Today we were tourists and we had a grand time. After our trip to Klip Town Youth Program, where we experienced real life in today’s South Africa, we thought it would be good to experience some of South Africa’s history.
Lesedi Cultural Village is located in the heart of the African bushveld amidst the rocky hills within the Cradle of Humankind, a World Heritage Site. We visited five traditional homesteads inhabited by Zulu, Xhosa, Pedi, Basotho and Ndebele tribes who live according to the tribal folklore and traditions of their ancestors. Lesedi means “Place of Light”. I struggled to receive the everflowing fountain of information that was offered because my hearing was defeated by the speed of speech and the lilting accent. I heard enough to learn a little, and there was lots to see. And then there was the dancing. The young people of the village were energetic and skillful dancers. Tom and I thoroughly enjoyed the show, the lunch and the overall experience..
Like good tourists we shopped. At this point we are familiar with the items that are every where and the ones that are made by artists. The selection at Lesedi Village was excellent. We purchased a number of gifts for family and even something for ourselves. We made the shopkeeper so happy that she gave us a zebra key ring.
We had a successful day. Dave picked us up and brought us home. This time it was our job to get supper. Tom and I had a grand time making pasta, salad and garlic bread. Two teens from the Ethiopia International School arrived today for a Music Program event at the school here. They are friends of Jenna’s and are staying here with Dave, Jo and Jenna til Sunday. It felt a little like preparing for family gatherings at home.
Tomorrow we pack and leave for the airport at three. It will be good to get home, and yet it is hard to leave. South Africa is amazing. There’s so much more to see. Our time with Dave, Joanne and Jenna has been precious. We will return for Jenna’s grade twelve graduation. They will be home come summer. That helps so much.
You can pick out the Joys that lit up my life today. One not mentioned, of course, is that we are both feeling much better.
Here are some pictures of Lesedi. During our visit we have taken several videos. I don’t know how to upload them. Guess you’ll just have to come visit us to see them.
Here in Johannesburg we have had two days of heavy rain. Tonight Dave’s swimming pool is filled to the brim. In this country, whether you own a shack or a castle you have no basement. Consequently, heavy rain cannot flood your basement but it can run in over your doorsill. Middleclass shacks have cement floors which provide some protection, not much. Because of the constant drought, and the clay soil, rain tends to run away and erode rather than soak into the thirsty earth. Consequently, flash floods are always a hazard. This much needed rain is both a blessing and a curse.
Today we stayed home til school was over. I wrote my blog and read. The slow day was lovely and needed. After school Jonathon, a hired driver, drove us to the school. Because this is a gated community we walked out to the front gate to meet him. While we waited we talked to the gatekeeper, an ex-policeman from Zimbabwe. His racing speech and south African accent defeated my ears. I caught a word here and there, enough to understand that he was here and his family back in Zimbabwe because of education. Jonathon arrived in a BMW and wearing a suit. Obviously being a driver for the rich is a grand occupation. He is obviously educated. He spoke well and slowly and that was helpful.
The pictures I have for you are of the American International School, AISJ, where David & Joanne work, and Jenna is a student. Dave gave us a wonderful tour in the rain. For me, AISJ feels like a palatial campus. White stucco buildings, with outside halls, (cloister walks I call them), spread lazily across the landscape in a mazelike pattern, making multiple courtyards for students to soak in the sun as they enjoy one another. With the welcoming climate here, the great outdoors is an integral part of the classroom space. Luscious gardens add beauty and peace. Inside there are also comfortable seating areas sprinkled throughout the buildings, gathering places for rainy days. The full theatre, two gymnasiums, swimming pool, fitness room, triple soccer field, and playground are fabulous resources for learning and activity.
As we followed David from building to building, I wondered what the public schools here were like. Next time we come to South Africa, we’ll have to arrange a tour of the school that the children from the townships attend. It would be good to talk with their teachers as well.
My mind was drawn back to home. We too have private luxury schools. We pride ourselves on equal education for all in Canada, so we too have public schools which are free for all children. Luxury private schools are available as well. I’ve taught in our public schools and know that, although not the total luxury of AISJ and private schools, they are still way more than just adequate. I have not had a tour of the schools on our northern native reservations. I have only heard about the lack of resources in those schools. Stories of the frustration and courage of teachers who seek jobs in those northern schools, speak to me of deficit rather than equality. We too have a lot to learn.
Yesterday my heart was touched by the gift of conversation with our gate security man, and our driver. I felt joy knowing that our Jenna is attending a fabulous school like AISJ. She has so many extra opportunities for learning because of her parents work.
