Minnesota Farmer


South Africa – Endings

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.

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1 Comment so far
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Great series of posts!

Comment by JPlovesCOTTON




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