They Made It!

As we have been without Internet access until now I haven’t been able to report some good news: after delays on every flight my family finally made it down to Cape Town! Thanks much for the prayers during their long journey. We are all doing well and are very much enjoying being reunited!

Got my Gumby on (& family flight update)

Well, I’ve got my Gumby on. It is Thursday night as I write this…I should have been about ready to go to the airport to collect my family. Instead, I am wandering around our modern apartmentS (yes, that’s two, two-bedroom apartments, suitable for the 8 of us) at the lovely V&A Waterfront in Cape Town. I have included a photo of the view from our room…if you look closely at the left-side horizon, you can see the red Lego guy that was built in the harbor for the 2010 World Cup. In case you’re curious, the “V&A” stands for Victoria & Albert, as it was Prince Albert who built up this harbor for his mum (as they say in England), Queen Victoria, back in 1860.

Anyway, the family is finally flying, though they didn’t leave until about 5pm Cape Town time. This means they’ll arrive in Johannesburg around 8am Friday morning. Then they have to rebook their hopper flight down to Cape Town. Why on earth South African Airways couldn’t do this for them from DC is beyond me. So, I cannot rebook our airport shuttle yet…and I had to pay 250 Rands to book their Robben Island Ferry that was scheduled for tomorrow. Give me a “G”…give me a “U”… (you get the idea).

Yes, I’ve got my Gumby on…so must the seven travelers making their way across the Atlantic and down the continent of Africa. Tomorrow at this time, it will all be a fading memory (well, maybe not that soon), and I’m sure there will be good stories to tell. Reed is doing great through it all – he’s such a trooper. I hope they can start receiving more of those “journey mercies” our Swazi friends talk about from here on out…they have earned them! May I ask your permission to retract my “cross slowly” philosophy in this situation? Please, oh please, airplane, can you cross over to me as quickly as possible?!

Oh, and the rain just started…it is scheduled to be with us everyday while we are together in Cape Town. That’s not a plan-changer when you’re in Oregon, but it can be here as things like the Robben Island Ferry and Table Mountain Cable Car don’t operate in foul weather. G-U-M-B-Y!


He’s baack! The return of Gumby…

It is always helpful to be a flexible person, both in body and spirit. However, on days such as this, we see how easy (or difficult) it is to get our Gumby on. I shall explain…

After speaking with my family late last night, I didn’t sleep well. The Oregonians and Iowans met at the gate in Dulles International Airport in Washington DC…I was on the phone with Reed when he spotted my dad, which was fun to hear. Then I learned that their South African Airways “direct” flight to Johannesburg (via Dakar, Senegal) was delayed due to mechanical difficulties. I was restless all night, imaging seven of my dearest family members in a faulty plane.

Still, I assumed all would resume normally…I kept telling myself to stop worrying (“don’t borrow trouble” is a favorite mantra of mine these days). I got up this morning, took my last walk to Good Hope Studies, and logged into my email. There I found my update from Reed. The good news was that everyone was safe and sound. The bad news was that their flight was cancelled.

When a 17-hour flight gets cancelled, fairly significant changes to everyone’s plans ensue. First, there is the extreme emotional let-down after counting the days – and then hours – until we are reunited. (At this point, I don’t know when they’ll be arriving in Cape Town, so I cannot even resume my countdown.) Next, there is the feeling of the sands of time slipping through my fingers…our time together in Africa felt fairly limited to start with, and this does not help matters. Finally, there are the details to work out…re-booking shuttles, ferry tickets, etc.

Of course I am not wishing they were on that airplane with mechanical difficulties. Of course I am glad they are safe and that there will be another airplane to bring them to me. Of course I feel hugely disappointed. Learning through these Gumby moments is not what we choose, but we grow through them…we become more flexible, which is good for our souls. I am going to have to keep reminding myself of that until they arrive!

I will update as I can…thank you for your prayers on our behalf.


Films and family (finally!)

There are surely many relevant films out there addressing issues of global concern, humanity, et cetera. As promised, here is a list of films that I recommend; I use them in my Global Psychology class. Don’t worry if you’re not into psychology…they are not psychology films per se (though all of them are relevant as they deal with the human condition). If you read about them online and find you’d like to watch any, I have them on DVD and you’re welcome to borrow them.

