Filed under: charity, church, friends, garden, Politics, South Africa, travel | Tags: children, ELCSA, Food, harvest, South Africa
This was my first trip to a developing world country. I have travelled most of the U.S., in many European countries, Israel and parts of Canada. In other words, I travelled among the blessed. This trip was to a country that is multi-faceted.
South Africa is a resource giant. There is so much there that is either mined or grown that the world wants, yet it is still owned by the few,and does not seem to benefit all.
South Africa has talented, energetic people. They manufacture complex machinery. They have hospitals that draw people from around the world to study in them. Yet only 25% of the population is registered as being employed.
Many look at Africa and think of elephants, rhinos, leopards, lions, apes and cape buffalo, and there is that in South Africa, but it is a land teaming with people and declining wild places.
I found South Africa to be a land of contrasts. We lived among people of the ELCSA (Evangelical Lutheran Church of South Africa) who were getting by on very little and yet had great joy in their lives. I saw pastors who lived and worked with people who had so little, and yet always had something to give to the church.
I talked to young people with great hopes for their future, and young people who were holding on to their last shreds of hope.
South Africa is a land that is still struggling to throw off apartheid. The races still live segregated. Yes, there are those of all races that are doing well, but the black population is not doing as well as the white. Most of South Africa is still white owned. Yes, blacks now are part of the government, but so few know how to make that government work for them.
I saw people living off of the small amount of money they make by collecting and selling scraps of materials that here we would throw into the landfill. People selling fruits or hand crafted items by the roadside that they had purchased and hoped to sell for a few pennies more.
The people of the Ondini circuit sing and dance in church. They sing when they are happy, and when they are sad. They are warm and helpful. Above all they are willing to share their love of God with us.
I think of how much we have here, and how we complain about it when we think we don’t have enough of something, and then I see them rejoicing in all things. We here in the U.S. should be ashamed of all of our complaints over our petty problems.
Thirty years ago I sat in on a meeting where we were talking about the changing face of mission in the world. We talked about how the U.S. and Europe had sent people out into the world to spread the Gospel of Christ and how that mission must now change. I was told then that the in the future, Africa would be coming to us. I have now seen the face of mission in the future. I have seen the joy of Christian life that cannot be matched here. The people of the Ondini circuit have shown me Christ in a whole new way. I’m ready for the future, I hope you are too.
Filed under: cars, church, farm animals, friends, garden, Kwazamohkuhle, rain, South Africa, travel | Tags: children, ELCA, ELCSA, friends, funeral, South Africa, travel
On January 31, 2011, fifteen people from the Shetek conference of the ELCA travelled to the Ondini Circuit of the ELCSA. We were there to come to know the people of the area, and if we could, help them.
Our trip is now coming to an end. We have presented a vacation bible school program, lay preacher workshop, food preservation workshop and discussed the work being done to combat the HIV/AIDS epidemic in South Africa. We viewed past projects and discussed the future of the projects we had started. We have assisted in a garden irrigation project and the construction of a greenhouse. We made friends. We attended church with our friends, we sang with them and we worked with them.
I was very impressed by the young people we met. They were bright, intelligent and interested in what was going on in the world around them. I talked with high school graduates who were studying for degrees in jobs as diverse as welding, electrical engineering and forensic pathology. They will be leaving their mostly rural life for jobs in the city if they can find a job. They are hopeful for the future. I also talked to young people who had degrees and had come home because jobs were not available, or because they had contracted AIDS.
There is a quota system in effect in South Africa to promote women to jobs formerly held by men. This has many young women excited about their future.
Traveling South African style is a very interesting experience. It is rare to see only one person in a vehicle. A small pickup will have at least three people in front and quite a few more in back. I even saw an open pickup that had two young men clinging to the top of the box cover.
South African van taxis never travel until they are full. I’ve seen 10 passenger vans stuffed with 18 people. There was a news report of a van that was stopped with 42 school children in it.
Hitch hiking is common. There are hand signs that tell which way a hiker is traveling so that the driver knows if the is going that way. If you know someone on the road you stop to pick them up.
Walkers are everywhere, not for health reasons, but because they have no wheels to use.
The most common style of rural housing we saw was a round hut of either mud or concrete block plastered inside and out. Poles formed a peak on which grass was placed as a roofing material. The better off have a concrete floor and a steel roof. If you had a tree to help shade your yard you were lucky. The mud block houses were just fine until they got wet, and then they just melted away.
