Tag Archives: Cape Town

THE MOTHER CITY

Enkosi S-CAPE!

THE MOTHER CITY

THE MOTHER CITY

It has been about a week since returning home, and I am still at a loss of words for what this experience has done in me.  I have been putting off writing this because I don’t think I have the words yet to convey what I truly feel inside. People keep asking how the trip was, and I suppose I should have formulated a better answer, but all I can muster is “it was incredible!”  I have been thinking a lot about the limits of language and pondering how to express these inexplicable feelings of the purest love, joy, peace and hope I have experienced. My time at S-CAPE taught me, just as Thistle Farms proclaims, that love heals! There is truly no other force greater than the power of love.  I feel incredibly grateful to have witnessed the transformation of women by love. To see others glimpse their worth and begin to walk into their fullness, something I too struggle to do everyday. I am crying as I write this sipping my tea at Thistle Farms because it truly feels like a dream. But this is what heaven on earth looks like, and this is my heart for the whole world, to glimpse and walk into this life of love and service to each other.

My project itself looked a bit different than I anticipated, but I am very thankful for that because it was the things I had not planned on that changed me the most.  The goals I had for my five months at S-CAPE included grant writing, working on sustainable business/entrepreneurship projects with the women, assisting with fundraising, and running workshops.  I did indeed work in all of those areas along with many others.

I submitted a grant we are still waiting to hear back on, and compiled a detailed grant application and all supporting documents that S-CAPE can use in the future.  

My sustainable business project manifested more as an entrepreneurship skills training for the residents.  We received a large donation of old costume jewelry, so we used that along with other avenues to develop our entrepreneurship skills.  We began by talking about budgeting, marketing, how to set up an email and how to keep track of revenue and expenses, which we worked on during my workshop time.  Each of the residents designed their own brand for the jewelry and I printed labels for them to retag the jewelry with. We discussed revenue and expenses, along with loans and how to grow a business. The residents each received 20 sets of earrings, bracelets and necklaces as “seed funding” per say.  They reworked the items, retagging them and fixing any broken pieces. We then went to local markets to sell the jewelry at and to learn about our target market. That was probably the most challenging aspect of the project for several reasons. First of all, culturally it was very different. I did not know that the best time to sell at markets is on the second and last weekend of the month because that is when payday is.  Secondly, finding markets that actually fit our target population was difficult. We tended to sell at flea markets, or cheaper, family oriented markets (because we had a lot of kids jewelry) due to the nature of our product. In my head, I wanted Thistle Farm’s quality products, I wanted to be in all the local stores, at the bougie markets where people with lots of disposable income shop, etc, but at this time that is not feasible.  There are two values I held very closely, the first being that I wanted to women to feel empowered selling their product, thus when we went to market, these women were not victims of human trafficking but business women. Secondly, I wanted this project to be culturally relevant and be in line with the goals of the residents. And because of this, entrepreneurship skills training seemed to be a better fit than trying to create a business in my short time there without someone to hand it over too when I left.  We were also very short staffed so inevitably the neverending list of day to day activities of running the organization and keeping up with the Department of Social Development’s standards so we can retain our recently increased funding would take precedence over this baby social enterprise. All this being said, the final phase of the project is that the women have the option to buy a box of jewelry (and there is A LOT of jewelry in each box) for a low price so that they can continue selling jewelry when they leave the safe house if they enjoyed it.  The women also learned to make lip balm which we sold and used in the goodie bags at our fundraiser. Finally, the women learned to knit and made a plethora of beanies and scarves that they also sold. There certainly is an entrepreneurial spirit in the ladies I worked with. Everytime someone new came to the safe house for a workshop, or they went to church, they would take some of their product to sell. It was really powerful and encouraging to see how empowered and at ease they were when selling.

Lip balm we made for the fundraiser!

Lip balm we made for the fundraiser!

