Friday, October 15, 2010

Service Learning

Most of the educators at Moshaweng High School live on campus. When they go home for lunch, they only go about thirty feet. P and I, however, are forced to venture beyond school grounds. We're neighbors, and I've come to enjoy our afternoon chats on the quick walk home.

There is one road through Loopeng of unusual size and it is well-trafficked. The school sits on one side, and our homes on the other. This road is primarily composed of sand, and if you're anywhere near it when a vehicle passes you'll swear you were just at the epicenter of a massive sandstorm. Thus, when P and I came to the road this afternoon and saw a bakkie headed our way, we hurried across as fast as we could. There was no way we wanted to cross the road in the desert-storm atmosphere that followed the vehicle.

As soon as we were safe on the other side, we looked back to see where the bakkie was headed. It was stopped at the school. "Who could it be?" we wondered.

We found out soon enough. The bakkie followed us and pulled up just outside P's house. Windows were rolled down, doors were opened and greeting were exchanged. It turned out to be people both P and I are familiar with. It was the staff of an organization that runs service learning trips for international schools in the area.

Today's visitors are the third distinct group to visit Moshaweng this year. I know more are coming. Each group is usually composed of a dozen or so high school students from Europe, Australia or Asia accompanied by a sort of tour director and a few school staffers. The projects they work on vary. Some work in primary schools, reading stories to children, some work in high schools, reviewing for the matric exams. Quite often they bring and donate an assortment of school and health-related items. They seem to appear from nowhere, stay for a week or two, and then just *poof* vanish... until the next group arrives.

They are, by and large, a friendly, well-intentioned bunch, but I always get a sinking feeling whenever they show up. "Great," I think, "More rich white people on vacation. Hello, neo-colonialism! Welcome, traveling salesmen for capitalism and consumption! Here come the troops to pad their college applications, gawk at poverty, find themselves and go home again."

I wonder how many people thought or think the same about me.

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