Those who could afford it did have rectangular houses with several rooms. The straight roof meant that you could have a gutter attached to transfer roof water to a nearby tank. We saw many people carrying or wheeling large jugs to a stream or well to get water for their house. Electricity and water were not always present in a home, but if they did have electricity they also had a satellite dish.
Most houses had a fence around them, either to keep their livestock in or to keep everyone elses livestock out. Locked and guarded gates were common in some areas or in group housing such as the Centre.
Livestock were every where in the black owned rural areas. I’m not sure who all of the stock belonged to because not all of it seem to be owned. Some animals were tethered or being herded, but not many. We joked that the cattle on the road were Zulu traffic control. They sure did make you slow down just to make sure you did not hit one. We saw no animals that had been hit by traffic, but the rumor was that if you hit an animal you should take it home, since no one would claim an animal left dead along the road.
With the high rate of unemployment in South Africa you see a lot of people doing jobs that few in the U.S. would do. I know they cannot earn much, and yet they are all happy and helpful. The value of a man and his labor is still not very high in South Africa. The story of a white farmer whose cattle were caught in a flood was in the papers while we were there. There was a long account of how he had worked to save his animals. Almost as a footnote was the comment that five ranch hands had been lost in the effort. No names given.
Funerals are all held on Saturday. The grieving will sit at the front of the church wrapped in a blanket, representing the love of the community, even in the warmest weather. When the usually wooden casket is carried to be interred, the grave may not be finished yet. In the rainy season, water in the bottom of the hand dug grave must be taken out with a pail. A grass mat is placed under the casket, and blankets are placed over it.
We learned to live on Zulu time. Meetings may be scheduled, but they happen when they happen. Travel conditions or family events dictate when or if you get to an event.
Our last Sunday
On Sunday we again broke up into smaller groups, but we stayed closer to Kwazamohkuhle this time. Juanita preached the service at this church and helped with communion.
A farewell service was held for us. Even the bishop came to see us off. Our bags were packed, and we were on our way home.
There are many stories and many pictures that are not included in these postings. Now I must get back to life in Minnesota. There will always be with me the faces and places of the Ondini Circuit. When we shall meet again only heaven knows.
Filed under: church, family, food, food safety, garden, Kwazamohkuhle, rain, South Africa, travel | Tags: ELCSA, farm, Food, food safety, garden, rain, South Africa, travel, weather
Fifteen people from the Shetek conference of the ELCA flew to South Africa on an agricultural mission that departed on January 31, 2011. Our stay was centered on the Kwazamokuhle Centre.
We were visiting the area in the rainy season. It rained almost every day. The ground was often too wet to work. We dug potatoes that were sitting in water. The streams were running full. With all of this water you would not think water was a concern in South Africa.
When the rains stop, and it could stop raining for over 6 months, plants and people could be in trouble. That is why we were working on irrigation projects, to make it possible to grow food in the area all year round.
When we were in South Africa we drank only bottle water, or water we had boiled ourselves. When you are that far from home there are a few bugs in the water that can upset your system if you are not used to them. The folks in the area are immune to them.
Almost every building in the area had gutters to catch water from the roof and send it into a holding tank. I’m not sure if we were using rain water from those tanks, but someone was.
Water is the stuff of life. It is one of the main reasons we went to Ondini. To help them get water to their gardens when the rains do not fall. We need water for ourselves, and we need water to grow our food. If we can help keep the people healthy and fed we are doing our part to help our neighbor.
Filed under: church, friends, Hluhlu-iMfolozi Park, Kwazamohkuhle, South Africa, travel | Tags: ELCA, ELCSA, garden, South Africa, travel
The second week is underway for those who traveled from the Shetek conference of the ELCA to the Ondini Circuit of the ELCSA. We are playing tourist and have been to see some of the wild part of Africa. We made our way to the Hluhluwe-iMfolozi park two days ago, but today we must go back.
The scenery has been beautiful and the animals plentiful but it is time to get back.
Elephant and rhinos were on the road and we had to wait for them to clear off the road.
These rhinos were intent on their mud bath right next to the road. The male even charged another vehicle when it got too close.
As we leave the park we see some folks thatching a roof.
I get a kick out of the the signs on trucks that say “Abnormal/e” It’s their way of saying, wide or oversize load.