Fundraising wise, I did help the part time fundraising coordinator in the acquisition of vouchers for our big fundraiser.  I helped create a sponsorship inquiry letter in an effort to get corporate sponsors that will donate a certain amount of say, food, each month to help keep our cost low at the safe house.  That is something really amazing about Cape Town, people are so willing to help, all you have to do is ask!

What I treasured the most though in my work is the amount of time I got to spend with the residents.  From long days at the clinic and home affairs, to workshops and outings, to covering house mother shifts and long car rides, some of my sweetest memories have been in the conversations I had with the women who taught me how to hold great love and great suffering, to embody joy, love, hope and peace while simultaneously holding the tensions and pain of the world and my life.  I miss each of them dearly, and I can hear their laughs in my head right now and them imitating my most used line, “what is happening here folks?”

In the sweetest birthday card and words I have ever received (I am not exaggerating), one of the residents wrote that I was like Esther, and God sent me to bring joy into their lives during a very tough and sorrowful season.  I immediately started to weep and told them that I felt the same way about them. Again, there are no words to convey the feeling I have when I think about the past five months. The only way I can describe it is feeling fully alive.  I experienced and felt love in a way that made me simultaneously want to laugh and cry. Like my insides were the sun and my body a stain glass window. My deepest desire is to reflect the love and joy and hope and peace of Christ through this stain glass window of this wonderful human abode.  I break so more light can be let out and heal so that the colors turn into even more magnificent and mystical hues.

And on that note, I feel it appropriate to share that this is not the end of my journey with S-CAPE!!!  It has been made abundantly clear (which I would love to elaborate on in person) that it is where I am supposed to be at this point in my life.  So, Lord willing, I will be returning to the Mother City in January 2019 for a more long term commitment to the work of S-CAPE! And the will of God is a tricky phrase, but I do believe it is the Lord’s will, if by the will of God we mean as, Thomas Merton says “the will of God is not a ‘fate’ to which we submit but a creative act in our life producing something absolutely new . . . something hitherto unforeseen by the laws and established patterns. Our cooperation (seeking first the Kingdom of God) consists not solely in conforming to laws but in opening our wills out to this creative act which must be retrieved in and by us.”  I am VERY excited for what is to come, and the real challenge is trying to be present in this season and figure out what the next few months mean, as my “five year plan” has drastically changed. But I have a great deal of peace, because I trust the direction I am journeying in now is exactly where I am supposed to be.

On one of my last weeks in Cape Town, I got up to walk on the beach for sunrise as had become my morning ritual.  I was feeling a lot of dissonance, doubt, sorrow about leaving and confusion for what the next six months will hold.  I was walking towards where the sun was supposed to be rising, but there was a thick layer of dark clouds so I turned around to walk back down the beach because it appeared I wouldn’t see the sun glide over the mountaintops this dreary morning.  I was walking and looked up at the mountains in front of me, the greatest contemplatives of all creation as O’Donahue says, and I felt this still, small voice say “Behold, I am doing a new thing” and something in me decided to turn around to look back at the sun and it was the most magnificent sight.  Rays of bright light were breaking through the dark clouds and I just had to laugh at the awe and wonder of the inexplicable mystery of God. I don’t know what this new thing is, but I know I walked home that morning with an insurmountable peace about the uncertain future.

Pictures cannot do it justice!! Behold, I am doing a new thing.

Pictures cannot do it justice!! Behold, I am doing a new thing.

I am not sure how to neatly tie together the wild, life altering, better than I ever imagined adventure that the past five months has been.  I am forever indebted to the Lumos committee for receiving this opportunity, indebted to S-CAPE for inviting me back and indebted to the women who loved me so well and taught me so much.  This experience has cultivated a deeper compassion, love and authentic joy in my soul and I am very excited to share more about my time at S-CAPE with everyone here in Nashville. Stay tuned for how you can maybe partner with me and the work with S-CAPE in the future too 😉

Enkosi (thank you in Xhosa) for reading and trekking along with me on this journey.  May we live with a deeper understanding of ubuntu, that I cannot be fully me without you, and wake up to the beauty and gift that is the inescapable network of mutuality connecting all beings everywhere.

