Tag Archives: Cape Town

Molo Unjani

Molo Unjani!

(Hello, how are you in Xhosa)

Last week was my first week of work and it was wonderful and challenging and unpredictable.  Our residents have been teaching me Xhosa, and I can proudly say I know about 10 words now, including how to say apple, banana and chair.

I ran my first workshop this week!  I also met with a lady who has been helping with an entrepreneurship project for the residents and we discussed plans on moving forward with that, which was super exciting.  The social entrepreneur in me was STOKED to get to be apart of this venture with the women.  It looks a bit different than what I had in mind but I think it fits our safe house and residents best.  In essence, someone donated a ton of slightly broken jewelry to us and the women get to rework the broken jewelry to make beautiful pieces and then go to markets around town (the market scene in Cape Town is thriving) and sell the pieces.  It is a very simple entrepreneurial project, but I get to share some of what I learned in school about market entry, pricing strategy, competitive analysis, revenues and expenses, etc.  It is also exciting because two of our women love to work with their hands, so this project is a really good fit.  So in my first workshop we went over revenues and expenses and budgeting, which is not the most exciting of topics, but the women were very keen on learning which makes all the difference.

I also got to join in on my first day of Rise Up, which is a program for kids in a local township that gives them a safe place to play and a hot meal to eat after school.  The Pastor of a local church started it after three kids were killed by stray bullets from gang activity right outside the school yard.  The residents join if they want, and it is a great way for them to give back to the community.  It is really empowering and exciting to watch them serving so passionately.

I had some cultural immersion experiences this past week as well, including my first South African taxi experience and my first South African public hospital experience.  Everything in the hospital was still handwritten…..and I could enter pretty much any ward without question.  I thought I might see someone die when I was in there and I honestly wasn’t sure what I would do, but crisis averted, everyone was still alive when I left.

This past weekend, I visited Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, which is one of the most incredible places.  The mountains look different from every angle and there are so many plants it is absolutely amazing. I was wandering around alone before meeting up with a friend and I started chatting with another lone traveller while we watched the ducks in this quiet bird bath.  He knew all the places to see in the garden and I was just kind of wandering around so he was my tour guide and after we exchanged WhatsApp numbers and got lunch the next day and saw some more gardens! He was genuinely one of the nicest people I have ever met and is quitting his job to travel the world!  I don’t know when or if I will ever see him again (I hope I do), but it was a very tangible experience of our interconnectedness as humans and I am so grateful that our paths crossed.  I also visited St. George’s Cathedral, where the Archbishop of Cape Town presides (where Desmond Tutu presided!!!!!).  It was an emotional experience being in a space home to so much history, resistance, reconciliation and hope.  A great cloud of witnesses has stood in that Cathedral, and I was humbled to even step foot in that place!  It was a beautiful service, it reminded me of St. Augustine’s, my church at home and there was some beautiful liturgy about justice and light and hope.

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courtyard of St George’s Cathedral

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It has been a wonderful, almost two weeks in Cape Town!  Life here is slower, more rhythmic.  I have more time to process, which I am very thankful for because this work requires a good bit of processing.  You hear things you cannot actually believe are true, but the very people who experienced those horrors are the ones who bring you the most hope and joy.  In my two weeks I think I have more experiences of the sort of tangible love and hope that brings tears to your eyes than I have had in a very long time.  I know that I am a better, more truer version of myself for knowing these women who carry so much strength and joy. Real, sober joy that is unimaginable.  

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Company’s Garden

I have been reading Find Your Way Home, which is words of wisdom and meditations the women at Magdalene wrote and we use during the Circle at Thistle Farms on Wednesday mornings.  It is pretty incredible how similar the stories of the women at Magdalene are to the stories of the women at S-CAPE.  And both groups of women/communities at Thistle Farms and S-CAPE have shown me the most tangible forms of love, justice, reconciliation and hope.  

I  extremely thankful each day when I wake up that I am here and living out my vocation.  I still pinch myself sometimes and cannot actually believe I am surrounded by so much beauty in the mountains, the ocean, the weather and the people.

Back Home!

Hello from Cape Town!!!

I cannot express how good it feels to finally be back to this beautiful country.  In fact, I cried when my plane landed at Cape Town International Airport.  I arrived in the most beautiful beach town, Muizenberg (a suburb about 30 minutes south of Cape Town) late Tuesday night!  It feels as though I have never left, and I think that is telling of how much this little corner of the world feels like home.  I am 8000 miles from most everyone and everything that is familiar and comfortable, but something about Cape Town and my work at S-CAPE makes me feel more whole and more myself than I sometimes feel back in Nashville.

