South Africa Habitat for Humanity Build, June 2002

By Paulette Terry, San Francisco, CA

I knew I would return to Africa; it was leaking out of me.

Africa had entered me, her smells, her people, her grace and elegance and contrasting scenes.  So, yes, when I left Kenya and Tanzania one year ago I knew I would return.  But not in this way, and not at this time.

In February 2001, a friend and I went to trek Kilimanjaro, then on to safari in the Masai Mara.  I prepared mentally and physically for the trip, especially for the climb and while I made it up most of the way, the summit eluded me.  Or rather, I should say that I eluded it.  I came close and turned back.  It was one of the best decisions I ever made.  And, beautiful as Kilimanjaro was, Africa was so much more.

I loved East Africa.  I studied it.  I read The Tree Where Man was Born by Peter Matthiesen, and Beryl Markamís West with the Night, and Isak Dinesenís Out of Africa, as well as her biography by Judith Thurman.  I found African Nights by Kuki Gallman and the Shadow of Kilimanjaro by Rick Ridgeway.  I re-read the Snows of Kilimanjaro by Hemingway and many adventure books and travel books about East Africa, Kenya and Tanzania as well as books about the Masai and the peoples of the region.  I planned that trip.  I possessed it.

East Africa did not disappoint me. The hills were so beautiful, the villages so primitive in their stark loveliness.  The animals along the road, all welcoming and road weary.  To see a Masai in the absolute middle of nowhere with perhaps five cows and to wonder where he came from and where he could possibly go to gave new meaning to the word patience.  The journey is everything.

Nairobi was crowded and choking with exhaust fumes, reminding me of Los Angeles in the 50ís. But the bus trip to the base of Kili in Tanzania was one of the finest trips I had ever taken.  And I can say that in spite of the fact that it seemed as though we were tossed off every bus that had faithfully promised to take us all the way.

The lush countryside was sweet with the smells of the leaves and rain and the farms were small and pristine.  We stayed at a farm at the base of Kili and it smelled and felt like home to me.  It has the flora of Los Angeles with hibiscus flowers and Norfolk Pine and evergreens similar to the ones in San Francisco and Pulmaria, found in Hawaii.  Even the old familiarity of the Catholic School uniforms was there as we saw hundreds of children and young adults walking on the side of the roads and through massive fields of sunflowers on their way to church on Sunday morning.

The safari taught me so much about the concept of en famileÖseeing families of animals was just like seeing people families on Friday night sit-coms.  You saw the moms, the aunts, and the teenagers darting out from the rest of the elephant group.  And the babies, playful and loving.  The dads carefully pulling the young ones in line.  What a sight.  And the movement.  To see the hills begin to move at dusk, realizing that those hills are elephants, and that those swaying acacia trees are really gliding giraffes.

So, yes, I wanted to return to Africa.  But it was something to dream about, to tuck away somewhere where we keep our life wishes, down on the list in order of priority.

I remain home for the year after Africa, waiting, I imagine for the next choice to make itself known to me.  I realized that it was time to return to work, which meant that I had one more bit of time, one more chance at something.  I did not know what that something would be but I started thinking that perhaps it would be a good time to pay back, to do something for someone or something before I returned to the world of work.

I had seen an ad in a magazine for Habitat for Humanity.  I thought perhaps there is something I could so there for them, something physical would be a good thing.  When I went on line I saw that there was a mandate to build 1000 homes in Africa.  Each and every year Jimmy Carter and Roselyn personally sponsor a one-week build and they personally build one of the houses with a team.  When I looked closer I saw that Jimmy Carter was leading a Habitat build ? 100 houses in South Africa.  The dates were June 3 through 7, 2002. 

Paulette (just left of sign sitting, on the ground) Jimmy & Roselyn Carter to her right 
(click on photo for larger view)

My birthday is June 3.  The build was in South Africa.  It was so clear to me that this was what I needed to do, this was where I needed to go, this was my chance to pay back a country I had fallen in love withÖAfrica.

Prep was easy because I had all my shots and papers in order from the visit a year ago.  More books to read, now about South Africa, The Boer War by Thomas Pakenham, Donít Letís go to the Dogs Tonight by Alexandra Fuller, Cry, the Beloved Country by Alan Paton and Disgrace by J.M. Coetzee. When I filled out the registration form for the build and they asked me what I wanted to do, boldly I said that I wanted to build houses.  Just like that.  And thatís where I was assigned, but that is a bit later in the story.

