(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.
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.
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.