Friday, 14 July 2017

Searching for the Spirit of the Great Heart

I spend most of my time in Singapore getting boys to stop singing, gumboot dancing, using chop sticks as drum sticks, humming...

But how do you rearrange genetics? How do you rewire a spirit?

I don't know if Singapore was ready for us. The hushed silences that fell over every audience we performed for were an indication of a culture used to restraint and controlled responses and our boys are anything but that. But we know that we have been a complete success here. Clearly. We won the most contested category of the Orientale a lot. And I could probably devote an entire blog to the feedback given to us by the judges, who are from all over the world. We have also had countless messages, friend requests and groupie conversations with (mainly girls) who were left speechless by our performance.

We have been hailed as the ultimate ambassadors for both our country and our faith.

People don't know how to respond to us.

Imagine the following scene -
So our hotel is next to the president's residence. I am looking out over the forest that surrounds the place where deals are made. We are right in the middle of the busiest part of the city. The other day we were doing our mass choir performance at a nearby shopping centre. The boys got changed into the African music gear - vests, trousers, gumboots and animal skins and marched their way out of the hotel and down one of the most well-known streets of Singapore, past the president's house, to one of the most impressive shopping centres in the city centre. I snuck ahead to watch peoples responses.

I remember as a child being told by my older cousins about the TV series Shaka Zulu (because I was way too young to watch it). They were most impressed by the beautiful, muscular Zulu impis but clearly didn't know they had a name so they aptly named them 'shakas'. And the shakas had spears and were brave athletic soldiers and you didn't mess with them. And we played a game called 'The shakas are coming' in which we re-enacted epic battle scenes from the tv series.

Watching our stunning, confident boys walking down that road, I wanted to shout out 'the shakas are coming!' Despite the curious, sometimes shocked responses given by those we passed, our boys walked like warriors. Some bystanders surreptitiously took out their phones to film them and others looked like they felt that they were living in a parallel universe - one where giant Africans towered above them, their confidence intimidating.

But do you know what the best thing was? All the boys belonged to that impi. Because all of us are different in this country. No matter our colour or culture, in this country we are all ambassadors for South Africa. We carry with us the dream for a country that is constantly working at finding a sense of harmony, and from chats I have had with tour guides here, no country, no matter how modern and first-world it is, has the whole cultural/racial thing right.

Every time our boys have been on stage together, we forget about who overslept, who forgot to wash their vest, who lost their wallet, and we see the unity of young men who have put their differences aside in order to make something beautiful.

Our tour comes to an end tomorrow and I am sorry that I haven't written a more 'touristy' blog but I'm not that kind of writer. There are hundreds of pics on Facebook for those who want a blow by blow account of our tour.

This blog is a memory bank for our boys, I'm sorry I wasn't able to write more, but flip - we haven't stopped. One day the boys might actually read this blog and when they do, I hope they will be transported back to this fascinating place, with it's strange foods, smells and customs and they will remember, with pride, the joy and passion that they brought to Singapore.

My boys to me you are all the 'shandis' and I will never forget how privileged I was to be your mom for ten days.

To long..and thanks for all the rice.

God bless,
Emily Stockil-Smith


  1. Thanks for all the blogs. I love the journey you painted for us and the experience you have shared of our boys. Lucky, talented, professional, ambassadors and most of all Kearsney boys. Care Diem

  2. Thank-you for your stories from Singapore. We have looked forward to reading them and getting the 'behind the scenes' anecdotes. Thank-you for being their 'mom' and caring so much for all of the boys. We appreciate all that you and the other teachers have done for the boys on this tour. Praying that your journey home is uneventful!

  3. Every morning I first browsed fb to see if another fantastic story made it's way on this blog. It became the highlight in the last 10 days. As I read it tears, joy, pride and astonishment filled my heart thinking we are part of this very great event. I left a very insecure, tearful boy in your hands on Tuesday and through whatsapps and -calls I could hear how he has popped out of his little comfort zone and excelled becoming a true part of this choir. Soccer rules the sport world, but Kearsney choir rules the univese. You have stood the test of times and won the price at the finishing line - the end of this tour. You made us so much part of it, as close as what this cell phone is to my hand. May this blog be the last for this tour ... But not the last of you. (Would not like to read another blog of all the things that could possibly go wrong on the home stretch). Carpe Diem.

  4. Thank you so much for all your beautiful posts giving us a window into your world of experiences in Singapore! Loved reading your stories with eager anticipation! So well written every one of them!


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Searching for the Spirit of the Great Heart

I spend most of my time in Singapore getting boys to stop singing, gumboot dancing, using chop sticks as drum sticks, humming... But how ...