Just a quick update to let everyone know that we all made it home safe and sound last night. We had some interesting mishaps along the way, but we persisted on and all parties are back at their respective homes. We have lots to think about…to remember…to continue to learn. It was a wonderful adventure, made perfect by sharing it together. We are thankful to God for watching over us, and we pray our sponsored children and their families also feel His protection. Here are just a few pics from our day in Mhlosheni, Swaziland. (We weren’t all together for the visits, so I don’t have those for everyone yet.)
Believe it or not, our first accommodation in Swaziland has wifi connectivity! The two teenagers with us are quite pleased. Okay, so are the two 40-somethings. 🙂 Anyway, I thought I would post a few more people pics for your enjoyment…
We arrived a bit late this afternoon (surprise, surprise), but everything went smoothly with the border crossing, etc. We are staying at the quaint Timbali Lodge in Manzini tonight and then will move on to Milwane Reserve (in traditional beehive huts!) tomorrow night. We had delicious pizzas for dinner (Abbie said they were the best pizzas she’s ever eaten; Connor said they were the best he’s ever eaten in Africa…I think his sense of humor comes from his dad).
Our World Vision partner, Bonginkosi, greeted us as well…it is great to see him again so soon. His smile grew very wide when we presented him with a giant bag of his favorite Skittles. Tomorrow will be a good, long day visiting our sponsored children. I am so looking forward to sharing this together as a family.
I doubt we’ll be online tomorrow night, and then Friday begins our journey home. If I can, I will post pics of us with our sponsored children, but I think it is not very likely. Anyway, I hope you enjoy the photos (they include one of my students, Kelsey, who joined us on safari)!
Just a quick post on our drive from Kruger Park into Swaziland. We don’t expect to be able to be online once there. We have had a fabulous experience here and have seen lots of animals, and we each have our favorite sightings. We were incredibly lucky to see five lions up close as well as two cheetahs with a fresh kill. Considering there are only around 200 cheetahs in all of Kruger Park (which is about12,000 square miles), the latter was very, very fortunate. More pictures are needed to tell the tales, but here is one of us so you know we are all fine and the lions didn’t eat anyone! 🙂
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!
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.
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…
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!
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.