The first day I was back I learned that one of the residents at our safe home was still there and was doing amazing.  She has moved into the second stage house, which allows a lot more freedom and comes with more responsibility.  It is designed for women who are ready to transition back into society.  She is just waiting for a job so she can be self supporting when she leaves the safe home.  This resident, we will call her Buttercup, wrote a book about her story, I would highly recommend, I can bring it back to you upon my return if you are interested 😉  When I was volunteering at S-CAPE last June-August, I saw Buttercup grow immesley.  She is so full of joy, passion, and love.  The best moment of probably my entire life was seeing her reunited with her father after ten years.  I won’t give all the details here due to the amount of space it would take me to write about that beautiful day, but ask me more if you are interested.  What I will say is that it was the most incredible, divinely orchestrated moments I have ever witnessed.  We had no idea if her family still lived in the same house and we were just hoping someone would be able to point us to where we might find her father.  And by a series of outstanding events, we ended up on her father’s doorstep.  And it was the sweetest embrace, there was not a dry eye in the house.  All that to be said, Buttercup has seen her family several times since then, she has gone on to do a DTS with YWAM and has written this book about her tragic and simultaneously redemptive story that is currently garnering her some income.  So that was the best news to me.  And when we were equally as excited to see each other when she showed up to the office on Wednesday morning.

There has been also some sorrow, as one of the residents I love dearly left S-CAPE recently.  It is so hard to see the people you love dearly hurting, especially when it is completely outside your control to help.  That has been really tough, but so is this work and a sweet friend wrote a beautiful quote in a card for me before I left that says:

“Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world” -Desmond Tutu

And that is my attitude heading into my first week of work!  I am so excited to start running workshops and getting to know the current residents better.  I met all of the residents the other day at the office when we made stroopwafels (a Dutch cookie of sorts). They think it’s funny how Americans “sing” their words and I am amazed by their dance skills.  It was so fun sharing little bits about ourselves and learning how to make these very intricate desserts together.

Together.  That is the overarching theme in my time spent in South Africa.  This philosophy of Ubuntu is so alive and intertwined into every aspect of my day.  I think part of the reason I feel so at peace here is because my days are slower and filled with meaningful interactions.  Perhaps some days are not the the American standard of productivity, but I find some of the “least productive” days to actually be the days when I learn the most and feel the most fulfilled.  And that is what the past three days of acclimation have been!  I have not had a to do list to check off to convince myself that I am doing something, instead, I have had profound moments of realization about just being.  I sat on the plane listening to many languages be spoken, everyone excited about their trip and I was just in awe.  Then I get to South Africa where there are 11 national languages, and countless foreigners in very close proximity to me and everyone is singing and dancing and speaking in their own language and I just had a moment of sonder!  Each of these individuals has a story as complex and intricate as my own and that is something to be celebrated because I am not who I am without them.  And shoo I barely even know them!  Interconnectedness is a wonderful thing!

All this to say, I am very grateful to be back.  I was welcomed with a giant avocado, I ate breakfast on the beach, I had lunch with an old friend, I saw seven people I knew at the mall, I ran in 22 mph headwinds on the beach, I have been reading a lot of Mary Oliver and I have been struggling to jailbreak my ancient IPhone 3 so I can use my South African number.

Thank you for all your kind wishes and words over the past week.  I am so grateful for everyone back home for all the support and love!!

 

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This is the view from my backyard!

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Muizenberg Beach!

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Sun starting to set over Muizenberg.

Oh, I did forget to mention the water crisis that some have been asking about.  Yes, it is indeed real.  We are limited to 50L of water a day per person so my showers are 1.5 minutes.  And to flush the toilets we use the shower water we collect either in the tub or in buckets.  It has made me very aware of how wasteful I am.  I do love sustainability, so this is quite a nice exercise in that practice.  

Cape Town!

Hey y’all!

I can’t believe that I’m back in Port Elizabeth and nearing the end of my South African adventure. A few weeks ago, I had the amazing opportunity to travel to Cape Town, one of SA’s most iconic and historic cities. Since I now have a chance to write about it, here are a few highlights from the trip!

A coastal introduction. Cape Town has been a harbor and refuge for traders, travelers, and refugees alike for hundreds of years. While still fully functional as a home for travel and freight vessels, the Victoria and Albert Waterfront (named after the English queen and her son) is a playground for children and adults alike. Modern restaurants boasting flavors from all around the world are nestled among markets filled with traditional African wares and art. It’s not hard to stumble across a band playing in the street a truly rainbow blend of influences from around the world. Hopping on a sailboat our first evening gave us a warm welcome to this vibrant city.

