Empathize while you squat! – Amalia Quesada Nylen (USA)

After a long weekend filled with plenty of outings, laughs, and well-deserved rest, Monday morning came fast. We can officially say that we made it to the second week here at GSP! The first one flew by, and the next two are sure to even go by even faster. The GSP group started off the day by listening to Reyhaan King and Abi Skinner’s stories, both of which were truly admirable. Rey shared his struggles that he went through during his childhood. He overcame these adversities and used them as a way to define who he is today, rather than letting them bring him down. Abi also shared an inspirational story, although she spoke of the challenges she still faces today. Her strength and determination to overcome her struggles is incredible.

The GSPers thanked our peers for sharing their life stories, and we moved onto the next task of the day. We all divided into our families, and worked a great deal on finalizing our solutions for the daycare sites in Zandspruit. Common themes for solutions included revising curriculums, creating educational games and songs for the children, promoting good hygiene and a healthy lifestyle, etc. We came to these conclusions after participating in multiple activities, such as taking turns wearing colorful handmade paper hats in Edward DeBono’s Six Hat Thinking exercise. The colors include white, red, black, yellow, green, and blue, each of which represent distinct states of thinking. For example, red represents emotion, so the person wearing the red hat would state their instinctive gut reaction to a solution presented.

After a home cooked lunch from the ALA dining hall, the GSPers met Mr. Tait, and we were challenged once more. Our task was to build the tallest tower with a marshmallow, using only uncooked pieces of pasta, string, tape, scissors, and said marshmallow. We were divided up into teams, and we had 18 minutes to complete the task. Once the winning team finished enjoying their valued prize of a bag of marshmallows, we gathered into the quad to start our next activity. We discussed the lesson we could take away from the activity, agreeing that failure can at times teach us more lessons than success ever can, and that itself is what helps us continue pushing through challenges. Next, Mr. Morake read ALA student Emmanuel’s story, who recently tragically passed away. While Mr. Morake read the story, the GSPers gathered in a circle, sitting in a squat position with our eyes closed until we were tapped by one of the staff. One tap meant you could stand up, two taps meant you could open your eyes, and three taps meant you could do whatever you wanted. I was one of the few chosen to do whatever I wanted, and I admit that I felt the need to enjoy stretching my legs before I realized I now had the power to tap my fellow peers that were still in pain squatting. This was one of my favorite activities so far; it really opened my eyes at how hard it is to listen to and feel for others when you yourself are struggling and focusing on something else. It is a difficult and humble trait that one can only hope to attribute completely in a lifetime.

After, we gathered in the conference room to listen to Mr. Tait’s lesson on prototyping for our community service projects. A couple of tips we learned included to show, don’t tell, know your audience, engage the senses, keep it simple, tell a story, and to test your assumptions. Immediately after this lesson, we were instructed to apply what we had just learned in making prototypes for three of our solutions for the daycares. We were divided up into our families, and worked for about two hours on the quad, using materials such as paper, glue, crayons, colored pencils, and cardboard to create models of our solutions. Then, we ate another whole hearty meal for dinner and had a bit of time to play some sports on campus before gathering for our last lesson of the day.

We finished the day off with watching the 2006 blockbuster movie “Blood Diamond”, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, set in South Africa. The movie tells the story of a fisherman, a smuggler, and a syndicate of businessmen that match wits over the possession of a priceless diamond in Sierra Leone in 1999. We were asked to actively watch the movie, taking notes on aspects of Africa that people who have only seen or heard about it in films, may have misconceptions about. Based on my experience being here in South Africa, I was appalled at the amount of violence and anarchy that was portrayed to be part of a typical day here on this continent. Child soldiers were featured, whites were seen only coming out of fancy hotels, and nobody was smiling. The most riveting quote I heard was during a scene between Solomon, one of the main protagonists in the film who finds a huge pink diamond, and Maddy Bowen, a journalist looking to find enough information to bring the diamond smuggling industry down. They were discussing her article, and Solomon asked “so when people from your country [USA] read it, they will come help us?” to which Bowen replied “probably not.” This provided me with some food for thought, that maybe change for this advancing continent is possible if we believe in its future. Another day at ALA filled with life lessons that keep me thinking about for hours!

Till the next time!

GSP 2012 in the eyes of…

Amalia Quesada Nylen


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