Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Durban Photos

Siri and I on the "Golden Mile" in Durban!

Barber Shop- Taxi Stop

Barber Shop-Taxi Stop

Each morning on the corner of Boom street and Van Der Walt Street, on my way to the Lerato House, there’s a old man with a beautifully creased face who pulls some stunt to try and get Maren, Carlota, or I to get into his taxi going to “MABOPANE, MABOPANE”! It’s usually something like an empty water bottle set in the middle of the sidewalk and if we step around it to one side or the other he’s there to greet us with a big missing-some-teeth-smile and a directive arm into his mini-taxi. We say good morning, laugh a little bit and go on our way, past the final fruit stands and impromptu barbershops that are set up with just a piece of carpet, a chair, a mirror, and some display poster with pictures of handsome men with jerry curls or radical designs shaved into their heads.

The people I pass each day are becoming some of the bright spots in it. From Museum’s Park where I stay, to the TLF office there are people who have found “their place” in the city. It’s nice to have friends to greet along the way. Brenda and her boyfriend have claimed one of the light-post benches as their seats for watching the city. Most days they are doing some washing and have laid clothes out to dry on the hedges of the city hall park. Their little boy, Branwell who is about a year and a half old is often playing with some bottle cap or charming the passersby (myself most definitely included) with his curly brown hair and hopeful smile. He’s one of the kids that it will be hard to part with at the end of the year. Chris occupies the bench next door to these three. He’s an older white man who is now blind. Chris has come up with the nickname for Siri, Miss Seattle. The other day, he asked her when she will become, Miss Universe!? Jenny used to join Chris on the bench but has recently found a new location for awhile. Frankie runs the corner candy and necklace table and somehow makes a living on the profits. I’ve never really seen him with any customers…but he’s a great guy and is always happy to chat. His buddy’s are usually chilling in the park behind him playing cards or smoking. So, although we white ladies here in Central, do stick out like….well like, white ladies in central, it’s been really fun to get to sit down with people and chat…hopefully breaking down some of the stereotypes that are present on both sides of the conversations.

Most of you have seen the comic, Family Circus. You know the ones where they follow the little boy around during his whole day. By the end of the day there are lines in and out of the house, every door, tree branch, fence post, and animal has been run around twice. This is how many days here feel like. Last week, I was talking with my mom and step-dad on Skype at the internet café. It’ closed at 5, so at 5:20 I had to leave (African time does work to my advantage sometimes too). But I had set a time to talk with a friend at 5:30. The owner directed me to another café “just down the street.” I hustled over there…3 blocks away, to find that this café was open for 2 more minutes. They kindly directed me to another place that is “just the same as ours.” Silly me, assumed that meant they had Skype too. So, back to Church street (another 3 blocks), past the Jet store and CNA, past the ABSA bank, down the hallway, through this massive building I had never seen before, down the escalator…I found the place. It was open for 15 more minutes, they did not have Skype and cost 3x as much as anywhere else. Finished. Ready to give up, I slowly started to wander home. Taking a different route, just for the sake of variety I passed another internet café in some little shopping center and popped my head in just to check. It was a decent place so I hopped online there to admit defeat to my friend that I had hoped to talk with, 30 minutes after the fact. When I get home to the states…I will be the best scavenger hunter in the WHOLE WORLD! To find places here, you must look for clues, take hints from the people around you, always always ask a second opinion, and assume you will make 3 extra stops to get where you’re actually going! Turn it into a game and this way of living is actually entertaining! I’m learning why people don’t (or can’t) rush here.

Since were talking culture…some of my favorite new phrases that are quickly becoming a part of my vocabulary:
Now now- it means later, or much later, or maybe later tomorrow…..to clarify that something will truly happen soon, you say “just now” or now now now now now!
That side- to say something is “over there.” Ex: Stephens went that side just now
Jump the robot- cross the street. Traffic lights are called robots… Ex: Let’s jump the robot to catch that taxi.
Salty cracks-crackers. They’re salty and they’re cracky.
Make a plan- This one may seem self explanatory but the way it’s used is amazing. It’s said for everything…you need lunch, you make a plan. Forgot your pen and need another one, make a plan. The best comparison is “figure it out,” in American English.
Organize ________: To pull things together, or “make a plan.” But I never knew that so many things can be organized! Ex: I need to organize some money for transport. Or, I’ll organize us some food for lunch. It’s also a little ironic sometimes due to the fact that things are usually so un-“organized”.

