Category Archives: South Africa 2011

Saying good-bye

South Africa is beautiful. This is not beauty that is thrown around every day to describe people and scenery. This beauty is a deep, awe inspiring, starts in your chest, makes-you-feel-in-love beauty. We have traveled far and wide across South Africa and Lesotho, each stop offering a new inimitable take on beauty. Soweto presented a vibrant, effervescent culture and hospitality unlike anything I have ever experienced. The mountains in Lesotho were utterly unparalleled in their age-old majesty. The endless plains of the Great Karoo dotted with proud Kudu and Springboks left me breathless.

Cape Town is our final stop in South Africa and once again it has surprised me with its splendor. Table Mountain captured the awe of the Dutch captains almost 400 years ago and its ageless grandeur has struck me just the same. The beaches are comparably unreal with pristine white sand and crystal clear water. This beauty conquers urges to capture it, not one moment can be wasted.

-Aaron Springer

Wrist watch and Chaco tan lines have become apparent.  Thousands of photos have been taken.  Bags, earrings, jerseys, and numerous other souvenirs have been collected and worn.  These are a few tangible ways to see how we’ve been traveling and experiencing South Africa and Lesotho.  Although we have gotten tan and taken tokens of the beautiful South Africa, we have gained so much more that is not visible to the eye.  The most important part of our time here has been placed in our hearts and minds.  No amount of words or pictures can capture our true experience.

Our experience is unique to each one of us on the trip.  I have been shown so much love and beauty through my host families, other natives of the country, and the EMU group.  I have learned so much about myself, other people, the history and culture of South Africa and Lesotho, and my faith walk.  As the trip comes to an end, I have been reflecting more and more on my experience here.  We are all seeking ways to find connections with our time here and our life at home.  Although I am sad to be leaving such a wonderful country and cross-cultural, I’m excited to take what I’ve experienced back with me.

Although we are taking part of South Africa with us, I know we have left a little of ourselves behind.  This place has become a home away from home for many of us.  Challenges have been overcome.  Friendships have been formed.  New perspectives have been presented.  Joy, love, sadness, humility, and peace have been felt.  We have been on a journey that changes lives and now it is time to say good-bye here and hello to our next adventure.

-Kimberly Lane

Sharing Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is a well known, important holiday in America. Who would have thought families in Cape Town, South Africa would want to experience it with us.  I live with Justin Hershey, two retired parents and an older brother.  The first day we arrived in our home-stay we were showered with love and questions about Thanksgiving.  Soon week two rolled around, and we were asked to make pumpkin pie and mashed potatoes because that is American. Thanksgiving Day was soon upon us and we came home to a hustling, bustling mother.  She didn’t do anything without a smile. We made the potatoes along side of her in the open door, 27 degree Celsius weather.  It was the warmest Thanksgiving ever!

Soon family members began to arrive. We added chairs and tables to include ten people.  At first it was quiet, but eventually the table erupted with sounds of laughter and stories.  I felt at home in South Africa on the day set apart to be thankful for your home.  A love for this new family enclosed me. I am so thankful for the opportunity to have had Thanksgiving in South Africa.

-Kiera Stenson

 

Cape Town is an important economic, political, and cultural center in South Africa, as well as the origin of western influence in the region. It differs greatly from other places we have visited on this cross-cultural in that we are again surrounded by the establishments and ideologies of western society that were far distant for the majority of the trip. Seeing and being immersed in modern technology, media, consumerism, and a “comfortable” lifestyle has been enjoyable, but I don’t feel the same care or urgency to build relationships that I felt in Lesotho or Soweto. Here, life is full of material things and entertainment, eliminating the need for much human interaction while leaving many satisfied and happy, just like in America.

Lion's Head view north-west over Atlantic Ocean, Robben Island at center On the brighter side of things, weather has been gorgeous, in the 70′s, with sun almost every day, and flowers blooming around every corner. Hikes up the various mountain peaks within the city have had rewarding views. Two or three times a week our group meets for lectures at the University of Cape Town, with subjects ranging from current politics to the history of slavery in South Africa.

