South Africa – One Salesian Lay Missioner’s Year-End Reflection

(Johannesburg, South Africa) – The World Cup is over and in some ways life has gone back to normal here in South Africa. I did make it to one more World Cup game, Germany vs. Ghana at Soccer City in Johannesburg. I know that they have shown the spectacular stadium on television but it is absolutely astounding in person. We have been busy running LoveMatters for the past four weeks in a row but now, for my very last week down here, we have the week off.

Salesian Lay Missioner, Dianne Marshall, has been working at the Don Bosco Youth Centre outside Johannesburg, South Africa
Salesian Lay Missioner, Dianne Marshall, has been working at the Don Bosco Youth Centre outside Johannesburg, South Africa, for the past year.
I have to say, that for the first email ever, I feel speechless, or wordless to be more exact. How do you sum up one year of mission work? One year that has changed me, allowed me to grow as a person, challenged me more than I ever thought I could be challenged, and brought some of the hardest days of my life as well as some of the greatest joys. My world was literally turned upside down, living in another culture totally different from my own. The more you live in another country, the more you realize that you will never understand another culture completely, nor could you ever fully appreciate it. As an American female, I don’t think that I could ever accept the gender stereotypes or the ways that men dominate over women. I couldn’t ever get used to men urinating all over the place or freezing cottages that lack adequate heat or insulation.

But now I am days from going home. Four days from now, I will be sitting on an airplane on my way home. Saturday, I will land on US soil, I will return to my homeland, I will be back in Chicago again. I have already made a deal with my family to stop at the best Chicago style hot dog place, Portillo’s, on the way home. I can’t wait to have a hot dog for a change! It is just the beginning of a long list of interesting food that I missed, including Tostitos, Tombstone pizzas, Ramen noodles, chicken nuggets, and so on.

Leaving is exciting, I have been looking forward to seeing family and friends for so long. But it is also scary and sad. I don’t know when I will ever make it back to South Africa. I am leaving behind friends and things that I love. It has been my home for a year, the place that I would return to after trips or vacations, the place where I laughed and I cried (and yes…I did a lot of both).
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My life is totally different now. I sometimes wonder if the new me will be able to fit in my old life. Getting used to the US culture again will be weird. And the hardest part is that I only have one month to do that before I have to start school.

I don’t have too much to say right now, there is a lot going on here. It is hard watching other people not knowing how to say goodbye. Some get really reserved or distant. Some get defensive or joke around even more. Some just refuse to acknowledge what is going on. But the kids here in the village have been great. At oratory on Sunday, they arranged a farewell show for Christina and I (who leaves ten days after me) and made us cards. One of the boys told his mom how much he would miss me when I left.

I will end the rambling and just say this, the next time that you hear from me, I will be back at home. For those of you thinking of calling or texting, I won’t have the same cell phone number when I get back so you will have to wait until I get back and get that new number. I hope to see many of you soon!