Archive for February, 2009

More to come

Hi everyone- We just returned from a long weekend on the South Coast with our friends the Passaros.  Playing in the Indian Ocean was a great way to celebrate Rachel’s 11th birthday!  Unfortunately while we were there Ruthie developed a high fever, and now I have it.  So, I will post more later and show you the great pictures of the kids swimming in large waves.  Yikes.


Another African Weekend

I am glad to report that each weekend here has been spent doing something different than we would be doing in Virginia, and this past weekend was no different.   I will give you the highlights:

It started Friday when my friend Kristi and I took Rebekah and Ruthie to Bonginkosi Preschool for the morning.  This was Rebekah’s first visit to the school, and she was treated to a range of interesting sights including seeing cows and goats in the middle of a busy highway, seeing Muslim students outside the Islamic school across the street from Bonginkosi, rolling old tires around the yard for fun, and seeing a woman carrying a table AND box on her head! (Sorry my camera was not ready for that shot!)



In front of the new Bonginkosi garden

In front of the new Bonginkosi garden

Rebekah quickly adjusted to 35 children swarming her, wanting to touch her white skin, and yammering away at her in Zulu.  I think having her there made the experience less overwhelming for Ruthie as well.

This Mom asked me for a job... Women carry umbrellas for protection from the sun

This Mom asked me for a job... Women carry umbrellas for protection from the sun


Saturday was another equally interesting experience… I have been developing relationships with two ladies from Zimbabwe, Tsitsi and Thembi.  They do not have cars, so need to walk the mile or so to the nearest grocery store and then carry their bags (“packets”) back home.  On Saturday I offered to drive them to the store.  When I left the house shortly after noon I never expected to return after 5:30! You see, they were shopping for 1-2 MONTHS!

They took me to a store I had never been to before and, although crowded, I was one of the only white people inside!  The parking lot was surrounded by security guards carrying LARGE automatic weapons… Tsitsi and Thembi were shocked when I told them I had never seen anything like that before!  The “butchery” was also interesting with half muttons laid out in ice, and several meats I could not begin to identify.

It was sometimes awkward for me shopping with them because they could not afford anything that I was purchasing… They always chose the least expensive option, while I preferred some middle-grade selections.  While I was choosing snacks for the kids I noticed that they did not buy anything like that – no cookies or crackers or yogurt.  Just the basics.  We talked later about the differences, and they explained that the few choices they have for food now are much greater than what they had been eating in Zim… Mealy Meal three times a day.  I struggled not to feel guilty. Despite that, we had a very nice time together. .

Their relational African culture was evident when we finally returned home… Rather than dropping each lady off quickly (after spending so many hours together that was my intention!) they wanted to introduce me to all their relatives, have tea, and visit!  This happened at each house!  Tsitsi lives in a small two bedroom apartment with 10 relatives, and Thembi shares a bedroom in a small house occupied by three other families.  When I said to Tsitsi, “it must get crowded sometimes,” she said “no, this is just how we always live.”

All of this African culture prepared me for Sunday… our family went with Amy to a Zulu church!  She is a missionary kid whose father partners with a Zulu lay pastor in a nearby township.  The two of them preach at one church early in the morning, and then while they are singing, go to a second church to preach.  We went to the second church, a Baptist church, and purposely arrived 45 minutes into the singing time.  Despite this, we were still there for over 2 hours and much of that time was singing!  Although in Zulu, we loved the music.  The people in the church warmly welcomed us, and one teenager translated some of what was being said or done for Rebekah and I while Amy helped Brian and Rachel.

One interesting observation was that all the women sit on one side of the church while the men and children sit on the other.  Once the children leave the service for Sunday school, the men’s side is practically empty while the women’s side is full.   I checked this with Zanele today and she said both are typical – gender specific seating and far fewer men in attendance.

We will definitely return to that church sometime, hopefully with our MP3 player to record the music!

It happened, almost

We are thankful today that we were not robbed last night, because I presume that was the motive…

Yesterday I was home with the girls for the evening without Brian.   He was invited to speak to a group of men from church about Christian education.  I expected him home shortly after 9 (since people generally don’t stay out after dark), but he was talking to the Pastor and did not get home until 10:30.  At 8:30 Rachel asked to go outside to move something she had left there.  I let her and relocked the doors.  At 9:15 the cat brought a lizard into the house in her mouth, so I opened the door to get them both outside!  I relocked the doors, but did not set the alarm.  Instead, I was soothing Rachel (who was upset about the lizard), and sending she and Rebekah back to bed after a series of unfortunate events.  For the first time since we have lived here I was home at night without Brian, the alarm was not set by 9pm, and the outside light Amy and Adrian (who live in the cottage) always turn on had been forgotten.

