Thursday, July 21, 2011

LWP-The Flight Home

I’m back home and I’ve been thinking about all the teachers at the Limpopo Writing Project. We had such an amazing time. I’ve been excited to hear from Esther, Mosima, Seipati, Ntevheleni Justice and also Florinah and Akani. Facebook and my blog have been wonderful vehicles for keeping in touch. The Rural Teachers Conference went beautifully, especially the demonstrations that our LWP teachers shared. When the conference was over, we had a difficult time saying goodbye. We kept running back and forth from our cars for one more hug.

That night at dinner with our visitors from Pretoria , we ate at a restaurant that was having a private event for a TV station. There were TV stars dancing and we were invited to join the party. It was exciting to see Ngokoana and Nakedi and Leketi taking pictures with the celebrities and dancing with them. It was a fitting ending to our last night in Polokowane.

While I was in Pretoria I had time with Cheryl Logan and Cathy Ikeda who are working to create a National Writing Project in South Africa. We debriefed at the US Embassy and worked on future plans for our South African sites. I also got to visit with my cousins, Ruth and Mark Dreyer and it was wonderful to spend time with them.
The flight home was long but it helped that Cathy was on the same flight with me to Atlanta. Our flight was delayed 8 hours before our 17 hour flight, so there was a lot of waiting around. Right before the flight was finally ready to take off, we had to go through a second round of security and then at the Atlanta airport we had to go through security again. I don’t think I ever felt so inspected. I came home tired but happy, and look forward to the next chapter of the Limpopo Writing Project.

Friday, July 8, 2011

The LWP 2011 Team

Limpopo Writing Project-The Last Day

Today was a complete surprise. The teachers planned the program and they shared their insights and their thanks with us. They presented me with two beautiful African bowls which was unexpected and so meaningful. They called me Masechaba, the Mother of the Nation. They honored me with this title and I am humbled by it. There were thank-you speeches, and singing and dancing and happiness filled the room. It was an unforgettable morning.

Then just when we thought it was over, the drama students gave a surprise farewell party for Dr. Makalela. They had gifts and cake and we started singing and dancing all over again. Although the project was officially over, we spent the afternoon in the computer lab. The teachers were busy on many projects, but they also wanted to make sure that they emailed their American partners. After dinner, we watched the final performance of the student dramatic troupe. They presented a play, a poem and songs. These students are incredible actors and have promising stage careers. The students gave up their winter break to stay at the university to perform for us.

Most of us are staying over for the Rural Teachers Conference tomorrow, so we haven’t said goodbye. It will be difficult to do. I’m sharing my last LWP journal and two of the wonderful speeches that we heard today.

I am Grateful for LWP
By Roxanne Henkin

I am grateful for the wonderful experience of this writing project and for the past two weeks that we have been able to work together. Every person in the Limpopo Writing Project is precious and to be cherished. I am grateful that I have met Solomon and have been able to hear his stories about the realities of life and the uncertain consequences that follow. I am grateful for Mokgadi, for her strength and her leadership. I am grateful for Esther, for her stories about her childhood, and for the energy that she brought us. I am grateful for Thelma, for her experience teaching second language children and for her guidance in the project.

I am grateful for Seipati, for her incredible story about her brother and for experiences that she shared with us. I am grateful for Thoko for her strength and her beautiful hats that light up our room. I am grateful for Cony and I am glad that when she finally shared, she was a writer. I am grateful for Makoma, for her passion for education, and her desire to always learn more. I am grateful for Masilo for her commitment to social justice and to children’s rights. I am grateful for Sehume, for the laughter and warmth and just plain fun she brought to us every day. I am grateful for Hobs, for his enthusiasm and the quiet way he shares his questions.

I am grateful for Nteveleni, who even though I was never able to pronounce his name led us on our writing journey and was always using the technology to check my blog. I am grateful to Joyce, for her powerful stories and the way she truly loved her friends and her dog. I am grateful for Dr. Leketi Makalela, for his incredible energy, his friendship and his commitment to the Limpopo Writing Project. I am grateful to Lehlogonolo, whose name I could never pronounce and so finally she told me to call her Blessing. And she was the biggest blessing to our project making sure that everything ran smoothly. I am also grateful for Pheladi, Blessings partner in checking all the details and facilitating the project. Thank-you, thank-you! And I am grateful to Ngokoana, my African sister, thanking you for devoting your time to this project.
Most of all, I am grateful to all of you for taking me into your hearts, for sharing your lives with me and for your love. As we say in Hebrew, Shalom, go in peace. You will remain with me always.


