January 29, 2010
From the moment I stepped off of the plane, and out into the fresh, pure air of South Africa, I knew that this vacation would be the best yet. The big white taxi whirled around the long round driveway and I caught my first glimpse of my “home” for the next few weeks . “No way! Shut up!” I couldn’t believe my eyes. “It’s amazing!” My eyes traced along the rows and columns of windows and balconies. This trip just kept getting better! After entering the mini-mansion, I was warmly greeted by my cousins, who I would be staying with. The last time our families had seen each other was six years ago, so we had a lot of catching up to do over dinner. We talked and talked and talked. At about 1:00 in the morning I finally got some shuteye.
I yawned groggily and rubbed the sleep out of the corners of my eyes. I zombie-walked to the bathroom and turned on the faucet. Just when I saw the first signs of fog on the mirror, I slipped in the shower and was instantly awakened. Today was going to be another beautiful day! The itinerary was jam-packed. After eating my aunt’s famous egg-and-Bovril breakfast, we are traveling to the old gold mines of South Africa to pan. Then, we are going on a wild safari to see exotic animals from lions to flamingos. Lastly, we’re heading out for traditional African cuisine. I couldn’t wait for the day to really begin. I took my place at the breakfast table and began munching on my toast. Just as I reached for the orange juice my brother walked, half-asleep, down the stairs. “We have to tell you guys something,” my parents said to him and I. “We thought that taking a trip to the mine and going on a safari wouldn’t be as meaningful as going to a village and walking in a local’s shoes for the day.” Keegan’s milk sloshed out of his cup after he slammed his glass onto the wooden table. “What?!” we both exclaimed simultaneously. “I was looking forward to the mine the most!” “How am I supposed to see a zebra?!” Keegan and I groaned in harmony. After realizing that there was nothing we could do to change our parents minds, Keegan and I reluctantly piled into the van we rented and set off for what seemed like was going to be the worst day of the trip. Even though I wasn’t in the mood, I couldn’t help but ogle at the beauty, just driving down the road. The bushes were so copious and you could just make out Table Top Mountain in the background. Just as I saw an ostrich in the distance, my eyes spotted a not-so-pretty sight right in front of me. It was like an entire colony of little hand-built shacks. Rows and rows of them. One after another. Many were falling apart. Others were practically uninhabitable. I knew Africa was a poor country. But this? Thousands of eight foot by eight foot houses didn’t seem to fit in with the gorgeous scenery. This part of town was so poor that signs were poster saying “Car-jacking Area. Don’t Park Here.” That’s how poverty-stricken these people were. We drove a little ways down and then turned on to a long gravel road. You could see dark children playing in the bushes, grinning widely. An elderly lady welcomed us with gold cuffs around her neck that spoke minimal English. She told us her name was Mamatembu. She took us to meet the “medicine man” first. Inside his hut, there were mounds of plants in the corner. I was devastated that this was their form of health care. What if someone was seriously hurt? What would they do then? She nodded then proceeded in touring us around the village. Mamatembu took us to a very large, open hut where men played drums. After that, she led us to where all of the children village played: an open field with a scattered thorn trees. That was it. No playground. No toys. No nothing. Just themselves and nature. Yet, they were so happy. All of the little boys and girls wrapped themselves around us. They gave us hugs for what felt like hours. We didn’t have any way of communicating but they were so content with us just being there. They laughed and played and loved taking pictures! It was so funny: whenever we would say, “Smile!” they would open their mouths really big and let their jaws hang wide. The kids were filled with so much joy. I know that they haven’t been taught much about God, but I think his spirit definitely lives in them.
When we drove back to the house later that night I realized how much I really had. I knew that what I had in my suitcase was more then those villagers will have their entire lives. I remembered when I was younger. I was always rewarded with Barbie dolls. I got a playhouse for my Keegan and I in the back yard. My grandma always used to shower with me with clothes from Limited Too on Christmas. I was so unthankful and threw tantrums whenever I didn’t get what I wanted. I wasn’t like the children I met. That day I experienced firsthand how some people had so little but were so grateful for what they had. I realized I already had so much but always wanted more, more, more. I took everything for granted. Before encountering poverty in South Africa, I never counted my blessings. But, afterwards, I thanked God a whole lot more for everything I had. My family, my friends, my house, my possessions, my everything.

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