Something fun that’s begun to happen in the past month is that I can recognized different accents from areas in South Africa and from the other South African countries. The Zimbabwean accent sounds distinctly different to me than the South African. Sometimes the difference between northern and southern Zimbabwe is noticeable but I’m still learning. Though, in South Africa there are many different accents too; the coloured people have a very strong accent as do the people from Durban/Kwa Zulu-Natal. British and Afrikaans are also very different sounding (not all white people sound the same here). I can also hear the difference between a few of the languages; Zulu, Tswana and Sutu. The Nigerians in Pretoria also have a noticeably different way of speaking. Though, sometimes I’m wrong about who’s from where…it’s fun to try and start guessing. My accent is hard to mask so the game doesn’t really go two ways but many times people have spoken to me in Afrikaans and been surprised or offended when I can only respond in English. Sorry ne!?

What do people think about America? Oh, we’ve gotten some incredible questions and comments about the US. It’s is so funny to be from a country that is completely egocentric. When you travel outside our borders you learn quickly how skewed the world’s view of our nation is. Both Siri and I have been asked so many times, which celebrities we know….and if we live near them. Do I know Brittany Spears? Nope. “What!? You don’t! But she’s American!” Will Smith? No. Beyonce? No, sorry. I don’t know any celebrities….I have seen one…but people are not impressed with Ryan Stiles. Sorry Ryan.
Some other favorite questions… “Where is America…is it in Europe? Wait, where is Europe!?” “Who’s the governor of Washington DC?” “What state is Florida in?”

It’s fun to explain our little country to people….or at least to try.
Today, walking home from Salvokop (a community literally on the other side of the train tracks), there was a little girl about 4 or 5 years with a bright pink backpack on, that had written on it in black sharpee, “Beyonce.” I think the little girl had been named after her mom’s favorite singer!

In many ways, South Africa and America have some common ground in the diversity of their landscape, geography, and people and it has been so interesting to see in small ways how we can be learning from each other in adapting to and honoring these differences. One of the visions that TLF works towards is the idea of an “inclusive city.” This is a place where all people feel represented, safe, and valued. It’s a difficult reality even to completely comprehend but I believe that it is not only the desire of God for His creation but also something that He empowers us to help create in our daily interactions with people and in how we live and work in the places we are present in.

It’s almost Thanksgiving and there will be a lot of events here to keep my mind and heart busy as people are back home feasting and enjoying each other. Tuesday, I’ll be leading a Bible study for the girls in prison. Thursday is our monthly celebration to recognize the good things that have been happening in the community and that following weekend is the organization’s yearly retreat which I’ve heard is a really great time! So, family….don’t worry about me too much. I’ll miss you all dearly but there will be lots of food and fun here to fill me up! I love you guys!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

You GotTa Make a PlaN cont.....

You have to make a plan......

So those scattered thoughts give you some idea of what’s been going on but mostly they were just to let you all know that I’m still alive and kicking over here. Now for some more coherent news. First, thankfully my new hero Shawn, the IT guy at TLF fixed my computer so all the info and pictures from home have not been lost. Have I learned from this lesson....yes, buying dvds to write all my stuff to this week to back it up. Blah blah blah.

The past few weeks there have been meeting meetings meetings. As I was mentioning before, TLF is great at taking on great BIG projects. If you like, could you join me in prayer that these would really take off the ground and that we would have favor with the city and with the public. To name a few:

World HIV/AIDS Day awareness campaign- We are planning a city wide event with the theme of “Stop the Myths, Save the Patients.” It is common practice in South Africa and in many African countries to use traditional medicine or Muti to “cure” HIV and AIDS and cancers. This Muti is a combination of herbal remedies and magic. There are flyers all over town advertising how to heal yourself or cure some ill by drinking “AMAZING GRACE TEA.” The presence of these false cures encourages people with terminal illnesses to go off of the proven medication ARV’s (which are free to the people in South Africa) in hopes of using some quick fix. It’s a very dangerous thing also because many people will start their own businesses advertising that they have found a miracle cure. Walking down the sidewalk you’ll see tables set up with bottles of brown liquids and yellow juices...these are makeshift pharmacies. Our event has to be on November 30th instead of the true World Aids Day, December 1st due to some political barriers that were thrown up by the city. The event will start with a march to attract the public and the media. We will have two HIV/AIDS patients share their stories, then some medical workers do a question and answer time with the public. The School of Creative Arts is planning a drama and some music to go with the theme. It should turn out really well.