I was excited about returning to Africa from the start and the particular method of reentry, building houses for Habitat made it even more special.  The best part was that I did not have to wait to long, the trip came up before I even knew it.  I scheduled to fly into Amsterdam and exist in the same time zone for a few days to get myself acclimatized.  I mean, I say that but it really became a wonderful opportunity to get a trip in to Amsterdam.  I was highly rewarded for that decision.  Amsterdam is a gracious place.  But, that is for another story as well.

I arrived in Durban, which is way, way down past the tip of Africa, on the east side, right smack on the Indian Ocean.  I had a view of the Indian Ocean from my hotel room.  We were all billeted in hotel rooms by the Indian Ocean, which was scenic and tropical.  It was also dangerous.  Durban is a large city and there is an element that preys on visitors and you need to be particularly careful.  I mean when the concierge in your hotel tells you not to go down any side streets, not to wear a camera in plain sight, you need to listen.

I had a roommate from Newfoundland, a cheery woman named Margie.  She and I clung to each other the first few days but as I grew more tired from long days of building I could not be the companion that Margie hoped I would be.  Margie was assigned to support services, distributing coffee in the morning and then riding on trucks all day, lugging huge blocks of ice and sodas to huge tubs that were all over the streets for the workersí refreshments.

We set our alarms for 4:30 am, showered, dressed, and went down to the street in front of the lobby where a continuous stream of full-size buses came and picked us up and brought us to the building site.  It was dark when we took the 5:00 am or 5:15 am buses ? it was winter in South Africa.  It stayed dark until almost 6:30 am but the sunrises made up for the darkness ? they were rosy warm.  Sometimes I had to laugh.  Here were all these people at the crack of dawn, weary, with hammers and trowels and tool bags on their way to the site in the dark.

The bus ride had a special routine to it.  You sat down, looked at the person next to you and asked three questions ? where are you from, what site are you working on, and have you ever done a build before.  The answers were wonderful, ranging from, South Africa, Canada, Georgia, Wisconsin, Boston, and Northern Ireland, Korea.  And then we mentioned our site ? the houses all had numbers, just like regular home sites on regular streets.  I was on site 929 and if someone said 956, we knew we were neighbors.  That personalized everything, we were all just neighbors.  Many of the people had been on builds before, some did the Jimmy Carter build annually for the past 18 yearsÖbeen all over, from Georgia to Philippines to Korea, to Hungary, you name it.  But, the best part of the bus ride was the gentleman from Korea.  Each and every morning he got on the bus, usually last.  He always had a Korean flag on a long stick ? the flag measuring about 14îX20î.  He would pause at the head f the bus, look at all of us, bow and then give us a greeting that was loud and had a cadence that was the same each and every morning.  Morning number one we were stunned into silence, by morning number three we were greeting him right back.  In fact, if you call me sometime I will duplicate the sound for you because I need practice so that I never forget it.

The bus ride provided an education for all of us.  Early dawn times and the markets were humming with people ? markets where you could buy anything, anything.  And the bus queues were already a mile long.  People in native dress, people with suits, and in the midst of all of this, a McDonalds, Kentucky Fried Chicken, a Ford dealership, a Mercedes dealership.  Poverty next to affluence, the old next to the new, progress along side the past, honored older civic buildings and modern conference center skyscrapers ? sound familiar?  It looks a great deal like any major city in the United States.

We exited the buses, dreamlike, still in the darkness and hiked about a half a mile to the breakfast areas.  Greeters had flashlights to light the way and they smiled at us and said good morning.  We went toward the closed gates where our badges were carefully inspected, our heads were counted and we were on our way.

That first morning I was awed by the sheer size of the operations, thousands of people, hundreds of white long tables with white chairs for us to sit on and have breakfast.  Most spread out under the sky and some areas under tents.  We moved quickly to gather breakfast.  We took a paper bag, a napkins, a fork, spoon and the went on the hunt for food.  Huge baskets of yogurt, rolls, juices, hard-boiled eggs, egg salad sandwiches would fill our bags ? like an Easter egg hunt, each  of us pleased with our catch.  Coffee lines were long and so I would find a table and sit down, purposely choosing to sit where I knew no one.  Again, the same questions would be asked, where are you from, what site are you working on and have you done this before and again, the answers varied and were wonderful.  One morning I sat at a table with South African homeowners, all women.  That was so much fun. I learned about whom they were, where their sites were, what happiness they were experiencing, their plans for the future and their sheer joy about the present.

