Tuesday, September 23, 2008

A trip to South Africa...

I like the backpackers life. My friend Cheryl is one of those excellent planners who organizes the details of a trip well ahead of time so as to maximize every minute. I like these kind of people. They often see more of a place than a traveller like me. But packpackers tend to be last-minute planners and this serves one fantastic purpose: they end up exploring things one might not normally explore and have adventures with the most random and fascinating people. I love this. Yesterday as I stretched out my toes to bask in the warm sun along the Cape Town waterfront an ugly thought came to mind: "I have officially become a tourist and am no longer a resident of Zambia." I wanted to burst into tears and promptly made a list of all the things I love about Zambia. But it will break my heart to write it again, so instead, I will simply give you some words and pics about the last 2 weeks of my life...

I arrived in Johannesburg (lovingly referred to as Joburg)and after 3 short days, here is my wee little definition of the place: A massive edgy city where the elite minority live in electrified fences, tall walls, and hire security guards to protect their small enclaves from the outside world. It is a city steeped in fear where residents delicately trod on wounds of apartheid still gaping and bleeding, and yet, words of forgiveness and hope and a fierce pride follows quickly on its heels. I met wonderful people and while I choked on all kinds of culture shock (good roads, a variety of delish fast food, consistent electricity, AND drinkable tap water) I had a lovely time in hipster "Melville."

HIGHLIGHTS OF JOBURG: A Xlosa woman took me to her home in Soweto and gave me an excellent tour of the place and, a trip to this city is not complete without visiting the brilliant apartheid museum.

I then flew to Port Elizabeth: A darling coastal town that masks, fairly successfully, the radical socio-economic disparity that characterizes the place. I got to spend a week with my WONDERFUL friend Gharde (a friend from UMin in Seattle!!) and her very cool boyfriend Jaco. They introduced me to a world of Afrikaans as we visited beatiful Nysna and Tsitsikamma National Park. We stayed at a very cool backpackers place where we had a real "Braai" (Afrikaans for barbecue)--- mmm, delish!

HIGLIGHTS OF PORT ELIZABETH: Spending time with fabulous Gharde and her friends, getting a haircut for the first time in well over a year,zip-lining, eating biltong, and playing in the ocean.

And finally, sophisticated Cape Town. Only a city this beautiful would boast calililies for weeds. Springtime bursts from every rock crevice and mountain slope that surrounds this magnificent place and it luxuriously pulls up a blue ocean blanket filled with whales and Great White sharks, surfers and yachts. It is an exquisite, culturally fascinating place filled with startling racism, violence, and beauty.

HIGHLIGHTS FROM CAPETOWN: wine tour through Stellenbosch and Frankshoek, whale watching and laughing at the penguins at Boulder's beach with my darling German friend Udo, visiting Robben Island (where Mandela and others were imprisoned)and the District 6 museum. The trip was not complete without eating amazing food, hiking Lion's Head, enjoying the spectacular view from Table Mountain, visiting Kirstenbosch gardens, and lapping up sunsets with new friends. I've been trying to upload a vid of the cutest, most hilarious penguins, but it keeps failing, so forgive me for simply posting a lame pic (just doesn't do these guys justice)!

The following pics are some random shots from Table Mountain, in and around Cape Town, and one of Gharde searching for shells. I think she looks cute and about 10 years old in this pic. Don't even ask about the scarecrows--- just a wonderfully weird place in Stellenbosch!

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Goodbye Zambia! Until we meet again....

The hot season arrived seemingly overnight. One night I was sleeping under two wool blankets and the next night I kicked off the covers and slept only beneath the mosquito net. Wee Franky cat has found haven on the cool concrete beneath the spare bed.

This morning I woke up to a hot sun burning low in a copper sky. It was just after sunrise and the fractured light thru the mango tree was flecked with summer dust and alive with chatter. The birds that live in the banana trees like to argue with the noisy crows who eat strawberries from my neighbor Jenny’s garden and torment the smaller winged creatures that busy themselves in the early light. The sun and the heat, the budding frangipani trees and the magnificent lavender mouths of the jacaranda blossoms bring me back to my first months in Zambia when everything was new and confusing and wildly unlike home. Now, one year later, I can’t imagine leaving what has now become my home. I still remember the first phone call from the United States— I am almost certain that most of the conversation with my sister involved tears and sniffling on my end. How much can change in a year!

I went to one final “Fimbusa” last night, which is the culmination of a woman’s preparation for marriage. There was lots of drumming, dancing, and O so many shocking songs and role plays that would have knocked the knickers off of the heartiest, progressive westerner. I have very few pictures tame enough to post.

This is my last blog from Zambia. I’ll keep you updated on my circuitous travels over the next 8 weeks that will eventually land me in Portland, Oregon in early November.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Mushali Bwino dear friends!

Stay well women of Kamfinsa Prison...

It has been a privilege to spend time with the female inmates of Kamfinsa this year. Some friends and family donated money to support a yearly donation to the female section thru TEEZ (the organization where I work). The inmates rely on the kindness of others for daily provision (prisoners receive nshima twice a day, but if they want anything else, it must come from well-wishers). The parcels included washing powder, soap, toilet paper, toothpaste, pens and paper.

I tried to explain this to some neighbor boys, sweet Mazungus from California, but they think that washing powder is a rather miserly gift.

These women didn’t think so. They danced. Everything is a celebration in Zambia, so as always, the distribution of items included drums and singing and dancing.

I preached a short message from Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians, chapter 4, that lovely little passage that reminds us that we are all fragile vessels, jars of clay, tenderly and meticulously created by a loving God. The women were especially animated (Pentecostals would love this place) when I spoke of our weakness and brokenness and the hope we have in a God who forgives and redeems. There were a few women in the back of the church that looked on with skepticism and what I really wanted to do was go back there and sit down and say, “Girls, believe me, bring on your doubts and fears. This world is madness.” These women have been disappointed, abandoned, and every day they taste the gall of their own regrets. And yet, even here, God is present. Hope is a precious thing. Mushali Bwino dear friends.