Lerato House Outreach- Recently, the outreach workers at Lerato House (myself included) stopped doing outreach in the Sunnyside neighborhood of Pretoria because it was too dangerous. We now go only to Central, mostly along Bloed street because the women work independently instead of directly under a pimp. After meeting last week with Wilna DeBeer, the director of PCM, she suggested we try to find some ways of getting back into Sunnyside safely. This is the part of town where the Nigerians have basically taken control of the prostitution and drug markets. (Has anyone seen District 9? It was an interesting depiction of the Nigerian influence in the townships and cities here. The movie was banned in Nigeria). Women are held captive and only let out at night to work, even then they are always within the pimp’s sight. The tight control by the pimps makes it very difficult to get information to the women if they want to get out. Not impossible, just difficult. This next week, I’ll be going on outreach with another organization that is still working in that part of town. Hopefully, this will be a chance to see how and where they are making it work. God is faithful and I know that He will protect us when we walk out in His name but we can also take precautions. It should be really interesting to go to this part of town and probably very different than getting to know the women working in Central.

Anti-Human Trafficking Campaign- There are a lot of mixed emotions about the World Cup coming here to South Africa in 2010. People are excited but are also understanding the changes it will impose on this country. In preparation for the games, TLF has taken on two big campaigns, this is one and the other is Rebranding Homelessness. They see it as a great opportunity to make the public aware of the injustices that are present in their own city. Also, it’s a chance to make the wider world aware of what’s happening in South Africa and actually, all over the globe. We will be working with FIFA and the city to do outreaches to hotels, building managers, stadiums, restaurants, salons, schools, and taxis about how to avoid being trafficked, how to identify someone who may have been trafficked, and how to assist in getting that person out of the situation. Our focus is women and children in the sex industry although human trafficking actually covers many other issues too.

So, these are a few of the things that I have been a small part of here so far. It’s been interesting to work towards such lofty goals in the “African way.” There are a lot of meetings (as mentioned before), lots of walking around the city to talk with people, lots of side tracks and diversions, a lack of funding all around, last minute planning, then...all of a sudden....it’s happening...it’s working I am learning quickly to reserve judgement until the final event is finished.

On our way to Hatfield last weekend, the taxi man turned around after telling Siri and I that the ride would be 10R (about $1.30) and said that next year, during 2010 it will be 20R. We laughed and he looked at us seriously and said, “if it’s in US dollars, it’ll be $50.” He’s a smart business man in some ways. Prices are certain to go up all over the country but I’m curious if it will really affect Central as much as some of the other areas. White people are already afraid to use the mini taxis so I’m not sure the demand will increase with the increase in tourists. If locals won’t even ride in them, will visitors? I hope so. The taxis are fun...during the day.

Speaking of the local whites...just recently I’ve started to make some white South African friends here. It’s been so different than getting to know the black South Africans. There is a certain solidarity that’s assumed. People think I will identify with their opinions about city center, food, my living arrangement, and all the black people. They are surprised when I don’t. I went to lunch and a Christmas market in the suburbs with a woman who grew up during Apartheid and offered a different perspective on the freedom struggle than I’ve heard before and gave some really honest opinions about the “old” and “new” South Africa. She is curious about what it’s like to live in the middle of the city not around any other white people and said that she’s very excited about the new freedoms now. That she is free to go places and get to know people she couldn’t before. This conversation and some with our new friends in Durban have given me a whole new picture of how complex the racial issues are here. You have the British and Afrikaans who are allis at times and enemies other times. The Indian people and the Black people are also categorized similarly sometimes but then have a strong division between each other. It’s also a huge generalization to just say “black” people since there are at least 11 people groups that make up the “black people,” all with very individual languages, foods, and traditions. The coloureds are a group of people all their own. It’s truly a RaiNboW NaTioN.

Today was my second twinge of homesickness. I was in the Shopright to get a notebook to make a calendar for the next 3 months. Downstairs, lit by nasty florescent lights, there were Christmas decorations up everywhere I started looking at the fake Christmas trees (actually thought about getting one for like 5 seconds) then heard Christmas music playing Really It’s holiday season here. There in the store, I felt it....that’s right....the Holiday SpiRit. As soon as I stepped out of the store into the 85* weather, it was gone as I sweated my way back to the Lerato House, but for a moment, I could have been anywhere in the world...and wanted to be home....tucked into a sweater and waking up to frost on the grass.