We have been quite lucky to have visits from notable historians like Nigel Warden, and respected political analysts like Richard Calland. Most recently, Calland educated us about the socio-economics of South Africa’s Constitution, that is, all people’s rights to housing, food, clean water etc. These are necessities that have yet to be universally available to all South Africans. We are thankful for one last set of graciously welcoming host-families, and can’t wait to be welcomed home by our real families very soon. In the meantime, the waves and warm ocean call, and I must answer before I find myself in an all together different kind of December weather, across the sea.

-Joaquin Sosa

 

Cape Town

11/21/11

Have you ever seen the movie Invictus? There’s a beautiful scenery shot of Table Bay, Cape Town, and the breathtaking surrounding mountains. I was watching that movie with some friends last summer and at that scene, one of them looked back, pointed at me, and mouthed, “that’s going to be YOU!” That seemed surreal. Not only could I not imagine being in Africa, but I knew that there were plenty of experiences to be had before I even began to think about Cape Town. Now, in the cliché way of travelers, I can’t believe I’m actually here.

One of the things that initially drew me to the South Africa/Lesotho cross-cultural was the huge diversity that we not only experience, but live in during our three months here. We began in a poor city township that was packed so full of people that there was never a second of silence. We moved on to a tiny, rural village, seemingly in the middle of nowhere, where we had no electricity and cooked by candlelight.  We then spend a week in a small Afrikaner farming town where several of us where given our own guesthouse for the week.

And then there’s Cape Town.Cape Town welcome ceremony

Capetonians tell us that Cape Town is completely different from any other African city, and even in my limited experience, I can see that they‘re right.  Cape Town is a beautifully diverse city, both culturally and geographically.  Towering mountains drop off directly into the ocean, pristine white beaches are sandwiched between jagged rocks, and a 20 minute drive through the city takes you into lush green forests and award-winning vineyards. The people are as diverse as the land, including large populations of Jews, Christians, and Muslims, white, colored, and black South Africans, Dutch, French, British, Malaysian, and Indian descendants, Afrikaners, and many others in between.

First day at UCT Being here is a strange mix of culture that seems very similar to our own yet very different at the same time. Downtown Cape Town feels like I could be home in Pittsburgh, but turn one corner and I’m in a squatter township.  My roommate, Rebekah Graham, and I are living with a wonderful retired couple whose housing style is much more similar to what we are used to than other home-stays we’ve experience along the way. We’ve spent most of this past week between lectures at the University of Cape Town and doing all of the “touristy” things around the city.  The dynamics among people here are still very much shaped by the mentality remaining from the institution of Apartheid.

Over all, being in Cape Town has so far been a strange conflicting tug of emotions.  Uncomfortable, almost guilty relief to be back in a somewhat familiar culture competes with a deep sadness that we’ve left that vibrant head-spinning, loving culture we lived with for two months.   Hope that spending our last several weeks in Cape Town will diminish culture shock upon returning home competes with the jarring reminders everywhere that we are in a place where racism, segregation, and inequality still dictate many aspects of life.  An increasing anxiety to be home competes with a new, profound love and respect for this beautiful country and its people.

What does this all mean, to you or me?  I don’t know.  This experience is going to take a long time to process and I know that a small blog post means very little in the vastness of life.  I’ll simply urge you to do this: be aware of the people around you.  Learn to respect cultures around you that are different than your own.  At the risk of sounding outstandingly cliché . . . It will change your world.

- Anna Weaver

 

Beyond the Facade

Everything that makes Cape Town famous overshadows its best qualities. It’s true that Table Mountain was just voted one of the Seven Wonders of the World, and boasts some of the hottest beaches. However, what I am experiencing is that the expensive resorts and tourist attractions hide the fact that there exists a massive amount of disparity between the rich and poor, as well as the amazing diversity of people in Cape Town. I am discovering the true lifeline of the city beyond the façade of the five star hotels and the million dollar houses.

