Monday, April 21, 2008

Look at Us

Introduction of the Doubling Di

The Introduction of the Doubling Di

Peter In
Well, it looks like my time in Africa is coming to a close. For the past two weeks we’ve been staying with Marianne’s family in Somerset West near Capetown, South Africa. It’s Autumn here and the weather is beautiful. Somerset West has perched itself right next to both the mountains and the sea, as well as in the middle of wine country. I imagine that in North America this property would be thoroughly developed with house lots selling for millions of dollars. As it is, there are still farms everywhere with unspoiled beauty and wilderness everywhere. We’ve been kept fairly busy these two weeks with various projects that have been both challenging and rewarding. The main challenge has been trying to get any sort of construction accomplished with the relaxed African mindset. Capetown is even poked fun at by other South African cities for its “paced” mentality towards working. Apparently in Jo’Burg they say the Capetown is called “the mother city” because it takes 9 months to get anything accomplished. Case in point, our main project while we were here was to help finish building a house for a black lady that does a lot of volunteer work in the township of Lwandle near Somerset West (Lwandle was traditionally the ghetto for black people who worked at Somerset West). WARNING THE FOLLOWING STORY APPEARS TO CONTAIN A LOT OF WHINING – PLEASE AVOID IF ADVERSE TO EXCESS WHINING Our contact here, Andy Hawkins – a missionary from the UK, showed us a few things that we could work on when we first got here, and the first thing that we decided to do was work on this house. It seemed nearly done – just needed some paint and some doors hung, maybe hire a plumber to install the bathroom fixtures, and we’d be finished. We didn’t think it would take more than two days. On the first day the girls did some painting, and I chiseled the hinges into the door frames but couldn’t do any more because the doors weren’t delivered on time. We also noticed that the tiling hadn’t been finished yet, and none of it had been grouted. Also, the trim around the ceiling hadn’t quite been finished. Also the windows hadn’t quite been completely been installed. It was a mystery to us why someone would have gotten so close to finishing so many things and then left a tiny bit of work on everything, however we decided to help as much as we could. Since I was waiting for doors, I went to buy some kitchen cabinets which we assembled near the end of the day. I unpacked the hardware to discover that most of it was missing. I took it back to the store where they gladly refunded my money and went looking for cabinet packages without missing pieces. Eventually they succeed. I take them and we start to assemble them only to realize that they have a faulty design. The assemply mimmicks Ikea’s design, except without the vital feature that keeps the assembled pieces from falling apart. It’s clear that we will have to buy additional screws to ram jam them solid. On the next day the girls finished painting, and I worked on the doors. On the third day the girls painted the doors and started to tile. I was having some trouble with the doors due to skew frames, but things were moving along. Suddenly the tiler shows up and chastises Krista for “stealing” his job. She apologizes and stops finishing his job immediately, and I ask if he’s going to finish now. He says, “oh no, I’ll come back tomorrow maybe.” I manage to convince him to work on it just then, since it only looks like a few hours worth of work left, but he continually complains about the mess I’ve made hanging the doors (we later find out that he disappeared over a week before and had kept promising to come back right away but never had). He takes off without finishing and promises to come back the next day. Meanwhile the girls discover that their paint work has been maimed by what could only have been some sort of violent sporting event in one of the rooms they had painted. There are marks all over the walls that scrape the paint off right down to the concrete. Very odd, but the girls patiently sand and repaint the room. Looking for something else to do, and not wanting to steal the tiller’s job again, they ask about varnishing the door and window frames. They are told, “oh no, someone will do that later.” Okay. Meanwhile I realize that one too few doors were ordered. The girls go to another project and I try to grab another door. I take one of the family members with me, William, and the trip goes as follows: 1. we go to the nearby hardware store and William says we need a waterproof door for the bathroom. 2. They say they don’t have any of those doors. 3. We go to the building superstore, some distance away and they inform us that waterproof bathroom doors don’t exist. William must’ve been thinking of shower doors. 4. We go back to the close –by store so that we can transport the door home by ourselves. 5. The store has just sold out of the style of door we need. 6. I call our friend nick to see if he can hot-shot the door in his bakkie (bucky) (truck) for us. 7. He says sure, but we should go to a nearby cheap place that might have them. 8. We find the cheap store and they don’t have the style we need. 8. We go to the building superstore again, buy the door, and Nic hotshots it for us. 9. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh that took so long it’s time to go home for the day now.
This is getting monotonous but further adventures include grabbing the tiler who does only half of the remaining work again, finding plumbers who don’t have all the tools or parts that they need. Asking us to start varnishing the door and window frames despite the girls being told not to previously, and on and on. Two weeks down we’re finally finished though. Very nice.
Our other projects include: organizing and running games for a children’s choir camp, painting a large bathroom, helping to run a soccer coaches training day, teaching a health sciences grade 8, and other little things.