As I experienced once again the enormous gap between the rich and the poor here, in South Africa, my eyes were opened wider to the gap in Canada. That too is a source of joy, because I need my eyes open. Jesus said, “those who have eyes to see… and ears to hear…” need to use them. Nothing will ever change unless all of us open our hearts to see and hear the reality of our world.
Last night the left-overs tasted scrumptious. Very early this morning, they had lost their dazzle. The misery attacked Tom first and hardest. He eats more. I awoke to a thud. On his return to bed he had felt woozy and had fallen. I helped him up. He was soaking wet with sweat. “Have you any pain around your heart,” I asked, terrified of a heart attack.
“No,” he replied, “just weak and nauseous.” I mopped him down. Within half an hour I was in the same state with a much milder dose. We decided it was the curry. We ate it the first night. But, our body refused a second dose. Tom slept till noon today. I offered him water and plain rice with salt. He ate and drank gratefully and slept some more. By supper time tonight he seemed fine. He ate as usual.
The Lesedi Cultural Village is on hold. Maybe even until 2019 when we return for Jenna’s graduation. We do have two more full days here. We’ll see what comes.
As for adding to the world’s light today, there was joy for me in being able to care for my beloved Tom. I was grateful my mild dose slipped by quickly. I am grateful we are with family who care deeply about us. I am grateful Tom is feeling better. Thank you God. I offer that thanksgiving to the world.
We’re tired tonight mostly because we spent most of the afternoon sitting in the sun, watching our amazing granddaughter Jenna, play beach volleyball. We are proud grandparents. Jenna is an elite athlete. It’s always fun to watch her participate in her sports. The tournament was held at the German International School of Johannesburg. Among other things, there was a beautiful 25 meter pool, with lanes delineated ready for racing. Today, there were no races, so I had a swim between Jenna’s games. Jenna must have inspired me, because I swam 500 meters – 20 lengths of that pool. We didn’t bring a towel. In this beautiful African weather, the solar dryer did the trick.
Before the tournament we shopped in the Rosemount Rooftop Sunday Market. We are slowly gathering together our souvenirs of this trip. When we arrived back at Dave’s, we were thrilled to have almost an hour long conversation on Skype with Bonnie , Boris, and the children Lise and Alex. Another dose of home which was needed. Supper required little effort, as we had heaps of leftovers from last night’s party.
Now we’ll crawl into bed early. Those night’s are needed. Tomorrow, we return to being tourists as we travel to the Lesedi Cultural Village, a world heritage site.
My moments of joy started with Joanne our amazing daughter-in-law. She volunteered to drive us to the rooftop market, making herself late for Jenna’s tournament. She helped with the bargaining when we purchased something. While I was swimming, she went back to the city to get us all some lunch. She brought me rice cakes iced with yoghurt that are delicious, cheese and a gluten free granola bar. She always ensures that there is food for me without gluten. I know that requires extra effort. She is special and caring and very kind. Of course, there is Jenna. Watching her, talking with her, just being able to spend time with her, is a total joy. I have to include the swim. It felt so good to stretch out my muscles in the water.
Lots of light emanated from me today. I am truly grateful.
This morning Jenna, Joanne and I brought their three three canine family members to a dog park. This was not your normal Canadian dog park. We drove out of the city about half an hour to arrive at a multi-acre park set aside just for dogs and their caregivers. Within the fences there was luscious lawn, a small sparkling lake, heaps of long grass, all for the express purpose of exercising our doggy friends.
After a walk round, and Roger’s many swims, we settled down at a picnic table beside a pub/restaurant to have breakfast. The sun shone. The dogs romped. What could be better. After about two hours, good food and lots of conversation we brought our exhausted dogs home. Like the dogs, I laid down for a nap.
This afternoon, Tom and I went for a walk, a long walk, to replenish our wallets with South African Rand at a bank machine, and to buy a stamp. We wanted to send a thank you note to Leonie, the owner of the Air B&B in Cape Town. The nearby shopping centre supplied the stamp but not the correct, ABM. We asked directions for the needed ABM.
“Just up the street,” was the reply. The helpful security guide pointed. “You can see it from here.”
Tom and I plodded onward. The cars whizzed by. Slowly the lovely warm day became hot. This second shopping centre was under construction. I’m sure we walked a full kilometer around it, looking for an opening in the construction fence. We could see the bank we needed but we just couldn’t get to it. Finally, we found a fence break and walked through. Success – Well maybe. All we could see was barriers.