I am here on behalf of the group. Whatever I am going to say I will be representing you all because you all contributed towards this piece of writing. I am just a mouth piece to deliver the news of thanks to LWP.

This group is very much thankful about the contribution made by Pheladi, Lehlogonolo, Prof. Leketi Makalela and Dr Roxanne Henkin towards their development. We were led by an inspirational leader. The knowledge gained is really indispensible.

It is our pleasure to let you know that we do not regret ourselves by forfeiting all our family matters during this winter vacation. We are really developed, empowered, capacitated, reformed, born again and we also grew mentally.
We gained a lot and forward we go.

Amongst others we have take away to our schools
Development of writing skills.
Selection of learners for bursary.
Initiation of reading clubs.
Clustering with neighbouring schools for sharing what we gained – and even even community members

Thanks for our connections with our fellow Americans in SAWP the pairing done will keep the writing ball rolling.

This is going to be endless bonding – a chain starting with us locally, passing via Texas and proceeding endlessly.

As far as technology is concerned we are advanced, we are no longer novices. We now know more about skype, blog, face book, not forgetting the issue of been televised on DSTV channel CBNCA. What an exposure.

Challenges: No manna from heaven – you cannot appreciate and sit back
First is literature production – to write our own publications
To assess learners’ writing progress, ensure that they can write their own thinking, no matter how short.

As part of thanks, we must keep the LWP alive and producing. Go back and be writing addicts to keep the journey of incredible adventure on.

Sustain your e-mail addresses because as long it is not accessed then it will cease.

There is nothing impossible inside the willing heart.


Thanks from Nteveleni

Greetings everybody,

As a writer and a poet, let me start with a quote, though I won’t be quoting it verbatim. I quote, “One cannot choose when to be born, where to be born and you cannot choose parents, but you can choose who you want to be in life.” You can choose to be in the LWP like we did, and you can choose to love and share like Roxanne always does.

I have been given a very tough assignment. I have been requested by my colleagues, my brothers and sisters to present a gift to the precious gift of Limpopo, our one and only Masechaba (the mother of the nation), the one whose sense of down earthiness gives her a distinguished scholarly appearance. She is also my facebook friend.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

San Antonio Writing Project Day 11

It’s hard to start this blog today because we are so close to the end. We have our closing ceremonies tomorrow, and the Rural Teachers’ Conference on Saturday. But the good-byes are already starting. We shared our anthology pieces today and it was very moving. Our topics included childhood memories, a memoir of a long-dead dog, and a tribute to a brother who fought injustice. Solomon has been writing about social issues so beautifully that we all think he should publish them as a book. Every piece shared was captivating. We went through the whole range of emotions and marveled at the complexity of human life. Nteveleni said it all when he said that we are all members of the human race.

Today was the San Antonio Writing Project’s last day and they celebrated Visitors’ Day with both professional friends, as well as family and friends. We were able to Skype with them and we got to see the beginning of the day. When they were introducing the SAWP members, we couldn’t see them because they were out of range of the camera. We asked them to move the camera, but they misunderstood and put us in another room where we were meeting one on one with the TC’s. Because we didn’t want to take away from Visitors’ Day, we quietly hung up. At that moment, Dr. Hanlie Dippenaar Skyped us, and so we were able to have some time with her. It was great to see her back in South Africa, and our teachers want her to come up to Limpopo so that we can all work together.

The SAWP anthology was posted on our google site today, and I couldn’t wait to read it. They have a wonderful cover filled with pictures from the writing project, and their stories, like the Limpopo stories touch the heart. I felt sad that I wasn’t there with them, but the Skyping helped me to feel connected to them.

We finished Masilo’s demo today. It was a critical literacy demo that asked us to consider children’s rights. We had a rich discussion about children’s rights in the South African constitution which brought up the issue of corporal punishment. The South African constitution guarantees a child’s right to safety, and therefore, corporal punishment is illegal. This was a wonderful critical literacy lesson.

