After a week off in the creches, it was hard getting back into the swing of things. Even though we are only there from 8:30 am – 2 pm, Mondays to Thursdays I always come home ready for a nap. The first Monday back into the creches was a real challenge. I was exhausted and could barely keep my eyes open once the children went down for a nap.
It’s currently winter break for the primary and high school students so those with siblings were out. The daily routine was more relaxed since Overcome was only opened for half-days during the break. During the children’s free-play, Teacher Rachel and I were able to talk and reflect on the children. We had our make and take training on Thursday with the creches and one of the make-and-take’s were Strength books about the children. Teachers were given a sheet to fill out each child’s strength, an area the child needs support in and how or what we could change to help support that? Rachel observed that one of her children (Child A) while his ability to focus and listen was a strength, is more quiet than his peers and takes a long time doing things. I gave her suggestions such as counting down until it is time to transition so that the child knows it’s almost time to wrap up an activity. Another area she had trouble was with during meal times and giving him more time to eat since he was usually the last child to finish. Usually she would hand out food based on the container she grabs first but after our conversation she wondered if she should start giving Child A his food first so that he would have more time to eat. I told her that was a wonderful idea and that we could try it later that day! We ended up pushing snack (10 AM) back too close to lunch that day so we decided to just combine the meals. As we were trying to quickly set everything up, Rachel stopped and gave Child A his fruit before going to the kitchen to heat up lunches and cutting up snack. Truthfully speaking, I myself had forgotten our plan to try that suggestion so I made a point to tell her I was so happy she remembered since I had forgotten. Her smile is something I will not forget.
Being the youngest teacher in her creche, she expressed how hard it can be having no background in education and how stressful it can be running such a large classroom by herself. I told her she is doing an amazing job!!
The relationships with the teachers and children have strengthened so much this past week. However, on Thursday I was hit with the realization that we only have one more full week left in the creches. Suddenly, I feel like there’s a million things I need to do before I go and I feel a bit overwhelmed. Where did time go? I hadn’t even begun to think about packing, goodbyes and thinking about my future once I return back home. I am so used to living here now- price-tagging my fruit at Pick and Pay, looking right and left when crossing the street instead of the other way around! I’ve even noticed myself using the lingo and slang here!
I thought about the last time I lived abroad and how it felt coming back home to the States. During my undergrad, I studied Social Welfare in South Korea for a semester. I made so many unforgettable friends and memories there. I knew going home would be hard but I wasn’t prepared for the mental and emotional toll it would have on me. Life back home still goes on when you’re abroad. I wish someone told me exactly how hard it could get. When I returned back from Korea, I expected life to go back to what it was. I would go back to school, work and spend time catching up with my friends. I quickly realized that I missed out on so many small moments in my friends’ lives during those 4 months due to lack of communication and the time difference and how impactful it could be. I couldn’t relate to their inside jokes and they couldn’t relate to my stories from Korea. If I had gotten a dollar for every time I started a sentence with “Oh when I was in Korea..” or “Something similar happened when I was in Korea..”, boy, would I be rich. I noticed I started pulling away from my friends back home because while they could listen to my stories, they couldn’t relate since they did not go through the same experience as me. I felt like I was stuck in the past.
I decided to see a counselor to help me work through these feelings and help me to adjust back home. One thing that helped me was talking to the friends I made during my study abroad program about how I was feeling. They told me they were also struggling on adjusting home too.
During my time in South Africa, friends would message me and ask me how everything is going here. I find that question really hard to answer. Where would I even begin? I’ve experienced so many amazing, new and challenging events while here. Of course, you can’t just lay all your feelings right then and there on a friend, it’s just overwhelming for them so I resort to a generic “It’s going great! I can’t wait to catch up when we get back”! However, I am grateful to have such an amazing group of people in the program who do understand what I am going through. Using my previous experience, I know that if I have a hard time adjusting back home that I can go to them for support and realize I am not alone. Keeping these blogs and doing weekly debriefs at True North also allow me to process my emotions and gives me an outlet to express how I feel. I did not reflect has much during my time in Korea as I do here in Cape Town. I believe reflecting and addressing your feelings allows one to start thinking about next steps and the future.
I have been feeling the love this week and am cherish every moment I have with others!