Sunday, July 19, 2009
Sunday, July 12, 2009
Plus somewhere over the Atlantic, I lost my voice...
In the Jo-burg airport a guy was taking surveys of visitors so they can upgrade the services for 2010 World Cup. I did not exactly attend any sporting events, casinos or even bars and had no opinion on tourist infrastructure. But he took my He commented at the end that he meets lots of people from US and Canada who come to build or teach or nurse in South Africa. Then he asked, "So why do I never see anything like you are doing on the TV?" Good question. There is plenty to do.
Tuesday, July 7, 2009
Monday, July 6, 2009
In the kitchen for 2 days have been women preparing to feed them all – both sit down and Take Away. Metals tubs of raw chicken and beef. Mounds of onions and beets.
I was honored to read the Old Testament lesson and then called on to sponsor one of the ordained! What a joy to place a stole and lay on hands in blessing. I was a white American woman but the title Pastor surpassed all that.
Singing went on non-stop. There was a leader but the best songs were random – just a group started and pretty soon ½ the place is up dancing and the rest know all the words. Amazing energy and community.
The Bishop lived in Chicago - in fact he and his wife and I overlapped one summer at LSTC! He is very fluent in English, but even in Zulu it is easy to se what is going on. We are Lutheran – “The Lord be with you” looks pretty much the same globally!
At 2:30 (yeah – pm) we concluded and headed for the food. It was a thrilling and amazing event. And somewhere in the middle the Bishop said the sponsors are responsible for our pastors for life…
Sunday, July 5, 2009
After apartheid ended most of the Lutheran missions that had hospitals and schools were turned over to the government and the perception is that the church stepped back and moved on to other geographic areas. But is not clear what role we should play next. The German Lutherans are more active here than the ELCA as far as sending volunteers and supporting various projects. One has even established his own self contained community in the rural area that asks members to give up family and all possessions. That is the answer for that group, but the South African run church as a whole is still looking for its role and the ELCA is working to support them as they do so.
The ushers carried that offering out and we had communion. After the benediction a different basket come out and there was what must have been a Stewardship moment – a man carried the church’s ledger of offerings around and stopped by certain people. No amounts were read but it was clear he knew and they knew…Then we sang again and everyone came up and put in the basket again. When that song ended a woman ran up with another basket for the women’s rally offering and they did it again.
Wednesday, July 1, 2009
We got there at 2:30 to the reception and the speeches were about 1/2 way done. Still they had not eaten. So we grabbed chairs and they added plates and we got there for lunch and cake. They have 3 cakes - small ones on each side of the big one. After the cutting, the bride takes one cake to her new mother in law and kneels to present it. The groom does the same. Very nice.
After that we all drove about 20 minutes to the grooms home where massive tents were set up. We sat in one and before long the bride's family filed in with bags of mats and blankets as gifts for the new home. Eventually - I am told - the bride make sup a bed of these in the tent for the groom and they do all kinds of ceremony stuff, but we had to go. Among other things the bride and groom had not yet arrived and it was going to be some time yet.....
Food is a meat - usually chicken in spices that have Indian influence but not as spicy - plus rice or mealie-meal (corn) and vegetables. Spices or not for any or all of those. The host family I have now does not even use salt so everything is very "American" and highly digestible. I am still trying to get a serving of Bunny Chow which is an Indian dish I understand makes your eyes water...
Coffee - the elixir of life - is easier to get if yo know what to ask for. "Coffee" gets you instant - and that is pretty much all one has at home. "Filter Coffee" gets the real thing - and it is good.
Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Monday, June 29, 2009
Tombstone Unveiling - families dig graves and bury within a day or 2. The cemetery is mounds of dirt above ground with sticks like a Lincoln Log fence around each one. When they save up for a marble slap to cover the grave and a tombstone there is another ceremony for the unveiling. I was fortunate to be at on Saturday! It is another chance to remember the deceased and sing - all standing on a dirt hillside with hardly a footpath between mounds . As we dedicated the tombstone another family was digging a grave for their own funeral. What a remarkable tradition. And of course followed by a family/friend get together.
The food is mostly chicken and rice, vegetable - they have the same "Green Vegetable that is pumpkin vines we had in China! Some other things I don't recognize but that may be all to the good.
Weather colder than you are but not Chicago Winter cold - but with no heat inside it is 43 degrees everywhere!
Saturday, June 27, 2009
And we all gather for dinner or all activity stops at 7pm – because \generations is on. That is the “Soapie” of choice – in Zulu, Swazi and English – dubbed sometimes and switching languages mid sentence. I am hooked already.
Real P-burg conversation:
Excuse me - are you American?
Yes - I am from Chicago.
May I ask you a question?
Um...sure. (Oh boy - politics? Sports? 2016 Olympics?)
Where DID you get those shoes?
Some would say this could only happen to me..
Thursday, June 25, 2009
20+ hours of airplane seats, the usual airport confusion (but in Jo’burg you don’t have to take shoes off for security!), and I am adding up my “firsts”: first flight across the equator, first time on the African continent, first steps on South African soil, first nighttime glimpse of the Indian Ocean, first time riding on the “wrong” side of a Nissan! (Drive in the English manner…) Best of all, after an amazingly good sleep, first wake up to South African sunshine streaming in my window.