Our last demo for the workshop was presented by Makoma. She had us thinking about religions and diversity of religions that exist. I had already shared my piece about my Grandparents’ struggle in America and had spent a great deal of the paper discussing the major kinds of Judaism that exist. I had written about this in part, because of my writing conferences when people asked so many questions about Judaism. Then, when Makoma shared the section in the 4th grade social studies book that described the Jews, it was very short and only described a few things about Orthodox Jews. Reform and Conservative Judaism weren’t even mentioned. This led to a discussion about how important it is for teachers to read many texts and educate themselves about the issues that they are teaching. We can’t rely on textbooks to teach the truth and the complexity of history.

I’m closing with two journals—one mine and the other from Nteveleni whose words capture the spirit of how we are all feeling in LWP.

My Journal:
This is our last full day. I feel sad and I am clinging to every minute. My parents Skyped me last night and my mother asked me to tell everyone that she feels that she has been on this trip with me and that she loved meeting all of you and that it has really made her life exciting. Last night, Teko Facebooked while he was watching the performance of the students and he said that that he has loved his time here and has never felt so stress-free.

Each day of the LWP has been a blessing and the days go fast and they are packed with so many gifts. We have the gift of the people, each LWP teacher brings their own talents and insights to our group. From the first song that is shared in the morning to the last insight offered at the end of the day, we are enriched. How lucky we are to be part of the Limpopo Writing Project, and to be able to have learned and grown together.

I will never forget your powerful stories and our discussions about life, aging and death. I will never forget our singing and dancing together and how we encouraged each other to grow not only in our writing, but in our lives.

Thank-you for coming on the adventure of the Limpopo Writing Project, for giving up your days, for taking a chance, and for going on this journey with me. The wonderful thing about the writing project is that it is not over, when you walk out the door, but rather, it is just beginning. The Limpopo Writing Project will continue to meet. You have your American partners who are anxious to exchange teaching ideas with you and would like their learners to write and interact with yours. And you have me. Please email me or write and keep in contact with me. Let me know how you are doing and how the teaching of writing and reading is going. Most of all let me know what is going on with your life and that you are well. This is not an ending. We are parting, but we will forever be joined in our hearts.

From Nteveleni:
I am a citizen of the world. I am a member of the human race. This is my wish. These words are always echoing in my ears. I wish that one day, I’ll wake up and find this to be a reality, where people will refer to one another as a brother from another continent, a sister, a father, and a mother from another continent. There is only one creator and you do not need to be a rocket scientist to prove that we are one. We are all members of the human race. The time is now for all the citizens of the world to stand up and hold each other’s hands for the total development of all members of the human race.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Limpopo Writing Project Day 10

Many of us expressed the desire to slow down time so that we can enjoy our last days together. We want to savor every moment, because we know that our time is limited. Teko filmed our sharing time, so we once again felt like celebrities as we read our journals and shared our comments. Teko worked on the opening part of the video he is making about the Limpopo Writing Project and shared it with us. Among the many interesting things that he put into it, he wrote, “They write, they share, they dance,” which is all true.

Later, Teko interviewed some of us about The Limpopo Writing Project for the film. Teko’s friend, Akani Mabasa, an education student at The University of Pretoria talked with us in the morning. When I asked him if he knew of Dr. Hanlie Dippenaaur, he said that she was his lecturer. What a small world! His professor attended our SAWP summer institute 2011 and just arrived back in South Africa yesterday!

Today we focused on editing our final pieces for the anthology, and they were handed in. Our cover is the wordle we made together about the Limpopo Writing Project. We also had two demonstrations, one by Thelma and one by Masilo. We waited for SAWP to Skype us this afternoon, but they were so busy they forgot about us. Finally, they called and they were able to tell us which teachers were matched together from both countries. We are hoping that through these matches, our students from both sides of the ocean will be able to contact and learn from each other.

I’ll end with a journal selection from today. Mokgadi wrote a piece about aging that is included here:

Aging by Mokadi

Here I am,
At the age of fifty.
Still on the journey of my life,
Having so many memories in mind,
Good and bad

From a young joyous girl with nourished skin,
Here I am in fear of wrinkles on my face.
The signs are there.
The nourished skin is gradually, gradually fading away.
Will I admire myself in front of the mirror any longer?

Gone are those days when I was called “Sylvia”.
Oh! My days!
Here I am now,
Now called “Mrs so and so”
The title going with its respect, responsibilities and dignities.
I am now called “Gogo-granny”.
What a title! Coupled with Aging.

