Beans & Rice for the Soul

teaching, learning and living around the world

To Kinshasa, With Love

Although I’m excited to move to Goma, it is also sad to know that I will not be returning to The American School of Kinshasa (Tasok) in the fall. I have taught, lived and learned in Kinshasa for the past three years and it has been both a privilege and a challenge.

A few days before the end of year faculty party, I was working on my least favorite part of packing- deciding which books I need, and which books must be left behind.  I picked up one of my South African poetry books and flipped through the pages to remind myself of why I simply must keep it. (I usually say that about all of my books, and it isn’t until I’m physically jamming them into every nook and cranny of every suitcase that I ACTUALLY make some cuts.)

Anyhow, there were three poems in particular that really spoke to me that day.  They each captured, so beautifully, how I felt about leaving… what I had learned from working at Tasok… and I knew that this was JUST the thing for me to present at the annually dreaded, I-really-don’t-want-to-cry-open-mic at the end of year faculty party.

So… here is how it went:

i created this shuffled around compilation hoping that by using the words of others as a vehicle to express myself… i could avoid crying like a baby like John Milton did last year. i really feel like it’s too soon for me to completely make sense of the past three years- how tasok’s changed, how i’ve changed, and how i feel about leaving.

i think the words of these poets capture pretty well some of the ways in which i appreciate you.  (all of those ways are way too immense to capture in a short time, but i’ve tried to keep it under 6 minutes so please bare with me…) also, i use the word YOU to mean each of you here, and all of the other teachers, friends, children, students, and parents- who have been in these same seats over the past three years,   so…it’s a pretty big YOU that i’m talking to. anyhow, without further ado, these are the re-ordered words of Lueen, Mashile and Molebatsi

i begin with the end

of these three years

tears sing their way down your cheeks

as we speak

when we embrace

then reluctantly let go

we know without words

the spirit and [community] ties

that bind us

you, reminding me of who i am

blessing me unexpectedly

over the past three years

you all have reassured me that

i am not alone, we are not alone


i’m made of water

sealed by thunder

nursed by wonder

that’s why everything i touch

behaves like the bottomless sea

and some get lost in its motion

they place their hopes in the past

that’s folded packed and stacked away

like the yesterdays

that claim their space in me

but memory is a mother

in waiting


the mouth of every challenge mechanically

she grabs [history’s] lips inside her grip

and makes them tell the truth

about genes and schemes and hypocrisy

and democracy

and when the seeds of peace are revealed

by all the forgotten stories told

we’ll remember that we are made of dirt and dreams

we are not alone

as far as the eye can see

is our place

is our home

as long as the mind can speak

we will always be known

over the past three years you all

have reassured me, encouraged me and taught me

so many lessons about teaching, that i hope i will pass on

to at least a few of my future students

i [hope i’m teaching] you to wake up and take a ride on the universe

be a beam of soul/sound/energy

create my child, like you the created

learn the language of moulding

seeds into fruitful beings

i’m [teaching] you so you too can [teach] me

[student of mine]

teach me things about the two of us we’re yet to learn

and believe me child some of the things i know

can save your soul

so listen up child,

wake up to be yourself or don’t wake at all

life is not for the feeble

stand ready for the teachings of time and

only life alone can extend her arms to offer you wealth, i can never reach

so clothe yourself with ancient souls

who knew before we did that you, the future

will be born into this crazy but jazzy scene called life

rise and let the world know you are here

to claim yourself

never wait for life’s breath to blow into your lungs

rather, bloom from the dust we rose from

like mystics and grow your own wings

and be sure to ask for strength between these wings

so they don’t split in halves cause child,

i’m [teaching] you to be whole

paint your life’s everyday in ways not forced on you,

but reflections felt, by you cause none but ourselves can

blow up a true self that is everything there is to be

raise your story’s voice to go beyond any beyond

and beat any ghost that could suck out your way up to clouds of choice

have sacred communion with the past that knotted to you

your presence

cause child, your are the present and

any presence that lacks a past is part of the lost…

listen close, cause you’re a [student], and i’m a[student]

[let us] remove our walk from the exhausting

arms of men-talities who can’t take a strong [mind]

and folks who want to think

we’re strong enough only for taking their instructions

and child, i’m still tasting the bitter truth i’m learning

that not every [grown up wants a student with a mind]

so never step into boxes, these aren’t enough

to hold your stories alive

rise to the knowledge that our people and theirs

are tapestries growing long and wide

enough to hold you up till you can hold yourself

never forbid your truth in spaces that strangle your realities

rise [up!] your vision is your voice

i’m [teaching] you to think not only in straight lines

but in circles and curves and connections

so you can come round, if you wish, my child

paint the moon orange or black if you wish

cause child, I’m [teaching] you to be free

i have laboured to

challenge convention

beat conviction on my soul

scrubbed the floors of my heart…

so the fruits of my garden would be like you child of mine

beautiful beyond magic herself

i stood guard at the entrance of your [learning space]

to usher you into these arms…

that i [hope i’m teaching] you

to fly beyond

over the past three years you all

have reassured me, encouraged me, taught me

and shed so much of your wise light on the bigger picture

the life you are waiting for is happening now

flowing through time’s fingers,

reminding through memories

that the story is always in motion

ready or not its world knocks on everyday

turning knobs untying knots

bearing witness to each breath

the joys, losses and gains of life

have no pauses, peaks or ends

they are simply the moments to live

cause life is a long game you found [already] in action

and as you drink this poem, [reach out for] the next,

begin this thought, hold this dream

want this want,

life is not waiting for your call

your story is unfolding, like it or not

look into your palms you are holding it

so don’t you hold it up

it is wrapping and shedding its self over your skin

like natural things do season in and season out

this is your legacy ready or not

between… fear and failure, reason and regret,

life generates and goes on and on and

round and round, over and over

to each colleague, to each neighbor, to each friend

and to those of you who wear all three hats

your reassurance, encouragement, and insight

will continue to shape me for years to come

your journey is entwined with mine

dancing together

yet in our own space and time

through this territory of

births, deaths and [moving on]

crystalising our core

exposing our capacity for more

stay close, friend

brave, beautiful you

stay true

thank you all, for everything.


One comment on “To Kinshasa, With Love

  1. Silmi
    February 17, 2012

    Hey miss rich, I miss u soo much!!! Jus saw this website n wateva u said bout task is solo true!!! Nyways tc!!! 🙂

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This entry was posted on June 12, 2010 by in books, humanities, teaching, travel.
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