As we ate and it came up upon 7 am there was a short worship service under the main tent.  Day one was a quiet talk by Millard Fuller, founder of Habitat for Humanity.  As the days progressed the speakers became louder, more engaged.

By the third day I figured out where Jimmy Carter and Roselyn sat for breakfast and made it a point to be there the remaining days.  It was wonderful to see him, truly moving. Each morning about 6:45 am, two South African motorcycled police would pull up in front of a white van.  Out would step four secret service persons ? three men and one female.  Then former President Carter and his wife would come out.  He would always hold her hand and they would go toward the brown bags, get one and begin filling them with their breakfast choices.  Then, always hand in hand they would walk to the table and begin to eat and listen to worship.  At the end of worship, just like the rest of us they would walk toward their site.  You could see them, like young lovers, strolling down the main street on their way to site 1000.  It lifted all our spirits to see them and the South African people adore him.  The thought that a United States President would walk with them absolutely blew them away.  And, truth be known, it blew me away as well. 

My first day, reporting to the site at 7:15,  I met our house leader, Leo.  Formerly with the trades in Boston, now screenplay writing in Santa Monica and one great construction leader on top of that.  He lined up the twenty of us.  God, we were green.  He asked if any of us had any experience building houses, construction, whatever.  A few spoke up and I found myself saying that I had mixed cement and used it.  There was a pause from Leo, everyone looking at me and I said, OK, so I mixed some concrete to help shore up a swing set in the backyard for my children when they were little.  I could see laughter in Leoís eyes and he said, OK, then, Paulette, you work on building one of the walls.  Anyone want to volunteer to work with her?  Incredibly two young men raised their hands and so it was that Paulette and Andor, an 18 year old plumber apprentice from Utrecht and Jordan, a 21 year old senior at Brandeis built one of the four walls for the Mzobe family.

The Mzobe family owned the home at my site and they were the best.  We all said that our site had the best family, but, you know what?  Mine did.  Mr. and Mrs. Mzobe were two of the finest people you could ever meet.  They worked hard along side of us, part of the Habitatís deal called ìsweat equityî.  I got to know Edith as the days went by and she and I became more that two persons working on a house, we became two women who share values and then we became friends.  The last day of the build we were there particularly early to make certain that we finished on time and Edith called me over and showed me a bag with lace that she had made as gifts for us.  She said, I made the lace as presents but I wanted you to be the first one to choose.  How can you top an honor like that?

Back to the walls.  I got up on scaffolding, I mixed the cement, I placed one cinder block after another until we got that wall up ? we were first and it was one of the sweetest memories I will ever have.  It was tiring, it was fun and that night when we left, in the dark, to catch the bus I could not even stop for dinner.  They had a wonderful buffet ready for us ? 3,400 people but all I could think about was getting on that bus and getting into bed and I did.  I think that was my first night at 7 pm bedtime.  I cannot recall a time when I was as tired as that night, although by Friday night the accumulated effect of five days of manual labor did take their toll.

Back to work the second day and I was assigned to go all around the inside of the house and sand down any points of the concrete so that it was smooth for painting.  Starting at the top of the walls I proceeded to make certain that my hair absorbed each and every bit of the sanding and dust that it was capable of holding.  It took me an hour before I slowly, slowly realized that the really neat lavender bandana around my neck was not really a fashion statement but something that I could us to cover my head.  Hey, I finally got it but first I went to the main street where they had rustic pipes set up with water coming out so we could wash our tools and get water for mixing.  I christened it as my shampoo station as well.

Next project was a crew to work on raising the roof.  I had decided that I could contribute without going high-rise so I drew the assignment to paint the outside of the house.  Venica, a South African worked along side me, as did Edith.  Now I have to tell you that the concept of painting changes when you are using a brush as large as a wallpaper paste brush and you are spreading on something that I used to call Dinosaur Poop when the children were little.  Evidently the South Africans have a similar name for the stuff as I learned from Mr. Mzobe.  In actuality it was called stipplecrete, in tan. You had to work fast and the longer you worked the heavier the stuff felt on the brush.  You could only brush horizontally, stopping along the way to fill in the pocked masked places on the cinder clocks.  By the end of the day I had the movement down from the sway of the hip to the arm follow-through.  It was exhausting, it was fun, and it was so satisfying. 

The Mzobe house, site 929, is just on a rise so you can see the city from the front door.  There is a mango tree right near the front of the house and along side are gum trees, which I at first thought were eucalyptus and acacia and ferns and birds.  What separates the trees that run along side the house from the house itself is a fence of barbed wire.  At first the sight of that felt cold, slightly frightening.  Then I spoke to Mrs. Mzobe and she said how happy she was that it was there.  It made her feel safe.  Me, too.

