Monday, December 7, 2009

Cooked In Africa

First, it must be confessed that I am stealing the title of this blog from my new favorite cook book. You guessed it, “Cooked in Africa.” To kick it off, here’s a lovely recipe for you to try:

Savannah bread---very similar to bear bread---but tastes like the Savannah.

500g self rising flour

340ml Savannah cider (or any hard cider)

5ml salt

15ml olive oil

Let dough rise for 20 minutes. Bake for 40 minutes.

It’s delicious! This cook book is full of beautiful photos, stories, and flavours from all over Southern Africa. The author travelled around Mozambique, Namibia, Botswana, Lesotho, South Africa, and Zimbabwe collecting basic and interesting recipes from the people he met. There are some other ones that I’ll have to try soon; spade steak (cooking meat on a shovel over an open fire), mackerel cooked in banana leaves, and mama’s crab curry. Anyone want to come over for dinner?

Cooked in Africa, also because it’s about 32* (sorry that’s Celsius people) and walking around feels a lot like touring the inside of an oven.

It’s the festive season now, and the city is clearing out. Most people who live in Pretoria are not actually from Pretoria, they have come here for work. So now with the holidays approaching people migrate back to the rural areas where their families still live. Sundays the streets are already pretty quiet so I am curious to see what that is like most days of the week. Businesses and government buildings shut down for the few weeks before Christmas and New Years, people take vacation since it is also an extended school holiday. We at TLF however will be busy hosting the infamous “holiday program” for the kids in the community. All the projects will be involved; Lerato House, Swelelang (the foster home for girls), all the Yeast City Housing project kids, and the children from Salvakop. Each day between Monday December 7th and January 8th will have a different activity. There will be an environmental day, an Olympic competition day, an arts/crafts day, etc. It is going to be a great time to really get to know the kids better and have some fun together. Ideally, it will be an opportunity to further build community as well as keep kids from finding too much trouble with all their unsupervised time out of school.

As far as the past few weeks goes, it’s been quite diverse. Just to break it down a little bit: two weekends ago, 3 of the other German volunteers and I took a road trip east and north to the provinces of Mmpumalanga and Limpopo. The next week was packed with workshops at the large hospital in town in preparation for World Aids Day. That weekend was TLF’s year end retreat which was held at the Hartesbepoort Dam just West of Pretoria, then more , World Aids Day, and preparation for the Holiday Program. Yesterday was the Yearly Christmas breakfast and gift exchange for the TLF staff and board members. In the afternoon….I sat by the swimming pool and read a book…

Road Trip! We decided about a month ago that it would be fun to do some exploring by car. Just East of Guateng province is Mmpumalanga (mmm-poo-ma-lang-ga), where the “Panorama Route” is. It’s the main route to Kruger National Park, so it’s busy but once you get off the beaten path, there are some cute old mining towns, gorgeous waterfalls, and lookouts. The Blyde River Canyon is breath-taking (pictures were in the blog just before this). We drove through rural settlements where cows crossed the road at will, women were walking down packed red dirt roads with buckets of water or bags of mealie meal on their heads, and small brick houses with tin roofs spotted the landscape. We drove past huge game reserves and actually screeched to a halt and a scream (yes, mine) when I saw a giraffe standing next to the fence. She looked at us, then sauntered off…leaving the 4 of us standing there staring- jaws dropped open, 10 yards from the car with all doors open on the side of the road. I still forget I’m really in Africa sometimes. Saturday, we moved north to Limpopo which is also known as “Africa’s Eden.” It’s where the majority of the fruits and vegetables are grown for the entire country. We had arranged to camp in someone’s yard, found through Couch Surfing (which you should all check out). In the rain, at about 9pm, we got to the garage where we were supposed to meet our host so he could lead us to his place. His place ended up being a beautiful farm complex in the middle of a valley. We would have still been content with a patch of grass to pitch our tent but instead were led into a luxurious guest room. It was an amazing evening, chatting with the three siblings who lived at their parents home; A very generous Afrikaans farming and gaming family who were more than happy to have guests. I woke up to what felt like a dream. Opening the curtains to see a lush green valley, taking a walk through the garden there were papaya, lemon, grapefruit, avocado, and orange trees; strawberries on the ground. Breakfast! Sitting on the porch with my avocado toast and fresh coffee…I was in heaven! Later that morning we got a tour of the game farm and a send off with 8 bags of tomatoes for the road. The four of us demolished one bag before we were even off the property!