I have fallen in love with a different part of Group discussions in the classroom at UCT Cape Town than I expected. In the shadow of Table Mountain is a diverse community from many different cultures and parts of the world. Living with a Colored family here is widening my perspective of South African history even more, as I continue
to learn about how ethnicity plays a large role in all levels of politics and economics.

I am experiencing that cities in South Africa often promote an aspect of tourism that does not display the authentic citizen. The authentic citizen is what lies beyond the façade and is what needs to be promoted. My greatest memories from the time spent in Africa are not bungee jumping, surfing, or climbing Table Mountain (even though they were awesome). My best memories are from the conversations and experiences I have had with the authentic citizens. The lasting joy I have felt from South Africa and Lesotho has been from the relationships built with my host families while living alongside them in everyday life.

- Justin King

Free travel journals

Wilderness, SA Watching shark week on the Discovery Channel has ruined the ocean for me. I can no longer go in the water without the thought of a shark taking off with my thigh. However, more specifically shark week has given me a fear of the South African coast because this is where all the stories of great whites come from.  With that being said, when David first offered to go surfing on free travel with me, I said no. As time went on, I decided this was my time to be brave. So we called the surf shop in Mossel Bay and rented some boards and wet suits.

We arrived at the beach nervous but excited, and when I say we were nervous, I mean I was nervous. The scariest thing was the fact that Seal Island (a hot spot for great whites) was within eye sight. We then suited up and got in the water. Luckily the water was so cold it took my mind off my fear of the sharks. The waves were big and constant. For an experienced surfer this might mean catching some great waves. However, for me it meant struggling to keep my board attached without hitting myself in the face with it. Over the whole time we saw no sign of sharks but did have a close call with a seal. In the end I learned two things about myself, I cannot swim well and my balance is terrible. I had lots of fun, and hope to do it again sometime.

-Aaron Brydge

 

Over the past week, we have been traveling to different backpacker lodges every couple days along the Garden Route.  It was very interesting seeing the different cities and towns.  Laci, Sarah Grace, Rebekah and I went to three different lodges in five days. Out of the three places we went, I really enjoyed Mossel Bay.

We stayed at a nice place called Little Brak Beach House. It was 10 minutes away from the city of Mossel Bay. I loved being away from the city and just relaxing.  Thankfully, we had a wonderful day at the beach while we were there.  In Wilderness, Laci and I were laying out and we got “waved on”. The lodge reminded me of home, which was so relaxing.  We had pizza one night and stir-fry the last night.  It was a lot of fun getting to know the girls more. Now I am looking forward to the next month in Cape Town.

-Jessica Blanks

 

Over the course of the past week, our group split into smaller groups and spent “Fall Break” touring the Garden Route.  The Garden Route is the path one travels along the Eastern Coast of South Africa that offers many convenient excursions and amenities geared towards tourists. My group, consisting of Heidi Bauman, Laura Hershey, Anna Weaver and Kiera Stenson, started in Plettenberg Bay followed by Mossel Bay and ended in Stellenbosh. The week was mostly spent basking in the hot African sun on the white sandy beaches of the beautiful, blue Indian Ocean. By far, the best fall break in college! One of the excursions I ventured on was deep sea fishing in Mossel Bay with Justin King. It was a joke of sorts in that since we had celebrated our birthdays on the same day, it was our gift to each other.  We set sail into the wide, blue yonder on “Sharky” the name of our motorboat. Once we got past the swells and intense waves the ocean was peaceful.

The famous hymn “It is well” by Horatio Spafford immediately consumed my thoughts. Spafford had written the hymn in remembrance of his four daughters, over the spot where the boat had capsized. Through unimaginable tragedy, Spafford penned the hymn, inspiring hope and peace through good and bad times in life.  Justin and I engaged in conversation, one in particular, about the powers of water and its versatility, more specifically the vastness of the ocean.  During our silence, I then made a parallel to God.  Isn’t God the same way? He has exposed himself to me in so many different ways throughout the past two months in South Africa, through trials and tribulations and blessings, both obvious and in disguise.  His presence is as big as the Indian Ocean and as small as the smile on Lindiwe’s face, my five year old host brother in Lesotho.