Peter out, Gil in.

Before I begin let me tell you about my best joke ever. Being sent to ‘cut a disk’ of Incubus songs for Chris, my South-African, bathroom-painting team-mate I headed to i-tunes. Created a burn folder. Entitled it ‘incubus.’ Paused. Erased the title. Renamed folder ‘incupiss.’ Chuckled for a long time. Burned the CD. Erased the folder. Continued to chuckle.

Thanks for listening…..

Excellent outline Pete. To add on behalf of Krista and myself, hours of sitting on a dirt pile in the township, wondering where Peter has gone and when he will be back? What will happen when night comes and we are still here, waiting on the dirt pile, sweeping the floor for the 9th time?

Krista’s gotten sick and developed a blister on the inside of her nose (seriously). The cold seems to have taken all her facial expressions, leaving only one wobegon face and a few sad sentences to tide us over for the rest of the trip. I quote “Peeterrrr didn’t write my part of the post like he saaaaiddd he was going toooo….” One of my favorite things is when Krista gets exaggeratingly disappointed and she is good enough to make sure I get as much laughs possible. We’ve been going to some burger-burger joints where Krista has to order the ‘vegetarian health boxes’ which turn out to be some sort of mockery of all the name seems to promise. Full of fatty mayonnaise, slathered in something strange, greasy and boiled lettuce. So sad. So sad. (I just reminded her. Now she is barfing. You would barf as well if you were here. I am also barfing) I’ve never met anyone so good at being disappointed in a way that makes everything so humorous for us all.

However, the cold/blister was causing us worry – thankfully some antiquing liquid and never-ending bathroom walls seem to have cheered up our dear Krista, bearer of all our illnesses and infirmity and we are back to our singing glory.

Pete’s friend Andy organized for us to take a class at a highschool in one of the nearby townships and it was certainly one of my favorite experiences. The first day Pete and I went for ‘life-skills’ class (Krista was home attempting to rest her spirit back from her cold’s tenacious grasp) where we learned about the 5 food groups and how to be healthy, etc. On the next day we returned, expecting to teach the same class for an hour. Of course, it wasn’t the same kids and so our food group games didn’t go over so well at first. We had to explain the food groups and teach our game – version of ‘horse-knight-rider’ with the additional twist whereby the kids were attached to a food group. Anyway, imagine us –
“okay, you’re a protein. And you – you’re a fruit, no, a vegetable, oh wait – doesn’t matter, same group”
“you, fats, no, a fat – like butter… or something”
Anyway, after explaining over and over that ‘you’re out’ means ‘you can’t play anymore’ and realizing it didn’t seem to matter if half the class wandered off we got off to a great round. The kids left loved it – spinning around with their eyes closed like happy squirrels. It was lovely. For a final ‘teaching session’ we got them into groups and had them decide on a well-balanced meal including elements from all the food groups. This was a task that turned out to be far more difficult than I could have imagined. Fortunately I was able to impart an excellent piece of knowledge before leaving – standing at the front, trying to say something I blurted out to the boys’ group “now, this is important because if you have children one day you need to make sure they get the proper nutrients, a well-balanced diet to help their brains grow properly.” They all nodded and it seemed I’d left a fantastic pearl of wisdom behind. It must be weird to be a teacher – the most retarded things come out of your mouth and somehow the whole class is nodding…

If anyone wants to come and be a teacher I’d advise dropping by Somerset West for a year or so and taking up a few classes in the Township schools. I’ll be readily convinced to accompany you.