Friends from around the world

Friends from around the world

Last sunset :(

Last sunset :(

My flatmate, hero, German teacher, co worker and dear friend, Lina.

My flatmate, hero, German teacher, co worker and dear friend, Lina.

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Bye’s, Belmont in Africa & Birthday’s!

I am down to my last two weeks in Cape Town and I have not come to terms with the fact that I actually have to leave.  I am in sheer denial.

Waited two years to see the view from Table Mountain on a clear day!

Waited two years to see the view from Table Mountain on a clear day!

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“Justice is what love looks like in public” Cornel West

The last week has been filled with many exciting and bittersweet things!  Two of our residents left the safe house, and that is not an easy process for any of us.  One left under less than ideal circumstances, however it was best for the safety and well being of all involved.  The other had decided she wanted to return home, and even though we wish she would have stayed longer to process and work through some things, she left with grace and joy, and we had a proper farewell filled with lots of laughter, tears and faith that her time with us was enough.  One thing that was echoed during her farewell, and the farewell of others, was the love she experienced and how it was unlike anything she had ever known. And that is the heart of S-CAPE and the heart of each of us who work here. Love is not a scarce resource, though society, and many of our circumstances and experiences, would like to tell us otherwise.  On the contrary, love is the essence of all things. It the essence of our being, of God, of the Gospel. Love bears all things, hopes all things, believes all things, endures all things. Few places and times in my life has love been so tangible as it is as S-CAPE. The other place that sticks out in my mind is Thistle Farms, and I am not surprised. It seems that humble, honest, hopeful communities of imperfect people pursuing wholeness and living life together are the breeding ground for sanctuaries of love and acceptance.  At S-CAPE and Thistle Farms, and I would venture to say places like the Simple Way and L’Arche, there is a spirit of ubuntu that runs deep and wide, that I am not me without you, and until we are all free, none of us are free. I am so thankful to be apart of the S-CAPE family, and lifetime of learning what it means to love in the way of Jesus.  So to all the residents who have said they had never experienced a love like this, well neither had I.

Some other exciting events that occurred this week were that the Belmont in Africa Maymester arrived and I got to tag along with them!!  It is such an out of body experience seeing my University, some friends and one of the most formative professors in my collegiate experience here in Cape Town.  It has been a long time since I have been around so many Americans! It was exciting to get to re-experience some of my favorite places through the excitement of the students on that Maymester. I also got to share with some of the students about what I am doing here and my favorite places in Cape Town and that was very special for me.

 

#BelmontinAfrica round2!! Where is the #hashflag

#BelmontinAfrica round2!! Where is the #hashflag

Finally, it was my birthday!  My second South African birthday!  I turned 22 on May 13 and it was the BEST BIRTHDAY EVER!! My sweet friends know I love surprises, and so they did just that, surprised me with all my favorite things.  The day started at Jeremy’s (the Belmont in Africa tour guide and my adopted South African father/mentor/friend/life changer) church and we had proper African worship. Then my friend picked us up and took me, my friend from Belmont (who was on the study abroad) and my flat mate to Paarl!! It was magical.  We did a chocolate tasting with all fair trade, organic, ethically sourced and produced chocolate (of course), we petted GOATS!!!! And it is truly amazing how much goats smell like goat cheese (or vice versa). Then we went to a lion and chimpanzee sanctuary, two of my favorite animals!!!! And finally we ended up at my favorite market, Root 44 in Stellenbosch and I ate the spiciest curry of my life.  And to end the day, we hiked my favorite mountain, Lion’s Head at sunset. I celebrated with friends from around the world, at my favorite place in the world, it was truly a dream come true.

"It's my birthday!"-Burno Mars" -Madison Barefield

“It’s my birthday!”-Burno Mars” -Madison Barefield

Friends from around the world!

Friends from around the world!

Paarl!!!

Paarl!!!

little bokkie!

little bokkie!

