We’re Home!

We arrived at our precious home at 9:30 last night. The blessing of family and friends greeted us as we walked in the doors. Bev had cleaned our house and left spring tulips on the table as well as milk in the fridge. Daughter Connie had also been by with a few groceries to make our homecoming special. We are truly spoiled.

We unpacked (sort of) started a load of wash, and settled into our comfy familiar chairs, a hot cup of chocolatey chai tea by my side. When I’m away, I miss my chair. Prayer time, writing time, social media time and much more are always spent in my chair. When Tom and I moved to Peterborough, we purchased a new love seat that is, in essence, two wonderful lounge chairs fastened together. Last night we both gave forth sighs of comfort – AAAAAAh – as we sat down.

This morning, I spread our gifts for family and friends on the dining room table. I’m excited about sharing the things, the experiences, the joy of our journey. After a breakfast of Tom’s yummy porridge, we hopped in our car to drive to Keene and watch Ellie’s hockey game. Life returned to normal. We have been blessed with an opportunity that few people receive. We will always be grateful.

Saying Goodbye – Flying Home

Today began at 6:00 a.m. We wanted one last hug from Dave, Joanne and Jenna. They leave for school every day at 6:30. I learned that saying goodbye that early is just a little easier because sleepiness clouds my ability to feel. After everyone left the house was silent, too silent. We had intended to go back to bed but we didn’t. I worked on yesterday’s blog and we packed.

We didn’t bring our luggage scale and Dave doesn’t have one. We reverted to using the bathroom scale. It worked as we were not overweight at the airport.

We left for the airport at 3:00 p.m. in Jonathon’s flashy BMW, our last opportunity to live as the rich. I wrote that statement and thought, no that’s not right. Although we are considered Middle Class in Canada, we live as the ultra rich every day, compared to most of the people here in South Africa and around the world. I’ve always known that. Now, I have a deeper knowledge and an even stronger desire to share my many blessings.

Rain poured down all the way to the airport. Traffic became more and more congested. We were both glad we had left early and Jonathon was driving. The trip took a good half hour longer than expected, but we arrived with heaps of time to spare. A friendly and helpful man offered us a cart, loaded on our bags and took us to the check-in. We gave him 20 rand ($2.00 Canadian). He was delighted and so were we.

Took a while to go through security and immigration. Lots of people are travelling. Terrorists are certainly not keeping any of us home. We had brought a snack, so once inside that was our first task. We wanted to use our last few African Rand so I invested in a Hagendaz milkshake – 85 Rand – the Canadian Equivalent $8.50. That was obviously a poor investment as it was gone from my body before the end of the day. It did satisfy my desire for something sweet, taste delicious and may still be around in a few extra fat cells. After eating, we talked with a friendly french couple who assured us our ten hour lay over in Paris would give us plenty of time to hop the train to downtown. I’m wasn’t so sure. We decided to check out the weather in Paris. If it’s pouring rain, we might as well just stay at the airport. At that point, all I wanted to do was get home.

I was cold, so we decided to buy me a South Africa sweatshirt. The stores were ultra chic. Sweatshirts were not on the agenda. After asking at several places we were directed to a sports shop that specialized in souvenirs for South African rugby. There wasn’t much choice. I paid the equivalent of $55 Canadian for a white Springbok (that’s the name of the national rugby team) sweatshirt. I just pulled it on over the light sweater, and t-shirt and camisole I was already wearing. It felt good to be warm.

Food on the plane was great. I enjoyed my fish and potatoes and veggies. The salad was good too. When we bought our tickets originally Tom had ordered gluten free for me. They are doing a grand job with that.

A small blip on this first leg of the journey was a spill. As usual they offered me tiny bottle of red wine (equivalent of one healthy glass), free on international flights. I saved it to drink in the middle of the night when I would be restless. The time came and I poured my wine and set it on my seat tray for sipping. A little later I asked Tom to get something for me from his seat pocket. In the process he jostled my tray. You guessed it. My new sweatshirt, my light sweater and my beige jeans were all christened. Oh well, it may wash out.

Food on the plane was great. I enjoyed my fish and potatoes and veggies. The salad was good too. When we bought our tickets originally Tom had ordered gluten free for me. They are doing a grand job with that.