The next few weeks should be fairly “normal.” Next weekend some friends and I may go for a drive in Mmpumalanga (beautiful countryside and nature reserves). It would be a welcome break from the city sounds and smells.

All that about WHAT I’m doing here....now quickly, the HOW am I doing here....
Of course there are adjustments that have to be made when you go and live in a new city but these have all been okay. Mostly it’s food or living arrangement stuff. I”m used to living in shared space so that’s been fine. There are the usual struggles of kitchen and bathroom time. Getting used to the normal food...pasta and vegetables for dinner, granola, fruit and yoghurt for breakfast. I feel good though. God has been so faithful to walk with me and teach me during this journey. He has provided friends here to enjoy things with and amazing friends at home too who have been great at emailing, sending letters, and just little words of encouragement. I miss my family and feel more connected to them now than I have in a long time. I am learning so much about the importance of those relationships and really want to be investing in them, even while I’m here. Family is a precious gift that many of the people I’m working with don’t have. The hard part is to process all the things I see with the girls and the women. It’s hard because the intensity the pain that is in most people’s lives is so different than in the US. The abuse, rape, and crime rates are so high here that almost everyone has been directly affected by these somehow. God is quick to remind me to hand these things over to Him. I cannot fix people and it’s not my job. I can and will walk along side people, love them, and offer whatever I can. After work during the week, I’m tired. Trying to get in a routine of running or working on some project but usually there is a really good balance of work and play

Alright, as always, thank you each for your support. I hope that you are blessed as you are such a blessing to the people around you.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

you gotta make a plan

local is lekker.

Just to brief everyone on why I've been a bit distant on this world wide web or words....Siri's camera got lost during our trip to Durban last week, my computer crashed on Thursday (in it are all my pictures and writings). So, sometimes, it's hard to recreate some of the stuff knowing that it's in that little monster of a machine. Hopefully, the IT guy from TLF will be able to fix it this weekend and we'll get back to normal. But for now...here goes a scrappy version of the last 2ish weeks.

First, the trip to Durban. SO AMAZING! After a 9 hour busride overnight, through Jo'Burg and Petermaritzburg we arrived to a grey drizzly sky...at the ocean! My water radar kicked in and we made a straight shot to the beach. The record continues...everytime I try to just dip my feet in the ocean...I end up soaked! Oh well, we sat in a coffee shop watched the hard core surfers take on the waves in the rain and planned out the next 5 days (sort of). Durban is in the provice of KwaZulu Natal which is a primarily and historically Zulu area then the Indian and British traders came through. Now, it is a crazy mix of the three cultures and is very very different than the mostly Afrikaans and Tshwana Pretoria. What did we do....went to a huge Indian market for some shopping, got a tour of the Juma mosque (one of the largest in the Southern Hemi), tackled as many waves as possible, ate delicious food...curries and some more European type meals, met some new friends who were happy to show us around town and offer a different persective on the "new" and "old" South Africa.

As usual, not everything goes as you think it will. We intended on only staying in the city for 3 days then going to Tugela Ferry to where Siri's friends live, but transport became a problem. So, we hopped to some different backpackers and found one right across the road from the beach. So beautiful. For some reason, the area looked like a very posh Oregon Coast. All along the waterfront there is construction happening in preparation for 2010 and they have built a huge new stadium for the games. All in all, the trip definately felt like a vacation. But the overnight bus back into Pretoria then having to work the next day was a little rough. So worth it.

Things around here are moving quickly. I was hoping to explain some about all the project that TLF is taking on for 2010 and to ask for some help in prayer that I would be able to decide which to really be investing my time into. TLF is a very visionary oganization and has huge plans. Looking back at what they have accomplished in 15 years of working in the Inner City, somethings working...they have helped some major changes come about and have really supported the people here. I'll have to do that later.

The holidays are coming and so far, I'm not too homesick. Yesterday, I went to a Christmas Market at the University of Pretoria and it was so much like the holiday bazaar at PLU. I got a little nostalgic. We celebrated halloween by painting squash and buying a "horror" movie...one of the Nigerian ones that are sold on the street. They are horrible enough thank you. There was caramal apples and spiced cider...so nice. It is still strange though that the "holidays" will be hot hot hot and not crispy and white.

okay, let's consider this part 1 of 2 posts...the other to come in a few days.
thanks to everyone for your support, thoughts, letters, and prayers. I really do appreciate them and know that God is working through this trip in your lives as well. He is faithful to provide and lead. He works in such creative ways and I am happy to have Jesus as my teacher here.