God is omnipotent and versatile.  Although God is constant, I am constantly growing and changing as a result of His vastness.  I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to engage in relationships with Africans and even more so, with each member on this cross-cultural.  The beauty of it all is that the journey is far from over.

-Sarah Leland

 

 

 

 

Reflections on Bethulie, love and what we have left behind

10/29/2011

The group left Lesotho on October 23rd bound for Bethulie, South Africa, an Afrikaaner town in the Free State.  Some were ready to go, to do something different.  I was not one of those people.  Lesotho for me had been an eye-opening yet amazing experience, and I missed the village and my host family as soon as the bus pulled away. I didn’t know much about Bethulie, but since we would only be there a week, I was sure it would not be nearly as meaningful as Lesotho.  As you can probably guess by where I’m going with this, I was wrong.

We pull up into this small rural town and immediately have to readjust our thinking, because there are white people on the sidewalk, and we’ve all grown accustomed to being the only white people for miles. Once we get over our “culture” shock, we bring our bags into the hotel, which is more of just a big house that is owned by an English historian named Tony Hocking. The books lining the walls, the delicious meals and the time being back together as a group those first few days helped Lesotho start to fade away as a happy memory, but I still wished I could go back and see my family.

Our short home stays (2 ½ days) began on the 25th and again I was skeptical. How could I connect with a family in that short amount of time, and with a culture that I hadn’t learned about yet? God works in funny ways, because the following days were some of the best I’ve had yet!

Laura, Madelyn, Heidi, Jess and I were picked up by our host dad, Peter, in an ancient Ford pick-up.  The first thing we noticed about Peter was his long scraggly gray hair and beard, giving him a wild look. We nicknamed him John the Baptist, if you will.  He drives us away to an old-looking house, which turns out to be a backpacker/guest house that he and his wife own.  He gives us the keys and tells us we have the run of the place. You can imagine our delight at the sound of a washing machine!

Later his wife Annette comes over and they take us over to their other business, a coffee shop they run by themselves. They even offered us coffee and tarts.  We were all in heaven. Peter and Annette are both of German descent, born in Namibia and grew up in South Africa. They met at a bike rally, as they are both avid bikers, and one day left Capetown on their bikes with all they had to see where the road would take them, and ended up in Bethulie.  Annette is a magnificent baker (as evidenced by how many muffins and tarts we ate in those few days) and we learned that despite his looks, Peter is a huge joker who loved to call us “my girls”.  Those few days were full of adventures and fun. We spent one day at a sheep farm with Peter,  hiking, swimming, eating more tarts and experiencing incredible views of both scenery and wild game (wildebeest, hartebeest, springbok and ostrich) from the back of the farmer’s pick-up (called a buckie here).  Thursday, Annette took us to see her artist friend who had the most beautiful house and paintings.  In the evening she cooked us an authentic Boer meal of which we may have had thirds.

Come Friday morning, we didn’t want to leave. In two short days, we had grown very fond of our unique parents. I couldn’t believe that yet again God had shown me family I could connect to and love in addition to my own, and in such a short time! I still miss my Lesotho family, but this stay in Bethulie has shown me that God has much more in store for me and the group here in South Africa, even when we think it couldn’t get any better that what we’ve had. “There are greater things to come than any we leave behind.” – C.S. Lewis

-Eva Stutzman

 

Love was in South Africa

October 22nd, we spent our last day in Lesotho. That evening, I read a great Rob Bell book entitled Love Wins. I absolutely loved the many ideas regarding God’s love conquering everything, and these challenges are constantly prodding my thinking as I learn about South Africa’s incredible history, both past and present, unfolding before my eyes.

After we left Lesotho, we arrived in Bethulie, which is located in the south-central region of the country, and we went on a fascinating three-hour bus tour. Our guide told us that during the 2nd British-Boer War, which occurred from October 1899 until May 1902, 7,000 Dutch soldiers died in battle.  However, England really won the war by gathering the Dutch women and children in concentration camps and allowing 27,000 victims to die in these camps, 22,000 of which were under the age of 16.  The British drained the Dutch will-power to fight through seizing their families’ freedom. So was Rob Bell right? Does God’s love reign supreme? Did love win at the concentration camps?