We make our way up hill from Durban. I didn’t realize how much we lost in elevation coming down hill to Durban. Going back up we knew we were climbing as we were constantly downshifting. Then when a truck would pull out in front of you, you had to wait for them to pass and then clear out of the way.
We make it back to the Centre so that Ted and Mark can put on a workshop for lay ministers. They kept at it until late at night.
Saturday found us finishing up projects at the Centre.
We got the plastic mulch put down in the high tunnel and put the last pieces on it.
The trench is filled and the area leveled.
This is our last day at the Centre. What we don’t get done today will have to be done by those at the Centre. We are going to leave some real good people behind. The will is there to get the job done. They can do it with the correct training and tools. We all wish them the very best.
Filed under: cars, food, Hluhlu-iMfolozi Park, Kwazamohkuhle, South Africa, travel, Wildlife | Tags: ELCA, ELCSA, elephants, Food, rhinos, South Africa, travel, wildlife, zebra
The second week is underway for those who traveled from the Shetek conference of the ELCA to the Ondini Circuit of the ELCSA. Today we are playing tourist. We have made our way to the Hluhluwe-iMfolozi park. The park lies in the heart of Zulu country and was once the sole hunting area of Zulu kings. This is Africa’s oldest wilderness area. Our day begins with a 5:00 a.m. game drive.
We climb into 11 passenger open air vehicles long before sunrise and head off into the chill of early morning.
Fog fills the valleys as the sun rises.
There is nothing like the sunrise over the thorn veld of Africa.
The hoot of a baboon brings us to a stop underneath a Eucalyptus fig, where the baboons are having breakfast.
Baby animals are everywhere. This zebra was the first of the day.
Soon we see a rhino family cross the road with oxpeckers on his back. Hluhluwe is famous for its project to save the white rhino which started in the 1950′s.
A hyena slinks through the thorn along the road.
We take a stretch break for tea and biscuits and then continue our tour.
Female and young Nyala are eating beneath the trees.
We see many kinds of birds, and so many elephants that we start getting selective about the photos we take of them.
Our morning drive is over. It’s time for breakfast and some time on the internet. then off for a nap.
Levi, Ron and I have a two bedroom place set into the trees.
A window sticker warns you to keep doors and windows closed to keep monkeys and baboons out.
Window screens are there to keep out monkeys and baboons. They do nothing to keep out insects and small lizards.
This troop of monkeys was playing just outside our door and came within a few feet of us.
Baboons crossed between us and our lodge, and played on the roof of Mark’s place.
Our evening game drive lasted until past sunset.
We saw lots more elephant, perhaps over 100. Also in evidence were rhino, cape buffalo and warthog.
We caught a sight of a male nyala, impala and gazelle, as well as a nile croc, bush baby and eagle owl.
Our day at Hluhluwe had come to an end. We had a late dinner buffet with roasted eland, served with cranberry sauce, as the main meat, got ourselves back to our places and ready for bed. Tomorrow we go back to Kwazamohkule.
Filed under: cars, Hluhlu-iMfolozi Park, Kwazamohkuhle, South Africa, travel, Wildlife | Tags: Cape Buffalo, ELCA, ELCSA, elephants, giraffe, Indian Ocean, rhinos, South Africa, travel
The second week is underway for those who traveled from the Shetek conference of the ELCA to the Ondini Circuit of the ELCSA. Today we are playing tourist. We left Kwazamohkuhle after chapel and headed down the road toward Durban.
Barb, Paul, Marcia, Loretta, Levi and Ted took the back seats as I drove and Jessica navigated.
Being a farmer I was tuned into the crops being grown along the way. The corn and soybeans seemed to be growing well. Most seemed to be nearing maturity, but some had only recently been planted. With all of the rain some did not look too good. There were spots that were yellowing from too much water. We did notice that no one seems to believe in end rows around here.
As we made our way toward Durban we started seeing some sugar cane growing. The cities didn’t look much different than many other southern cities. The houses may have been a bit smaller and more gaudily painted, but everything looked prosperous.
This walking bridge across a deep cut was interesting. As we neared the Indian Ocean all eyes turned toward the coast.
After having lunch in Stanger we made our way to the beach to play in the ocean.
The sand was so hot it burned your feet until you got close to the water.
The waves were really coming in so taking a swim was out of the question. Some of the kids got wet when they were not planning on it.
We said good bye to the ocean and headed northwest along the coast.
All the fuel pumps we saw were full service. There would be someone there to direct you to a pump and pump your fuel. Usually someone washed your window also.