We’ve also gotten to know some lovely people here. Exhibit A has left his own blog portion following mine. He is a very big soul, Christopher is. My love language (sorry Nick) is to tease and be teased. These South African’s are filling me up completely in that regard and I’m often beside myself with giddiness so thank you to this new niceness.

Am learning again about God being remarkably large. Habbukuk. Boldness.

Gill out, Chrees in.

Hello, my mother named me Christopher, I’m not happy about how Canadians pronounce apricots. AAH-pricots? What is that? I’ve furnished these lovely souls with the correct pronunciation, along with a few bits of local slang.

I’m trying to decide if I should burn Peter’s passport, I know Candice might not approve but a South African wedding couldn’t be that bad. Obviously the lions and the witchdoctors make for tricky obstacles but we South Africans could teach you northern folk the subtleties of life in the wild.
And if we invited our currently ex-vice-president, maybe he could stab a cow like he did at his last wedding, I think his second or third wife- polygamy gets so confusing, how do the Mormons do it? But yeah, these are my current musings, to burn or not to burn.
On a less serious note, please send me some fuzz free girls next time- Chewbacca here is getting a bit much.
Peter has cleaned up nicely, Candice I take my hat off to the magnificent contribution you’ve made to Peter’s appearance.
Right, that’s it we’re off to save some more orphans and spread truth and shit.

Chrees out, Khreestah in.

I don’t have very much to say. Peter said that he was going to post for me, but apparently he’s lied. I was preparing myself for his worst description of Krista possible, quite excited really, but nooooo.
I’m sad that Pete’s leaving us. He’s taking the Backgammon game, and he’s real special of course. I like autumn in South Africa. I’ve spent the last two days sponging a bathroom with antiquing liquid. I love sponging antiquing liquid. I have a really weird head cold. My nose is a monster. It’s my birthday in four months. I’ve become extremely reserved, and shy, or scared, or fearful. I don’t know what’s wrong with me. We’re watching Edward Scissor Hands, it’s a nice movie, Edward has the same hair as Gil. I’ve started having weird dreams again lately, so maybe it wasn’t the malaria pills after all. I think I’ve developed a weird accent. My favourite game is when Gil and I sing, or when I complain about something dumb that makes Gil laugh. I have hope for the future. I am a new creation.
Love, Khreestah

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Backgammon Days.

This is quite a long one. We find it endlessly amusing to describe ourselves and things that happen to us. After reading out part of this post to some people here and noticing they weren’t finding it nearly as hilarious as we were I thought it worthwhile to warn you. This post is full of things we think are hilarious. The ‘we’ here may not be inclusive, may in fact be exclusive of everyone but Peter, Krista and Gillian.

We’ve been driving a lot lately. Other side of the road, other side of the car. Stick shift with the left hand, wheel with the right, somehow can’t figure out what to do with the diet coke? (am addicted again Mom). The switch has been mostly okay, just the inevitable awkward fumble when I try to pass something to Krista with my right hand, finding my left arm blocking my path. The only distressing thing seems to be the difficulty of translating your spatial awareness; both Pete and I drive almost in the ditch. Not sure why – seems like the middle-of-the-road comes too close so we edge away, blissfully ignorant of the yellow line disappearing its speedy way beneath the passenger wheels. Krista bears with this often-alarming placement with equanimity. Unfortunately for Driving Peter, Front-Seat-Left Gillian can’t stop from squealing at the trees, holes, ledges, pedestrians, mango-venders we shave by. Peter Passenger points out the near misses as well but I think he’s mostly just getting back at me for my skittishness. Why can’t we tell how close we are to the roadside? What happens to our perception?

