Tuesday, August 12, 2008

And so the journey begins

It's hard to imagine a place like Kliptown is some people's reality. Living in shacks pieced together by scraps of metal and plywood, with trash everywhere, no electricity and children running around carelessly. Yet in the midst of the poorest spot in Johannesburg, are some of the happiest most energetic people I have ever met. "We may be poor in materialistic, but we are very, very, very rich in spirit," said Thulani, one of the community's greatest leaders. He gave us a tour of the place he calls home, and I honestly felt like I was back in The Grapes of Wrath - a play I was in that portrayed what life was like during the Great Depression. While we walked through the shanty town, little children followed us, tugging and pulling on our clothing begging us to "shoot them" - take their picture. There was no denying we were strangers walking aimlessly around this deprived, underdeveloped town, but everyone greeted us so warmly. I didn't for a second question my safety or acceptance. "Just feel right at home."

Right in the middle of the town was a school. Entering it was like crossing a threshold into the promise land. Education is their only way of having any kind of opportunity. And that was what we had come to South Africa to improve. Although we wouldn't be spending our time in Kilptown, I was glad we went there first. It was inspiring and encouraging that we would be welcomed and that people here were eager to learn. The trip had certainly begun on a good start.

Our first weekend was spent in Kruegar Park, a huge wildlife reservation filled with leopards, water buffalo, heinas - one came up to our car and stuck his nose against the window... creepy - zebras, impalas, many different kinds of birds, hippos, alligators, and so much more, all of which we got to see. Our weekend at Kruegar was perfect for our group to relax and get to know one another before we had to get serious. It was absolutely beautiful there. I wish I had the time to tell you what it was like, but I am paying for every minute I spend on the internet. I have tons of pictures though.

Today was our first day in the schools. We distributed the 100 laptops to the most grateful, enthusiastic students at three different schools. I got the majority of it on tape. I can't wait to share it with you. For the next two weeks, we will set up the internet at each school and teach the students and teachers everything we know about the laptops and managing them. Can you imagine learning in one day what a computer was AND the internet and then being told you had to learn how to use both? So overwhelming. For all those who are as incompetent with the internet as my parents you know exactly what I am talking about.

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