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Goodbye to Namibia

Posted by Buresch, Taylor N - July 3, 2014 - Academics, Education, Featured, Namibia, Students, Study Abroad, Taylor B.

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taylorend201406bToday we said goodbye to the learners at The School for the Visually Impaired in Namibia. Our hearts broke, to say the least. I can’t believe the month is already up and that we are headed back to the United States tomorrow. The students have learned so much from us, but we have learned even more from them. We bring a new and exciting world to these learners who have never seen the sea. They bring us to a new comfort zone and open up our hearts to a new world of understanding and love.

The learners performed a variety show of sorts to say goodbye to us after their break time. There was an eclectic mix of cultural dancing from various tribes, songs in Afrikaans from the choir, and even our own rendition of Tarzan’s You’ll Be in my Heart. We have been practicing each day on the bus … twice … to and from school. We then had to say our goodbyes to sobbing learners with endless hugs and even more tears. We kept our goodbyes short and sweet as to put the learners needs above our own. This did not stop us from passing a tissue box around the bus and getting milkshakes back at Arebbusch Lodge, however. It was heartbreaking. We read countless letters that the learners addressed to us. The notes from the older learners were beyond precious as I could truly understand the impact I had on them. They have their whole lives in front of them and the possibilities are endless. They inspire me.

taylorend201406aWe have learned from each other, but what they have taught me are lessons that I can’t learn in a classroom: Have a joyful spirit no matter the circumstance. Live life in a way that puts a dent on the universe. Dream big. Open your heart, unconditionally, to everyone you meet. Of all the senses, love is the most important. And lastly, magnify others’ strengths … instead of their weaknesses. It’s about ability, not disability. They are simply incredible and remarkable people that I will never forget. These learners see the best in each other and the best in themselves. Never once did I hear them complain.

The things we take for granted as second nature at home seem so vital and essential now. Everything from pencils, to paper, to socks, and even water is a scarcity for these children. It is ironic how we create lesson plans for learners about “Wants and Needs,” when in reality we, as American university students, should take notice instead. The small insignificant luxuries in life can’t account for the greatest love and most beautiful spirits that live inside each of our learners. For the greatest things in life are not things.

Our last meal in Namibia was at Joe’s Beer House. This authentic African game restaurant was elaborately decorated with firepits, ponds, large tents, zebra hides and memorabilia from various parts of Africa. We each ordered a unique plate to share with everyone at our enormous table (per usual) of 16! We had zebra and ostrich and kingkliper and crocodile and kudu! What a delicious way to bring closure to our trip. We leave tomorrow at 10am to head to the airport for 2 long days of travel. We stop over in Johannesburg (South Africa), London, and then finally Chicago. I am looking forward to sharing my experiences and pictures with friends and family when I arrive safely home. Stay tuned for one more closing blog…

I will leave you with a quote that a grade 9 student wrote in his farewell letter to me. There is no better way to describe my thoughts about leaving this country:

“The hardest part of any friendship is when it is time to say goodbye. As much as we might like things to stay the same, change is an inevitable part of life. The universe may seem huge and the rift between friends in opposite sides of the worlds may seem a great distance. There are so many tools available with which we can communicate, but even without these tools there is a secret that only real friends know. That is this: All the mountains and valleys in the world cannot separate friends whose hearts are as one.”

 I forgot to mention that he also sprayed this letter with cologne so…

-Taylor

Taylor Buresch, a senior special education major with minors in cognitive disabilities and Spanish, is blogging about her study abroad experience in Namibia, Africa.

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