Beat the Drum (HIV/AIDS in South Africa)
Beyond our Differences (humanity’s connection through faith)
Cry, The Beloved Country (Apartheid; read the novel first)
Dear Francis (HIV/AIDS in Swaziland)
God Grew Tired of Us (the “Lost Boys” of Sudan)
The Human Experience (homeless in US, abandoned children in Peru, lepers in Ghana)


Finally…my family arrives today!!! We have been apart for 40 days…aren’t there a couple of good stories in the Bible that take place over 40 days? 😉 I can hardly stand waiting these last few hours until I get to greet them at the airport. It is sure to be one of the sweetest reunions of my life, perhaps only second to the first time I met each of them.

Reed, Jackson, and Abbie, I love you so very much, and I am deeply grateful to God for blessing my life with you. Also, thanks for putting up with my hair-brained idea to do this!!! The photo today is of you three…it was the last time I saw you (at the Portland airport on May 12).

I am even more blessed as I have some “bonus” family members coming along with my sweet little family: my parents, Dave & Becky, a niece from Iowa, Tess, and a nephew from Oregon, Connor. Tess and Connor graduated from high school last month, so we thought it was the perfect time for them to tag along to South Africa and Swaziland.

We will stay in Cape Town until Monday, and then we’ll travel north to Kruger Park for a safari. I have been dreaming about taking our kiddos on a safari since I experienced my first one, over six years ago now. I can’t wait to see the amazing animals through their eyes! To end our trip, we will go to Mhlosheni, Swaziland, to visit our sponsored children – all 12 of them across the 8 of us! This, too, has been a dream of mine since I first met our sponsored children.

After 40 days of great moments and lots of life lessons, amazing blessings are surely in store. Of course, all of our days – even those average and below average days – are blessings. But then there are those amazing, once-in-a-lifetime days that fill our sails and warm our hearts. My prayer is that I can appreciate all of the days God gives me, no matter what they hold. Still, I must say a big “THANK YOU!” to the man upstairs for carrying us all through the past 40 days apart.

So…as I am able to locate wifi, this blog will shift to a travelogue of our family adventures. Tune in (or out) as you please. Thanks for going along on the ride thus far…


Good-bye girls…now global citizens

Our program here in Cape Town has not officially ended, but with one early departure, yesterday we had to say good-bye to our group of girls as we have come to know it. Kym will be leaving Thursday morning, so she finished up the requirements for the Global Psychology class Tuesday. The others will take their exam, etc. Thursday morning. All will wrap up their volunteer experiences by week’s end.

It’s hard to end such an experience…there is always much more to be said; much more to learn. We watched a wonderful film together (I will post some film recommendations tomorrow). We also had a few minutes to debrief and pray. I shared some of their “pre-trip” expectations, hopes, and fears that they had written about waaaay back on May 2. Thankfully, the only fear that was realized was buying too much stuff to lug home. 🙂

The hopes and expectations were fulfilled for the most part. It hasn’t been a perfect experience…I can tell there is a lingering desire to be in rural parts of Africa (i.e., as opposed to this modern urban environment). Perhaps that will happen in future trips, whether through volunteering, mission work, leisure travel, or even studying or working (or living!) abroad. Still, much was experienced…much was learned.

So, when these young women return home, be sure to ask them to tell you stories from their trip…to show you pictures and videos. We can’t really answer the commonly asked question, “How was your trip?” There is too much to say to have a simple response; stories must be told. You can ask this older woman too, for I also have learned a lot.

The only photos today are the before and after pictures of the group…I think they held up very well, and they even look like now they have become true global citizens!



“Cross quickly.”

I don’t have a very big “report” to file today (though I will get my “preach” on below). Yesterday morning during class, I enjoyed the girls’ reports on shark-cage diving (yikes!, Kym & Kjersten) and cheetah petting (purrrr, Crystal & Jennifer). Courtney and Kelsey were off at Miracle Kidz (way to go holding those babies!). Yesterday afternoon, the girls took the train to Muizenberg/St. James to the beach to enjoy a nice “winter” day collecting seashells and soaking up some sun (& I’m sure doing some homework too). 😉

Today, the seven of us will gather to do a bit of debriefing, including discussing our time here of course, as well as completing some questionnaires (i.e., an evaluation of the program from our partner organization AIFS [the American Institute of Foreign Study], and some research surveys from me…they did baseline surveys before we left; I am interested in the impact of this type of experience on one’s level of ethnocentrism and views on meaning in life).