The Flight from Johannesburg to Paris went on forever. We both decided that overnight on the plane is not really our style. We just don’t sleep. When we arrived in Paris at 6:00 a.m. we just couldn’t face going anywhere. We laid down on the floor and slept for a couple of hours or more. That used up too much of the time we could have used to take the train into Paris and look around a bit. Next time we will plan a stopover for 2 or 3 days.

The flight from Paris to Toronto was fine. I even slept for an hour on the plane. Our bodies seemed to respond much better. We talked with a family, and two different single people, all returning to Canada from India (their place of birth). We thoroughly enjoyed our conversations with these nice people.

The arrival in Toronto was crazy. One of the airport workers said that 5000 passengers had all arrived at almost the same time. The line ups were long. We did an endless spiral dance to get to the customs machine and we were fortunate. Being Canadian citizens we could use the machines. Once past that point the customs people just looked at our Pass Ports and our landing card and waved us on. By the time we got to baggage, it was no longer rolling round and round. In fact a lot of the bags had been taken off the carousel. I guess the baggage crew were trying to get ready for the next plane.

We are home. Hallelujah! We had a marvelous journey that we won’t ever forget. And we are grateful and delighted to be back in good old Canada. It’s fun to travel and it’s fabulous to come home.

Tom’s brother Bob came with our car to the airport. The fact that he can store our car at his condo for three weeks and is our airport taxi, is so very helpful. We are truly blessed.

All in all, even though its a grinding trip home from Johannesburg, I know we have sent an abundance of God’s light of love out to the world in large doses today.

Over the last three weeks we have met a multitude of friendly caring people. God loves variety and I am grateful. Our world is amazing. Thanks be to God.

 

 

Wednesday Feb. 23 Lesedi Cultural Village

At the entrance we were greeted with a group who sang and danced as they extended a warm welcome to us.

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.

Greeters
Entertainment Center

 

Special Firepit – Cross means they build fire on the side that is sheltered from the wind.

 

Garden

 

House with low door is much safer from invasion. Warrior has to put his head in first, risking the inhabitants chopping it off.

 

A Tasty Treat that all of us declined.

 

Entrance to Zulu Village

 

Sacred Ring – When you go on a journey, pick up a stone from outside the ring, spit on it, and throw it into the circle asking for a safe journey. We all did it.

 

Heaps of Shopping

Rain! Rain! Life-giving and Scary Feb. 21 Tues.

Welcome to AISJ

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.

AISJ Middle School – Cloister walk along classrooms on both sides of this courtyard
AISJ High School Gardens
AISJ – new gymnasium
AISJ Fitness Room
AISJ – Quadrangle of the Arts
AISJ – View out over the cafeteria from the Theatre
AISJ – Old Gymnasium
AISJ – Swimming Pool
AISJ – Open Air Cafeteria
AISJ – Approaching the Theatre
Here Come the Giraffes enjoying the rain at the American International School of Johannesburg (AISJ).
AISJ – Three fields for soccer, field hockey etc.
AISJ – Elementary School Playground

 

A Sick Day

When we are sick, we feel old and hard done by.

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.

Sleep and Supper – Good Medicine

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.

Another Super Day

Beach Volleyball – Lovely South African Summer

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.

Jenna’s solid serve just over the net, difficult to return.

A Day with Family

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.

An Awesome Encounter – Friday Afternoon

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.kliptownyouthprogram.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.

A street in the Klip Town Community
Klip Town Youth Project Computer Room
KYP Kitchen. Here lunch is prepared for the children to pick up on their way to school in the morning. School is a 1/2 hour walk from the community. After school the children receive their supper which is prepared in this kitchen. Friday night they received Rice, Fried Chicken and Cole Slaw salad.
KYP library
KYP Family Room . Since it was Friday evening, some of the children had gathered to watch an hour of television. Without electricity in their homes, there are no electronics.
This is one of 4 KYP classrooms. Children gather here to do their homework and receive tutoring.
Klip Town kids having supper at KYP
Klip Town Community Tap, one of 51 sprinkled throughout the community. These taps are their only water sources.
Thando’s Mom, welcomed us into her home. She took great pride in showing us around.
Tom and Thando outside Thando’s childhood home.
KYP 2016 Grade 12 Graduates
Sports, and the arts are part of the KYP program. These trophies are proudly displayed in the office.

Some of KYP’s strengths

 

If you would like to donate to this life transforming project please go  www.cliptownyouthproject.org.za

 

A Lazy Day – Feb.16

It’s only been a week and already the inches are piling up.

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.