At 10:00 the cat had come back in, and was acting strange -she was almost attacking the back window acting like she wanted to go out.  I took her into the living room to put her out the window that is always left open for her, but instead she ran to that back window with her ears back.   I then heard what I thought was someone trying to open the back door.  I could hear the trellidoor rattling like someone was struggling to open it.    I thought like an American… “why is Brian trying to come in the back door?” and then “maybe Amy and Adrian are still up.”  Suddenly I realized that neither of those were likely, so I quickly turned on all the lights in the back of the house, ran to the bedroom area, locked the hall door (designed for this purpose), and set the alarm.   The noise stopped.

I won’t give you all the details about how I spent the next LONG 30 minutes before Brian came home, but I have talked to several people today to learn how I should handle this sort of situation in the future.  As it turns out, Adrian also heard the noise, but thought it was Brian locking the back door for the night.

This was clearly not a sophisticated criminal, but was it someone who had been watching the house?  Maybe saw Brian leave, or saw Rachel and I going in and out and hoped we had left the door unlocked?  Needless to say, we will all be extra cautious in coming days, but for now we are thankful that God protected us last night.

I Miss…

In addition to specific people – you know who you are 🙂  -there are several things I miss.  Here are a few:

-NCAA Basketball, especially when UNC beats Duke in Cameron Stadium!!!!! Thanks to the Hadeda birds, dogs, and Rachel’s bad dream we were up at 5am and able to watch ESPN updates on the internet.  Unfortunately South Africans don’t appreciate the rivalry enough to broadcast the game in this country.  Otherwise we would have been tempted to watch it from 4-6am local time!

-My neck pillow.  My neck has been bothering me since leaving Virginia, and now it appears my back problems have returned… This past weekend my low back started hurting, and it has developed into a sciatica problem with numbness in my foot.  It is not nearly as bad as last year, so I am hopeful that it resolves quickly with rest and the anti-inflammatory meds I brought with me.  I would appreciate your prayers

-Tropicana Pure Premium No Pulp Orange Juice, not from concentrate. Yummm

-The freedom to go where we want whenever we want

-Driving on the right side of the road with regular intersections rather than round-a-bouts

-A dishwasher

-Relative equality for all people

– My electric toothbrush

-Maple syrup… It does not need to be the “real” stuff, but just Log Cabin would be great on our pancakes!

-Non-violent, free, legitimate elections

-Sidewalk chalk.  There are so many kids who would love that, but all they sell here is the thin chalk

-Houses without gates and alarms

-Redeemer Classical School’s education for the girls

-A PLAN – (I love my plans!) For the most part people don’t plan ahead here.  As an example – we know the Presidential elections are in April, but the exact date has not been set yet!  Enough said.


-Self-serve gas stations


-COLD Weather!

– Cleaning my house

-Taking food, safety, big houses, freedom, and a legitimate government and police officers for granted

My Friend Zanele

As you might remember, I have been spending time getting to know our domestic helper Zanele.  I invite her to have lunch with Ruthie and I every Tuesday and Thursday, inside at our table, therefore breaking all the rules!  Last week after an ordinary lunch (by my standards) she thanked me and said “you are spoiling me.”   Well, good.
Whenever possible Brian and I bring her home after work  so she can avoid the long walk and expensive taxi ride.  Last week we were able to meet Zanele’s two daughters at her home.  Unfortunately Rachel was not with us, but Rebekah and Ruthie had a wonderful time playing with 5 year old Aphile and several of the neighborhood children.  They play tag and other games in the streets because they do not have toys or play areas.  Apparently the lot in front of Zanele’s house was a playground many years ago but now people dump their trash there.   It did not seem to matter that Aphile and two of the other kids did not know much English, they were all playing together and giggling as if they had known each other for years.
rebekah-in-imbaliRebekah asked if she could spend the night with Zanele’s family… We settled for a long visit instead.
Zanele, her two daughters Nana and Aphile, and neighbor boy

Zanele, her two daughters Nana and Aphile, and a neighbor boy

Ruthie and Aphile

Ruthie and Aphile writing with rocks in the dirt. We showed Aphile how to use rocks to color on rocks

Zanele's house

Zanele's house - the one her parents were forced into in 1964. Zanele now lives there with her two daughters, and her sister and her son


This is the view from Zanele’s house overlooking part of Imbali (her township).  In the distance you can see some of the more recent government houses.

