Port Elizabeth Reflection

Our venture in Port Elizabeth took us into three (3) major townships:

  1. New Brighton – W. B. Tshume and Charles Duna Primary Schools;
  2. Kwanoxolo – Emmanuel Advice Care Center;
  3. Kwazakhele – Jerusalem Home and the Shebeen.

During these experiences, there were a great number of life lessons that surfaced for me.

Studying abroad is one of the biggest steps you can take outside of your comfort zone.  I have traveled abroad in a diverse group from different cultures and we have been challenged with culture shock.  Although culture is variously defined, it is an integrated system of learned behavior patterns, which includes ways of living together, value systems, traditions, behaviors and beliefs.  The group’s adjustment process intensified during our transition and our social space clashed with each other.  Our study abroad experience should have been empirically observed as an opportunity to develop ways of managing and building social relationships, especially among ourselves.

As we became connected in South Africa, multi-cultural collaboration was increasingly needed.  The cultural differences among our group existed and became part of our relationships, became barriers to working together and challenged the collaboration.  As people from different cultures working together, values conflicted and individuals sometimes reacted in ways that made the partnership ineffective.

In order to promote a unified effort, we needed to overcome differences and understand one person was not going to know everything.  It was important that everyone understood and agreed to the purpose of the collaboration, the degree of commitment required and the expectation of the people involved in the effort.  An effective multicultural collaboration would have allowed us to learn from each other, inspires a sense of community, to greater productivity and a happier environment.

Culture can be different for each individual and therefore affected by it differently.  In order to work with people from different cultural groups effectively, I personally feel it necessary to build sturdy and caring relationships based on trust, understanding, and shared goals.  Because trusting relationships are the glue that holds people together as they work on a common problem, they will need to support each other in order to stay with the effort, even when it feels discouraging.  People need to resist the efforts of those who use divide-and-conquer techniques–pitting one group against another.

Each situation is different and may require a different solution.  Part of the process of becoming culturally aware is knowing that you don’t know everything, situations may not make sense and that your assumptions may be wrong.  Assume differences, not similarities.  It is important to take the appropriate amount of time to evaluate situations, for the unique situation it is, before you act.

The more complicated and uncertain life is, the more we tend to seek control.  Sometimes good intentions to solve problems can get out of control.  Planting seeds has power.  The growth of the seeds is out of our control and we should avoid the temptation to check on them.  When we have sown the seeds, we have done all we can do.  We should go about our business and leave the seeds to do what they do.  We tend to want to help the seeds grow.   The seed will sprout; it may take a minute, an hour, a month or maybe even years.

Ultimately, this experience has shown me the value of the Golden Rule; “Do unto others as you will have them do unto you.”  Though, this rule is widely stated and used, I think it is interpreted in many ways.  My interpretation of this rule means, “Don’t expect what you are unwilling or unable to give.”  For example, don’t expect kindness, if you cannot be kind; don’t expect friendliness, if you cannot be friendly; don’t expect trust, if you cannot be trusting; don’t expect to be respected, if you cannot give respect.  When you expect what you are unable or unwilling to give, you are a user who takes advantage of givers in life.

In order to gain insight into a different culture, you must be able to understand the state of mind, beliefs, desires and particularly emotions of others.  In order to understand another person, we need to try standing in their shoes. Through empathy we learn of how other people would like to be treated by us.

This journey and hopefully more life lessons continue as we move to Cinsta East…

Us packed up to move to Cinsta East…

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My Favorite Place in Port Elizabeth – King’s Beach

While we were engrossed in working in the townships, I found my most favorite place in Port Elizabeth.

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It was right across the street from where we were living.

Where we lived

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The street I had to cross to get to Kings Beach

King’s Beach, a 1.6km stretch of golden sand between the harbor wall and the neighboring Humewood Beach, is the perfect family beach, with plenty of space and well-maintained change rooms and ablution facilities.

Scenes I shot during my visits to King’s Beach

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One afternoon, I had lunch at Angelo’s, Afritalian Cafe and enjoyed a tasty pasta and a slice of Red Velvet cake that was to die for, while enjoying the stunning view on the Beach.

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Where I sat for lunch

I took time every morning before we were picked up to go to King’s Beach for a MUCH NEEDED Morning Meditation; to relieve stress and help me relax.  As any person with a Morning Routine knows, if you are consistent with your days and times, you will begin to meet friends that will miss you, when you don’t show.  And I did.  This is one of my Morning Friends I met.  During Spring break, I showed up for Morning Meditation late, because our pick up was later and on the first day he said, “You’re Late!”