Today driving. Sand storm, wind storm, rain storm. Wind ripping my skirt completely up just as a man comes to the side of the car to ask for food. I scream, he vanishes to the other side, I dive into the car telling myself ‘it’s okay, bathing-suit bottoms…” When I came back to myself he’d gone over to Peter, figured his bottoms were more safely anchored.

Love Gillian

Here’s Peter!

So, here we are driving along the Garden Route and Wine Route. We’ve just left the Wilderness (yes, there’s a town called “wilderness” there are many trees), and now we are heading to Somerset West near the very southern tip of Africa for the last phase of our African Adventure. We don’t quite know what we’re doing starting tomorrow, but God’s worked out a place for us to stay, (or Marianne’s mom has worked out a place for us to stay – it’s hard to tell the difference sometimes.) and God has also found some stuff for us to do, but as I mentioned before, we don’t know what it is yet. I wrote my contact Andy – a missionary from the UK – to say we were coming and willing to help with whatever projects he has on the go, and he just wrote back saying, “call me when you get here, I’ve got a few things lined up for you guys.” It’s a nice feeling to be going somewhere where you have something to do to help someone, but you don’t know what it is. It’s like a volunteer lottery. Maybe I’ll win Helping Black People Dig Ditches, or get stuck with the consolation prize – Watching skilled workers and occasionally hotshoting a suppy from the hardware store back to them. Either way, I’m looking forward to finding out what we’ll be doing, who we’ll be working with, what time we get to start (I always hope for 7am or earlier, but I know the girls differ with me on this)… We’re staying with Marianne’s mom and sister; Marijke, and Tessa – both of them friends from as far back as I can remember in rural north-central Alberta. Who knows what they’re doing in Africa, something about the winters.. As the end of our trip is now in site I’m enjoying myself, looking forward to coming home, getting married. We’re playing Backgammon all the time now. They gave us a new rental car since the spare tire didn’t fit in the old one. We also got an upgrade, and our new car has locks that work and speakers that make it so you can hear the words on my sisters mix CDs. Life is good. We came down the scenic route from Pietermaritzburg over the weekend, and it’s been very nice. We also went through the mountain kingdom of Lesotho and I bought a blanket – it’s for wearing!*
I guess I should rewind a bit to the end of our last project – We finished off the house we were building for Gogo Regina and her orphans, it looks very nice. We brought over some ice cream and had a small party with them. It was very nice. Perhaps the most directly and significantly I’ve ever been able to help someone. Uncle Stanley came to the party and didn’t’ mention money, so that was a plus too. We gave the family a lovely parting gift, but I’ll let one of the girls tell you about that. The main point is that God got the job done, and we were able to help. Very nice.
I don’t know if I have anything else to say right now. Perhaps I could use these last few lines to implore everyone reading this to start playing Backgammon. Immediately. Look it up on Google right now, learn the rules and buy a board and start to play with each other. It’s perfect for coffee shops.
Peter out

Gil bought a new skirt. About it she says, “I don’t know what’s with that thing, it’s like a parachute.” Also, Gil’s obsessed with cutting up all of her clothes. It started in Zambia, with the Mustard Seed shirt. It just needed a little trimming, that’s all. Then she hated it and almost threw it out at one point. Don’t worry; it’s back on her good side now. Then she bought a skirt, and cut the bottom off, apparently it wasn’t helping the parachute situation. She also bought some sandals, and they have become increasingly uncomfortable, so she wants to cut one of the straps off, and part of the sole. Oh, and there’s another shirt that needs the sleeves cut off. It’s not as if we have obscene amounts of clothes. Nope, Gil just really likes that knife her parents brought back for her from France and she wants to use it as much as possible. I use it to cut mangos.
I like mangos, and I like Gil.

