I asked a group of schoolchildren a simple question about South Africa. I couldn’t stop giggling at one little girl’s answer…
Last week I gave a presentation at Ark of Learning in Indiana, Pennsylvania. It is an after school program run by the Salvation Army, and I was contacted by a young lady who works there. She is president of Delta Tau Sigma—a service sorority I founded with some friends while I was an IUP undergrad. (Hooray that it’s still going, and its sisters are still out there doing great things for the community!)
As I was getting ready to show them some photos of penguins near Cape Town I asked if anyone knew which two oceans touched South Africa. The children ranged in age, and I really didn’t expect an answer from the younger kids.
One sweet little girl, pushing up large, pink glasses that matched her shirt and outsized her small face, waved her hand at me before standing up and asking, uncertain but hopeful: “Yellow Creek? Is it Yellow Creek Ocean?”
[Yellow Creek Lake is part of a local freshwater, inland, state park famous for picnics, play, and a small, sand beach.]
Of course it wasn’t the answer, but I was awash with happiness.
She had just created one of those rare moments when your sensory input collides—creating a new, interwoven fabric of place and time.
I was suddenly, simultaneously in South Africa; in a classroom at the Salvation Army in Indiana, PA; and at Yellow Creek State Park. It was concurrently 2018, 2013, 1993, and 1976.
Here was my own childhood of playing at Yellow Creek beach, of begging for an ice cream treat from the store, of pontooning with family, and of talking all night on a first date with my now husband as we watched otters swim past the boat launch.
Here were memories of penguins in the bushes and in the water near Boulders’ Beach in the warm Cape sunshine, of tracking a black rhino through the bush with a ranger, and of writing in my journal on the banks of the Limpopo River.
Here was a collision of America and South Africa within a vision of little pink frames being pushed up the bridge of a nose, of a room full of eager faces, and of another tiny girl’s hand holding mine as it hovered over the laptop to advance to the next photo.
I try to write frequently when I travel because I know how easily and quickly memories layer upon the previous ones as we hurtle forward through life, barely figuring out what we’ve taken in and learned before we add the next thing to it.
Thank you to Ark of Learning, and your beautiful children, for creating a strange and wonderful new memory mix.
I always carry my home wherever I go, and now when I look at the Atlantic and Indian Oceans as I stand at the Cape of Agulhas—the southern tip of Africa—I will think of Yellow Creek an ocean away, and of hopeful eyes peering through pink rims.
I hope that little girl also gets to take her own Yellow Creek Ocean around the world.
P.S. I’ll be back in Indiana, PA next week for Zim, Zam & The Smoke That Thunders, and an encore of Birds of Southern Africa! As always I’ll bring a little taste of Africa to the presentation.
Won’t you come say hello?