On Saturday we invited Zanele and her family to come to our house for a Braai (cookout).  None of them know how to swim, so we took Aphile into the pool.  She had a wonderful time; we all did.


We sent Aphile home with a box of colored chalk to write on the rocks outside her house, and a promise that we will get together soon to celebrate her birthday… She turns six the same day that Rachel turns 11 (February 21).

A dream of Zanele’s is to learn how to use a computer.  For years she has wanted to take a computer class, but never has the money.  So now, after she finishes her work here, I am showing her how to use my computer.  She sent her first email the other day!  Watch for a future post written by Zanele herself 🙂

Pre-election Violence

Here is a local news story about KwaZulu-Natal, the province where we live:

I may be naive, but I am not afraid for our safety… I am concerned about the people who we are getting to know who live in the townships and rural areas.

Bumps in the Road


I think our adjustment to life in South Africa has been incredibly smooth…We have been here less than three weeks, but are getting to know many people, have gotten involved in several things, have done some sight-seeing, are driving, and feel quite settled.  I am grateful for this relatively easy transition and appreciate the many people who have prayed for us.

Intermixed with the good experiences, I expected that we would hit some difficult times or disappointments, some “bumps in the road”…

Rebekah came home today and said, “I am so confused about Africa.”  I know what she means!  She gets confused because everyone here writes the date in reverse (today is 3/2 rather than 2/3), they use 24 hour time and Celsius.  At school there is a different uniform for every event, and today she was told she needs to wear her “jersey,” and we don’t know what that is!

Beyond strange terms (Kokis rather than markers, tea rather than snack, and costume rather than swim suit) sometimes it is just hard to be here.  Another man came to the gate today… He asked me for a job cutting the grass or painting, and when I said I did not have work for him he asked for old clothes, food or money.  I gave him bread and fruit and 5 Rand (50 cents).  The kids have learned that when a black person comes to the gate they can go get some food to give.  Is this what I should do?  Ruthie and I went to the store to buy some more bread and fruit, and as we were leaving the store a man came up to us and asked if we had any food for his family.  I gave him the loaf of bread.

What are we to do?  Everyone here has a story and a need.  I have mentioned a family from Zimbabwe who we had lunch with after church… Thembi came here several weeks ago looking for work because there is a 94% unemployment rate in Zim (you read that right!), and her husband is coming soon.  But they had to leave their young daughter in Zimbabwe with Thembi’s sister because they can’t afford the passport fee (equivalent to $450-$600 American dollars).  Should we help them?

We met a man this week at church who had arrived hours before from Zambia.  He is a pastor there covering a 250 mile area, but has no training.  He left his wife, 2 year old, and 3 month old to come here for theological training.  He arrived for 10 months with one small suitcase, and is unsure how he will pay his monthly rent.  Should we help him?

And then of course there are the kids at Bonginkosi Preschool.  They all have financial needs, as does the school.  It costs $300 to sponsor one child to go to school and have two meals a day for the year.  Should we sponsor more children?  The preschool has a specific financial need of $6000 related to the new school building… It goes on and on.

Another “bump in the road” related to the preschool is that I have been unable to determine what my role could be there.  I had hoped Ruthie and I could spend significant time with the children, but the language barrier makes it hard to interact in any significant way.  It has also been hard for Ruthie because when we arrive the 30+ children swarm us, want to touch us, and all start talking to us in Zulu.  She gets overwhelmed.


I think the most rewarding part of our time here so far is getting to know people different from ourselves.  This past weekend Rachel and Rebekah each invited two girls from school to our house to swim.  Rebekah invited a Zulu girl Aphiwe and an Indian girl Samira.   They are actually from fairly affluent, educated families but from different cultures.  They had a nice time and it was neat to see three girls from entirely different cultures giggling together.


Here is the “bump.”  Friendships are important to Rachel.  She is a loyal friend and desires close relationships.  She has been drawn to the quieter Zulu girls in her class, I think mostly because the white girls already have an established “group” but the few black girls are intrigued to get to know someone white.  Only one girl, Thembile, was able to come Sunday.  She lives in one of the low income black townships, so of course does not have access to a pool.  They had fun swimming, but once they got out of the pool they could not find a common interest.  I heard Rachel trying to ask Thembile what she would like to do, what she enjoys, etc. but Thembile just shrugged her shoulders.  Unfortunately by reaching out to someone very different from herself, Rachel hit some cultural barriers… After Thembile left Rachel went to her room and cried.


As I said, the bumps (or “humps” here) are just part of the picture.  If you could pray for encouragement, wisdom and opportunities, we would appreciate it.

February 2009
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