A workman in a truck told us to follow the gravel road which pointed back the way we had come, except it ran inside the fence. Up a hill, down a hill, around a corner we trudged in the heat. There was not point in giving up. Retracing our steps just wasn’t feasible. Eventually, we dragged our sweaty, thirsty bodies up a set of stairs (the escalator wasn’t working) and inside.
The security guard at the end of the dingy hallway pointed up more stairs. “Next floor and to the left. There is an elevator over there.”
I hate elevators in well-kept buildings. I wasn’t ready to step into a little box in this place. We climbed more stairs and found our coveted machine right where the man had promised. Our precious Rand securely stowed in Tom’s wallet, we considered shopping. Nope. Not here. Not now. We asked again about another way out. This time we were sent out through the parking building to a side street. “Do you know which way to turn,” I asked Tom. Not being directionally challenged like me, he nodded. And he was right. The wind had come up, which alleviated some of the heat. Still it felt like a long walk into forever before we got home.
NO nap. We had been away too long. We helped Jo prepare for the four families that were visiting soon.
Tom and I took time to Skype with Connie and Ellie. It sure was good to talk with them and see them on the screen. Although this is an amazing trip, we are missing home.
At supper time, Dave and Jo ordered in delicious Indian cuisine from a restaurant down the street. The food was delicious, the conversation stimulating. It was a good evening.
Once again, we were surrounded by helpful people. My biggest joy of the day, was talking with Connie and Ellie. I wanted to give them a big hug. Second in line was the walk in the dog park. Mind you the relief I felt when we finally stepped inside that shopping centre felt pretty good too.
As usual, our day was filled with God’s light. We had only to open our eyes.
Although we are delighted to be here with Dave, Joanne and Jenna, Tom and I decided it would be valuable for us to experience a little of Johannesburg, while our family was at school. Dave suggested the Clip Town Youth Project as a possibility. Good old Google gave us heaps of information and a phone number. We called. Thando, the director, who joyfully encouraged us to come for a visit.
Clip Town is a community of 44,000 people in Soweto Township. Driving by Soweto one sees miles of tin roofs sticking above the barbed wire that is rolled atop a stucco wall. Soweto is a suburb of over 1.4 million inhabitants. You can google the history of Soweto. I am only going to tell you about what I saw.
We walked into KYP through rows and rows of tiny one room tin dwellings, most without electricity. At the KYP centre, I saw mostly barefoot children, running, laughing, playing, justlike children back home. I saw many school age children looking spiffy in their school uniforms. The Clip Town Youth Project runs an afterschool program providing tutoring and two meals a day for as many children as they can manage. The goals of the program are:
Please go to www.kliptownyouthproject.org.za for a detailed introduction to the project. The director, Thando took us on a full tour of the classrooms where volunteers tutor the kids, the computer room, the library, the kitchen, the “family” room, talking about the program. He encouraged me to take pictures. Afterward he led us down one of the footpaths to the place where he grew up. We met his mother, who welcomed us inside. “Here in Klip Town,” Thando said, “this is a middle class home. My mother saved her money to buy and furnish this home. (She does not own the property only the dwelling). Proudly he pointed out the stove, the cupboards, the bedroom. “Most do not have the second room,” he said. Outside there was a water tap, one of 51 accesses to water for the 44,000 residents. Many homes have what we would call “Johnny on the Spots” that they share with others in the community.
After our home visit we returned to the project family room where we enjoyed a performance by the project’s gumboot dances, done just for the two of us. They were amazing. These young people have travelled through Europe and the US.
I signed and gave to the community three of my books – Fireweed, Can I Hold Him? and Dipping your Toes. They were thrilled to receive these Christian books. We made a donation that would feed a child for a year and buy him/her a school uniform, which took all the African Rand we had with us. It didn’t seem like much but as Mother Theresa said, “We can’t feed the whole world but we can feed the one that we encounter.” Before we left we bought two KYP t-shirts. We asked if we could use Canadian money. “Sure,” Thando said. “We can use money in any form.” Our whole visit was awesome. I hope you enjoy the pictures.
Today Tom and I enjoyed a slow day at the “White House”. I slept till 9:00 a.m., Tom quite a bit longer. For most of the day, I worked on yesterday’s very long blog, writing the text and organizing the pictures. We went for a walk to a strip mall up the street to buy a thank you card to send to Leone and a box of just plain tea. The tea of choice in South Africa is Roibos and Roibos Chai. It tastes good, but my digestive system hasn’t been all that happy. I decided the familiarity of good old English Breakfast tea might help a little.
Tonight we went to a tiny Chinese restaurant for supper with Dave and Jo and their friends Lee and Russell. The food and the company were both grand. It’s good to meet some of Dave and Jo’s friends. Jenna stayed home to do homework. Lee and Russell’s three boys didn’t come either. I guess the teens thought the old folks could use a night without them. Homework does rule a teenager’s life. Tonight we went on online to look at things to do in and around Johannesburg. We picked a couple. Tomorrow we’ll set them up.
One of my joys today was the pleasure of returning to my daily routine. I actually started the day with my meditation/reflection/prayer time. And I did my physio exercises. Routine has its advantageous. I felt a bit like I was home and I needed that.
A second joy of course was meeting Lee and Russell and sharing a meal.
Best of all was the grand conversation we had with Jenna after school. We were in the pool. She came out to talk. It’s wonderful to be a part of her life. Yes, even on this lazy day, we have had opportunity to give and receive love and add a little light to the world. Sometimes, we just have to be intentional about noticing it.
We spent this day down town shopping at the Green Market. Once again we took our now familiar Omahrhumba bus. This time we walked the short distance to the Market – a collection of stalls that ran for blocks down St. George Street. We were looking for gifts for grandchildren. We had great success. Shopping done we had another slow Africa lunch at a street cafe. I didn’t take pictures this morning. I’m not sure why. Tom did all the bargaining. I am a pushover.
We returned to Leonie’s to gather our stuff. Lynn picked us up right on time and took us to the airport. Our flight was good. We arrived about two hours too late to attend the athletic awards ceremony for the basketball season. Our Jenna won the coach’s award. We were proud to greet her when she got home with hugs and kisses and off course her grandchild gift.
Exhausted everyone went to bed but me. I had a long, slow, sweet smelling bath while I finished my book.
Valentine’ Day was great fun. Of course, we struggled with a small glitch here and there. Hope you enjoy the story.
After yesterday’s bus tour starting so early, we slept in a bit. When I woke at eight, my leg muscles were screaming. They were totally indignant. How dare I push them so hard. I limped downstairs for breakfast. Judith and Norman were just leaving for their Cape Tour. They had rented a car for their stay in the area, so they could set their own pace. After breakfast Shennoz (I think that‘s the spelling) walked with us to the bus stop. “I’ll call Leonie,” she said. “Leonie will leave work, meet you downtown and take you to get your ticket for the “On/Off bus. Now remember the name and number of the bus, so you will know what one to take back.” Carefully we repeated the name and number. “If you forget, just call Leonie. She will be home from work by then.”
The ride downtown didn’t take long. It was easy to recognize the bus station. Leonie was there. Since we were right in front of an ABSA bank, which has connection with the Scotia Bank here at home through Barclay’s Bank in England, we asked to stop at the ATM. Leonie agreed. We expected it to be simple and take at the most three minutes. We followed the instructions and the screen said, “Pin number too short.” We tried again. Same problem. Leonie took us inside. Bank teller couldn’t help. She didn’t know anything about Barclay’s or Scotia. Leonie advised we spend the day using our credit card. We had some Rand (S.A. currency) so we would be fine. That small glitch of course, threw my system off and we next had to locate a washroom. “Public Toilets” are not quite as plentiful here. Leonie asked at a restaurant and they let me use the “Staff Toilet”. That emergency dealt with, we headed for the “On/Off Bus Depot.”
As we marched along a busy main street of Cape town, with Leonie talking a mile a minute, we encountered a family from Chile. Like most of us foreigners, they were nervous. The young boy about ten, obviously excited about using his English, asked us where we were from. That opened a great conversation. We learned that they were looking for the same bus so Leonie adopted them. Now we were 6 as we hurried along to keep up with Leonie, our “Pied Piper”. What fun she was. At our destination, she ensured we all got our required tickets and onto the correct bus. We waved goodbye and climbed up the steep steps (my legs objected strenuously), to the top level.
After a half-hour ride in the beautiful sunshine, we arrived at Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens. Acres and acres of trees, grass, flowers and plants. A place of peace and learning. We wandered for several hours learning about traditional medicinal plants, enjoying the flowers and trees, soaking in the sunshine, and finding rest for our souls. The terrain was slightly rolling hills. My legs complained bitterly. I ignored them as much as possible. We sat down a lot, on the multitude of benches that were sprinkled along every pathway. After about three hours, we dragged ourselves away.
Our next stop was the Groot Constantia Winery. We started with a Valentine’s Lunch. Constantia’s Valentine special was two glasses of their sparkling wine (they can’t call it champagne) for the price of one. It was extremely windy outside, so we chose to enjoy the atmosphere of this ancient winery, inside. The food was delicious, the presentation lovely and unique. The handsome young waiter took good care of us. We had a traditional long African lunch, followed by a wine tour which included tasting. We were allowed to taste five wines. For me, on top of wine for lunch, I was glad neither of us were driving. The friendly woman serving us obviously wanted to please. She gave us those giant red wine glasses and then poured our first choice. Instead of the traditional single swallow we receive at home, my glass was 1/3 filled. The wine was delicious so I drank it all. At which point I realized that this kind of generosity was going to do me in. I had to at least be able to walk to the bus stop (which would take about 10 minutes.) With taste number two, I asked for less. Taste number three was the best. Taste number four finished me. No more I said and laughed. She smiled. “It’s good?” she asked. “Yes, yes,” I responded. I just can’t have more.” She laughed. Tom did not have my problem.
We arrived back at the bus stop and waited about two minutes for what we discovered was the last bus of the day. It was already 5:00 p.m. We hopped on. Well, I don’t think either one of us hopped. If you remember we were only at the second stop of the day. There were many more stops but since this was the last bus, we enjoyed a long scenic bus tour in the still wonderful sunshine and wind. It would have been a long walk or expensive taxi ride back to Leoni’s. As we came past the white sand beaches of Camps Bay, Clifton and Bantry Bay, the wind showered us with sand. We were plugged into a recorded commentary that was magically coordinated with the sights, even though we were plodding along in rush hour traffic.
Sandy, gritty and exhausted once again, we walked back to the city bus station and stood in front of the map. As usual, I couldn’t remember the name of the bus. This time neither could Tom. “It’s number 126,” he said. “I’m sure.” There was no 126 on the map. A different map hung on another wall. Still no number 126.
“We’ll just call Leonie,” I said. We searched our pockets, our back pack, nothing. We searched them again. By this time it was 6:30 and heading for dusk. We asked the girl at the ticket office. She wasn’t sure where Essex street was. Finally she offered a bus route into an industrial district. We knew that wasn’t safe. We couldn’t ask her to call Leonie because we had Leonie’s number on the phone, not in our brains. At that moment, we couldn’t remember Leonie’s last name either. As we stood there talking about our predicament, there were several women in line waiting to buy a ticket. Overhearing us, they talked together. Finally, an older one said, “I think you want the Omarhumba bus I’m taking.” Immediately Tom recognized the name. “That’s #261,” she said. We had reversed the numbers. With profuse appreciation we climbed on the bus behind the wonderful woman. Tom helped her daughter lift the stroller with a sweet 18 month old grandson, onto the bus. At least Tom recognized our stop and we got off and walked the three blocks back to Leonie’s.
Leonie greeted us with, “You left your phone on the bus. I was worried and tried to call you. The bus driver answered. He’s left it at the office. We can get it tomorrow.”
As I told our story, I willingly admitted to having been slightly upset. I kept repeating that I knew we could get a taxi. Our address was deeply embedded in both our brains.
Excitement over, we showered and dressed up a little, for our romantic valentine’s dinner with Judith and Norman.
Valentine’s Day in South Africa is a big event. The day before Leonie had volunteered to find us a nice restaurant. She called a lot of places and eventually got us a table at Meloncino’s Italian Restaurant where there was a special menu for the night at a reasonable price. She drove us to the waterfront and gave us instructions on finding the restaurant in Victoria Square.
The whole experience was absolutely spectacular. At the waterfront, there were lots of people, lights, music, a giant ferris wheel. The air was electric. Meloncino’s was up above, looking down on the water. It had white table cloths, fine linen, complimentary champagne, gourmet food. The menu included appetizers and dessert. Tom and I both enjoyed chocolate cheesecake African Style. The four of us shared stories of how we met and our lives together.
We had a lovely evening. Tom and I considered going dancing but when Norm and Judith were ready for home and sleep, we decided that would be best for us too. Taxi’s waited. We shared a ride home and all of us I’m sure were asleep in minutes. We had enjoyed a Valentine’s Day to remember. No pictures of dinner out. We forgot the camera.
I haven’t picked out the instances of Joy in this day. There were lots. You can decide which was our deepest joy and who brought it to us. I’m just sure that our world became a little lighter today. I hope this long blog has brought light to your day too. Now, enjoy the pictures.
Groot Constantia Winery
Next came wine tasting. We forgot to take pictures. I wonder why.