Peter has always made me laugh, but lately his quirky humour has become increasingly difficult to let slip by. I suppose it’s possible that by spending so much time in close quarters with him I’ve given him opportunity to manipulate my brain into believing that he’s the funniest man alive. Well done, Pete.
For those of you who are craving a taste of what the man is really up to, here’s a short summary:
He’s seriously obsessed with Backgammon. I mean, sure Gil and I are enjoying our games, but Pierre’s really digging in. I think he’s completed his memorization of the rule sheet, and he’s working on the best possible first moves, and the statistics of roll possibilities. This morning we went to an Internet place and Pete looked up further detailed rules as well as found an example of a game between two of the world’s best Backgammon players. He was really quite dismayed when we accidentally closed the computer and lost the example before he got to relive it for himself. We have to carry our travel-sized Backgammon briefcase with us everywhere, but that’s okay because it fits perfectly in Peter’s new purse. Oh yeah, Peter bought a goat hair man-satchel in Lesotho. He says that it’s one of the most beautiful things he’s ever seen, and he had to buy it because he couldn’t take his eyes off of it. He also got to meet the lady who made it since we were in a little hand-weaving factory. He keeps Licorice Allsorts and after dinner mints in his purse, along with the Backgammon of course. His passport stays in the girl’s purse, sometimes he gets to carry the keys.
Peter’s started speaking in man-grunts on a fairly regular basis. I’ve not sure where it came from, but it’s become a regular part of his vocabulary.
He goes on runs and farts more than seems normal, I think both of these things please him a great deal.
He’s getting married soon. (His lovely fiancĂ© just returned home from S.A. and I believe she said that she likes hugs.)

We went for a hike in the Drakensbergs. The mountains said to me, “Krista, you will love us more than you thought possible.” And I said, “Okay.” The trees said to me, “Krista, you will fall weak in awe when you look at us.” I replied, “Of course,” as if prophecies of the forest are the most natural thing in the world. All of the clouds called to me, the wind wrapped itself around every part of my body, and the gallant, autumn sun shone right through my skin. On top of the plateau I almost couldn’t contain myself from spilling all over the place, or at least breaking into a sprint. Gil giggled at me. But really, it was incredible.
This country is more than beautiful. I don’t know which adjective I’d like to use, but it’s bigger and better than ‘beautiful’, and it when you read it, I’m sure you need to pause for a moment to collect yourself. This country is that powerful adjective everywhere.

Lesotho is really cool. We climbed a small hoodoo there. That was nice. I think Peter’s going to return someday to ask a chief for a 99-year lease on a mountain. Then I shall also come back and wander around in the valleys.

We’ve stayed in a new hostel every night for the past four nights.
#1: Amazing setting in the Berg’s. Gil and I read Rilke aloud before bed and then said goodnight to the German boys sleeping on the bunks above us –too bad I can’t read German and had to read the English translations of Rilke instead of the originals on the other side of the page.
#2: We stayed by ourselves in a 6 bed room in the Anglican Training Centre that no longer trains anyone in the capital of Lesotho. All six beds were fitted with their own bright pink comforters covered in a fairy and flower print. We took a picture.
#3: The Sugar Shack was proudly playing Bob Marley when we pulled in. Apparently some professional surfer owns the place –it’s right across the stress from the beach. I could see the waves crashing from my top bunk in our full 12-bed dorm. We accidentally overheard a conversation between a vegan beauty and a young man who believes that humans should be “classified as carnivorous”. It was an unfortunate argument.** Vegan-girl had two leather purses on her bed andI hope for the sake of her passionate argument that they were fake.
#4: A lovely old farmhouse in the Wilderness called “Fairy Nose” or something obscure like that. It’s getting cold. I needed two blankets. We somehow we managed to use all four beds even though there were only three of us, which apparently baffled the room cleaner this morning, it seems oddly normal to me.***