The only photos today are of two signs: (1) the crosswalk sign we’ve all become accustomed to here (with both Afrikaans & English) and (2) the street sign of Good Hope Studies on short and sweet Mariendahl Avenue Lane. I haven’t asked what’s up, but street signs have two types of categories with the name, such as both avenue and lane; oh yeah, and “weg” is short for some sort of street but I have no clue what. That’s all I’ve got to say on the street sign…I just thought it was a nice shot with the winter flowers in the background.

I have a bit more to say about the crosswalk sign, which cracks me up…here are its directions: “PRESS BUTTON – WAIT TILL TRAFFIC STOPS – CROSS QUICKLY.” I like the tip on waiting until the traffic stops (duh!), and I love how it makes no mention of the pedestrian light that is supposed to change from a little red person to a green one. Maybe that’s because that little green man is seen for only about 3 seconds before he goes away, hence the third directive, “cross quickly.” That third command should be accompanied by a jillion exclamation points for emphasis…or maybe ginormous lettering with red glittery paint and little white flashing lights (ok, point made; I will stop now…not weird, just different [see prior post by that title]).

I took the picture of the crosswalk sign on my walk to church Sunday morning, so I’ve been thinking about it a few days. “Cross quickly.” Yes, that is an important rule for crossing these Cape Town streets, as well as streets, avenues, lanes, and “wegs” (?) in most bustling cities around the world. Yes, I want my children to know that rule when there are cars on the road, a locomotive on the tracks, or crocodiles in the river.

However, that is the opposite of what I want my kids to know – what I want my students to know – what I want to know – about the people and experiences we encounter throughout our lives. Crossing quickly may result in missing out on what is waiting to be discovered, whether in a new (or old) relationship, an orange-red sunset, a warm cup of coffee, an honest conversation, a dish of creamy gelato, the laughter (or tears) of a friend, the magnificence of the ocean, the pain of another.

Crossing quickly works well in some circumstances; it even keeps us alive. But what if we cross through our lives more slowly, savoring the moments God gives us…appreciating the daily gifts all around us? For it is these moments that nourish our minds and nurture our souls. This, too, keeps us alive and truly living.

I am thankful we did not cross quickly during our walk through Langa Township last week. Today the students turned in reflection papers on that experience, so I know how deeply they were impacted by it. We did not cross quickly in the barracks-style apartments; we did not cross quickly in the shanty-town shacks. We did not cross quickly by the sangoma (the traditional healer), even though we kind of wanted to at the time.

By crossing slowly, we were able to better understand the circumstances and people of Langa Township. By crossing slowly we were able to show we are interested in them and care about them, despite being uncomfortable “touring” their homes (this was no street of dreams). By crossing slowly, I can tell you that each young woman was forever changed…

She will tell her friends and family about what she learned; she will show them pictures and share stories of Langa and its people. She will be spurred on to get involved in issues of social justice that touch her heart. She will not be complacent or say, “that’s too big of a problem; too much for me to tackle.” Instead, she will ask herself, “what can I do at this point in time for this one?”

Let’s cross slowly today…let’s find the meaning in each moment, and experience it as a gift. I think we’ll all have a better day – a better lifetime of days – if we do.

Cape Town rain

Wow, it sure can rain here in Cape Town! I think “downpour” is a more suitable term. Being from Oregon, we are used to rain and don’t mind being out in it, but this is beyond our typical Oregon drizzly showers. Wednesday night was windy and wet…I woke several times to the sounds on the roof and outside the window. Sheila was going to drive me to class, but her car wouldn’t start. So, I put on a rain poncho over my coat, backpack, etc. (it’s a great look…I’m such a fashion-plate), and headed out on foot.

I was late at this point (after being ready extra early), so I didn’t want to wait for Brenda who was looking for a ride for me. It wasn’t too bad initially, but then I turned a corner into the wind, got splashed (like over my head splashed) by two cars, and by the time Brenda found me, I was soaked everywhere the poncho didn’t cover…even through my boots! I guess it was my turn to experience what the students felt last week. I’ve included a picture and short video of the rain (sorry I don’t have more interesting material…the girls offered to take my picture, but I declined).