Today I went for a walk on the beach as I do when I need to process, and I was reminded of the necessity of cultivating an attitude of gratitude.  I keep say that I never want the beauty all around me and the joy of my work to become “normal.” I want to always be surprised, thankful, amazed at the miracle that is life.  I want to recognize every ordinary moment as extraordinary, and every encounter as one with the Divine. There is so much beauty and hope in the world, we must just open our eyes to the magic happening around us all the time.  

I still have a lot of work I want to finish over my next two weeks, like submitting a big grant, helping with some last minute fundraising planning before our event and taking the residents on some special outings.  People keep asking me if I am excited to go home, and as much as I miss my family and friends, Cape Town is my home! It is going to be very difficult to transition back to so much comfort, as strange as that sounds.  As Miriam Adeney said, “you will never be completely at home again, because part of your heart always will be elsewhere. That’s the price you pay for the richness of loving and knowing people in more than one place.”

I screamed when I saw this....chicken feet...apparently is lekker...

I screamed when I saw this....chicken feet...apparently is lekker...

What Words Cannot Describe

Greetings from my bed after a very long, very hot day!

Driving out to Pringle Bay for our first market! Most beautiful drive I have ever witnessed.

Driving out to Pringle Bay for our first market! Most beautiful drive I have ever witnessed.

It has been a busy, but good few weeks!  I was talking with a friend from home the other day about how incredible it is that even on the hard days, getting up and going to work feels like a privilege.  I have been thinking about, reading and listening to a lot of podcast recently about the limits of language, and how sometimes words cannot do our experiences justice.  I have witnessed this especially in cross cultural context, in talking with my German flat mate about how she wants to express something, but there is no equivalent in English for what it means to her in her mother tongue and culture.  Aside from language and cultural barriers, I have recently been trying to put my experiences and emotions into words, but it is becoming increasingly difficult.  There is something unexplainable about how fully alive I feel right now.  That is not to say that I have not had my fair share of moments where it felt like parts of me were missing, sorrows were real, and anxiety and dread were looming in the corners of my mind.  But even in those moments, there was a new kind of hope and resiliency that I had not experienced before.  And every evening when I crawl into my bed and reflect on the day, I have this overwhelming and unutterable joy, peace and fullness.  I think this is equally internal and external, as I have come to understand more about myself over the past few months, while simultaneously being surrounded and immersed in a culture, country and cause that I love deeply.

On a less poetic and more practical level, my days look very different.  Monday’s we have our operations meeting in the morning, and because we are in Africa, operation meetings run on African time which I really enjoy.  Monday afternoons I spend grocery shopping for the Safe House.  I have come to learn a lot about meat over the past few weeks.  And have spent more time around dead cow than I wish.

On Tuesday’s, I do some office work in the morning, my current projects are working on project files for the Department of Social Services, helping organize an upcoming fundraising event and updating the Safe House shopping list and menu.  Tuesday afternoons I have my entrepreneurship workshop with the ladies at the Safe House, which has been so amazing.  This past weekend we went to our first market! The women made lip balm (they do not understand my use of the word “chapstick”) to sell, as well as repurposed old costume jewelry.  They designed their own brand and had tags made, kept track of expenses, were taught the basics of a loan and given a small loan, set up their own business email, and sold their product!  It is just the beginning, and it has been such a fun experience.  The women were so excited to go to the market, one of the residents told me (paraphrasing here) that she never imagined herself to be a business woman, but selling something she made with her own hands was the most empowering experience!  I was empowered just watching them with such excitement and fervor set up and sell their product in the marketplace.  WOW!  And their goods were not branded as a charity project for survivors of human trafficking.  No, they were just business women with a great product that could sell without the cause (Social Entrepreneurship 101).  It was a fabulous experience for me, and the women and I cannot wait to see how this unfolds.

  Wednesday’s are my off day, so I usually sleep in a bit, go for a long run, then practice some self care by reading on the beach or spending some extended time outside.

