The morning seemed to come way too early. I typically wake on my own, but today was not the case. Natalie opened the door to my room to wake me at 5 AM…only 4 hours after laying down. But getting up this early has its purpose; we wanted to meet the PACE workers at the end of their shift with a hot breakfast in hand (Natalie’s idea).
Although the young PACE workers were notably tired, their spirits were high. Sibusiso, the team’s manager, was bustling with pride. They removed the grease stains overnight with drastic results. The energy of the men was infectious after Mark received an email stating that the parking lot manager was VERY pleased with their work and rescheduled them for another cleaning.
After a quick return back to Sherol’s for a power nap, we regrouped and headed out to pick up Ed’s rental car. It was an extremely compact Chevy Volt. I rode shotgun with Ed, and we were rubbing elbows while he shifted gears. We proceeded to pick up four other Aspire Youth leaders (African names followed by Anglicized names, if applicable): Dumisa (Ted), Yonela, Roslin (Roz), and Sindisiwe (Cindy). All of them have their talents to share: Dumisa targets educational equity, Yonela targets social equity and women’s empowerment, and Roz and Cindy target business and sales.
Driving on South African roads is an experience like no other. You need to dodge trucks shifted halfway off the road (to allow you to pass), goats, cows, and the occasional baboons. But the scenery was stunning; driving straight towards tall, majestic mountains. The ride alone was an adventure indeed!
We came to a farm/homestead in the mountains. Reuben, the owner, allowed us to explore his livestock (cows, ducks, ostrich, rabbits, goats, and a single free-range pig) and his trails leading us to a dam and into the wilderness. The air was crisp and clean, and the surroundings were welcoming.
Back in the cabin, we started to introduce each other and then get to know each other better. We shared some of our backgrounds, our motives, and some silly stories. Ed showed us some of his solar products, including solar phone chargers that he put together himself. When you have a group of likeminded people gathered together for the same cause, it doesn’t take long to form comraderies. Dinner was excellent – a traditional South African braai (barbeque). We had roasted chicken and sausage from a wood fire, maize with sour milk, and salad.
I was talking to the Aspire Youth leaders on the front porch while dinner was cooking. They were helping me speak Xhosa. I had a terrible time with this; there are so many consonants that are pronounced with sharp <click> sounds that my tongue is not used to doing. They gave me a name in Xhosa, and they helped me say it: “Nonceba”. The ‘c’ in “Nonceba” is replaced by a <click> which is formed from the roof of the mouth.
I asked them what that word meant. Their answer was “one who cares.”
I choked up.