Flying to South Africa, I met a group of believers going to S. Africa on a missions trip while we were in the airport in Ethiopia and joined in with them for prayer on our way to Johannesberg. Then, when I arrived at the JBerg airport, they were my point of contact until I found myself another hostel to stay at… I really find myself amazed at the connection between believers, no matter where I go, and it is a great source of joy and comfort!! It was rather comical, because I kept criss-crossing the arrivals area, looking for a cell provider that was compatible with my phone. Took me three tries, and I did succeed.
Using cell phones in other countries has given me mixed success. In New Zealand and India I obtained SIM cards, and it was a godsend. During my trip to Haiti, I intended just to use my US phone, and was unable to do so. Communication is an interesting thing, because throughout this trip, the ability to Email, Skype, text, use Facebook or otherwise remain in contact with family and friends has been a lifeline :). Upon entering S. Africa, I knew that I would need a phone again, because I had plans to visit Swaziland and knew that being in touch with the workers there was going to be important. Interestingly in the JBurg airport, I had to go back and forth between Telecom and Ccell because the one didn’t have sim cards that fit my phone, so it took me a little while to get that squared away. Eventually I did, and then shared a cab with a couple of other backpackers to the hostel :). I was often in the trust of other peoples’ information when looking for housing, and it almost always yielded great results!!
This time I arrived in a new country, I ended up again speaking with some very knowledgeable locals, who suggested I make my way quickly south to Cape Town. So, I booked a ticket on the bus and then took off that afternoon. Waiting at the bus terminal, there was again no board indicating which gate my assigned transport was to be at, but this time I did find the right one.. In Johannesburg, it is a bit chaotic, with large numbers of people toting around carts of luggage and goods for sale in many places. However, I did have the benefit of everyone speaking English gain!
The (18 hour Intercape) bus trip south to Capetown was uneventful–I did have a few good conversations with the friendly young student next to me, and it was interesting that some of the bus stops are really in the middle of no notable place (ie–nothing developed and no landmarks). My poor neighbor student, though, when she was preparing to get off at her ‘in the middle of nowhere’ stop, realized that another passenger had disembarked with HER laptop, not theirs! Intercape was helpful and immediately reached the other passenger to reunite her with the papers due at university… How’s that for an ‘I’m sorry its late’ excuse?
When I arrive in Capetown, I promptly found my hostel, which was a lovely three story building, with alot of raucous college-aged folks, but quickly connected with Ruth (a professional photographer) and her mother, who were just arriving and beginning three months in Africa. It was a sweet connection, and we talked about what there is to do in town. I settled into my room, locking my belongings in the locker beneath my bed, and headed out to explore. I visited the musuem, and people-watched in the gardens near the hostel. Then I worked my way down to the pier area and inquired about tickets for Robbin Island, as I really wanted to see that landmark. I was told that if I come in the morning, there may be tickets…. So, I walked and explored the pier area, some amazing art exhibits, and then enjoyed a lovely dinner overlooking the water.
