Tuesday, June 30, 2009


In 30 minutes we can be in a posh mall and then driving past tin shakes with no electricity and a stand pipe for water for 7-10 shacks. In the rural areas it is dirt roads and fluctuating electricity in the bishop's house. In the city there are gates round every residence. What a lot of courage and imagination it will take to lead this country to a future of equality.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Thick and Fast

The magic clock on the Internet cafe gives me 8 minutes more - but so much has happened. Here is only one - more when I sign on again.

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

Here and there

Absolutely everyone has a cell phone – the reception is great evening the hills and they use them constantly. All ages. I think babies are issued them at birth. Grandmas (called Gogo here) all use them without complaining about how small the numbers are.

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.

Over the hills and far away

Friday was an early morning drive through the country Paton describes as “so beautiful there is no singing of it.” Each hill crest opens to valleys on both sides as far as they eye can see. Some are covered with sugar cane, some with tiny houses, both square and round. A 360 degree mural could not capture it.Round houses are traditionally popular because bad spirits hide in corners and in a round house all the occupants can sit against a wall and face each other.Tucked back in the hills off a dirt road is Kithi Diocesan Centre, Kwazulu-Nata – Kelly’s home for the last year. In every direction the valleys and small houses spread out. The sun is warmer in the day – the air is cooler at night. The starts are very bright – I am looking forward to a new moon to see them even better.

International Language

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

South African Sunshine

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 Iowa without the corn. This area, even in the dry winter season, has more green.

There is no news here except soccer! USA won last night and South Africa plays today! It’s a small world after all…

Monday, June 22, 2009


My To Do List has more things crossed off than left on it! Tomorrow at this time...I won't have any idea what time or day it is!

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

Less than a week

The check off lists are...well, checked off. This trip will be far different than last year, but no less exciting.
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


During the time I am in rural Umphumulo there will be an ordination. I get to read the Old Testament lesson at the ceremony! In Costa Rica and certainly China there was no request for any clergy type work so I am looking forward to this.

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

Less than two weeks....

As the days count down, the details increase! Here is the latest outline from Brian Konkol, area coordinator.

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

Reading the Writing

I have now read/heard: My African Eyes, Journey to Jo’burg, A beautiful Place to Die, Scribbling the Cat, Cry the Beloved Country, Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight. I have a few more which have been suggested and the about ½ of Covenant left. The terms and names from one book are showing up in others until they begin to be familiar in an academic way. They do not have smells or surfaces or tastes, yet, only names and vague map locations.
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!