Saturday, July 19, 2008

Take My Picture!

The children smile and wave as our van pulls up to the school. A few greet us in the front hall as we look at their artwork from last summer. We are introduced to the children.

-Can we show them our classrooms?

Sandy says they can, and a small girl with beautiful braids has taken a shine to Meghan. She grabs her hand and then mine. She takes us to her classroom and proudly shows us where she sits.

-What is your favorite thing to do in school?

We go outside. We take pictures. Meghan takes a Polaroid. There are several children now and they delight in seeing their faces appear on the small photo. More are taken. Since there isn’t enough to give to everyone, we take them to the teacher to keep and show in class.

Little girls are holding my hands and swinging them.

-This is like Ring Around the Rosie.
-Ring Ring Rosies!

They know the game. Suddenly we are dancing in a circle. We all fall laughing. It’s effortless. The experience has taken on a life of its own.

-Take my picture!
-Take my picture!

I take many photos, always showing the children their images in my digital camera.
They tell me their names, beautiful, musical, difficult names for my American brain to hang onto.

The girls show me clapping games. I don’t know the words but remember the rhythm. It is all so much the same but not the same.

-Take my picture!
-Take my picture!

Boys pose like gangster rappers, just like the little boys at home.
The girl with the braids sings an Usher song, “You’re much too beautiful girl…..” She knows all the words.

-Take my picture!
-Take my picture!

Now there are older girls, about age 15. They share their names. One wants to be called Vu Vu. I can do that! One is Yolanda. I know that name! They all laugh.

Yolanda is well-spoken, self-possessed. She is the leader, the voice of the group.

-What do you think of South Africa?
-It’s beautiful. Do you know how beautiful your country is?
-Yes, we love it!

And she means this. She says is almost reverently.

-Do you like school?
-Yes, it is important for making a life.
-What do you all want to do when you grow up?
-To be a lawyer.
-To be a doctor.
-To be a social worker.
-To be a doctor.
-To be a social worker.
-Those are important things.
-It is important to give back to our country.

Again, this is not a platitude. She means this.

They are baffled when I tell them my son attends school just a little more than 9 months out of the year.

-What does he do with all that extra time?!

They are elegant and mature. I want to stay and talk. There is much to learn from these girls.

But, it is time to go and I make my way back to the van, stopping along the way to take more photos.

A boy stops me.

-Will you be my friend?
-Here is my card.
It is a postcard photo of him. His name is written on the back, Thembelani Mtshengu.
-We are friends now.


Liana said...


coolgirlsar said...

I have a beautiful photo of this in my mind. You are going to have so many wonderful emotional memories from this trip.

Stay safe.

Cindy Cooper said...

Thanks, guys. Apart from Jackson's birth, this is probably one of the most powerful things that has ever happened to me.