I have also pondered about whether love wins throughout the country today.  Our group has learned what a South Africa recession looks like throughout our journey; 26% unemployment, teachers whose only resources are a chalkboard and a few old books, and numerous kids that are thin – too thin.  Does love still win if I can go to college and expect to find a job in two years even though most South Africans can only dream of living my life?

On a lighter note, our group has chosen to laugh, share, pray, and listen to each other.  A few days ago, Harlan even told us how much he appreciated our group and that he’s glad we are his fellow tribe members.  I’m also very glad to have Harlan, Jason and Elizabeth as our leaders and the emphasis they place on love winning in our group, whatever that may mean.  For instance, any time a group member is ill, we sing and pray for them.  One of the guys in our group helped an elderly, handicapped man in Lesotho climb a hill to his house.  This stranger asked and received.  If love means laughing together, singing and praying for the sick and disregarding one’s own wishes in order to slowly help an elderly man climb a hill, then why wouldn’t we choose the transforming power of love? If this is love then Rob Bell is certainly right. Love wins for our group in South Africa.

-Aaron Sloan

 

Farewell from our Lesotho community

On Friday, our last full day in our homes, our mothers threw us a large farewell party held at my house. As I was dressing in my Shoeshoewe (traditional Basotho cloth) shirt from Soweto my sister Manapo burst in the door holding a beautiful red Shoeshoewe dress that she insisted I put on. She put my hair up under a matching headdress and wrapped me in a Seanamarena (traditional Basotho blanket). When I was finally ready for the party, I was surprised to see that all the other mothers had dressed their children in traditional clothing as well. Most of the village was present, the children standing around gawking at the funny-looking Basotho: all in Shoeshoewe, thick wool blankets, and boys wielding Molemo sticks. However, I believe that our group has never looked better. We were happy to be together.

It was a proud moment for our mothers and special for us to be dressed in their clothing, singing and dancing with them.  We ate traditional food of sorghum and dinawa (beans) and sour porridge (leshelisheli). Our beaming mothers presented us with the gift of a hat. For me the party was a celebration of unity, a chance to revel in the relationship our group formed with the community.  The following morning I was sad to leave my little Lesotho homestead, but I couldn’t help but smile as my mom carried my backpack towards the Malealea Lodge joking to all the villagers “I’m going to America, see you in five years!” she refused to hug me goodbye, insisting that she’d see me at the send-off. The three weeks in Lesotho truly flew by even though in the village the concept of “hurry” is foreign. Life without many distractions from God and relationships is precious – something for us all to strive for.

-Laura Hershey

 

A day in Lesotho

I was awakened at three this morning to what has become a familiar sound.  Someone in my room was using the midnight express (the bucket one uses when having to use the toilet in the night so you don’t have to go out to the outhouse). Without opening my eyes I rolled over and fell back asleep, thankful that I still had a couple hours left to sleep. At 5:30 I awakened again, this time to the sound of my host mother rustling her covers. Trying to get out of the nest she sleeps in next to my bed.  After getting past my sleeping brother, and stepping through the maze of suitcases, she made it to the only other room in the house: the kitchen. I dozed off and on for the next hour, at times being aware of the noises of my mother bathing and then preparing breakfast.

By 6:30 the rooster next door was crowing continuously and the sun shone brightly through our window.  It was time for Eva and I to crawl out of our shared bed and make our way to breakfast; our favorite meal of the day. Our host brother jumped out of bed as soon as he saw us head for breakfast.

The morning was spent at a garden over the mountainside. Six people from our group worked with ladies from the village to build a “keyhole” garden. Though shoveling and digging became tiresome, we were encouraged by the bright smiles and songs of the ladies.  The bright blue skies and the majestic mountains provided a splendid backdrop.