Health status,
Deteriorating as days go by.
Characterised with Aging,
suffering from diseases with labels.
Most parts of the body getting dilapidated

Starting with my eyes,
Refusing to read without spectacles on.
My legs refusing to carry my body
With my high heels on.
My joints strengthened by supplements.
Here I am with my confused
Ovulation cycle forgetting its normal route

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Limpopo Writing Project Day 9

So many of us wanted to share our journals this morning! We write all the time, we’re truly a community of writers. It was also wonderful to have Dr. Makalela back with us. Thoko shared her demo on genealogy, and had us develop family trees. This led to a discussion about how there are all kinds of families, and we need to add extra lines to accommodate step-children, step-parents, step-families and other kinds of families.
We looked at Sean’s demo today and were amazed by his detailed Prezi. He shared poems, pictures, letters, writing and writing exercises. Later when we were on Skype, Modkadi complimented him on his demo and noted that it was more detailed than the ones we are doing here. Sean explained that his demo was for 90 minutes, a much longer time period. When we Skyped, Barry invited Joyce to Skype his classroom to watch him teach. We were also able to talk with Dorothy and Vicki about their demos. It was great seeing Pam, Aurelia, Shannon, Justin and the others if only for a moment.
The filmmaker Teko Sgegede Nhlapho and his friend joined us today. He’s making a film that will be shown on TV stations about the Limpopo Writing Project. He was able to film us writing lunes (from Sean’s demo, and Skyping with the SAWP Summer Institute. He brought us a surprise, a bag of gifts promoting the South African Census which will take place in October. We took pictures of all the LWP teachers in the yellow shirts and hats that were in the bags.
Teko shared that he had spent time in the United States and that he graduated from The University of Texas at San Antonio, where I met him as did Ngokoana and Dr. Makalela, when they visited San Antonio. All three of us were so excited to see him and very grateful for his support. We ended the day with dancing to song This Time for Africa. The theatrical students who have been performing for us at night came and joined in and soon Teko was filming all of us dancing together. Teko even joined us in the dancing. Later he commented that when he visited SAWP, he never saw us dancing. We were dancing with delight, we were dancing with happiness, we were dancing because we knew this was a special moment that might never come again. For one magical moment, we were unified and all was right with the world.

I’m sharing Nteveleni’s journal to end this blog:

What I Have Learned in 8 days So Far
By Ntevheleni

I never thought that talking through one’s pen could be healing and I never thought of myself as a writer. In a week’s time I have realized that I am a poet. Now I also know that I have the potential and that the only person who can unleash it is myself and no one else. I have also realized that all people belong to one big family. I have also learned that one must make a remarkable contribution in life. I have been to various academic institutions, but most of the things I have acquired within a few days. I had not known them for the longest periods that I have spent in those institutions. I am even thinking of going to “those” institutions for a refund. I have also realized that through sharing you tend to know the realities of life through other people’s experiences.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Limpopo Writing Project Day 8

We began the day as we always do singing beautiful songs and with a prayer. Then in honor of the 4th of July, I sang My Country Tis of Thee and This Land is Your Land. The teachers suggested that I share the words with them so that they could sing it with me. We did this at the end of the day and we also watched a video of fire works on the 4th of July. They asked me about Apple Pie and Ice Cream and I explained that they are part of the American tradition. I thanked the teachers for helping me celebrate the day and they thanked me for inviting them into America.

Today we talked about writing conferences and we practiced as a group both as the author and the questioner. We discussed the ethical responsibility of the author to be as clear as possible in the writing and when answering questions. We also discussed the ethical responsibility of the questioner to ask good questions and to really listen to what the author is saying. As we practiced this, we practiced how we would teach our learners about it.

Today was Cony's day. She shared her journal for the first time today, was a volunteer for the writing conferences session, and shared her demonstration today. Her demonstration was on invitations and she had created some invitations for us to look at. It was an exciting day for Cony and for all of us.

Ngokoana is here for the week and we are so grateful to have her wise words and insights in the workshop. Teko comes tomorrow to make a film of our project, and we are very excited about it. We looked at Ilna Colemere's incredible technology Prezi that is on the Prezi site, and at some other educational videos.

Today Hobbs announced that he joined facebook and we were excited for another way for us to keep in touch. I shared Sean's story on Facebook about his stepping into the hall at the university to get some help for skyping. We loved the story. Then I passed on Kalpana's request that we share some of our participant's writing on the blog. I received a number of them, and I'll share one or two of them each day.

This is from Cony, her first journal that she has shared with the group:

Thanks for everything LWP. I had never said anything about LWP until today. I am blessed and special. I am not here by mistake, never mind the slow pacing of my grasping the ideas. I came here blind and blank, but now I have realized that I can do it.