A taste of the city. I have never felt more at home in Africa than when I was surrounded by the sights and smells of the V&A Food Market. Dozens of vendors with artisanal and gourmet foods from around the world set up shop here every day, and deciding which to put on your plate can be quite difficult. I sampled a smattering of foods from around the world, most notably the Kubu Kebab (ostrich, crocodile, warthog, and zebra) and ended up with a jar of local fynbos honey to take home with me! We Nashvillians love our food, and it seems that CapeTonians feel the same. A new point of view. Table Mountain and neighboring Lion’s Head are the backbone of Cape Town and have remained its silent guardians for thousands of years. Table Mountain, named so for its huge flat ridge is home to a variety of wildlife and a state-of-the art cable car service. It was a quick trip up, but unfortunately the entire mountain was blanketed in a stubborn cloud. Not to be discouraged, we made the quick-yet-challenging 45 minute hike up Lion’s Head for a truly breathtaking view. Sea, city, and mountain stretching out for as far as the eye could see. A picnic lunch at the top made it a perfect afternoon.

A lesson in liberty. No trip to Cape Town would be complete without a visit to Robben Island, home to many prisoners and exiles, most notably Nelson Mandela for eighteen out of his twenty-seven years of imprisonment during apartheid. Although I was prepared to face some uncomfortable facts about apartheid, I was still amazed at how much I didn’t know—for example, because I’m half Caribbean, I would have been classified as “colored” and denied rights such as the freedom of movement, labor rights, and expression. I also had no idea that our tour of the island would be led by a former prisoner of Robben Island—a man who was jailed for five years at just the age of eighteen. Hearing his story and more importantly the grace in which he addressed his struggles and his former captors was nothing short of inspiring. It was the hearts of men and women like these that were able to soften and break the chains of apartheid, and it’s those kinds of hearts we need to ensure that equality is the goal we continue to work to, personally and politically.

 A little something different. Cape Town is filled with variety, so much of which I was able to experience in a short time. Walking through the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens let us experience a kingdom of flora unique to this part of the world (while still giving a home to some familiar plants like lavender and jasmine). At the World of Birds Sanctuary, we saw everything from eagles to emus with a few guest animals like tortoises and monkeys. In the Bo Kapp neighborhood, our walking tour led us past rows and rows of colorful houses that distinguish this traditionally Muslim area with an artistic flair. And brushing past colorful beaded jewelry and fabrics at Greenmarket Square could have kept my eyes busy for hours. I feel like I could have spent weeks in this city and not seen everything there was to it. There are always surprises around every corner, which is always welcome by me!

IMG_4615I am missing Cape Town already but am so happy to be back at Emzomncane teaching my favorite children and coaching with a fabulous new group of UTS volunteers. Stay posted for more updates over these last few weeks!

Unbelievable Journey

This roller coaster ride of experiences, emotions, and events is shortly coming to an end. This Friday I will be boarding that silver bird in the sky and departing this beautiful place for an undetermined amount of time. Reflecting on my time here drudges up a multitude of emotions that I can’t quite grasp completely yet. I have been waiting on a flood of emotions to overcome me but I mostly feel numb.

My heart has truly been torn in two for the country that I am from and my new adopted country. Many of the people I hold nearest and dearest are in the US and they have been an amazing support system but I will always have this pull from South Africa that will keep me coming back. I have found beauty in the small things and learned to love the the process. Not only is the love of my life is from South Africa, but the family and network of people I have had the pleasure of getting to know here have consumed my heart with a level of love that you only find once in a lifetime.

Not to say that I haven’t had some low moments living here but that can be expected. I have cried hard and prayed even harder. I have had moments when I just wanted to come home and I have moments when I just wanted to be left alone. The moments of amazement and adventure have completely outweighed the bad.

The list of things I will miss is endless. From the Molo I hear every morning from fellow commuters, to the sound of waves crashing on the beach in an undefined pattern. From the children preforming on the streets for change, to the melodic sounds from all types of bands and music. From the height of Table Mountain showcasing Cape Town’s beauty below, to the way that mothers wrap their young on their backs with blankets instead of buying baby carriers. From the random people you meet on the train, to the almost magical sunsets producing an array of colors across the sky. From the various food and craft markets to the beautiful languages spoken by all of the people you pass. From the children that are grateful for you run around and act like a maniac with them, to their creativity to come up with new names for me when I came around. Cape Town is not perfect, but it sure has become home.

I am a firm believe in the fact that God will only take you where he can keep you and I have felt his love all the way throughout this year. His love manifested in the people I have met, the places I have gone, and the level to which I have grown. I needed this year to take a break from school but I have learned so much more than you can even imagine. Now I am ready to take on my next adventure and see what God has in store for me now! And I know that coming back to South Africa is somewhere near in my future, I just have to follow the path the leads me back to here.

Until next time Cape Town,

RiTara