful that I’m away from my family on this day, because it makes me appreciate them even more.
I’m grateful for the bars on all my windows and doors and the locks on every entrance of this house, because it means I am safe.
I’m grateful that Auntie is strict with me, because it means she loves me.
I’m grateful for being able to walk barefoot, but I’m also grateful for the shoes I do have.
I’m grateful that Jesus died for me, because that means that I can truly live.
I’m grateful that I gained 15 pounds in 3 months, because that means I am eating and I am healthy.
I’m grateful that I am here in South Africa, because I KNOW I’m not supposed to be anywhere else right now.
I’m grateful for the times when I feel broken, because I know that God is piecing me back together.
I am grateful for the kids that play with my hair and touch my skin.
I’m grateful for bucket baths, because I could not have any water at all.
It took me being here to realize the things I am truly grateful for.
Happy Thanksgiving. (: