From England to the Western Cape (Part Two)

There are eleven official languages in South Africa. Our guide for the half-day township tour spoke Xhosa, and explained that Cape Town’s centre was designated for the whites. All other ethnicities (coloureds, blacks, Indians) were moved to separate areas around the city. There was a bench at the museum for ‘Europeans only’ and during apartheid, he said, Africans viewed white people as the boss of them. I tried to think whether I’d ever heard Nicky say my name, and suddenly it seemed vital. I didn’t consider myself anyone’s boss.

There are five black townships and seven coloured. Nicky lives in one of the coloured townships called Mitchells Plain, in an area known as the Cape Flats. We were shown around Langa, and the school was disappointing. We watched the children sing and dance, but soon afterwards, our guide was urging us to leave. He didn’t translate for us, and one child appeared resentful when someone took his picture. Any presents we brought had to be given to a teacher, which makes me question whether the children actually received them.

We were allowed to join in some African drumming, but the most interesting place was definitely the pub! The ladies would prepare the fire and the African beer (called Umqombothi) in its five-litre container. Only the men were allowed in to drink it. The same container would be passed around throughout the night, as each man blew the froth off and tasted the beer.

Our discussion moved on to husbands and wives. Our guide told us: “You can marry as many times as you want in South Africa. You pay for your wife, and if you can keep her, you can marry her.” He said a man’s family sent negotiators in to the woman’s family to agree the payment. This seemed so foreign to me that I asked Nicky about it when we met. She called it Labola and said it was mainly within the black cultures. After a lot of searching online, I came across this short programme about how it can involve paying up to six times a man’s monthly salary. Sadly, fifty-five per cent of South African divorces are caused by financial pressure.

Lastly, our guide took us to what he called a ‘Traditional doctor’ – a witchdoctor, in other words. I waited outside. I didn’t want to hear about his practices and Traveleyes were fine with that.

The following day, after we’d hugged and laughed and just enjoyed finally being in the same room, I asked Nicky about witchdoctors. Was that something her church prayed against? Having also heard about Labola, I wondered if her church would have vastly different prayer-needs to the ones we have here. I was surprised to hear their main concerns are unemployment and drugs.

On Sunday, I went to Nicky’s church and back to her house for lunch. Her mum told me that during apartheid, white people called the Africans Kaffir – an extremely insulting word meaning ‘No belief in God’. It was a real shock to her that in the UK, some people are proud to say they’re atheists.

Nicky has a little niece called Mackenzie, so I discovered “Baby Shark” (which had totally passed me by, but it’s popular worldwide). Nicky’s mum started to tell Mackenzie: “Sarah’s here today” when she changed it to: “Auntie Sarah’s here today.”

I came away feeling I had a family out there where I belonged, and wondering how I spent so long having known so little. You can’t truly appreciate a country until you’ve experienced it, and I hope to travel more in the future.

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From England to the Western Cape (Part One)

January was an exciting month for me. I was quite apprehensive to begin with. I hadn’t flown since pre-9/11 and all the extra security measures. Now here I was flying into Cape Town, mainly to meet a friend. When Compassion had a website for sponsors, I connected with Nicky. We both sponsored girls in the Philippines and started talking about them, but eventually exchanged Email addresses. After 10 years, we still hadn’t met face-to-face and it was time to change that.

I went with a company called Traveleyes. I’ve written about them here before, but for anyone who doesn’t know, they take blind people on holiday and those who can see get it cheaper because they’re the ones guiding us around. It’s a great idea, and well-organised enough to make it worth the money. I arrived at Heathrow by train and met with the rest of the group. I don’t know whether they had the same luxury in the gents’, but in the ladies’, we were treated to S Club 7’s song about reaching for the stars and dreams coming true. I did wonder about the way back, but the loos in Arrivals are music-free!

On our first full day in Cape Town, we ventured up Table Mountain. It’s sometimes closed due to weather-conditions, so our tour-guide was prepared to reschedule, but we got up there straightaway. It had been a dream for years and I had such a sense of excitement as the cable car jerked into action. Although we exceeded 3,000 feet, the air wasn’t noticeably thinner. The top of the mountain felt so flat, walking seemed easy compared with my local hills at home, but it wasn’t a let-down; far from it. As little furry rock hyraxes warmed themselves in the sun, we learnt there were more plant species on Table Mountain than in the entire UK.

There were other highlights too, like the last day when I stroked a cheetah. The Cheetah Outreach we went to protects them by having dogs guard their enclosure. The non-confrontational cheetahs won’t approach a dog, so it stops them going after farm animals, which means the farmers don’t shoot them. I’m not normally into animals, but a friend’s daughter loves cheetahs, so I forced myself to do the encounter and get a photo for her. I’m glad I did, because it wasn’t what I expected. The cheetah didn’t feel like a cat, but more like a horse’s mane would feel. I’ve been on horses before and I’m used to the feel of them, so I was actually quite comfortable! The cheetah was called Kibwe, meaning ‘Blessed’ in Swahili, and I do feel blessed to have stroked him. I’m only sorry we didn’t hear him purr.

Overall, my biggest surprise was the amount of new information I came back with. One day I paid extra to go on a tour of Langa (one of the black townships in the city), and that combined with our subsequent trip to Robben Island gave me a great introduction to black Africans and their culture. Too much to cram into one post, so stay tuned for Part Two.