We saw many crews out mowing grass along the road, but rarely saw a tractor powered mower, or even evidence that someone was baling the hay. The grass was cut by a gas powered weed eater and raked up by someone with a small rake. There was usually someone there to sweep the grass off of the road also.
People were walking on the roads everywhere. Busy roads had fewer people on them, but it was not unusual to see someone crossing the busiest of roads. When traffic slowed down people were selling fruit on the edge of the road, or if you had to come to a stop, would approach you with bags of fruit.
Most of the larger roads were toll roads. We usually managed to have the exact change for a toll so we kept moving right along.
As we made our way further west the sugar cane made way for large plantations of fast growing trees. You could see the fields that had been recently harvested and some that were planted not that long ago. Plots of trees were in all stages of growth.
Our goal for the day was the Hluhluwe game park. We were going around to the northwestern side to go into the Memorial gate. The roads got smaller and livestock again became a presence on the road. Mark almost got kid on the grill when a young goat dashed across in front of him.
We checked in at the park gate and made our way up to Hilltop Camp. Last time when Mark was here they saw only one elephant. This time we were greeted by herds of them.
We had to wait while they crossed the road, and then stop and wait again.
We also saw rhinos, cape buffalo, wart hog and giraffe before we even reached the camp.
This giraffe was eating right at the side of the road.
We made our way to Hilltop Camp, got our room assignments had a wonderful prime rib buffet for diner and then headed off to bed. Tomorrow’s wake up call is 4:15. The morning game drive leaves at 5:00 a.m. It’s going to be a short night.
Filed under: church, food, food safety, friends, garden, harvest, Kwazamohkuhle, South Africa, travel, Uncategorized | Tags: Agriculture education, ELCA, ELCSA, Food, food safety, garden, harvest, irrigation, South Africa
The second week is underway for those who traveled from the Shetek conference of the ELCA to the Ondini Circuit of the ELCSA. Today is to be a day full of projects. After breakfast and chapel we all drive into Estcourt. We need more supplies One van load has a few quick stops to make and then get back to work. The other needs to make some stops that will take more time.
Josh has returned with his family. We all get to meet them before they head off to do some more sight seeing. Juanita spends some time with him to get a better idea of how we can use him and the program he is here on to continue our projects.
After lunch we make another trip into Estcourt for things we forgot, or didn’t know we needed the first time.
My journal entry for the day includes Success! With so many things going on today it was wonderful to see so many of them really move along. After the frustration of yesterday the success of today was so much better.
Work on the high tunnel greenhouse has gone so well the Paul has the ground inside worked so that we can start to lay the underground drip tubes.
They are doing a food preservation workshop this afternoon so Rambo, Ted and I pick grapes for grape jelly.
Ron, Pastor Shongwa, Levi and Karl clean the trench.
The prep of the foods to be canned went on in the kitchen.
Standpipes were placed on the irrigation pipe so that it could be buried.
Drip irrigation lines were measured, cut and them placed just underground in the high tunnel.
Gogo Bob (Barb) and Juanita were leading the food preservation workshop and kept many of us busy during the day. (A gogo is a grandmother in Zulu. The locals had trouble pronouncing r’s in some positions of words, so Barb became Bob. Since she is a grandmother we called her Gogo Bob.)
There was a lot of excitement when the food preservation participants found out that they actually got to do the work in the kitchen. However in an area that does not have a tradition of canning, supplies for the job were hard to come by. There were a few spills and a dropped jar that showered several with hot food. Despite the problems the ladies had a great time. All took home some of the produce.
Bonnie, Ted and Marcia met with the local HIV/AIDS working group to share information and concerns.
It was all spare hands on the job as we started to fill the trench after the irrigation pipe was installed.
What a day. With so many projects going on at the same time we had people moving from job to job all day, with few staying in one place all day. It was a very successful day. Tomorrow we get to play tourist.
Filed under: Ag education, cars, church, food, friends, garden, harvest, Kwazamohkuhle, rain, South Africa, travel, weather | Tags: Agriculture education, children, ELCA, ELCSA, Food, friends, garden, harvest, rain, South Africa, weather
Fifteen people from the Shetek conference of the ELCA flew to South Africa on an agricultural mission that departed on January 31, 2011. Our stay was centered on the Kwazamokuhle Centre. The centre is owned by the Ondini Circuit of the ELCSA and is used to help support pastors and provide showplace projects for the circuit.
Our stay here is already at the half way point. Things are starting to fall into a routine. Up with the sun, start the water so the early risers can have tea and coffee, catch up on my journal. Breakfast at 7:30, Chapel at 8:00.
Today Pastor Mark gave the message at chapel using one of the staff as an interpreter. Most of the time we do not understand the readings or the words to the songs. We dive in and sing them anyway.
For the first time the computers have internet at the Centre. I can finally let my family know I’m alive.
The next line in my journal is Frustration. So many things are frustrating when you are dealing with events in a foreign country. So here’s the days frustrations.
- We need supplies. It takes forever to get anything here. First you need to drive to a town you don’t know that well, to a store you have trouble communicating your needs to the employees of, and deal with really slow service.
- The machinery will not work. Levi spent most of the day working on the weed whip. The recoil on the starter gave him some real headaches.
- I tried to get the electric lawn mower working. It will start, but not keep going. The motor needs to be rebuilt, do you repair it or replace it. At home I would replace it, but money is tight here and the value of labor is low.
- Lazarus, an old Massey Ferguson tractor, will not start. The battery has to be taken elsewhere to be charged since there is no electricity in the shed and I don’t think they even own a battery charger.
- The alternator on Lazarus is not working properly. We don’t have the tools to check it out and it’s a long way to the repair shop.
- Supplies are here, now the electricity is out. There is no way to drill the holes they need to repair the high tunnel greenhouse.
- We got Lazarus started so we could cut grass where they are digging the irrigation pipe trench. Now it’s stuck. We unhook the tractor and get it moving, and it gets stuck worse. At home we would have cables, chains and pull straps and another tractor to pull it out. They don’t even have a decent sized pickup.
- It starts to rain again.
All is not frustration, but so many things were today.
Karl, Mark, Juanita, Jessica and I drove up to Emangweni along with two of the pastors that are spearheading the projects here. It was a long drive on steadily worsening roads in some really beautiful country.
The roads are no longer paved, but mud as we near our destination.
The bridges are in wonderful condition, but one lane. Most are built so that when water is high the water can flow over it easily.
When school is out children will walk down the roads home. You see them coming in a sea of school colors. Uniforms are required for school here. No uniform, no school.
As we near the school children fill the road.
As we near the church the road narrows and we walk the last few blocks.
Emangweni mission station was started in the 1880′s. I’m not sure when the church building was built, but the plaque outside the church finishes it’s roll of missionaries in the 1960′s.
The church bell was elegant despite the disrepair of the bell tower.
Emangweni is one of the spots that an earlier group put in irrigation pipe to help grow veggies in the dry season. Unfortunately the garden has still not been dug, nor fenced. You can see the stand for the irrigation line by Mark’s feet.
We discussed what has been done,and what they need to do to get the project going. We can help with supplies, they must supply the labor.
Interestingly local yards are full of gardens, even the school has a veggie and flower garden and yet the church garden cannot get going. We suggest a 4-H type relationship with the school children to help get the project rolling. The irrigation pipes are new to the area and will help create interest in the church garden if they can get it going.
We return to Kwazamokuhle with muddy boots on the muddy roads.
A partnership meeting of the Shetek/Ondini committee is held when we return. There are 9 from the Ondini circuit and 5 of us from Shetek. Among items discussed are:
- How the projects are going.
- How to keep communication flowing across the distance between us.
- A possible visit from the Ondini Circuit in 2012.
Tidbits of information that were of interest to me are:
- There was no rain at the Centre from April to October 2010.
- When the rains started they would not stop. This made planting and weeding very difficult.
- Local people are paid R50 ($6.88) per day to work the gardens, morning tea and lunch are supplied.
The extra items from the VBS program were officially presented to the people of the circuit. Several had heard from participants in the program and there was a lot of excitement as the goods were examined.
More frustration, this time for the cooks, as it is discovered that the gas tanks are empty and they cannot cook for us. Our guest house has an electric stove so we cook up fried eggs and hot dogs. Add some beer and ice cream and we do very well.
Mark has been waiting for the group to hit the wall. The time came for the other two groups when all of the frustration of working in a foreign country, lack of sleep and distance from loved ones all piles up and gets everyone depressed. Despite the frustrations of the day this group is upbeat, enthusiastic and still ready to go. This is a wonderful group to travel and work with.
Rain falls again to cool the evening. It has been a good day. It will be a busy day again tomorrow.