After taking the morning getting a few things done in Stellenbosch, Dan and I made our way back to Kayamandi. Today would be the day I’d be making dinner for everyone and I was anxious to get home and start the preparations. It was a bit cloudy and there was some rain in the morning but we were both hopeful that the rain would hold off for our festivities.
By 3:00 Riri and Ski were over. This was right on time for them. Not only had they come over to help with the food prep but they were also by to play the roles as my personal barbers. Since August 14th I’ve been letting my beard grow out. There was a slight incident with a crazed Stellenbosch hairdresser who misunderstood my pleas of, “Don’t touch the beard!”, as an opening to trim away, but even with the minor cut back, my beard has grown to it’s warm cozy lengths. As a promise to Mieke and Hanneke I’d be shaving it all off before departing. With that being said, I also promised Ski and Mawande that they could be the ones to shave it off. The new plan was that I’d let Ski shave whatever he’d like, I’d wear the design for a day, and then let Mawande shave the rest off.
As you can imagine, you kind of grow attached to a beard of 3 months. Besides the literal aspect of it, it becomes who you are. When I look into the mirror I’ve grown used to seeing Chris with a beard just as much as you have. Seeing baby-face Chris is like looking at a stranger. Also, as brought to my attention a bit later on in the day, the beard is a great defense mechanism. If we are basing it on sheer facial hair, a bearded man is more intimidating than a beardless man, and when walking these streets I’ve always had my beard. I’m always down with change though, and certainly always open to crazy facial hair so I put my look into the hands of Ski and told him he could do whatever he’d like.
I’m not sure what Ski’s experience is with shaving facial hair, but I’m positive he’s never gave a white person a haircut. And yes, there is a difference. I had Riri arming the camera to capture this magical moment and stationed myself near a mirror so I could watch this debearding. Ski went right to work and was on a mission. I can’t say for sure, but I think he was going for a look similar to a WWE wrestler. There were a lot of laughs throughout the cut, and hair was flying everywhere. With no bib I was left to walking outside and shaking like a dog to get all the excess hair off. When all was said and done I thought Ski did a great job. Some slight symmetrical issues but overall it was a solid styling.
The next thing on our agenda was getting everything sorted out for our major dinner plans. The three of us walked over to Mama Zulus kitchen and began pulling out all the ingredients. I had 24 chicken breasts, 12 assorted peppers, 3 bags of lettuce, jalapenos, a bag of tomatoes, 3 cheese triangles, and a few onions. Our first task was to chop everything thing up. After teaching them the basics of how to clean and cut the peppers they went to work on completing the job. Meanwhile I started dicing up the chicken.
As we were prepping we were joined by Mieke and Hanneke who were shocked to see my new look. Hanneke told me right away that we needed to get Mawande over to finish taking the beard off, but I told her I’d be waiting till the next day. The girls had bought their own stock of food to create a delicious desert but decided they’d lend a hand to our dinner prep before working on their own undertaking. Mieke began shredding the cheeses, and Hanneke (who sprained her ankle earlier in the day… fetching laundry) helped the boys with the vegetables.
Things were going really well and more people were beginning to show up. Dan had a group of kids next door playing card games while we finished with the food preparations. Riri and Ski did an outstanding job helping and it was a great time spent with everyone in the kitchen. While the rice, chicken, and veggies finished on the stove top the girls began assembling their dessert. I grabbed a few more volunteers from next door and had kids helping out everywhere. Everyone got a turn at whipping up the cream, there were races as to who could cut up the lady fingers the fastest (that was terrifying to watch), and I think everyone helped layer the dessert into the pan. Afterwards it was the kids who helped with the dishes!
With the main meal ready we brought everyone back over and showed them the assembly line we had created. Mieke and I figured our best bet to make the food go the furthest was if we helped assemble everyone’s fajita. It was also almost everyone’s first time eating a fajita so it was probably best that we were there to put their first one together for them. Hanneke was at the end of the line teaching the guys how properly fold their fajita and with that, things were off to great start!
Midway through serving we ran out of plates and had to retrieve the ones from earlier to wash and reuse. This worked out to our benefit though because the kids would wash their own dishes, and we never had to worry about the dishes getting out of control. Around the property were happy people eating a delicious meal and I was thrilled with how things were working out. There was plenty of food and our guests were able to have multiple fajitas. We had so many fillings going into these wraps that it was quite filling to just finish one. When I was satisfied that everyone had eaten I finally allowed myself to eat. The fajitas weren’t half bad!
A few more boys manned the dishes and at one point I looked outside to see three boys sweeping, one boy scooping, and one boy directing a cleaning operation just outside the kitchen. It was great to see the level of manners each of these guys was demonstrating and the absolute perfect last supper I could have come up with.
When things were cleaned up it was time to gather the troops and form a line for dessert. While they were all anxiously waiting for their dessert I saw this as a prime photo opportunity. I had all the kids in one place and asked them to look my way. I reminded them to smile, because teenage boys don’t smile unless you strongly encourage them to. When I looked at the picture and noticed that Ski was one of the few that weren’t smiling. This isn’t the least bit surprising but I told him that if he didn’t smile that he’d regret it. I pulled him from the line and took him to where Mama Zulu was eating her dinner. I sat him down across from her and explained to her the situation. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Ski blush so hard. I asked him if this would be a problem anymore and he firmly stated that it wouldn’t be. I told him that was great because his next picture was with our lovely Mama Zulu! He delivered one of the biggest smiles I’ve ever seen from which more than earned him his spot back in the dessert line. Back outside I told all the kids that we’d be trying that group picture one more time. Ski is the one on the far left making sure his smile was captured on camera. The boys to his right are his best friends who purposely tried not to smile in hopes of receiving the same treatment. That was the crew though, 16 kids; 16 incredibly deserving, amazingly clever, awesome individuals with the personalities to match. This is the family I’m leaving behind, the primary reason for even being in South Africa, and purpose for future visits. This was also just the start of some of the hardest goodbyes I’ll ever face.
With everyone finished eating, and the kitchen all cleaned up Dan and I had something else for our guys. We created photo books for each of the kids from the ReachingOut trip and it was now time to pass them out. We pulled them into the next room and proceeded to hand out the books. The level of excitement was at an all-time high as they passed them about looking through each others books. Even once they rejoined the rest of the kids the evening was spent looking through their pictures.
As I sat there watching them interact, flip through their pictures, and just act themselves it began to hit me that this was my final night with them. Tears began running down my face and I was too choked up to speak. Even writing this right now brings me right back to the way I was feeling. It was just me, Gesa, and the kids in the room and the kids were preoccupied to really notice. Gesa suggested we all play a card game which helped hold me together. There’s no crying in card games.
Slowly, the guys began leaving the house and I’d walk with them up to the gate before saying goodbye. I’d be seeing almost all of them the following day, before I’d have to head to the airport, so I knew this wasn’t the final goodbye.
When all the kids were gone the rest of us cleaned up and made our way into town for a night at the Cubana. This was a great way to relax and hangout with everyone one last time. Corne and Hendri, from Frisbee, came by to wish me a farewell, and we all spent the night having drinks and catching up.
My last full day was great and I’m so pleased with how smooth the meal went. Thanks so much to all the help I got throughout the day.