August 9, 2008

How do we leave this place?

The students sang us traditional Xhosa songs during the farewell ceremony

Teachers dressed in traditional Xhosa clothing and sang and danced with us

Our final week in the township of Nomathamsanqa was filled with the excitement of teachers learning new skills and eager to learn more, and the reality of the need for books that the students can read along with up-to-date computers that work consistently. We pledged to raise money for both (more on that in our next addition).

The school gave us an extraordinary farewell party, filled with singing and dancing by students and teachers, along with touching presentations. While we waited for the dignitaries to arrive, the students taught Sara new games and sang with Larry and Eileen. At the farewell event, the mothers in the community surprised everyone (even the principal) by giving each of us hand-crafted African garments which we will always treasure.

At the end of our last day, all the students gathered in the courtyard and sang us our favorite songs as we waved goodbye and tearfully hugged our teaching colleagues for the last time. We dragged ourselves into the car as students gathered around the vehicle, and the principal had to create a lane for us to pull out. We are emotionally drained.

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Yet the day did not end. We tried to teach some of the faculty how to access email, yet the computers at the school were too old and slow. We offered to meet a few teachers at the Internet café in the city of Port Elizabeth late Friday afternoon. Although we had been warned not to get our hopes up that the teachers might continue contact beyond the school because communication is so difficult, there they were … three teachers at the Internet café 10 minutes early. We signed them up for gmail accounts and they quickly began emailing each other and Larry who was at the 4th computer. Then we showed them how to do a search on Google. Their faces glowed with delight and excitement. The email notes they wrote reminded us of how special this place is: “We are now computer literate, thanks to the Kuglers.” “WE ARE NOW CONNECTED TO THE WORLD. We will never forget this day.” Nor will we.