Today I went down to the docks, and was able to get on an early tour out to Robbin Island. THe site where President Mandela was held captive for years because of his stand against apartheid is simple, sterile, and sacred. I found it surprising that one of the other former prisoners was our tour guide, and when I had a chance, I asked him about how it was for him to still be on this island, in a different capacity. He said that there are days it is hard, but it is also a privilege to educate people who did not know about this revolution and the human rights violations that were a part of that time… I was honored to see where former President Nelson Mandela ‘
After spending the morning on the island, and seeing the beautiful view of CapeTown heading back into the harbor, I checked out a couple of the merchandise/shopping areas and grabbed some lunch there. I then hopped on the tour bus and made my way out to the vineyards!! The tourbus allowed me to see other areas of town that I wouldn’t have had access to otherwise, and shared about certain sectors of the city that still haven’t been rebuilt since the outlaw of apartheid. I went past the bird sanctuary and a botanic garden, and I disembarked at a Groot Constantia vineyards… the history of the vine here in SAfrica stretches further back than I had realized, and I enjoyed a great sampling of cheeses, wines, and good company… It was a beautiful day, and as I gaze around at the acres and acres of crops, and consider how much history has shifted in even the last few decades, I was struck with a sense of timelessness. Upon my return, I caught a taxi by one of the beaches who was willing to bring me up to the Table Mountain trolley, and wait for me there. SO… I did that. The reports were saying there was 0% visability, but I figured if I didn’t get to the top, then I definitely wouldn’t see anything, so I might as well get up there. About a third of the directions were visable, but there was significant fog and cloud cover. It was chilly, and I again had to pause for a power-up at a random cafe. Irish coffee on teh top of a mountain, when it is windy, chilly, and overcast is just so sublime!! I took a bunch of photos, and then scooted my way back down…
The next day, I was a part of a tour group to go see the penguin colony and the Cape of Good Hope. This was just a spectacular day of company, experiences, and sightings!! The penguins were RIGHT under us on the boardwalk, and it was just a bright and warm day. We caught many pictures (and a video of me wobbling like the Boston Aquarium commercial from the 80s), and it was just so majestic to see these little guys hobbling around, burying their nests, and surfing in the waves in ffont of us.
As we entered the park area, our guide indicated that it was unlikely we would see a variety of animals, as there is such a vast expanse of land here. But we MIGHT see zebras, waterboks, baboons, or ostriches. Well, before the day was out we had seen ALL of those creatures!! Upon arrival, we got geared up on bikes, and then headed out across the prairies, with the cape of Good hope just south of/in front of us… We spent about an hour and a half biking 8-10 miles, and it felt so good, as I hadn’t been on a bike since the fall of 2011 because of my back injury!! At the end of the ride, we gathered to share lunch, and then headed over to the cape. We took pictures, climbed the lighthouse, and enjoyed being at the ‘southern most’ tip of S.Africa (there is actually another place that is more correctly considered that, but common knowledge labels the Cape as such….
At the end of the day, I hopped on a flight back to JBurg, and then rented a car and drove on over to Swaziland!
Driving east to Swaziland was somewhat of a surreal experience.. I thankfully had a very contemporary and safe car, but as I looked around I realized that there are vehicles 15+ years and older on the road. I continued to drive through forest after forest, and I could see cattle wandering up on the road, lumber being harvested, and then many spatterings of thatched roofs and villages scattered along the way. I entered Swaziland on the south of the country, and thankfully I had requested a letter from the rental company about traveling across the border. When I came through, I had to pay a fee, go in and out of two different buildings, and the vehicle was searched twice. Having a cell phone, I thought I would have no problem connecting with Erica, but it turns out that although Swaziland is surrounded on all sides by S.Africa, the phone didn’t work there! So… I just continued along the road until I saw a game lodge, and then pulled over to request the use of their phone. I connected with Erica, and she said ‘just look for the white girl on the side of the road’. So, I drove another 15 minutes down the road, and there she was!! Mxlosi was with her, and I quickly was oriented to the Anchor Center, which is the site in Nsoko I have been supporting since its inception 7 years ago…. It was alive with ministry work, and go-gos from the church. I was so blessed and encouraged to see this beautiful outreach that Jumbo and Kreik launched right as I went to the Amazon in 2006….
Erica showed me around and introduced me to the ministry partners, and then we prepared to go to dinner. AS we came upon the game lodge, there were 2 giraffes immediately visable, so we walked around and enjoyed their company. As we walked, more gathered and eventually we were just yards away from 8 of these lanky and stealthy desert divas. They were lazily and confidently gathering food from the tops of trees, hugging each others’ necks, and generally seemed to be enjoying the happy hour of a reserve–when the tourists have mostly gone home, and they get to reclaim the land without gawkers.