Thankfully, Kjersten and Kelsey’s “mom,” Beryl, brought them all in their safari-edition Land Rover (no joke…they do their own game drives in this vehicle and have been to Botswana, Namibia, and beyond, “dad” Patty told me when he picked us up). We had our class and tried to stay warm…without inside heat, it is challenging, but I guess that’s why there’s coffee and tea (and Port in the evenings). 🙂

We had good discussions once again. We talked about how we are all the same at some level – that we can see beyond our differences – and yet our very different cultures have a significant impact on our thinking, behaviors, emotions, etc. It is a delicate balance to hold…and to try to understand. We learned about how qualitative research methods tend to work better (than quantitative) when we study global issues. We talked about how psychology has much to offer to help address global problems, but often fails to meet this call.

The students are struggling a little bit with wanting to see the images of Africa we have in our minds…the mud huts and colorful, yet impoverished, communities. Cape Town is a modern city and, although there is poverty here, we are removed from it for the most part. I hope our township visit (which was postponed until better weather) provides a glimpse at this sort of urban community. Or perhaps our drive to Hermanus will give us a look at the rural communities such as these. It’s like we can almost see, touch, and help the dire situations we know exist here, but they remain out of our reach.

Even so, the six young women are making big differences with those they encounter, whether through their practicum placements, home stays, with one another, or by the impression they leave on the train. 🙂 Like I said yesterday, I am very proud of them (& they did well on their first exam too)!

P.S. It rained hard Thursday night, but so far Friday morning is a bit brighter…here’s hoping for blue skies this weekend (or at least not downpours). FYI, our Hermanus tour has been bumped to Sunday to improve our chances of good whale-watching weather. Long live Gumby!

District Six Museum & Greenmarket Square

Our group was reunited Tuesday with the recovery of Kelsey & Kjersten. Their hosts have been excellent caretakers of them, so I am very grateful for that. Being sick in another country is absolutely miserable (I swore I was going to die in a Dublin hotel room last summer). We are all very thankful to have them back in action (& not contagious).

We had a good class Tuesday morning, and now I have exams to grade. 🙂 After everyone had finished and we took a short break, we moved on to the next section of our book…no time to waste when you’re doing a three-credit course in four weeks! Courtney had a good volunteering experience at a child protective service type of agency…lots of kids and babies to tend to (runny noses and all). At 1:30, Rashied collected us all and we headed downtown to the District Six Museum…

District Six was an eclectic community in Cape Town where people of diverse races, colors, and religions lived in harmony. However, in 1966 under Apartheid and the Group Areas Act of 1950, it was declared a “White Group Area.” Over the next 15 years, more than 60,000 people were forcibly removed, their homes demolished – literally bull-dozed down – and they were forced into townships, i.e., racially segregated neighborhoods (we will visit one or two Thursday).

Our museum guide, Noor Ebrahim, told his story passionately…he lived in District Six and was forced to leave with his family in 1976 (he’s even featured in my travel book!). He explained the map on the floor and how relocated families have noted where their homes were. He told us how a man saved the street signs that now adorn the museum. He described the cruel nature of apartheid and how kids today have it so much better. I am glad we met him.

After our time in the museum, Rashied took us to Greenmarket Square, which is an outdoor arts and crafts type of shopping area where bargaining is expected. We have the whole spectrum of bargainers in our group, from Kelsey who enjoys the sport of it to Jen who happily pays full price. 🙂 We helped the local economy by getting many cool souvenirs and gifts, and we enjoyed “show and tell” on the drive home. We all agreed it was a great day, and we were thankful for our “Baby Gumby Monday” since it meant that Kelsey and Kjersten were with us on our excursion.

On to practicum placements Wednesday…(& exam grading for me). 🙂

Baby Gumby Monday

Brenda texted while we were in class that she forgot that the District Six Museum closes early on Mondays. So we rescheduled our outing till Tuesday, reminding us once again of Gumby (can you find him in this picture?). Hopefully Kelsey and Kjersten will be feeling better and can join us then.

We had a good class and a meaningful discussion of some of the issues we are observing, e.g., poverty, racism, sexual violence, HIV/AIDS. There is so much to learn, and so many ways to make an impact. We must continue to ask ourselves, “what can we do at this point in time for this one?” I have no doubt that these students will continue to make a difference because of this experience.