At noon we headed home for lunch, which was followed by an exhilarating hike to a gorge with a river running through it.  The mountains are steep and rocky, making the way slow and difficult.  Wherever I go here I am amazed at the sheep and mountain goats, skipping on the mountains and precipices with ease. At the bottom of the gorge, our difficult path was rewarded by clear, deep pools of frigid water, which refreshed and renewed us, invigorating us for the return hike.

I now sit by an oil lamp and watch as Eva and the rest of my family play cards while we wait for supper to finish cooking.  Soon it will be time to once again snuggle up in our family bedroom, for in Lesotho we go to bed when the sun does.

– Audrey Sims

Conversations on the farm at Mohalis Hoek

October 16

In a society with no Facebook, YouTube, _MG_6919 Call of Duty or The Bachelor, it should be no surprise that good conversations will flourish. This past week was no exception to that rule as I found myself growing closer to my peers and my Savior. The whole group had gathered on a farm; hard work and good times were sure to follow, and some great conversations were bound to come our way.

My first conversation was with a young man who worked on the farm. He had a lot of questions about what it meant to attend a Christian university. Truthfully, I was a bit embarrassed to tell him I was only required to attend one class that was focused on the Bible. Later when he found that I wanted to be a missionary he expressed some frustrations with many missionaries who don’t seem to be willing to work in the really difficult and dangerous places of the world. Perhaps God was speaking to me through this young man, only time will tell.

South Africa 3Later on in the week the conversations continued to both intrigue and challenge me. Conversations from non-violence to grace to Islam to politics all bounced up and despite varying opinions, they all seemed to bring the group closer together.

Perhaps some of you who are reading this back home should challenge yourselves to a few hours, maybe even a day or two with no electricity. You might be surprised to see what you will learn about yourself and your friends. At the very least, take the time to re-evaluate who and what really matters to you. You might be surprised by what you find out.

- Francis Sims

This past week, our group left our homes in Malealea, and went to live and work on a small farm about three hours away. We took a 22 passenger bus, all 33 of us plus our luggage packed in tight, from Malealea to Mohalis Hoek. We then divided into two smaller taxis that took us _MG_6860 through the bumpy paths of the mountains while listening to “House” music bumping at full volume the entire way.

The farm, an old mission house over 100 years old, is run by a small group of workers trying to farm in a way that works better the with land they have. Of the biggest problems for farmers in Lesotho is soil erosion, and with it the loss of much of their crops. In order for this to be avoided the less disturbed the soil is the better. And for this reason, all the labor is done by hand. No machinery is used for fear of disturbing and loosening the soil too much. Their goal is to make enough yields to be sent out and to show farmers of the area the benefits of their methods.

During the week we spent our mornings helping out with a variety of projects on the farm. We helped in setting up irrigation lines, digging holes for planting, building compost piles, seeding, and creating water lines. The afternoons were _MG_6729 then free for us to do as we pleased. There were several trips made to the river after lunch for a swim and partial bathing, some hikes and soccer games with the local team, but most of all a lot of rest in whatever shade we could find. The farm was littered with groupings of large lilac trees that perfumed the grounds. Many of my afternoons were spent under them reading, drifting in and out of little naps, and waking up to an early sunset making everything golden and warm.

I have to admit that our time there was the perfect break from our stay in Malealea. I was happy to step back from our home stays for awhile. For me it was perfect timing to catch up mentally from an unexpected overwhelming first week in my home. It gave me the energy to come back and pick up where I left off as I had time to realize what I had missed.

- Hannah Miller

 

Lesotho, the “mountain kingdom” – My children! You are home!

October 10, 2011

Being an outdoor nature person, I enjoyed our time in Soweto, but was definitely looking forward to the mountains of Lesotho. And let me tell you, they do not disappoint. Since the day we arrived in Lesotho, a group of us had our eyes on Mt. Fuku Fuku, which we were told was the highest mountain in the immediate area. We bided our time patiently waiting for a full free day to climb. It finally came last Friday, and while others planned other hikes and activities, a group of five of us set out for Fuku Fuku in the morning.

