Laughter is Universal

First official week in South Africa!! …okay technically the second, but whatever. The first week was just a couple of days of training and hanging out with the team. This past week, though, was the first week of living with our host families and the first week of working in Olieven.
Oh, host families. I could probably go on forever on just this topic. We were introduced to each of our host families last Sunday after the church service. Two homes have two team members and two families have one. First, Abbie and I were placed together. Um… Yes! She’s absolutely amazing. Then we found out we were going to be living with our host parents, Stephan and Yoekie and their 2 year old little girl, Buelane (Buli for short.) This family is absolutely incredible!! They have already done so much to make us feel so comfortable. I honestly couldn’t ask for a better family. We may have a little trouble leaving… HA! They speak English which is definitely a plus but Abbie and I are trying so hard to speak Afrikaans. We have a few words and phrases down, but seriously only a few. Buli speaks Afrikaans. That clearly creates some language barriers but whenever we have absolutely no idea what to say we always resort to smiling and laughing with her. Who wouldn’t understand that? Despite not being able to always understand what she’s saying or asking us to do, it’s always worth it to see her face light up when we tickle her or chase her. She’s by far the cutest host sister  And I can’t tell you how many times the family just laughs together at the completely dumb things Abbie and I say. Every night after getting back from Olieven, we eat dinner as a family then go to the front room just to hang out together and chat. Aside from occasionally making fools of ourselves because we’re from the other side of the world, I can’t even explain how much of a blessing they’ve already been to me. They have given great advice and insight when we’ve needed it and laughed together until we’re almost in tears. It’s such an amazing relationship to have being so far away from home. I’ve already prepared them that I’m most likely not going to want to leave. Ha … most likely … more like I already don’t. They’re my South African family now. Besides, Abbie and I have already recruited them to be Ole Miss and Auburn fans.
And then the second part of the week… working in Olieven. I have officially had my first week working at the disability center. There are an average of maybe 10 kids there that we sometimes play with. The center also sells jewelry in the market to raise money so, we help them make some. We’ve also been painting tires to put on the gates and plant flowers in. It’s going to be pretty awesome when we finish and I can’t wait to see how it turns out. I’ll be honest though, the first day of working there was slightly challenging for me. I was so much out of my comfort zone. When playing with the kids, a lot of them either didn’t speak English or didn’t speak. It kind of made it really difficult to know what they wanted us to do with them. One boy threw a ball at me the first day and just wanted to throw it back and forth. The more we threw it, the more he smiled. He would find new ways to get it to me. He kicked it, hit it with his hand, threw it. He even copied me by head butting it and throwing it behind his back. (Might I add, that kid is good!) He doesn’t talk, or not to me at least, but every time he catches it a new way he laughs and smiles. I would do whatever I could to hear that laugh everyday.
It’s taken quite a few times to be reminded this week that even though I may not understand them and they may not understand me, a smile translates the same. A laugh translates the same and those two things make this whole trip worth while. From seeing a huge smile on the face of a kid I’m spinning around to laughing hysterically with my host family because Buli wants us to jump with her or we say something ridiculous, it’s all the same. Thank you, God, for all the moments you give to us just to see your children smile.