Weekend happenings

Here is a Monday morning report of the events this past weekend, as I know them, picking up where I left off on my Friday morning post:

Friday afternoon/evening: Sheila (my home stay hostess), Binci (see the post from last weekend to meet Binci), and I enjoyed lunch at Barrister’s, a local rugby pub. As the ladies had told me about, the horse-drawn wagon delivering a keg of the local Castle’s lager showed up at 2:00 sharp. This only happens in the first Friday of each month, so I was glad to get to take it in (see pics). We gladly accepted our free draughts of ice-cold Castle’s (Sheila left, me center, & Binci right), and we had a nice time chatting about this-and-that. One of Binci’s daughters works in social justice research, so we talked about the possibility of her visiting our class…I hope it works out.

After lunch, I walked down to the nearby Methodist church to see what time Sunday services are; the English (or Afrikaans?) one is at 9:00 (the 11:00 one is in Xhosa). I will try the early service and cross my fingers that I understand what’s going on! Friday evening was quiet; salad with Sheila to compensate for our bigger lunch out.

Saturday excursion: We had a GREAT day touring the Cape, although we were two short as Kjersten and Kelsey stayed behind. Don’t worry…the baboons did not get them. Sadly, they weren’t feeling well…cold symptoms mostly (sore throat, fever, sinus pressure). 🙁 We missed them dearly and hope for a speedy recovery…I called when we finished our tour, and it sounded as if they still didn’t feel well, but had gotten some rest and were being well taken care of by their hosts, Patrick & Beryl.

The other five of us – again with Rashied’s great guiding – started out driving behind Table Mountain toward Camp’s Bay as we did a few days ago, but this time we went south to Hout Bay. This is a small fishing village with soft sandy beaches. We arrived at the harbor, and we experienced one of the highlights of the day first thing: we got to pet a seal! He was the alpha male of the harbor and was 48-years-old, according to the man who assisted us. We all took turns, and then the seal lumbered out of the water so we could get even closer. It was pretty cool. Then we got a few souvenirs at a craft market right along the harbor.

We followed the Atlantic south to Noordhoek and on to Chapman’s Bay where we ascended up along the rocky coast. It offered amazing views, and we learned the road was closed from 2002 to 2009 while they secured the route of falling rocks. It was pretty amazing…and no rocks fell on us or the streams of cyclists we passed. Then on toward Scarborough…

Somewhere along the way in one of the small towns, we were excited to encounter our first baboons. We had read the warning signs and heard about their aggressive nature (because people feed them and then wonder why they come after their sandwiches), but hadn’t yet seen them. We were starting to wonder what all of the fuss was about, and then we saw them. They were out and about looking for food in garbage cans and jumping from roof to roof while the townspeople hollered at them. The two men on “baboon patrol” we’re trying to help shoo them away with sticks, but I think the baboons had the run of the town this day. Down the road a bit, we encountered a traffic jam…the culprits = baboons. 🙂

We stopped briefly at an ostrich farm, and then we headed further south to the Table Mountain/ Cape of Good Hope National Park. The first stop was to put our feet in the water where the currents of the Indian and Atlantic Oceans converge. We could see it happening – the waves crossing – and we survived the slippery, rocky, seaweed-covered, bug-infested slow walk to the water so that we could stand in it briefly. (It was gross, but worth it.)

Next we drove down a little more to Cape Point, where we first took a break and had lunch. Then we walked up and up and up (and up and up and up) to the lighthouse. There is a funicular (an on-ground tram) called the “Flying Dutchman” that we could have taken, but we opted for the hike. It was tiring, but good exercise and quite a view along the way, as well as from the top. Based on the sign to New York, and the conversion from kilometers to miles, we figured we were about 10,500 miles from home. Wow!

We drove a bit more to the penguin colony, just south of Simon’s Town. We were delighted to see the cute little guys on Boulder’s Beach. The fluffy, furry babies are especially darling. We didn’t learn why they’re called “jackass” penguins, but we did learn that they live for 12-14 years, lay two eggs once per year (which are looked after by the males, just like big emperor penguins), and they mate for life (the partner dies within six months of the other). And, it wasn’t really smelly at all.