In the village at the base of Fuku Fuku we were met by a small girl who knew two English phrases she would yell in a high pitched voice. One was “where you go,” and the other “sweets, sweets, sweets.” Using our little Sesotho, we answered both her questions telling her we didn’t have any sweets. However, since she didn’t know anything else to say, and it is a well known fact that all white people carry hiking bags filled with sweets, she just kept chanting. And so with smiles and waves we kept moving. We hiked the long ridge and after an arduous three hours, we made it to the top. We are proud to say we were only passed by one 6 year old boy and his mother, the only other people we saw on our ascent, and as to where they were going we are still not sure

The view was literally breath taking! Nothing but mountains and then valleys, with rift-like gorges separating all the small villages. We sat down with our long anticipated packed lunches as our reward for reaching the top. Far below we saw some Badisana (herd boys) with their sheep who started heading towards us upon their realization we are white. They reached us in about half the time we expected. As they came over the hill I started to recognize the isolation geographic boundaries can create.

For us hiking Fuku Fuku was a big ordeal. We gather up backpacks, hiking clothes, sun screen, cameras, food, water, and a first aid kit. All of which we feel we need before we can be prepared for the mountain. These herd boys on the other hand, in true Basotho fashion, leave early each morning herding their animals up the mountain with nothing but their boots, staff, and a blanket around their shoulders, such a different lifestyle, even though for a few weeks we are only separated by about 5 miles.

After a few pictures with the herd boys we started descending the mountain. As we were walking someone said, “This is awesome, we should have a worship service up here.” And I realized this is worship.

- David Jantzi

October 10, 2011

Lesotho, the Mountain Kingdom, is a place of beauty & grandeur and now a place that I can call home. I have experienced immense love and hospitality from the people here and am learning more each day.

My roommate, Anna Weaver, and I had the unique cultural experience of washing our clothes in the river with our host family. Initial uncertainty turned to delight as we saw the way our host mom and neighbor wash their clothes and take pride in the way they are able to remove any trace of dirt (seriously!). Basking in the sun on the rocks with the water flowing by and hearing the joyful sounds of children playing, our host moms chatting, and sheep bells ringing, I felt so peaceful and thankful that I am able to have this experience.

In Lesotho, I have found joy in teaching our host sisters songs, and then waking up to the sound of them singing those songs outside our window. I have found love in the actions and words of my host mother when she says, “Bana baka! Lehae!” – My children! You are home! I have found peace in the endless mountains, bright stars, and quiet moments. But most of all, I have found God in all of it – the “Dumela” as I walk down the road, the grin of a child, the majesty of the mountains – and I’ve realized more each day that His presence dwells deeply in the hearts of all people and the beauty of nature.

- Heidi Bauman

Community and national pride

9-25-11

Hello EMU! I am in AFRICA!

There are so many experiences I have each day, from teaching 1st graders to chatting with my neighbors on the streets of Soweto. I really enjoy the pickup games of soccer we have with the locals here. Sometimes they are organized on a field just a block from my house but I can always count on kids playing on my street after they get out of school. It brings such a sense of community to this neighborhood.

An activity that I really enjoy with my family is watching sporting events. We watch the rugby world cup and other local soccer games on T.V. One thing that amazed me as we watched the rugby game was that my host family didn’t even know the rules to explain them to me but they loved the game all the same. There is a sense of national pride that goes beyond my understanding.

As I live with these people, I can observe these values of community and national pride. Each and every day there is something to learn from these people and I have grown to love them.

Sala Hantle & Khotso (Stay Well & Peace)

- Todd Hooley

 

Thank you, Soweto

Oct. 1, 2011

One of my of host sister’s concerns when I left Soweto was that she wouldn’t have anyone to eat her curried chilies with.  Anyone who knows me at least a little would assume the departure of my appetite to be a blessing, but not for Dimakatso.

I love to eat.  I know that makes me sound like a pig, but it’s the truth.  And in my defense, I’m more than just a mindless eating machine.  The healthy eating habits I grew up with have been flourishing ever since I started dating a vegetarian.  I like good food, and I enjoy trying new things. Since there is a pretty good chance I will not be spending the entirety of my life in America, I am working on becoming a person who can feel at home anywhere.  I have been very encouraged to find myself at home here in Africa.  A big part of finding home here was not learning to eat in a new culture and a new home, but learning to be fed.

