Reflections on South Africa: Nelson Mandela Day

Today is Nelson Mandela’s Birthday, and therefore Mandela Day according to the UN. Considering how extremely famous President Mandela is among the black South African population, I expected some sort of assembly or event at school. So I was surprised when I got to school and the principal hadn’t realized what the day was. Oh village life….it was a shame we didn’t do anything to celebrate at school.

So as I watch Invictus in honour of the holiday, I’m going to use some quotes to illustrate my life in SA.

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
Obviously, being in the education sector of PCSA, I believe education is important. Providing the kids in my village with an education provides them with a key to a whole new world. They are given the chance to escape the poverty they were born into, and dramatically change the trajectory of their own lives. I am blessed to work with the kids in my village, and it is my hope that my two years of work in the school will impact their lives far more than it does mine. I won’t see the outcome of my work in the village, because I am investing in long term change. But I trust that the small “drop in the pond” that I am making now ripples out and has a larger impact on the lives of these kids.

“After climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb.”
This sums up PC service pretty well. It’s a constant battle of overcoming obstacles, and sometimes it just gets tiring! Trying to get things done while maneuvering through cultural and linguistic barriers is like doing a 1500 piece puzzle…that’s all white. Some days I just want to throw my hands up in the air and hide in my room, but that’s when my PCV friends are invaluable, because they know exactly what’s going on.

“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”
A lot of people think I’m brave for joining the Peace Corps and have told me so, and maybe they think I am not fearful. That is so far from the truth. I am scared of a lot of things, and being in SA has made me afraid of new things. But I refuse to allow those fears to take over and prevent me from doing what I’m doing. I’ve learned to lean on God in those times when I’m afraid, and am able to overcome my fear. Fear is not going to rule my life.

“If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.”
This explains why learning Setswana is so important to me. The joy on people’s face when I address them in Tswana still fills me with happiness. And here, it shows black South Africans that a white person cares enough about them to learn their language. Language can overcome racial barriers, and I’ve seen how a situation changes when I speak in Setswana, rather than the expected Afrikaans.

“It always seems impossible until it’s done.”
Sometimes I wonder if I’ll make it through two years, but since I’m already halfway through, maybe I can! It’ll seem like a piece of cake once I’m through with it, right?

“There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered.”
I realized how much I had changed when I visited America. While things had changed at home and with my parents’ lives, overall America was pretty much the same as when I left. Yet I certainly was not the same person. Living for a year in Africa will change you. It will be interesting to see what else has changed about me when I finish my service next year.

Hope you enjoyed my Mandela-inspired ramblings. In case you were wondering, all quotes were from Nelson Mandela. 😉
-Jen

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About Jen Daugherty

Christ follower. Writer. Permaculturist. RPCV. Photographer. Real Food Eater. Daughter of God.

2 thoughts on “Reflections on South Africa: Nelson Mandela Day

  1. It’s never too early to think about the Third Goal. Check out Peace Corps Experience: Write & Publish Your Memoir. Oh! If you want a good laugh about what PC service was like in a Spanish-speaking country back in the 1970’s, read South of the Frontera: A Peace Corps Memoir.

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