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Appreciation

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From the moment I stepped off the plane, and out into the fresh air of South Africa, I knew that this vacation would be the best yet. The big white taxi whirled around the curved 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. After much chatting and laughter, I finally got some shuteye at one o’clock in the morning.
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 into 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 were scheduled to travel to the old gold mines of South Africa to pan for gold. Then off on a wild safari to see exotic animals ranging from lions to baboons. Lastly, to be topped off with a traditional African dinner. 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 in, half-asleep. “We have to tell you guys something,” my parents said. “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 are we supposed to see zebras?!” 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 that we had rented and set off for what seemed like what 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 lush and one could just make out Table Mountain in the hazy distance. 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 posted saying, “Car-jacking Hot Spot. Don’t Park Here.” That’s how poverty-stricken these people were. We drove a little way and then turned on to a long gravel road. You could see indigenous children playing in the bushes, grinning widely. An elderly lady with gold cuffs around her neck, who spoke minimal English welcomed us. 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 proceeded to show 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 the village children played: an open field with 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 had not been taught much about God, but I believe that His Spirit definitely lived 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 remember when I was younger, I was always rewarded with Barbie dolls for my achievements. We even had a playhouse for my brother and I to play in. It was bigger than the huts that the children lived in. My grandma always used to shower me with clothes from Limited Too on Christmas. I was ungrateful and didn’t realize how spoiled I was. I wasn’t like the children I met in Africa. That day, I experienced firsthand how some people had so little, but were so grateful for what they had. I realized then, that I already had so much but always wanted more, more, more. I took so much for granted. Before encountering poverty in South Africa, I never counted my blessings. From that day onwards, I have tried to be more thankful to God for what I have. My family, my friends, my house, my possessions, my everything.





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