One of my favorite and most memorable experiences in South Africa so far was the rural homestay experience that we had the privilege of participating in. Four other students and I stayed in a homestead in a sub-community called Guyuni of the larger HaMakuya village in the northern parts of South Africa’s Limpopo Province.
To say the least, I was really anxious about this experience. Like Jasmine, I’ve never really had a homestay experience and was sort of afraid that they would hate us, or that we wouldn’t be accepted. I was wrong. Though there were a couple awkward moments towards the beginning of our experience with not being able to communicate, I eventually grew a bond with our host family that I will appreciate forever.
But first, if I had to give an accurate description of what we did in Guyuni, I would have to say that we played with kids for 75% of the time. After our game vehicle dropped us off into our homestead the first day, our group decided to walk to a nearby soccer field where what seemed like hundreds of kids-there were maybe only 40-could play and interact with us. As we walked there though the community, we seemed to attract more and more attention. So naturally, more and more kids and adolescents followed.
After hours of non-stop playing with the kids in the community, our group agreed that we wanted to get to know our host mother and family more, so we asked her if we could help out with any household duties around the homestead. Her response was to teach us how to make pap (see Jasmine’s post).
Boy, was it difficult. The process starts off by mixing water and the pap powder together to form a paste. As it becomes more homogenous with mixing and time, you gradually add more and more until the mixture becomes heavily thick and difficult to handle- well at least for us novices. Our host mom seemed to mix the pap mixture like it was nobody’s business.
Though it took some time and effort to communicate with our family, I gradually learned many things about them that touched my heart. What really got me was their openness in sharing the struggles and joys of their lives to me. Though I knew no Venda, I somehow was able to have a conversation with our host sister about faith and life.
Finally, one of my favorite parts of the days was when our family and their friends came over and wrote their names in my journal. Though I honestly can’t remember a third of the people whose names I have inscribed in my journal, I know that I’ll remember them and my experience in Guyuni even when I’m over 8,600 miles away in Chicago.