After a round of gelatos, Rashied gave us some time to walk on the beach at Simon’s Town. This was where we thought we would use our “swimming costumes,” but the overcast day didn’t say “let’s go swimming” vey loudly. Jen and Courtney got in more than the rest of us, but no real swimming occurred. We did try to rescue a few starfish though…way to go, Oregon girls. 🙂 By the way, Simon’s Town is a SA naval base as well.

We drove through Fish Hoek (where Brenda lives, by the way), and then our last stop was on the mountain above Kalk Bay. We saw where the “shark spotter” stands and watches the beach where the Guinness Record of the most surfers on one wave occurred. He said that the last shark sighting was two weeks ago, and that the great white shark was over three meters long. If he sees one from the mountain, he pushes a button that cues a siren on the beach, and he radios down the coordinates of the shark. Two spotters take shifts each day, and many more sightings occur in the summer (remember, it’s winter here). It was an impressive effort…I will not worry about Kym if our Hawaii girl does some SA surfing!

Saturday evening for me was another rugby game on TV with Sheila and Binci; we again had salmon salads, etc., like last Saturday…it’s become our tradition, I guess, and I heard a few “yum yum” & “luscious” comments about some of the players on the opposing team. 😉 This time the local Stormers took on the Blue Bulls of Pretoria (who were sporting all pink uniforms for breast cancer), in Pretoria, and the Stormers won, 19-14. Then the national South Africa Springbok team was announced. Even though I am a newbie, I could tell this was a big deal…I think three or four Stormers were selected. Next Saturday, SA takes on England, and I’m already looking forward to it. I think some of the girls are going to a soccer game tomorrow, so we’ll have to compare notes on SA sporting events.

Sunday: I checked out the Methodist church in the area; since those are my roots it seemed like the most familiar choice. It’s only about a 10-minute walk from Sheila’s house, and after waking up a bit apprehensive to go, I was so glad I did. It was in English, thankfully, and the pastor reminded me a bit of Reed (so you know he was good). 🙂 He was a dynamic, entertaining, thoughtful speaker, and he could lead us all in praise songs and hymns too (Reed is much cuter though).

The sermon was from Ephesians 5:21-33 (the submit, love, respect verses), and he applied it to marriages, of course, but also to the wider church body and all of our relationships. It was a good reminder of how Christ intends us to be in our treatment of one another. We were encouraged to behave toward others as if they are already the people they are meant to be. We should see the love of God shine out of us through how we treat others. So good. So glad I went.

Then I spent awhile in Cavendish Square (a huge [6-story?] mall) on my way home. Sheila had told me about an espresso/chocolate shop there…totally my kind of combination. I found it quickly, got my single shot of espresso (& free piece of chocolate!), and sat down to enjoy my treats and do a bit of people-watching. There were families around me having coffee, juice, and pastries, and the sound of bickering children and exasperated parents reminded me of home. 😉 Just kidding (well, sort of). I turned on my iPhone to see if there happened to be free wifi, and lo and behold, it was a hot spot! After many unsuccessful attempts, I was able to register and catch up on some emails. I didn’t have my iPad with me, so I couldn’t update the blog, but it was nice to be connected for awhile.

My mall wandering was a bit disorienting at times…I think there are three or four banks of escalators among the six stories of shops, theaters, and food courts…but I survived. I bought a couple of small “coffee table books” of Cape Town and South Africa, something I had been wanting to find. I also bought a pair of “black comfy boots” (totally what the receipt calls them) for ~$13. I have found a couple of little things for Reed and Jackson, but the perfect “I-miss-you-and-am-so-happy-to-see-you” gift for Miss Abbie still eludes me. I am certain I will find it by June 21. I think I may need to get another suitcase before I return home.

Then it was Kingklip (local fish) and veggies for lunch and a return walk to Sheila’s. At 3pm (till 7pm!) the flotilla on the Thames River in London was televised, so Sheila, Binci, another neighbor, Pam, and I watched it together. We started at Sheila’s, but the local SA channel didn’t have audio commentary, so we walked over to Pam’s house to watch it on BBC. This is part of the celebration of the Queen’s jubilee (i.e., 60 years on the throne). It was quite something…the pageantry and all…especially watching it with three women with English ties!

Onward to another full week…Today (Monday) we have class and then an afternoon with Rashied at the District Six Museum and walk around Greenmarket Square. I hope to file a full report tomorrow morning!