This summer I journeyed to the Oregon Extension, which among other things, was an adventure in feeding myself.  When I was not in class, I was either cooking or reading.  Not only did I need to buy my groceries and prepare my own meals, I also had to plan out a research paper and track down the information I needed to write it.  I learned to feed myself on both of these levels, and felt very accomplished.  However, independence is primarily an American value, and being able to feed myself is almost useless in a culture overflowing with hospitality.

Learning to be fed is learning to trust.  Sometimes, it would have been faster to make myself a lunch, but it’s about relying on other people and not needing to have everything under control.  It’s less about consuming and more about accepting undeserved hospitality.  Being able to feed myself only makes me feel at home when I am on my own.  To be at home here, where I am far from being on my own, I needed to let myself be fed.  Once I opened that door, believe me, Africa was more than willing to feed me.

Perhaps for Dimakatso, it’s not about the chilies themselves as much as it is about the act of sharing of them.  Thank you, Dimakatso, for feeding me your chilies.

-Michael Sheeler

 

Children laughing, singing, smiling-

Their white teeth shine brightly off of their dark skin.

Soweto.

Babies snuggled and held tightly against their mothers’ backs.

Only their little feet are visible as a women walks towards me.

Too small to site-see… Baby is sleeping.

Mother is holding, carrying, protecting. Love.

Soweto.

Gray slacks all lined up with plaid jumpers popping out from the line.

The blue v-neck sweaters show tattered white collars.

IMG_0436Black leather shoes with laces and buckles scuff the floor as they run into their lines.

Song… Rhythm… Praise.

Ah, the high pitched sounds of their traditional melodies fill the courtyard, making the headmaster very proud.

Soweto.

Nik-naks and lollys sold for lunch, downed with a frozen guava.

Sticky fingers braid my long hair.

In disbelief they tell me “it’s fake!”

Combing their fingers through the long strands, they smile and coo!

Soweto.

Brooms made from dried stiff grass sweep the red dust from the sidewalk.

She is bent down, almost as if that feels more natural than standing.

She is working as she knows how and from what she has been taught.

Scarves wrapped around their heads show off their beautiful faces.

Faces with eyes that would be tainted with makeup.

I see real femininity.

Even in their shoes which are worn so much their big toe sticks out… a glimpse of red toenail polish catches my eye.

Their beauty radiates from warm “Dumelas” heard on the streets and by their never ending smiles that make you smile in return.

Soweto.

The kitchen always smells of hot food.

The Aromat fragrance is now familiar to me… the sign of a good cook.

Papa is stirred one last time before it’s ready to accompany the spicy meat or chackalacka.

Dumplings or boiled bread soaks into the salty broth as we dip moist strips into the hot soup.

Soweto.

Music constantly hums in the air.

How I will miss the beats and rhythms of Pimville Zone 2.

Even late at night the continuous sound of the bass lulls me to sleep.

The dogs also bark to their own unique syncopated rhythm.

At first it drives my head a bit crazy but eventually it just stays with me.

It becomes a part of my peace.

Soweto.

Drums beating.

We’re all dancing in circles.

This is church!

The water in the glass cup has God’s power.

Or so they say.

We sip, then pray honor and love.

Isn’t that what we’re called to do?

My mind becomes challenged to let go.

I struggle to release the fears and judgment, but soon the word which is familiar slowly opens my heart to these loving people.

I’m clapping and I find myself not wanting to stop,

as if the beat is empowering me to try harder and seek deeper for my creator!

My God, my Father.

Now we go-

Home.

Soweto.

Soweto is my home.

My heart was settled in this place and for that I’m truly blessed.

To love a community more than I ever thought possible makes my heart hesitant to leave.

This is where I fell in love with South Africa,

and where a small part of South Africa fell in love with all of us.

Kea leboha.

Soweto.

-Madelyn Cooper