amahle – the beautiful ones

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my latest check-in with woza (chris’ soccer and service trip to south africa) had me firing all the questions at him. tell me about this photo, i said, then, before chris could even finish explaining, i went on to the next one: and what about the safari photo, then oh, and this nighttime one with the soccer ball—what’s the story behind that one? i get this way when i drink coffee—except, i don’t drink coffee. chris’ beautiful photographs just had me buzzing.

chris slowed me down and got to his explaining: “these students we’re helping sheldon put soccer camps on for have never seen a glassybaby.” he went on to say that when fionna, one of the girls on the woza trip, brought out the glassybaby tote bag filled with six different glassybaby, “she got swarmed.” it was shorty, nicknamed for being mtuba soccer academy’s shortest student (childhood can be a tough time!) and seen in the photo up above, who got his hands on one and said “amahle,” a zulu name that means “beautiful one.” all of the students shared his sentiment, adding just how smooth and pretty they are.

and of course i wanted to learn more about what compelled chris to take the glassybaby on safari with him. “they go everywhere with us” he replied, and went on to explain how the safari driver, whose name is welcome, is a former soccer player himself. it was a first for so many: the first time many of the woza students had been on safari, and the first time a glassybaby got so close to a lion!

another photo showed how glassybaby are being used not only for show, but for play, too. without any lights to help keep things bright enough to see their soccer ball, some of woza’s students decided to use the glassybaby as the soccer tennis net. illuminated safely, the five glassybaby shined in the artful way that i have grown to love, at the dinner table or on my bedside table. their clever way of using their glassybaby led me to wonder how others are lighting their glassybaby in an original, creative way. i’m resisting the urge to explore instagram right now so that i can finish this post, but you can count on me checking it out as soon as i finish…

and chris went on to tell me about how, in all their travels, they love to share the beauty of glassybaby. he was quick to point out that, despite how attached he and his kids have become to woza’s “12th man,” they plan to return home with an empty tote bag. “these glassybaby,” he said, “are being given to those whom have guided, hosted, welcomed, and helped us.” The first glassybaby, goodness, was given to sheldon over the course of a powerful evening that chris said his students will never forget. “it was our last night at the academy,” he began explaining, “and sheldon has opened his heart to us in a way that makes mtubatuba feel like home.” i could hear in chris’ voice just how special this trip has been to him, his fellow coaches and their students. “many of our kids want to come back and intern with sheldon” chris quickly added.

chris helped me understand a crucial point that woza soccer adventures seeks to make clear: soccer is the world’s game. it brings the world together, creating an organic connection across cultures and languages. it’s humbling to be just a small part of such an amazing trip. all of us at glassybaby are truly touched by woza’s mission.