That moment I dreaded since before I left in June has come. My six-month long journey has come to a bittersweet end. It’s Saturday, November 16th, which means I only have a few hours to pack my belongings and say goodbye to everyone one last time before a taxi picks me up.
I woke up early and immediately went into town to take care of some last minute things and post a blog. Unfortunately, the Wi-Fi at the McDonald’s wasn’t working properly, so the trip to Stellenbosch was cut short. I went back to Kayamandi and walked home to the smell of pancakes and bacon. Clara was making a delicious going-away breakfast for me and everyone. Her pancakes are amazing and I couldn’t wait to try them again! While she did that, I went to my room to pack the remainder of my things. I had seven bottles of sand from seven different countries I collected on this trip that I was taking home with me. They were pretty heavy and I was worried my luggage would be overweight at check-in. To fight that, I decided to leave a majority of my clothes here for whoever needed them. These are clothes I have been wearing every week for six months straight, so I was fine with never having to see them again. There were a select few shirts I kept that had special meaning to me, like my Tough Mudder shirt and my Go Go Pai shirt I wore while motorbiking through Pai in Thailand. Everything else, the kids and volunteers could have. It really helped lighten my bag. Yesterday, I gave Mawande my “No Money, No Honey” shirt I bought in Cambodia, one of my personal favorite shirts on this trip.
Once I was all packed, breakfast was just about ready and all of the volunteers made their way to the dining room. Clara slaved away all morning making breakfast while Theresa made everyone tea. Everything was great and I appreciate you guys for doing that! While we were eating, I gave everyone an individually written note with pictures attached to it. I wrote the notes days ago and always intended on giving it to them right before I left. They really liked them!
I was supposed to see Isaac all this week but something kept coming up, so I texted him seeing if he was around. He was…kinda. He was actually in Stellenbosch but in the middle of a wine tour. Isaac didn’t want me to leave without seeing him so he rushed to Kayamandi in his Hotspots van along with his tour group to say farewell. He could only chat for a couple minutes and it was understandingly so, he had a van full of tourists with him! Thanks for stopping by Isaac and thanks for everything!
I still had a few more hours until my taxi arrived. It was pouring rain outside so I was a little worried none of the kids would come over because of it. While I was waiting around, Hanneke, Mieke, and I decided to give in to a few more episodes of Big Bang Theory for old times sake. While we were watching, some of the kids started showing up, one by one. Miriam also came by to say goodbye!
I considered Miriam, the unofficial ninth volunteer at Mama Zulu’s, because we saw her pretty often. This girl drove us everywhere! Thanks again Miriam. She brought cookies and cocoa with her for us to enjoy while we waited for the rain to pass. And as time passed, more kids showed up just in the nick of time. I only had about a half hour left and it was still raining quite a bit.
The first ones I had to say goodbye to were all the German volunteers. They had a graduation ceremony they had to attend at the Trust Center they all work at. Eric was the first to say goodbye. He was great to have here! He always put me in a great mood and it was always a good time whenever he was around. I left my flag of Fiona on his bedpost for him, so Fiona could watch over and bring him good luck! I hope the girls appreciate your “presents” as much as I did Eric!
Next up was Clara, Gesa, and Theresa. They were helping to run and manage the graduation ceremony, so they had to leave early too. The night I went out with the German girls into town was one of the funnest nights I’ve had here in South Africa. It turns out Clara has a brother who is studying abroad in Michigan, my neck of the woods. I told Gesa and Clara I would send them pop-tarts when I got back home. Blueberry ones to be exact! Gesa has never had them before and Clara’s had them when she visited America and loved them! Theresa would remain in South Africa until February so she still has a lot of time to enjoy the country. Ladies, it was a pleasure having you as housemates and you were a lot of fun too! Once I get a new phone, I’ll be sure to Snapchat you guys all the time!
Some time passed and it was about time for me to go. RiRi jumped in to carry my bags out to the front while I assembled the Zulu family to take a family picture. Gosh, I am going to miss these guys so much! Papa Zulu, Mama Zulu, Lelethu, and Buscha definitely occupy a special place in my heart – my family outside of America. It was a pleasure coming back to live with them again like old times and it was always comforting to know that I had them to rely on here in Kayamandi. I promised them that I will be back again one day, just not sure when. Not too long hopefully!
The taxi arrived and the boys followed me out front under the patio from all the rain. They all remained in silence as I hugged each of them goodbye. It still hasn’t sunk in that it might be a long while before I ever see any of these guys if ever again. They still have a lot of growing to do and hopefully they still come around to the Zulu’s often to hang out with the other remaining volunteers. I think with them being around us all the time, they get a better sense of the will to do well in life, rather than hanging around at their homes all day. I always had a great time with them, everything from the Reaching Out 2 The World trip, to our many rounds of Ninja, to the cinemas, their first Halloween party, to traversing through Kayamandi’s backyard!
I honestly don’t know when I will be back in South Africa again. Maybe I can surprise these guys and come back during their high school graduation? That would be awesome! But who knows, that’s so far down the road. It’s great that some of the kids have Facebook accounts now where we can keep in contact. Even Avele has been emailing me everyday asking about how everything is going. Hopefully the keep it up!
It was finally time to go now. Mieke and Hanneke actually accompanied me to the airport. I have to say, I couldn’t imagine my stay in South Africa without them. We constantly made fun of each other but it was always in a fun, friendly nature. I really do appreciate people who I can be silly with and just be a goofball. I was able to do that with them all the time! Mieke and Hanneke also became official members of the Reaching Out 2 The World team with all of the help they’ve offered. And I’m glad I introduced them to Mzoli’s and showed them how to do it the correct way! I really do appreciate you two ladies and I look forward to seeing you two again in the near future…in like 8 months (more about that on a future post). Once we walked in the airport, Mieke and Hanneke forced me to push them on a luggage cart. Typical Dutch :). And as we waited in line for me to check my luggage, we reminisced on everything we’ve went through since I came to South Africa in September. They really are loyal through and through.
It was time for me to head to the international departure where I said goodbye to them before they went off back to the South African world. At that point, I really didn’t know what kind of emotions I was feeling. I was bummed to leave everyone but anxious to see everyone at home. However, I was bummed to be going home, but still relishing in all the great memories I made on this trip. I also wasn’t looking forward to four different flights spread over more than 30 hours to get back to Detroit!
Goodbyes are not forever, goodbyes are not the end. They simply mean I’ll miss you, until we meet again. One more post.