Thursdays, I do more office work in the morning on different projects, or I take the residents to different appointments/therapies they have.  And in the afternoon we go to kids ministry, which is a special time for our residents to give back to the community.

The next few Friday’s I am covering a shift as a house mother, so I will either run a workshop with the residents or take them for an outing around Cape Town.  Outings are really exciting for me and the women because some of them were trafficked from other cities/countries and only know the most beautiful city in the world from the hell the endured.  So getting to experience the beauty and grandeur of Cape Town together with them is a really special moment.

I never fail to learn something new each day, wether it be a new word in Xhosa or Afrikaans, something about mine or another culture, or about the beauty and light that is still present in a world that seems to be getting uglier and darker by the day.  This work is challenging and heart breaking, but it also the source of so much hope and faith in the long and humbling process of love, peace and reconciliation.

ubuntu

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Cape Town at sunset! WOW!

It as been a month today since I have been in Cape Town! WOW!  I still have to pinch myself that this is real!  It is the most beautiful, calm day right now.  I woke up to it raining (woohoo!), and went for a run along the beachfront.  I am writing this from my favorite little cafe overlooking the beach.  The water is iridescent blue and there are the most gentle waves I have seen in my time here.  The clouds have cleared over the mountains and the sun is shinning, revealing every little rock and crevice that was hazy just a few hours ago.  I can see the sailboats on the other side of False Bay and the seagulls flying east towards the hills of Simons Town.

The past two weeks have been very busy in the best way.  I have learned a lot of things like

  1. How to drive a manual car on the other side of the road
  2. About the private and public South African health care system
  3. The importance of self care
  4. That I am simply fascinated with people and the world (sometimes to a fault)
  5. That I do not need to think so much, sometimes I just need to feel.

I forgot how much I missed driving until I got behind the wheel on the right side of the car.  It is pretty empowering to finally be able to help drive the women to necessary appointments and outings.  I am able to help in ways I really wanted to, but wasn’t able to because, unlike the rest of the world, I was only taught how to drive an automatic car.  I have become more and more aware of my own culture and way of life through relationship with people that are not American.  In fact, I am the only American at S-CAPE right now, and I am very thankful for that.  It has humbled me and taught me so much about new ways to see the world, while simultaneously reminding me of our undeniable interconnectedness.

In South Africa, health care is a human right, and for that I am incredibly thankful.  There are private hospitals (that are similar to American hospitals and for people with insurance or the money to pay), and there are public hospitals/clinics that are free of charge and will serve anyone in South Africa.  There is a pharmacy in the public clinics with medicine that is also free.  South Africa also has ARV’s (retrovirals used in the management of HIV/AIDS) that are free, which is amazing because those drugs can be very expensive.  I have had the privilege of experiencing both private and public health care, being right within my comfort zone and way outside anything I have ever experienced before.  The public clinics are located in lower income areas and they are packed.  We must arrive before 08:00 and we still wait in queues for up to five hours to see a doctor.  There are few times in my life I have been that aware of my skin color and foreigner status as I am when I sit in the clinic.  It is a humbling experience and again a reminder of our shared humanity.  We all get sick, we all experience some sort of trauma, we all want to be healthy and happy and free.  We met with the sweetest counselor in the clinic that reminded me of this.  I have not been to many hospitals in my life so perhaps this is a normal occurrence, but it was beautiful to have a counselor in a clinic to be there for hard diagnosis’s and to talk through what it looks like to move forward.  She was what I would imagine an angel to be.  It makes me think about all the individuals in America who don’t have access to healthcare and what that means for us as a society.  When one is sick, we are all sick.  When one is oppressed, we are all oppressed.  When one is denied a basic human right, we are all denied a basic human right, because my flourishing is intertwined with yours.

The other S-CAPE, volunteer and my dear friend from Germany, Lina and me during our first clinic experience.

The other S-CAPE, volunteer and my dear friend from Germany, Lina and me during our first clinic experience.

