Scene 10: Keep Smiling

Friday, December 12th


Max is leaving this evening for vacation and will not be back before the Energy Team leaves South Africa. To express our sincere gratitude for all his work with us, the team decided to have a farewell lunch to share our memories and say goodbye. The pictures taken in the past weeks were printed out as a gift for him.

Cast of Characters

Max is our co-researcher. He works in the Office of Sustainable Livelihoods and has accompanied us to set up all the Pilot Programs. After the team leaves, he will continue our project.


The lunch was held in El Burro, a Mexican restaurant near our lodge in Green Point.

Energy Team with Max

The Energy Team with Max


“You know what. This is the last time I will see you guys,” said Max with a sense of disappointment in his voice. We got upset when we heard that; seven weeks went by too quickly. Sadly, this last meeting made us realize how much we will miss working with him. “In America, we don’t say ‘goodbye’. We say ‘see you soon,’” said Tati, after a short gap. Max took a moment to think about that saying. After a couple seconds, he smiled, and told us, “In Zulu, we say ‘Umbandoo.’”The goodbye conversation had been taken in a sobering direction. This hour was too precious to continue such an emotional conversation. Tati spoke to lighten the mood.

“That’s a nice shirt! Where did you get this?”

“I got it in Durban,” he turned his head to Jing, and smiled, “When you are down, look in the mirror and change the expression on your face. Now, tell me, what you can see if you were standing in front of a mirror right now?”

She was not quite sure what to say.

“I see this pretty girl about to cry,” He laughed, “Keep smiling, you are the one that can determine your own happiness.”

The atmosphere was finally lightened up through the transition of the topic. Max has the natural ability to speak eloquently and has a great spirit. Even the smallest topic like a shirt, the bad traffic, or Valentine’s Day flowers, could be made interesting by Max.

“Love is free. It is not jailed,” he proclaimed about the tradition of giving roses on Valentine’s Day. It was nice to have this conversation with him without talking about our project. Through him, we have learned so much about South African culture and the lifestyle. We were blown away by how similar Brazilian, Chinese, American, and South African cultures were as all four countries are so different. However, at this moment, we realized how similar we all are.

No matter how much we wanted to have this moment last a little longer, time never stops. Our lunch was nearing the end and it was time to say goodbye.

“You have inspired me, and I have learned so much,” he said. He did not realize that he inspired us even more. His life philosophy made us reevaluate our outlook on the world and we will carry it with us for the rest of our lives. “No need to be sad. You have friends all around you.”

“Umbandoo, my friends,” his voice faded off in the traffic as the cars passed by.

Reflection and Learning
The journey of the Interactive Qualifying Project seems both exasperatingly long and tragically short, but having Max as a companion was the greatest thing to happen to us. His words and wisdom has truly inspired us. Meeting him not only allowed us to make a great friend on the other side of the world but also know an amazing soul. His philosophy about life has changed us as individuals. When we were told, “The world needs you,” we realized how much we have done in the past seven weeks and how much we can do in the future. He led us to realize our potential and made us become happier people. We will always remember “keep smiling.”