Erica and I proceeded to talk and connect at length, and it turns out that she knows my pastor and our small little congregation in COLORADO!! SHe used to come to our 24/7 house of prayer! 🙂 What an amazingly small world… For the next couple of days, she showed me around, allowed me to be a part of ministry, and introduced me to the people that Anchor Center and the care points have impacted…
ON SUNDAY I attended church with her–and there was a little boy in blue who followed us into the van, and came to church. She doesn’t know his name, or even who is mamma is, but he wanted to be in the house of The Lord for worship. He wore threadbare shorts, and a dust-covered shirt. He spoke very little, but he was my buddy for the day. HE sat in my lap, kept me in sight, and worshipped with me in a language in which I don’t know a word (okay, so I learned a couple, but barely!). The connection with him was one I will always remember, while I was from half a globe a way, the fact that I was present, loving, and connected made a difference. IF only for that moment, and I will always remember his trusting and gentle eyes. We sat next to two of the Go-gos (grandmas) in the congregation, and I was just blessed. One uses a wheelchair for mobility, and has a a very gentle spirit, despite the challenge of rolling a wheelchair over dusty and uneven paths, and getting in and out from the ground because both of her legs are amputated. The other gal next to me is a 80+ year old who is engaging, smiley, and blind (I believe because of diabetes). They both proceed during the worship service to dance around and express their deep love for The Lord. Physical challenges present an extra effort anywhere in the world, but in Swaziland, without adaptive services or supports, I only imagine how the community responds differently to these beautiful women… I have been in churches in at least 10 countries, but hearing a Gogo thank The Lord for provision here was something to behold. She stood up and recounted to the congregation that she was struggling, because she didn’t have ‘food’ to cook, but then the Lord caused her to remember she had grass outside which she realized she could boil to make a soup. Even in a survival situation, I’m not sure I would have considered that option–perspective is everything. WE ARE SO spoiled…. Realizing that the majority of people in this country are HIV or TB positive, and that 19 people survive on one paycheck, that monogomy is a foreign concept to them, few children grow up with two parents, and many are double orphaned, it is all so heartbreaking. The afternoon I arrived, I was talking to a 9 year old on the playground, and she was asking me about my family–as she has seen her share of visitors/short term missions folks come through the Anchor Center. Etched into my memory and heart is her reaction when I told her that I still have two parents. That sentance almost didn’t seem to compute in her gentle little mind, and in that moment all I wanted to do was provide parents for all of these children. If you have ever considered adopting–let this be a strong encouragement to DO IT (think its expensive–know that there are resources, I’ll help you find them)!! Also, please pray with me that God would raise up and send workers to the nations!!
While in Swaziland, I was able to give a couple of massages to the GoGos, and visit all of the 10 carepoints near Nsoko, which I have been supporting for 7 years. This ministry began with feeding 30-50 people in one carepoint, and now there are about 500 being fed daily!! What a blessing to be a part of this provision…. One of the greatest things for me to see was the partnership between Adventures in Missions, the game reserves, and some of the plantations in the area. They have pooled their funding to provide medical care in this remote area-both in the building and the staffing for providing this need. I love seeing practical and logical weaving of supports for communities! 🙂
As I drove back to S. Africa for my flight to Turkey, I an opportunity to drop off a phlegm sample for one of the Gogos who might have tuberculosis at the hospital in Manzini. I say opportunity because it was an interesting snapshot of African life. The interesting thing about this was how the hospital had a huge section for TB, for HIV and then for maternity… But the orthopedic/emergency/cancer and other treatments were all lumped together. In the U.S.A., there are maternity wards, but certainly few clinics devoted entirely to TB or HIV, as far as I know, because the case incidence is so much lower. The building was mostly outside hallways, and when I told them I had a sample for TB sampling, people backed away from me like I was carrying the plague in that bag. Knowing universal precautions, and having had TB vaccines, I wasn’t concerned about handling a double bagged canister, but it gave me a sense of the rejection, isolation, and judgement people dealing with these diseases must frequently experience. Who knew it would be such an opportunity just to do an ‘errand’. ADditionally, the patient has to present herself in person for results two days later. I also found it curious and slightly disturbing that my cell phone proliferated ads for single-partner sexual engagement, there were vasectomy signs everywhere “–be a man, have the surgery”, and “just one partner=longer life”
After leaving Swaziland… I headed out via a stop at the glass factory and then flew to TURKEY!!