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.


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.


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.


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!


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.


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.


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.


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-



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.


-Madelyn Cooper