I never thought that I could write something that can be read to people and that would make sense. The Limpopo Writing Project taught me that whatever comes into your mind, write it. It is of importance.

I am dreaming of publishing a book soon. Thoughts, sweet and bad memories were there before, but I could not vomit them out. The project taught me to take whatever is in me and share with others to get relief.

Authors are not born. A pen and a book are going to be my friends henceforth. I know that I am going to do it. I thought that I should have known about this project before, but it was not the time. This is the right time.

By Cony
July 4, 2011

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Limpopo Writing Project Day 6

The university was quieter because it was a Saturday, and the feeling of Serenity wrapped around the room. The beautiful African songs that start our day added to the peaceful feeling. I played Carol King's You've Got a Friend and some of us quietly sang along. Many of us wrote about friendship and shared our pieces. We have been together for over a week, and we are a community of writers. One of our blog readers, Kalpana has asked if we might share some of our journals in the blog. What a wonderful idea, and I'll ask the teachers if they would like to share some of their work here. For today, here's my journal:

You've got a friend.

Four simple words, yet they mean so much. You've got a friend to rely on, to care about, who will be with you in good times and in bad. You've got a friend.

This workshop is about friendship to me. It's about bridging two oceans and two countries and navigating through multiple cultures and languages. It's about reaching out and making new friends and caring, truly caring for each other.

You've got a friend. I am here for you and I want the best for you. I will share all I have to offer and support you as you learn and acquire new skills. I have learned so much from my time with you and I promise that I will never forget your kindness. During this workshop we have laughed together and cried together. We have sung together and danced together. We have shared our writing and in so doing, we have opened up the deepest parts of our hearts. When I return to my side of the ocean, I will be changed because I have a friend.

We also had a discussion about what writing does for us, how it opens up our eyes and heals old wounds. I talked about how writing and reading should be every child's right, that it is part of the heritage of being a human being. We also discussed the power of writing response groups when we enter the I-Thou relationship that Martin Buber has written about.

Our two demos had us thinking about vegetable gardens in Mokadi Lekota's lesson, and working with freewritng in Sehume's lesson. At the end of the day, we Skyped my Mother to wish her a Happy Birthday. She was completely surprised and excited when she realized that all the teachers were on Skype and singing Happy Birthday to her! Both she and my Dad were amazed. "I can't believe you are over 12,000 miles away," he said. " It seems like you are next door." My Mother said that this was the best birthday of her life.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Limpopo Writing Project Day 5

We have bonded and gelled so much as a group. We truly feel like family. At the end of the day today, we were sharing the love we have for each other.

Ngokoana joined us again today and led the journal time. Solomon shared a moving piece about a woman dying from a botched abortion. Joyce then shared a part of her life that was so beautifully written and heartfelt. The day had just begun and it was already memorable.

We looked at The San Antonio Writing Project website and viewed the video. Then we started to look at Ilna Colemere's Prezi on technology which is an incredible resource. We just viewed the beginning of the Prezi and have already learned so much. We then collectively designed our own Wordle for the Limpopo Writing Project. It can be viewed on the Wordle website.

We had three strong demos today. Joyce began by teaching us about poetry and having us write poems. Then Solomon asked us to consider if the world is falling apart, and how can we make changes for the better. Finally Ramovha taught a lesson on wants and needs. He pointed out that things like IPods and IPads are wants not needs. People were curious about the IPad and IPod so later I showed them mine. We discussed how in the future we might be doing everything on smart phones, especially as the prices go down.

Ramovha welcomed me to the real South Africa, as he explained that he is the 37th child of 44 children. He explained that he has 10 mothers. We marveled at that. We also looked at a map and saw where San Antonio, Texas is located. We ended the day singing and dancing to African songs and Dolly Parton's song, Island in the Sun.

During Joyce's presentation, she showed us a picture of people walking in the rain and to then do a stop and write. Here's what I wrote:

I remember days like that,with thenrain slowlyndripping lightly on my umbrella. I imagine that it is a summer day so that the air is warm and intoxicating and it is ever so pleasant to be walking in the rain. I took the rain for granted all the years I lived in Chicago. Rain came so easily, it was in abundance. Now I live in a water-starved state where we've had enough rain to count only once or twice in the last months. The earth is gasping for a tiny drop of precipitation.