Bio Why She Wanted to Go to South Africa Carri, a 31-year-old teacher from Eugene, Oregon, began teaching history for the first time last year. She was determined to find a good way to make history "real" for her students.
She says, "When you can make things real for kids, when they can imagine themselves in someone else's shoes, when things become vivid...that's when you can make an actual experience for them. I believe that's when real learning and real compassion take place. And that, to me, is the blessing of all education."
Favorite Cry, the Beloved Country Quote Carri's favorite line from the novel: "Read more, think more, want more."
About Carri When Carri went to college, she felt herself drawn to education but went a more creative route, majoring in English, Communications and Theater. Carri later returned to school to get a master's in Education and she credits Oprah with giving her the courage to pursue her dream.
Last year, Carri began following her own passion as a teacher. She is now teaching in one of the lowest income school systems in her area— giving her compassion and helping her to understand the way people look at poverty and children from the "wrong side of the tracks." She could relate to the social message of Cry, the Beloved Country because of the attitudes she feels society has that teaching poor children can be a "waste of time".
Carri is an avid reader and loyal Oprah's Book Club fan. She was not only amazed by this book selection's social significance and historical value, but also by the fact that the lives inside the book feel so real to her. Carri says she didn't devour the book...instead, she took her time, reading it in pieces so she could soak it all in. Day One On the Plane I'm entering South Africa with a completely open mind. I have no idea what to expect but I'm hoping for the adventure of a lifetime. Beautiful scenery, a chance to see how to people of South Africa really live and the opportunity to experience every moment to the fullest! I'm planning to be fully present! Day Two Arriving in Johannesburg I was amazed at the social and economic diversity I saw right away when we landed in Johannesburg. I was really overwhelmed by the high walls that shelter the obviously wealthy houses that lay beyond them. On the streets, poor people were selling whatever items they could find to people who rode by in the cars. The diversity of the people here in this bustling, South African city is spectacular. Day Three Trip to Soweto This town of ramshackle homes constructed from tires, corrugated metal, newspaper—whatever bits of solid material that can be found—is full of such pride. I can't believe the people here: they are amazing, beautiful and friendly. Day Four Apartheid Museum We began our journey with cards telling us who we were (someone other than ourselves). As if a piece of paper can define a whole person—I don't believe it can for a minute. I was "non-white," so I had to enter from a different entrance while my new friends went through the white side. It was a powerful glimpse of Apartheid and how it kept people from being truly human. Day Five Carisbrooke School Being in the children's school, their place of hope...where children sit and dream of futures—touched me beyond any expectation. It is my calling to teach—it will be my life's work. Day Six On Kumalo's Mountain This place is so peaceful—the ground up here crunches comfortably beneath your feet when you walk—as if the ground was waiting for you, hopes you will come, is welcoming. It's just like the people of South Africa.
Sitting atop Kumalo's mountain, the rocks are hot with African sun. I can imagine Kumalo sitting here, looking down on the valley, on the land he loves, where his son was born and played and laughed. I can feel how far away he must have felt from his son—how one world collided with another and stole his son from him.
Indian Ocean Today I touched the Indian Ocean, and smelled the salt of a thousand dreams in the waves. Small tide pools harbored fish, sea spiders, and colorful creatures whose names I do not know. I wanted to capture the entire sea and bring the lulling beauty home. Day Seven Robben Island I cannot believe Mandela spent twenty-seven years in this place and came out such a kind man. How was it that he didn't become vengeful and filled with hate? It is no wonder his country reveres him so much—he must be quite a man. Day Eight Table Mountain What a surreal experience. The mist crept slowly over the mountain until we were almost engulfed—like a soothing envelope encasing us high above Cape Town. Day Nine Kariega/Shamwari We met the most beautiful rhino today! Her name is Andie and she was so curious about us that she came right up to our vehicle—all bright eyed and expectant—almost like a friendly puppy full of playful intent. Day 10 World AIDS Day Concert Seeing Nelson Mandela in person was a real honor—he has done so much for his country and is a living testament to what the human spirit is capable of even in the face of suffering and injustice. He brought his nation into the light of a new dawn—seeing how people respond to him is something to marvel at. Day 11 Flight Home/Reflections It will be a 30-hour return journey for me and I am exhausted at the onset! I have enjoyed the beauty of South Africa's landscape and have been inspired by the courage and pride of South Africans themselves. I was especially moved by the spirit of the children at Carisbrooke School and somehow found out more about myself on this journey than I had expected—like how much I take for granted. This experience has helped me realize that the most important things in life are not the things we can touch and see, but the things we can feel and experience and the people we love and share our lives with. I feel like I can approach my life with new eyes now—seeing things through a different lens—one that is brighter, clearer, less cluttered with mundane worries. God is in the details...you just have to focus on the right details.
I produced my video more than a week ago—before I really had a chance to delve into Cry, the Beloved Country—and I have to be honest that it wasn't until chapter twelve that I finally saw the connection to my own life.
I am a teacher and my students are the poorest in our country. They are neglected and rejected by society. It says in the novel, "For it is only because they see neither purpose nor goal that they turn to drink and crime and prostitution." That is how people view my kids. Every day, I try to inspire my kids to see that they have a "worthy purpose," that they are worthy.
It also says in Cry, the Beloved Country "And others say this is a danger, for better-paid labor will not only buy more but will read more, think more, ask more, and will not be content to be forever voiceless and inferior." I want that for my kids—for them to find their voices and become who they were meant to be. Take me with you. I know I can make a difference on your show and a difference in the lives of my kids.
Printed from Oprah.com on Wednesday, December 4, 2013