Bury the Myths, Save the Patients. Immediately following, this epic road trip was a very revealing week at Steve Biko Academic Hospital. The Policy and Advocacy Unit of TLF that I have also been working with partnered with the Rivoningo Hospice Center on a campaign for World Aids Day. Our theme was “Bury the Myths, Save the Patients.” We aimed to confront the many myths that go around claiming to cure AIDS. Working with an HIV/AIDS Center just near TLF, we went into the Hospital to speak with the nurses and other medical staff about the urgency of patients adhering to ARV’s, and educating about what some of the “cures” being advertised are. We also went into a boy’s shelter in Salvakop, the Potters House (TLF’s women’s shelter), a drop in center for people living on the streets, and even did a night shift workshop at the hospital. It was a hectic week but I really believe that God provided supernatural energy and really was able to do practical work in educating the ones who are in a position to pass on the information to so many others. It was amazing to hear the questions that came from the nurses. There is still such a huge need for awareness, education, and counseling around the HIV/AIDS epidemic. South Africa has not only the highest number of people living with HIV but also the most new cases of infected people every year. The Anti-Retroviral Treatment is free here and accessible to most who need it but there is so much stigma around taking the medication or even getting tested that many do not take those essential steps. On World Aids Day, we were a part of the march from the Union Buildings to a square down town where the State Theatre was hosting a stage event with some well known performers. It was incredible because one of the girls from Rivoningo, a 23 year old who just 6 months ago was told she had only a few days to live, was given the chance to share her story with the thousand or so people watching. She encouraged people to take responsibility, get tested, and to really stick to the medications. She is now recovering very well and is so positive and encouraging to everyone around her. The most humbling part of the day though was in the afternoon, two men came up to our information table to ask about taking an HIV test. We referred them to the clinic just around the corner and they looked leery. I offered to walk with them to the place and they hesitantly agreed. That 5 minute conversation was so revealing to the mindsets of people. He used to get tested every 3 months but now hadn’t for about 7 months. He was nervous about the results but knew that it is important he knows. You could see the nervousness in his eyes. I tried to encourage him that he was doing the right thing but all my words seemed so flimsy to speak into a life altering situation. The prayer became that God would bless these guys’ willingness to find out their status. That he would use them to motivate others. I will never know the results for those two men but will pray differently for the others who are brave enough to get tested and make changes in their lives and even more so for the ones who are still in denial that this is a disease that has completely changed the world and must change our lives here.

A quick update on Kelebongile, the girl that I mentioned before who had come to the Lerato House just out of prison. She promptly ran away after 2 days at the house. We had a few good conversations about her life with Paul in Sunnyside and I will continue to pray that she has the courage to step out of the world that has apparently become so ‘comfortable’ for her. Drugs, abuse, and money are all very captivating things. I must believe that she will someday be free.

“I want so badly to believe, that there is truth, that love is real. And I want life in every word, to the extent that it’s absurd.”—The Postal Service

Last week was Thanksgiving, but as you have read life was full of the exact thing that I am so thankful for so Siri and I celebrated one week later, just 3 days ago. There is a room across Museums Park with a big long table and a great kitchen to prepare a meal for 25 people. Our friends, the other German volunteers, and Siri and I all cooked the favorites (only substituting chicken for turkey…since ostriches are a bit hard to catch). Mashed potatoes, yams, cranberry sauce (thanks MOM!), cranberry salad, Pumpkin pie (thanks again mom!), and stuffing. For everyone it was their first Thanksgiving! We did it right, going around to say what we are thankful for. It was a beautiful night; people from South Africa, Germany, Zimbabwe, Malawi, and the US all together…coming from rich families, middle class, the streets, rural farms, and inner cities. It was the inclusive table that we are working towards on a larger scale in Pretoria and in the world.

During the retreat, we appropriately talked about Abundance and it was a surprisingly challenging subject to think about and to try and turn into a reality. We are called to live with and in the abundance of Grace that God has given us and to pass that on in tangible ways to the ones around us. God has really been challenging me to think big, to dream and trust that if He provides the vision, He will also provide the resources. There are people here who are doing this in incredible ways and it’s great to watch, participate and learn from them.

In the next few weeks I will write more about this and also describe some of the things that are in store for the new year! Also, I would like to break down what has happened so far this year and really emphasize how much work God is doing here in this city and in the people he has drawn into this community.

For now, will you join in this prayer with me and think about where you can be following His example?

“You are the God of the broken, the friend of the weak. You wash the feet of the weary, embrace the ones in need. I want to be like you Jesus to have this heart in me. You are the God of the humble…You are the humble king.”

1 comment:

  1. I loved this last post, Robin, it was so beautiful! How wonderful to have a thanksgiving where you share with people who never have had a thanksgiving before. And seeing a giraffe!? so jealous! Please, write more, I love your letters. And you new hair! :) Love you