Last Time Best Time

Remy Bessolo University of Cape Town, South Africa


May 26, 2015

We officially have less than a month until we have to leave our dear Mother City. It feels like just last week that I was talking about having several months to go, and somehow I ended up only having weeks left. The past two weeks have been full of “lasts”. My last class with my program, my last lecture at the University of Cape Town, my last time dancing for my African Dance class, and my last day with SHAWCO Education.

My program class, taught by our director Dr. Alan Jansen, gave us a deeper understanding of the history, politics, and culture of the country. We came to realize how complicated and multifaceted each issue or conflict was, and how intersectionality usually plays the “lead role” in the “show” that South Africa puts on. I loved this class, and loved hearing the stories and experiences that Alan shared with us revolving around his life and involvement in the struggle against apartheid. Special guests and speakers were also a highlight for me. It made the learning experience so much more genuine, because we were not simply reading about the stories of others, but we were able to hear them in person. While we may not have always wanted to do the various assignments such as reflections and essays, I always found that analyzing my experiences allowed me to process my thoughts and make connections that I would not have made otherwise. This class also served as a time to see everyone from the program and catch up with those I hadn’t seen that week. It also provided us with a broad spectrum of opinions, which led to heated discussions and debates. While I did disagree with certain opinions on different topics, it was a chance to see multiple sides to stories and try to understand where another person was coming from. I hope that future students on this program will try to get the most out of this class, because there really is no other class like it.

My last lecture at UCT was this past Tuesday the 19th, and it was only 15 minutes long. We discussed the format and content of the final exam that will taking place next week. While I tried my hardest to pay attention, I sat in disbelief that we were already talking about the final exam. The classroom culture and general “way things work” at UCT is opposite to Chapman. The small number of assignments and large (mostly optional) lectures has left me wondering how much learning I’ve actually done in the classroom. Coming from Chapman, I was used to weekly assignments, essays, quizzes, and tests for each class, along with mandatory attendance and participation. But I’ve realized that the most important “learning” that I am here to do is really taking place outside of the classroom, and it’s happening through experiences in and around the city with all different types of people. While I was sad to be leaving my last lecture (because any type of “last” just makes me sad about my limited amount of time), I will not miss the daily trek up the Jammie Steps (campus is still quite gorgeous, I will miss that).

African Dance. Hands down one of my favorite classes I have taken in my undergraduate career so far. Not only did I get to do what I love twice a week, but we also had the privilege of a lecture once a week with “Teach” our instructor. We got to know him and he got to know us. One of my favorite things he would say was “If you want to learn about a group of people, learn their dance. If you know the dance, you will come to know the people.” You can only understand so much about someone and their culture by reading a book or an article. Taking this understanding to a deeper level requires a physical connection, which is exactly what this class gave me. There are ideas and concepts about the South African history and culture that are heavily connected to dance, and having the opportunity to be taught not only with word but with the motion of the body was something that I will miss most of all about my time here. Teach gave us tough love and humor every Tuesday and Thursday night, and I always looked forward to class. My final exam was a practical (physical) performance of all the dances we had learned over the semester. We performed the dances for an external examiner and it was so much fun. We put all of our energy into it and “left it all on the dance floor” so to speak. While we performed in small groups for the duration of the exam, we all came together to perform the last dance one more time as a whole group. This was a movie moment for me, and the best way my time in that class could have ended. I am pretty positive that I won’t be able to stop talking about this class as long as I live. For any future Arcadia students that are interested in the class, I highly, and I mean highly, recommend that you get it pre-approved because it fills up quickly.

My last day with SHAWCO Education in the Nyanga township was emotional to say the least. I had created such strong bonds with the kids in my grade 2 class at Walter Teka Primary School, and it was tough to explain to them that I would not be back for a few years (I will be coming back and visiting the school). One little boy almost brought me to tears after an activity I had them do. Giving them each a piece of paper, they were to draw something (a profession, goal, activity) they wanted to do or accomplish as they get older. Lutho, one of my favorites (I hate to say I have favorites but this kid was special), drew himself and came up to show me his drawing. I asked him what he was doing in the picture and he said “teacher”. I responded by asking him if he wanted to be a teacher. He said “yes, just like you”. While I tried not to cry, I told him how phenomenal his dream was, and that he should never give up. This was such an emotional moment for me because at the beginning of semester, he wasn’t sure what he wanted to do. My only goal during the SHAWCO experience was to have fun with the kids and light a fire in them that will motivate them and let them develop a love for learning. Seeing that goal come full circle was unbelievable. It reinforced my love of working with kids (and in the field of education in general), looking for tangible ways to improve the educational experience for all students.

This portion of a poem written by an anonymous author sums up my feelings at the current moment:

“So while you are living in these times, remember that there are only so many of them, and when they are gone, you will yearn for just one more day of them, for one last time.”

So while I keep coming to these “lasts”, as sad as they may be, each one reminds me how full of life the experiences behind them made me. While I am excited to see my family and friends (and finally stuff a Chipotle burrito in my face along with copious amounts of In-N-Out), it breaks my heart to think about leaving Cape Town. Via Pinterest, per usual, this picture (on the left) will be the motto of sorts for my 23 (WHAT) remaining days here in this breathtaking country. There will be several more “last times” but I will be making them the best times.



South Africa