"There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find ways in which you yourself have altered" -Nelson Mandela A Long Walk to Freedom 1994
The city of San Francisco is exactly how I left it.
Friends ask, how was South Africa? I reply, "It was Amazing!" They expect more and listen intently as I reply, "Cape Town is gorgeous, I loved the ocean side scenery. The food was amazing. I was eating things I couldn't even recognize on Safari. Safari? I saw a Lion. I saw a Hippo. Holy Elephants and Giraffes! What's a Springbok! Melville (Joburg suburb/neighborhood) was so cute and we had impromptu music jam night that was off the hook. My inn was gorgeous. I crack at the surface of my adventure and I give information about the tourist experiences I had.
With very few people, I have reflected beyond this. Others, who I know want to hear the deeper connections and details I have put off. My mind is still racing. It feels surreal that one week ago I was teaching an amazing group of educators about Social Media, Project Based Learning and Flipped Classrooms. It was one week ago that while I was in the position of presenter, it was me who was learning so much. It was just about one week ago that the lump in my throat wouldn't dissipate as I watched teachers celebrate their winnings in our daily draws... headphones, cd's, microphones and computers. How could they be excited about an 8 year old computer? I now knew why. Their tool kits had been added to, they were off to discover new ways to inspire their students.
It was one week ago that I had to nod goodbye to many folks, Including Victor who had spent time 3 weeks at Town School last year, because that lump in my throat had turned into tears running down my eyes as I thought about what WE had accomplished. Leap School Teachers being the center of that WE, not us presenters.
Coming full circle with Leap School and being able to travel to South Africa was an experience of a lifetime. And while I have already discussed that the trip was much more about what I learned, then what I was able to share (at least for me personally) I have to acknowledge that these two things are entwined. It certainly did a lot for my own professional growth as it pertains to outreach, learning, and global bridge building, They say you learn the most about yourself when you are challenged emotionally. We all were. But I traveled with a supportive group of educators that listened to my stories, laughed at my jokes, and gave themselves to me as a support system unconditionally for 15 days... and we rarely left one another's sides. I learned. I learned. I learned. Hey, perhaps one of them can tell you about my trip to South Africa, because I am still struggling with the words.
So, "How was South Africa?" to be honest, I don't really know what to say. I am not being short on purpose. I am not trying to blow off the experience. It was deep. It was meaningful. It was educational. It certainly was amazing. So I challenge you, just like I challenge my students all the time, to ask me a specific question, a deep question, one that may encourage a more thoughtful response. I sure do have a story or two to share.
"How did you feel as a white person learning about the Apartheid?,
"What were the township schools like and how did you feel when visiting them?"
"Were the teachers of Leap excited to learn alongside you, how did you know?
"Did you come in contact with any people that thought apartheid was the right thing for South Africa?"
"Would you go back and why?"
"What were your top 5 moments? What were you top 5 challenging moments?"
The city of San Francisco is exactly how I left it. In time I will share an anecdote or two that gives you some insight as to how I have altered because of my journey.