Last week some of our team went to a training on stress management, and on Monday, the director of the organization challenged us to make an intentional effort to practice self care this week.  The past two weeks have been busy, and I have found myself rushing around a lot trying to do all the things, but not really being present.  It is a constant lesson, the reminder of the importance of presence, but I am thankful that always we can begin again.  This week I was getting flustered quickly and more easily annoyed when changes would come up that I had not planned.  I was rushing out of habit, not out of necessity.  I was reminded of how cruel humanity can be and how I say we are all interconnected, but in reality, I do not want traffickers and pimps and johns to be connected to the greater beloved community in any way.  It is much easier for me to talk in generalizations, than to encounter an individual that has no regard for human dignity or life, and say, “you too, are my brother (or sister).”  So this week I made it a point to spend more time in silence and read more, read people that challenge me to see beyond the dualities, and see that those who oppress and hurt others are caught up in their own personal hell.  It is not my job to fix the world, but to love the world and when I feel overwhelmed by the injustice and hurt and suffering, I can choose to be present and love those around me well, or I can come apart in a blame and shame spiral of hopelessness.  And even though I do not want to be apart of the inextricable network of mutuality with the men who exploit the women I love so dearly, I must realize that they too have most likely never experienced what it means to be loved, just as many of the women have not.  And it is not me who loves perfectly, it is the Divine within that does, that teaches me to love without expectations or stipulations just as I have been loved.

I have met SO many incredible people already, from all over the world.  I am also in the most beautiful place in the whole world, and so this is an enneagram 7’s DREAM!  But I noticed myself waking up on Friday’s and immediately trying to plan my weekend, and being anxious when I did not have anything scheduled because I would be wasting precious time and energy if I didn’t see every inch of Cape Town that I have not seen!  One morning I awoke so anxious because I didn’t have anything to do and thankfully I was aware of my tendencies enough that I could say to myself, “I am being an unhealthy 7 right now!”  Joy doesn’t come from doing, it comes from being.  From assimilating all these experiences into something deeper and more profound than just a check on a bucket list. And this is a lesson I have to remind myself of every single day.

Finally, getting out of my head.  Enneagram 7’s are in the head triad, meaning that we do indeed live deep inside our head and crave certainty.  Going through a long and very challenging spiritual deconstruction about a year ago, I threw basically everything I was taught about God out and started over because it was the only way I knew how to salvage my faith.  Evangelical and charismatic groups had really wounded me because I was fed an Americanized, individualistic, self help version of Jesus that I later came to understand to be totally false and incredibly destructive.  I had unconsciously made a little mental checklist of words and statements that would immediately turn me off (like hell, fire, blood, pretty much anything that depicts God as angry, vengeful, unloving or exclusive) and didn’t fit my new understanding of Jesus (as the one who taught we can have heaven now, we can see beyond the dualities, we must work tirelessly for justice and stand up for the oppressed, and above all, we must love all beings everywhere).  But being back in South Africa, I am surrounded by evangelicals, and people with the most genuine child like faith, and I have come to really respect that and even miss some aspects of my upbringing.  So it has been interesting navigating some of my spiritual dissonance and conflicting ideas in a place where those around me have such deep, authentic faith.  The other day on a walk I had a revelation that I suppose I knew deep down, but it never stuck.  I realized that it is okay, in fact it is GOOD to change your mind.  That I don’t have to run every thing through a mental gymnastics, but what feels right can stay, and what doesn’t fit can go.  Certitude is death, it leaves no room for creativity or growth or revelation, but willingness to change your mind, that is the greatest gift and oftentimes the most difficult work to do.

So yes, the last few weeks have been challenging and thought provoking and times of immense growth and change!  I am reminded daily of what ubuntu looks like in practice, not just ideas. It has been a beautiful month of falling more and more in love with S-CAPE, the people around me, and Cape Town.  And it certainly would be a dream to stay here forever.

Taken on a special day, the day three of our residents got baptized in the ocean! Was a beautiful moment to witness.

 

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