The 929-site crew had the two students I referred to earlier and Venica, there was Charlotte, a recent college grad from North Carolina.  She is close to the end of her one-year with the Vista program.  Lorrie is from Kansas and works for the Federal Wildlife Service.  Tom is retired from Cincinnati and came with the support of his local church.  Kitty and Ernest are a delightful couple from Kentucky ? they are retired.  She was in charge of womenís sports at the university and Ernest worked there as well.  Kitty was our ìCrib Queenî keeping the tools in order, cleaned, checked out, and signed in.  Tabby and Adam are from Wisconsin, sheís a publicity rep with Kohler and he is a contractor.  I can leave this earth now that I have meet this young couple because they will see to it that things are done right on this earth.  Bernie, Sipnokazi, Kaiser, Neill, Craig, Pretty and Jandre were all from South Africa.  They had heard about the build and felt that they had to be a part of me.  They were black and white and Indian and they were all South African.

During lunch break, when we all stopped to eat the food brought to us on the sight we would talk, sometimes in large conversational groups, sometimes joking and sometimes sharing heartfelt stories.  Like the time Jandre said how stunned he was when 9/11 happened.  Everyone from South Africa talked about where they were when the planes hit and how they felt.  Jandre summed it up best.  He said, I felt so deeply for the United States.  We have grown far too familiar with terror on our shores but you have never experienced it.  The deep connection, the deep feeling these people have for the United States warmed my heart.

It was time for the interior walls to go up.  I was still a bit shocked at the small size of the house.  My family was a family of seven, mom and dad and five children.  But, incredibly, as small as the house looked, when the inside walls went up it began to look bigger.  I do not know how that is possible.  Nome of us knew, but it happened.  Once the bathroom, kitchen, living room, master bedroom, other bedroom were defined the house grew before our eyes.  Leo asked to me to paint all of the windows, inside and out, two coats of white, oil-based paint.  There were five windows.  I joked that I was glad I was past the childbearing years when I was painting because it was a humid day and while I started outside, the crew inside was cutting fiberglass and bits were drifting out to me.  So, I kept painting and threaded my way inside one room and another, following crews who were putting on the sheetrock walls.  We were working late and it was going to be close but then the cavalry arrived in the form of two really funny young men from Northern Ireland.  To watch them was to see grace and genius.  They could sheetrock a room in three notes while it took five of our crew just about half a day.  They saved our lives and kept us on schedule.

The last days we were under the gun to finish.  The goal was to be finished by 2 on Friday.  Thursday, President Carter came to our house and hammered in some nails.  Evidently he puts a nail or two in each and every house during his annual one week Jimmy Carter Build.  The crowds parted for him.  It was so good to see him at our house.  Imagine how the homeowners felt.  And he visited us again on the last day.  In fact, Jandre mentioned that he had something heavy he was delivering to the house, ready to go through the front door and someone was just inside the doorway.  He asked them to move and when the person turned around it was President Carter.  Jandre was glad he had been polite to the stranger.

We fought hard the last day to finish.  It was a struggle.  We had the sheetrock up but it needed to be sanded at the nail points, after applying putty ? that all had to dry first but we had no time so the sanding team came through ? I was one, along with several others.  Then it was time to paint on the inside ? we had white latex paint for the sheetrock walls. So, a few of us went from room to room beginning the painting.  I was the cutter.  I mention that because Leo had come by and said, Hey, Lorrie you do the roller work and Paulette, you be the cutter.  I said, OK, Leo.  Then I turned to Lorrie and said, whatís a cutter.  A cutter does the edges, the bottom, sides, up by the ceilingÖall the areas that the roller cannot reach.  Done.  Room to room, like a traveling paint team.

Again the boys from Northern Ireland saved us.  We were slogging along and they came, long rollers in hand and did the ceiling in what seemed like three or four easy motions.  They were flawless.  And they were funny.  One of them had a t-shirt that said Genuine Bad Boy on the back.

Leo asked me to mix a small batch of stipplecrete and to go over the entire house, inside and out and touch up wherever white paint had spilled from either the window work or the rollers inside.  It was so funny.  Venica and I dipped in and started out.  We would go through one room, touch up and the next thing we knew someone would come in with a ladder or a brush and we would have to go back and touch up again.  It was funny and it reminded me of those years spent trying to keep the kidís rooms clean when they were home but at that time of the day everything was funny.  So, we were, once again, perpetual motion, cleaning up after the other crews.