“Atlas Girl” Book-Review: Travel and Family

This fast-moving book is much more than the travelogue I was expecting.  Yvonne hardly gets a mention in the synopsis, but the mother-daughter relationship is an important facet of Emily’s story.  If you struggle with flashbacks, the constant time-shifting (1998, 1981, 2002) could be a problem, but each chapter-title includes the month and year.

 

Perhaps along-with others who haven’t travelled extensively, I looked forward to getting a flavour of so many different countries, but I also loved the personal aspect – how Emily wrote so honestly about her marriage, how God showed His care for her again and again.  I was sent a free copy of “Atlas Girl” by Revell for reviewing purposes, but it’s a book I might well have bought, and I wouldn’t have been disappointed.

Link

So, I’ve told you about the Compassion Bloggers’ trip to Uganda, and about all the posts that were going to be written.  I had quite a few to catch up on, and one of the stories that really stuck was of a mother called Sarah and her 11-year-old son.  Shaun and Jeff tell it so well. If (like me) you’re moved by this story, how about sponsoring a child?

A Special Anniversary

Do you celebrate anniversaries?  I have a pretty good memory for past events, so I have all sorts of anniversaries in my head – the day I started work on my first CD; saw my uncle for the last time; really met with God at a prayer meeting; even the day I joined Facebook.

Well, Compassion are celebrating a special anniversary in just a few days – 5 years of taking bloggers on trips to the countries where they work.  For their 5-year blogging trip, they’re going back to the very first country they visited – Uganda.

I’m particularly looking forward to this trip:  Firstly because after reading the book “Kisses from Katie”, who wouldn’t want to find out more about Uganda and the children who live there?  And secondly because some of these bloggers are familiar to me, like Emily Freeman, whose writing I’ve often enjoyed.  Her sister Myquillyn, who calls herself The Nester (and who started the 31-Days linkup for bloggers each October) – she’s going too.  They’ve both been on trips before, but never together.  Others on the trip are Bri McKoy (who sends out all the Compassion Bloggers E-mails), and Compassion’s former president Wess Stafford.  So, are you looking forward to it too?

 

They’re visiting only 2 centres – the first in northern Uganda where residents have been affected by Joseph Kony’s violence, and the other in Uganda’s capital.  You can read more about the trip here, and subscribe to have all the posts delivered to your inbox.

Please pray for safe travel and meaningful posts from the bloggers, for hundreds of children to be sponsored, and for any reading the posts who are thinking about sponsorship.

Sheep

It’s blog-post time again, and we’ve nearly reached the end of the Tanzanian trip.  Day 5 was the bloggers’ final day of visiting Compassion’s projects, so I’m not sure there’ll be any more posts from the team now until they get home, but I’m very grateful to them all for taking the time to share their experiences with the world.

 

I’ve learnt that The Nester is a great storyteller!  I really think she should write a book!  Her latest post talks about meeting her sponsored child (whose name she couldn’t pronounce), and how he painted Psalm 23 on the outside of his house.  “The LORD is my Shepherd; I shall not be in want” – in a country like Tanzania, when they had struggled to eat before Compassion stepped in.

 

Amy expands on the ‘Sheep’ theme.  I don’t know if they talked to each other before they wrote their posts, but Amy was struck by the distance they had to walk to get to a child’s home, and she focused on Jesus’ words about leaving the ninety-nine and going to find the sheep that was lost.  She likened the lost sheep to a child waiting for a sponsor.

 

I want to follow Amy’s example, and ask you to look at some children waiting for sponsorship.  Is God calling you to go the distance for one of them – to reach out and make them a part of your life?

Mwajuma’s Story

One ten-year-old girl, Mwajuma, and her family seem to have touched a few hearts on day 4, including mine.  The Nester tells their story so well, as someone who’s been to their home and seen 2 girls under 5 left to care for themselves while their mother works to feed her family.  The story shocked me, and as she says, there aren’t any words to make it ok.

 

But in his latest post, Scott urges us to remember that God is there in every circumstance.  He doesn’t just show up with a fix for our problems; He was there all along.

 

So will you join me in reading Mwajuma’s story and saying a prayer for her and her family?

The Stuff of Dreams

An exciting day for one of the Compassion bloggers today.  For Amy, it was time to meet her sponsored child:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4bOLPN0eR70

I don’t think I’ll ever tire of hearing about other sponsors meeting their children, and it makes me think how I’d like to meet mine one day.  Sometimes I imagine myself visiting Jennylyn’s home in the Philippines – struggling to climb a ladder to get to where she lives, and being lowered through a hole into the home by her father.  Other times, I picture Cindy as a student in Compassion’s Leadership Development Programme, speaking at a church in the UK about the impact Compassion had on her life, and me being there to meet her at the end (I’ve seen video-clips of this happening to other sponsors, and I’ve loved them).  Will it happen like that for me?  I don’t know, but it’s good to dream.

What are some of your dreams?  And if you’re a sponsor, do they include your sponsored child?

Rescue from Wealth

“I was saved for this. For children like Yanci in need of release from poverty. For Americans like me in need of rescue from wealth” – Shaun

 

Wow.  Rescue from wealth?  I have no idea about that.  Perhaps some of you don’t either.  In her latest post, Kelli wrote:  “When we’re far away from these situations it’s so easy to keep an emotional distance from the desperation”.  Maybe that’s why we don’t understand, but there might be others reading this who do understand.  If you’re one of them, would you like to sponsor a child?  I don’t think you’d regret it.