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I am definitely going to miss the luxury of walking across the street to engage in Morning Meditation on the Beach.

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Farewell Gathering from Charles Duna Primary School

On October 04, which was our last day, the Faculty and Teachers gathered to present us with a semi-official Charles Duna Farewell.  Due to the school hosting a Memorial on the same day as our last day for Mr. Mpumzi Xolisa Genius, who was Charles Duna’s Math Teacher and passed away during our tenure; so a semi-official Farewell was given to us.

They began the gathering singing and dancing with us.

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Speeches were given by Ms. Sume, the principal

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An administrator

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Ms. Koleka, as a representative for the Teachers in Grade R

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Khosi, a 7th Grader as the representative for the students.

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Ms. Sume presented us with Charles Duna duffle bags as tokens of appreciation.

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Prof (as Dr. Murphy is known in South Africa) gave final words of thanks and appreciation.

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The gathering ended socializing and sharing cake and pop.

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Heritage Day Celebration at Charles Duna Primary School

Heritage Day is a public holiday in South Africa celebrated on September 24.  On this day, South Africans across the spectrum are encouraged to celebrate their culture and the diversity of their beliefs and traditions, in the wider context of a nation that belongs to all its people.  Because school was closed for the Spring Break on September 24, Charles Duna held its Heritage Day celebration on October 03.

Under the leadership of Mr. Mfunda, with us (Study Abroad Interns) as Project Managers, the 7th Graders created and presented a Heritage Day Celebration, where they honored the culture heritage of the India people, San people and the Xhosa people.

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Jaimee was the Project Manager for the India people.

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Amber was the Project Manager for the Xhosa people.

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i was the Project Manager for the San people.

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Former students of Charles Duna came and performed at the celebration.

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Even the 4th Graders dressed for the occasion.

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Me and the San people

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Internship Work at Charles Duna Primary School

Unlike our tour in Cape Town where we viewed the townships from a distance, in Port Elizabeth the township played a pivotal role in providing us the opportunity to experience true urban Africa; we did everything in the township (except live).  A township is a suburb or city of predominantly black occupation, formerly officially designated for black occupation by apartheid legislation.

We were all placed in Primary Schools in the New Brighton township, which is Port Elizabeth’s best known and one of the oldest townships.  During the struggle against apartheid the area was known for its strong politics, and the first cell of the African National Congress’s military wing Umkhonto We Sizwe was formed here.  New Brighton is home to around 40,000 people, who live in a mixture of wooden and corrugated iron shacks, and more substantial government-built housing.

Remember, this is where we went for the Shebeen

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Jaimee and I were placed at Charles Duna Primary School, where Ms. Nombulelo Sume is the principal.

The Main (Office) Building

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The Principal, Ms. Nombulelo Sume

In the mornings we worked with Grade R (Readiness), where Ms. Mandisa and Ms. Koleka were the teachers.

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In their classroom alone, there are 68 enrolled students.

The Girls

The Boys

The Entire Class 

The thing I admired most was that class started everyday with a prayer and a song.  All of the children knew the prayer and the song.

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The most beautiful thing about these children was their eagerness to learn; they were thirsty for knowledge.

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And the children were just darn cute!!

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In the afternoon, we worked with Mr. Mfunda in Grade 7 in their Life Skills classes.  

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They were working on a Heritage Day project, where the 7th graders were divided in four groups that represented four different cultures; English People, India People, San People and Xhosa People.  The purpose of the project was learning about different cultures in relations to their artifacts, clothing, dance, food and housing,  We were assigned to a group as the Project Manager and I was assigned to the San People group.

The Leaders of the San People group

The Artifacts group

The Clothing Group

The Food Group

The Housing Group

The Dance Group

Khosi was my Lead Helper and Interpreter.  I most graciously THANK her for that!

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We held a successful Parent Meeting for the Parents of Grade R.

Parent, Teachers and Students from the Parent Meeting

We held impressive Pre- and Post- Faculty, Grade R Teachers and Interns Meeting.

Post Meeting (Prof; as Dr. Murphy is known in South Africa)

Post Meeting (Paul)

Jaimee and I created and implemented a Pen Pal Program with Ms. Phulma Mgcuwa and the 4th Graders.  

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We matched the 4th Graders with 4th Graders from Martin Luther King Elementary School in Dixmoor, IL (where my Daughter-In-Law, LaToya King-Lawrence is the Counselor) and 4th Graders from Neoga Middle School in Neoga, IL (where Jaimee’s mother, Shari Roy is a Para-Professional),  We were successful in getting 70 students to write letters.  We took each of their pictures to attach to their letters and were able to mail them on Friday; October 04.

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