Mrs. Mzobe was given two small trees and asked to choose which one she wanted to plant in her back yard.  They were small to start and the hole she and her friends dug had to be deep.  The soil in the area was a mix of dirt and rock and was very hard.  She chose a feminine plant that was green and leafy.  Edithís neighbor at her old house, Lindiwe helped dig the hole.  She was waist deep in that hole with a pick-ax and Pretty commented that we Americans had thought of everything for the Build, including a burial hole in case one of us didnít make it.  When Lindiwe was through digging she rested under the trees, she had worked hard.  The next day she lifted her skirt and showed me that she had an artificial leg and how her leg had swollen up at the point where it joined the artificial limb.  I had no idea of this and I did not even pull back when she showed me, I took it as a matter of course and thanked her for sharing that physicality with me.

I liked the black South African ladies.  They were like the best mothers, aunts, nieces-type women you could know.  What great neighbors they would be.  Imagine their collective wisdom.  And their laughter, always ready to smile and laugh.  I would tease Edith whenever there was a breeze, I called it the Mzobe breeze, and it became so named.  I liked the ladiesí song.  They would pause and someone would start, maybe Pretty or Lindiwe.  Sometimes the songs were Christian hymns and sometimes they were Zulu.  I could tell the Zulu ones because there would be a guttural, tongue slashing sound made throughout ? almost like the sound a loon makes on a Maine lake in the middle of the night.  The best song was the one they made up in English when they were given the keys to the house on the last day during the dedication ceremony.  It went something like this, Happy the day we work on our house, happy the day we work on our house, happy the day we work on our house.  Then verses that sang, Happy the day we live in our house.  You get the idea.  Their bodies were swinging then and so were we as it was impossible to stand and not move when those songs came out of those bodies.  Impossible.

 The black South African teenagers were the same as girls everywhere.  The same jeans, the same tight tops, the same shoes and make-up.  The same comments with no translation necessary.  One day I was following three really pretty girls up the hill.  They were chatting away in Zulu and all the young men coming down the hill would make comments to them, give them the eye, being suggestive.  And as each of the boys passed, the girls would huddle together, talking Zulu and making comments about the guys.  I could hear their voices. One time a particularly cute boy passed them and they were quite animated in their Zulu tongue and then one of them turned around, I could see her face, and she said, ìFucking Gorgeousî. That certainly didnít need translating, do you think?

Early the morning of the last day Leo asked me to do him a favor.  He asked me to find some paper ? no mean task ? and go to each and every person on the crew and get their addresses and e-mails so he could have a master list and, if possible, make copies for everyone.  Fun.  I went around to everyone and got the info ? not always easy because I found that South Africa is in the midst of changing the official mailing system, but in any event I got everyoneís information.  I told Kitty that I was going to the office and going to try and find a copier.  I say the office but I really was not sure of what was available.  I knew that there were some tents at the beginning of the build site that were designated for the Media, Late Registration and a Habitat store.  I got up there and went straight to the Media tent, walked in, spotted two computers, said I was with the USA press, sat down and got Word up and began to type the list of names, addresses and e-mail addresses.  I pressed Print but nothing happened.  I turned to an associate, someone from Amsterdam and asked about the printer.  They sad that the terminal I was working at was not hooked up to a printer.  Not to be deterred, I asked for a disk, got one, copied the info, and asked the Dutch man if I could print from his tower.  He said yes.  I went to the next office, found a copier and a stapler and I did it.  When I returned to the site Leo was awestruck, questioning, how did you ever do that?  I said, Hey, I guess you didnít see my personal USA media pass. 

Thursday, Venica came up to me.  She is a South African woman with an Indian background.  Her family and her husbandís family had come there in the 1820ís to work in the sugar cane fields.  I had met her husband, Thor and Venica and I had talked on and off for the past days and we enjoyed each otherís company.  She asked me to dinner Friday night, the last night of my stay.  She also invited Jordan, the young man from Brandies.  I said yes.  I was so honored, so privileged to be invited into the home of a South African.  I was tired but I knew I would be there.  There were closing ceremonies scheduled Friday night when president Carter would speak.  I wanted to see some of the ceremony and so we agreed she would pick me up at my hotel at 7:30.

