Most mission visits we do for this project all follow the same basic routine. We go and introduce ourselves, make our pitches, talk about what existing aid that particular mission has in place, take a tour of the areas that this aid benefits, then see where Servite HS can fit into the equation. The areas we have toured have all been similar as well: extreme poverty, shacks for housing, little to no sanitation, high crime, etc. Through it all, children have been always present, and it is usually them that offer up the easiest smiles and friendliest waves. These glimpses of friendliness are like little points of light in an otherwise foreboding setting, as most of the time everyone else just stares back vacantly or with extreme skepticism as a couple of white guys walk around the favelas with cameras and notepads. We have to be delicate with our movements and questions. Body language goes far here, the prospect of free housing even further, and this all affects the people we are surrounded by. The children seem oblivious to it all however, and their stoke and attitudes help ease us into a comfortable space as we tour around.
Well, if those little smiles and waves were just glimpses, we got to witness a full panorama of the spirit behind those gestures a week ago as we visited the Bishop Jose Luis Ponce de Leon who stays at the mission in Hlabisa, about an hour north of Mtubatuba. After being led to the town by a young local Servite student in the area named Sifiso, we met with Fr. Jose Luis to discuss possible sites for the communication arm of our project. After the meeting we took a tour of the adjoining primary school, and as we walked up the small slope that separates church and state (the school is government run but sits on mission property), we started to notice a growing din. Clapping singing, stomping, whistling; it all got clearer and exponentially louder the closer we walked towards this one classroom. By the time we got to the door, the noise was so loud none of us could hear the other talk. Once that same door opened to let us in, we were all physically jolted as we entered by a rush of sound and an air thick with sweat, dust and intensity.
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