Today is adjusting to the time zone – which is actually easy. What I am confused about is which day it is! And looking around Pietermaritzburg. To get rid of the airline legs we walked in a nature preserve about 5 minutes from Brian and Kristen’s home. About 5 minutes down the trail we encountered a giraffe who allowed us up close and personal while he munched on tree tops. Later we saw a pack of wildebeests run by. Not you usual walk in the park!
We flew over some dry places yesterday. The plane change in Jo’burg revealed a very flat area – like
There is no news here except soccer!
Monday, June 22, 2009
I know I'll have WiFi in Pietermaritzburg on June 25, 26, 27, July 1, 2, 3, 6, 7. Not sure the other days. During the "no computer" days, however, are an ordination service and a youth gathering, so there will be a lot to write about when I get back!
Prayers for calm - both the weather and me - appreciated!
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
Rather than have specific tasks like teaching English, South Africa is all about building relationships and hearing stories. The nonfiction books I have read - from the children's department, of course - show tidy pictures. Even the impoverished homes are litter free. The histories read in a straight line or demographic circles: Afrikaners, English, Black, Colored, Indian, Asian. What happens when the separating lines get too close or blur? Is the next generation as aware of their history? The geographies show vast areas. I will be in one small part of one area. How do they relate to the whole?
And a new interest - what are children's books in South Africa like?
The east coast has the greatest concentration of Indians and I understand the curry is great and there is something called "bunny chow"...
The flight is 21 hours in one long and two short hops but the time difference is only 5 hours. Still a lot of ocean between here and there - how much cultural and world view difference will there be? Answers - soon!
Sunday, June 14, 2009
Clothing: I am informed the in rural South Africa women "of a certain age" do not wear pants in formal setting like church. I'll take a skirt just in case I reach "that age" on the trip! Like Ireland there is no central heat and it will be winter there - 40-60 degrees every day - so I am putting in more socks and fewer tank tops!
I'm up to the Boer War in Michenener's Covenant, but found some good points to fit into today's sermon. I think that makes the book purchase tax deductible.....
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
Arrive at airport in Durban, stay in Pietermaritzburg with Konkols.Drive to Umphumulo in A.M. to stay with Kelly Schumacher (...during the weekend there will be a large ordination service at the Diocese Center, so we thought you would dearly enjoy to be a part of this. Plus, Kelly said she would need some help!). There will be accommodation available alongside Kelly in her residence.I will drive to Umphumulo in the morning hours to pick you up and bring you back to Pietermaritzburg, where we will spend the next few days visiting with local Lutheran leaders and enjoying various other learning experiences. We will also take time to process the experience together as fellow "outsiders". During the week I expect you to stay with a family from the Machibesa congregation (they have hosted visitors on many occasions before). I will drive you back to Umphumulo to spend the weekend with Kelly, as there will be a weekend-long youth convention that she believes you would enjoy. My understanding is that once again you will stay at Kelly's residence and drive back and forth from the convention. I will pick you up in Umphumulo and bring you back to Pietermaritzburg for your final days in the country. We will visit more leaders, as well as take some time to process your experience.
If you have not been to a map yet, Durban is on the east coast, on the Indian Ocean. Pietermaritzburg in inland an hour or so. Umphumulo is to the north and east and does not appear on many maps!
Slogging through the Covenant by Michener, the Lutherans play a minor role in the history up to the Boer War. So far it is Dutch Reform vs Anglican. It will be interesting to see how Lutheran missionaries have impacted the various groups. And what the role is today.
Wednesday, June 3, 2009
I am struck by the pace of most of them, the impossible feats of strength and courage interwoven with slowly unfolding descriptions of the land and the surroundings. The stories seem to experience the place and the people equally in a way I don’t sense as often in American novels. Oh, sure, there are events that set in New York or rural Iowa or 1863, but many times the background could be changed and not much altered in the storyline. So far what I have read of South Africa there is a pace and completeness in the telling that, were one word lacking, could not be whole. I wonder how that will contrast to life there.
Oh, yes, I need to call for malaria pills. That came up a lot in the stories, too!
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
South Africa has a different ocean on each side. The west coast is on the Atlantic Ocean with Cape Town being the largest city. In the interior north are Johannesburg and the national capital, Pretoria. On the Indian Ocean side the cities are less developed, but the weather is lovely all year round. This is where I will be, landing in Durban in the province KwaZulu-Natal. It is very near Mozambique and Swaziland.
It’s winter there. The hot, humid coast offer fantastic winter weather with sunny, warmish days and virtually no wind or rain. The average temperatures are from the mid 40’s to low 60’s. The risk for malaria is relatively low in this area.
I have had several long conversations with Brian Konkol, the area coordinator for ELCA-M.U.D. (It is an amazing experience to speak live to someone in South Africa!) He describes our days as full of stories and real assimilation into the South African way of life. I can’t wait!
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
I’ve read the short histories in the travel books, plus biographies on Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela from the children’s room at the library. (Because I LIKE short sentences!) I am listening to some lectures on the beginnings of humans from an archeological perspective. Facts, dates, conflicts.
Some South African fiction includes an amazing number of Suspense and romance books with a South African locale, not much more than an exotic backdrop. (I skipped those.) I’ve also read Cry the Beloved Country, listened to A Beautiful Place to Die, a murder mystery set at the beginning of apartheid, and am now determined to get through James Michener’s The Covenant. Thos are beginning to give me some insight into how the humans interact and interrelate. They seem “true” if not factual.
I’m still looking for post-apartheid fiction and anything in the YA or children’s area. Suggestions?