In Uncategorized on July 9, 2011 at 1:13 pm

We have completed our first week of training.

It is nothing short of amazing. I know I use the word amazing a lot, but I mean it. I’m in a group with four beautiful women with stories seeping from their skin. I feel honored to be here every single day. To sit and be mentored by a woman who has literally done it all when it comes to this oral tradition and story telling. I pinch myself often to make sure I am actually here.

I’m writing everyday and reading. Reading! Books that have me nodding my head after every chapter, I’m devouring every word. The program is all encompassing. It is so much more than how to perform and how to tell stories. Not just about projecting from the diaphragm and making eye contact. This is a no nonsense approach to story telling. A methodology that begs the question “who are you really?” It is an exploration of self first. All else is smoke and mirrors. Be the poem.

The sort of classes I’m used to are the kind where you sit in neat rows and someone talks at you, permitting you to ask questions at prescribed breaks. This is different. We sit in a circle and look directly at people when they speak. This is where the true stories are. Listening to the way people name their emotions and lived experiences is such a humbling process. People have seen things.

I want to talk about the books and the documentaries and the lessons. But there are too many and they come at rapid intervals. At the end of the day I honestly feel like my mind has taken a long stretch. I came here because I was really tired of just “saying” poems. Anyone can write a great piece of poetry and perform it in a somewhat convincing way. Anyone can wow you by putting words together. I want to do something transcendent. I’m learning to approach writing with sacredness, to cherish this gift, and not take for granted the fact that people actually sit and listen. That needs to be respected at all times.

We take some time to play also. Last night we went to a bar in downtown Cape Town called Mama Africa where a live band plays everyday. We danced. A lot. True to form a bottle of wine is never too far out of reach. I’m becoming a South African wine expert.

On Saturdays we have the community service portion of our training. Today was our first one. We get to work with a group of 5 – 9 year old children from one of the townships in Cape Town. We will be working with them every week until graduation where they will present what we’ve been working on. Before the children arrive we are asked to prepare a lesson plan, a way to keep 5 – 9 year olds engaged for two hours. We work in pairs, so I sit with my partner to come up with what we think is a rock solid action packed schedule. I can honestly say that I have never in my life been so completely humbled.

The children arrive wide-eyed, ready and totally attentive. There’s one catch. They don’t speak English.

I begin to sweat immediately. Thankfully they come with a guardian who is able to loosely translate what we’re trying to say. It is a rocky start to say the least. At some point we realize our lesson plan is useless. This is a lesson in improvisation.

So we start over. We try to go back to what it is to be 5 or 7 or 9 years old. We let them show us.

The children have it all figured out. One of them begins to sing and the others join in. They sing with such enthusiasm and conviction that all I can do is stand there with my mouth open. One calls, the others respond and then they switch places. This is storytelling at it finest. I’m beside myself. I had to leave the room…to clean my eyeballs.

Against all odds these children are present. Their whole world is this room, right now. I tell you, there are lessons everywhere.

I’m trying to remember to document. Sometimes I’m afraid to reach for my camera for fear of destroying whatever moment is playing out before me. I capture what I can, when I can and store the rest in my memory banks.

Thank you all so much for reading and supporting. I’ll continue to take you with me as much as I can.

Love, love, love,


Mama Africa from Titilope on Vimeo.

  1. Incredible experience!! Please send your syllabus or book list for the course my way 🙂

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