Late in the morning on Thursday our site was summoned to go to the entrance of the building area for our formal group photographs. What fun that was.  There were about three sites combined and we were on the ground, kneeling and standing to get us all in the pictures.  There were four seats saved in the middle, for Jimmy Carter, Roselyn, Millard Fuller, the founder of Habitat for Humanity, and his wife, Linda.  We had our house signs in front of us that showed the house number and the house owner.  After a short wait President Carter and the rest of the group came and we all posed.  He said a few words about the Build and then presented the homeowners with a bible, one that he had personally signed and filled in a quote from scripture. The homeowners were thrilled. 

Lorrie spoke at the dedication on Friday.  She used simple words to describe the house and our part in building it.  She told the homeowners that we would never leave there because our spirits were in the bricks of their house.  She said we were forever tied together because of the build.  She is right.  We will always be friends, always be neighbors, and always love that family.  And you know what?  They love us right back.

I left the ceremonies at 6 pm, boarded one of the buses, showered, and got down to the lobby at 7:28 pm where I found Venica, Thor and Jordan.  While driving to their home they became our tour guides.  Old parts of Durban with grand building, markets, shantytowns ? all there.  They lived in a newer, fashionable section of Durban.  They have a 12-year-old daughter and a 16-year-old son.  Their son was not there but we met their daughter.  Their daughter was a daughter of today ? 12 years old, old and young ? the display of Barbies next to the posters of InSync.

She served curry dinner and conversation.  Venica is a nurse, working on a masterís degree in Community Nursing and she did the Build as part of her service work.  She will follow the Mzobe family through their transition as homeowners up until September.  Thor works for the government in plumbing inspections.  Their house was large, warm and open.  There were pieces of brass everywhere.  In fact, when I stopped to admire one particular piece Venica scooped it up and gave it to me.  One room was dedicated as a Hindu shrine.  Venica says one room in the house should be the quiet room, for meditation and prayer.

The children go to Catholic school for the educational process and safety.  Venica says she tells her children, we are Hindu and you go to a Catholic school ? itís OK, you never know who will be right.

Dinner conversation was engaging.  Again, talk of 9/11.  Thor believes that we shot down our own plane outside Pennsylvania.  Talk about democracy.  Much talk about Affirmative Action, just 6 or 7 years old in South Africa.  Familiar conversations that I had been part of in the late 60ís, early 70ís.  I had perspective on this issue and told them that they had to give it time and that the pendulum would swing back and make the situation more manageable.  We talked politics, world figures and I was glad for every book that I had ever read on the area, grateful because, as always, people from other countries know a great deal about us and we know so little about them.

We talked about Mandela and Winnie, apartheid.  We talked about Jimmy Carter and why he had not been respected while President, only in his later role as elder statesman.  They talked about the admiration the South Africans have for us.  They spoke of the United States being the most powerful country in the world, with our president the most powerful world figure.  With that feeling can you imagine how impressive it is to them to have a former US President walk down their streets?  Venica said, we never see our own President.

After dinner they took us for a drive and we saw the sugar cane field where their families had worked and we saw The Gateway.  Now when I say that the Gateway was a mall-type place you may not be too impressed.  I will confess that when they said they wanted to take us to the mall so we could see it and get some ice cream, I had my doubts.  But, they were right to bring us there.  It was awesome. It is the largest mall in the southern hemisphere.  It had laser light shows going on the entire time, an area inside big enough to surf in, décor that was almost Egyptian, waterfalls and yes, stores like Armani, Lauren and theaters and yes, ice cream.  It was impressive.

Saturday morning came and I wanted a moment alone and I got up early, dressed and told my roommate that I needed to get some breakfast down in the hotel café.  It was a lovely buffet with South African Coffee, which is hot coffee and hot boiled milk, side by side, in whatever increments you want.  I am a 50/50 person and it tasted so good that way.  I wanted a moment to think before I had to talk, catch the bus at noon and begin a trip home that would take 36 hours, door to door.  As I sat there and quieted myself I found that the inside of me was full.  I cannot describe the feeling any other way.  I was full.  I was filled with what I had done and happy and very, very serene.  I let it bathe over me so I could remember the feeling forever.  And I will remember it forever.

I realized that I had spent an entire week with myself out of the way.  An entire week where I never gave myself a thought, never considered me, never even recalled any concerns or worries that I might usually carry with me.  No time for self when you are building, when you are giving.  It felt so good.  As I left the restaurant I saw some people I had met the preceding week and I spoke to them briefly and they all felt that same fullness.  They all had the same look on their faces.  I think that a week without yourself in it is the perfect way to find yourself again.

The rest of the crew (click on photo for larger veiw)

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