After such a challenging week last week, this one has been a deep breathe. At work, the Lerato house girls are officially on their school holidays so us volunteers were in charge of organizing a Holiday program to keep them busy during last and this week. Sounds like a great time, but was much more complicated than it sounds. I'll fast forward to the highlights of the week. Tuesday, we had a blast in the swimming pool. A lot of the girls are still learning how to actually swim but have a good time just jumping in, screaming, and splashing each other. Friday, in honor of Heritage day (which was Thursday) we decided that we would all cook lunch together, each sharing a dish from our country. Maren and Carlotta, the German volunteers, cooked some potato-mince casserole which was delicious. The South African students cooked pap, beef stew, and spinach (a very traditional meal here), and I baked chocolate chip cookies for everyone. The girls at the house seemed to enjoy learning how to cook some new foods and had even more fun with the digital camera. (Pictures above). Apparently they're all preparing to be super models. It was a short week that went very quickly. Although last week was difficult, I am confident that things can and will improve as we all learn to communicate with each other and listen to the ideas that we each have to contribute.
Now, that you're all curious about the title of this little blurt....yes, I SAW ZEBRAS! Heritage Day is celebrated here by people gathering together by cooking food and enjoying each other's histories. So to celebrate my Pacific Northwest Heritage, my friend Maren and I decided to go exploring in the mountains to find some hiking trails. We took off for Rustenburg which is about 1.5 hours northwest of Pretoria by mini-taxi. From there....well, that's as far as we'd planned. Thankfully, we found favor with the people in Rustenburg. Hopping off the taxi in the middle of town proved to be a bad idea since there wasn't really anything there. After asking a few people where we could find any tourism information, they all pointed back the way we came and said it was too far to walk. "Too far to walk," is anything more than 3 blocks here so we considered this and took off walking. A woman at the tourism office (which just opened on Monday), eventually offered to just drive us to the gate of the Nature Reserve that was near the town. Happily, she took off for the hills and dropped us off with just one request, that we call her and tell her when we make it home safe. I could write for hours about how beautiful this place was but the pictures should do it more justice. Maren and I wandered around for awhile on a few different trails and we walked down and saw the savannah plains...and yes...Zebras! They were just grazing in a small herd. Zebras are gorgeous! We both shrieked and started laughing at how funny it was to just see Zebras and at how easily amused we were. After a whole day of hiking and spotting other animals like Springbokke, Sable Antelope, and all sorts of other deer like animals), we were tired and had to head home before dark. Not to worry...at home we rounded up Siri and our friend Nora and started planning to go back to camp for the weekend!
Saturday morning the four of us jumped on another mini-taxi and jetted back to Rustenburg. At this point we were feeling much more confident on directions and plans. From the taxi-rank in town, we found another ride to the gate of the park. I'm learning here that there are often rules for so many things that one, are unnecessary, and two, are not followed or enforced. So at the park, you are not "allowed" to just walk in, you must drive. (Thursday, we paid for our non-existant car just to satisfy the woman at the gate). So we hitched a ride with a family that was going to do some bike riding. People were so willing to let us jump in the back of their truck and haul us down the road to the visitor center or the gate. After sorting through the "rules" of the park with the woman at the gate, it was finally settled that we could camp there...if there was a spot...but "the whole park is full." Right. Saturday was spent wandering the trails with a goal of finding the river and going for a swim. Wandering, check. River...eventually, check! Colors in the Kganswane Mountain Reserve are so unique. the reds of the stones and dirt, deep and bright greens of the trees and ferns, then brilliant blue sky escorted us around for two days. Views from the top of the peaks stretched forever and mostly it was grasslands. A herd of baboons escorted us for awhile on Saturday. Thankfully, they kept walking pretty far ahead of us since none of us are up to par on our baboon defense skills. Later, in the evening, after a swim in the river we went back to camp to set up and crash. Crash we did, at 8:30. For as hot as it gets here during the day, it gets ridiculously cold at night. Yes, shivering and sore from the hard ground, I slept for maybe 3 hours. Once I was woken up by Siri and Nora looking out the screen of the tent and nervously laughing at the fact that two Zebras were rustling through our garbage bag! Too nervous to peek out, I trusted that Zebras are not aggressive and that they would be satisfied with some empty cans of beans and packets of soup. They were and left quickly. So wild. I'm used to raccoons or squirrels but baboons and zebras are a different story to see sneaking into your camp. Maybe its something we'll get used to here but I hope not! Siri, Maren, Nora and I traveled really well together. They each have a real appreciation for simplicity and for small wonders in the world so we had a great time talking about the giant termite hills, wondering about the rocks, standing in the windblown grass on the top of a hill, then jumping into the freezing cold river water. The whole trip was just so relaxing and truly restoring to my Spirit. My lungs really breathe better when they're filled with clean air from grasslands and mountains and my heart is satisfied and ready to take on another week in the big city.
For those of you praying out there...THANK YOU!!! Thank you more than you know for your support. It has been so necessary and felt this last few weeks. God is doing some real work here and He is showing me how messy it can be. There are some people in my life here who are so precious but in such difficult places right now. Would you please be praying for; provision for food and shelter for these people, for conviction in certain unhealthy lifestyle choices, and against the spirit of fear that keeps so many captive and lures the young people here into pursuing only comfort, not real life. God is the ultimate Provider and He does this in so many ways. Would we be open to and have faith in His provision.