Gillian and I are finally finished taking our malaria pills. We’ve been out of malaria country for nearly a month now, so Peter’s been poking fun at us for having to continue with the awful drugs while he finished his a mere five days after we exited Zambia. Peter’s pills cost five dollars a pop. Poor social workers like Gillian and myself who haven’t managed to attain for ourselves fancy medical packages like Blue Cross needed to opt for the 84 cents/pill kind. Gil’s managed to find herself a little loophole, and I think I’ve been unfairly ingesting too much anti-malaria as a result. So you see, since the two of us spend mostly every waking moment together we try to share the same purse, wallet, pill-case, etc. So our malaria pills have been residing in the same pill bottle for the last month or so, and just recently I’ve found out that Gil’s been conveniently “forgetting” to take her pill every now and then, which means that her leftover pills have just been adding up in the bottle and adding on to the number of days that I must participate in the ritual of our supper-time drug taking. Gil, Gil, Gil. Sneaky girl. There’s one left in the bottle, and I’ll have nothing to do with it.

The ocean is cool. So are seashells.
My fingernail finally came all of the way off. I am very pleased.
Marianne, your family is lovely. Your house is amazing. I’m very excited to see the pieces of your life here.
We are driving, driving, driving. I am too young to drive a rental car. I’m just a baby.
Gil’s listening to our Zambian music.
I’m ready to groove.

PS: The parting gift. What a joy. Gogo is helped financially by a family back in Canada. After seeing their family photo proudly framed and given pride of place in the living room, Peter made it his ambition for us to be likewise framed in glory. Krista and I were horrified by this notion. Pictures of yourself are awkward enough at the best of times, let alone in a frame, let alone as a gift intended for display in someone’s home…. Gross. However, Peter thought they’d be pleased.
Imagine. The three of us, standing in a charity shop holding various items we’d found (fake flowers, tea cup, oriental teapot) beaming or looking stunned (however you take it). The whole photo is glazed with that weird yellow shade characteristic of photos taken in the 70s (not sepia, just a strange yellow glow). Blow the photo up to a size that passes normal and borders on the excessive and you’ve got our ‘lovely present for Gogo.’ Krista and I wanted to miss the gift-giving ceremony due to our extreme embarrassment however, I’m not sure why, we stuck around and I’m glad we did. Peter, once again, proves himself right with his persistence to continue on past the typical limit of embarrassment. Gogo loved her photo and we loved seeing Gogo get her photo.

* “for wearing” Honestly, for wearing. A friendly female banker took us under her wing, driving us to the best blanket-selling shop to ensure Peter purchased the proper, Kingly make of blankets. After 20 minutes of watching two Basotho men drape the blanket over Peter in various ways we did as recommended and purchased the “heart of a king’ blanket. Peter, as befits a Monarch of his caliber, draped himself and, equipped with the blanket, a free hand to hold the backgammon case, and a regal gaze, we continued down the road. Krista and I feeling proud and a little uncertain as to how to deal with this new, very obvious manifestation of Peter’s superiority. Should we follow behind? Can we walk beside? The Basotho people were very friendly at the best of times. Seeing a curly haired white man floating down the road draped in a blanket, showcasing his ‘heart of a king’ was quite new for them. People stopped, stared, turned their heads, finally laughing with an uncertain expression. Or call out their approval, welcoming Peter as one of them. One girl didn’t break her stare with the usual laugh - think she couldn’t make her eyes jive with what she was seeing, got stuck in the horrified stage poor girl.

**Peter will now transcribe the Veggie/Bloodsuckers convo:
hippie feminist agitated slightly drunk girl with pleather bags: I’m vegan because it’s just natural, you know? We weren’t designed to eat meat
very drunk friendly party-guy: yeah, but you know.. the human race are really carnivores right? I mean, I don’t want to reign on your parade right? I mean, what you’re doing is awesome right?
Hfasdgwpb: Well what? I don’t exactly know that right? I mean, India is the most populated in the world and they’re vegetarians. That’s got to tell you something right?
Vdfpg: Well yeah, but what I’m trying to say is we’re naturally carnivore. I mean the human species. Naturally we eat meat, not vegetables right? I mean, I’m with you, it’s awesome, just not natural.
Hfasdgwpb: well seriously though, I feel called to it. Meat, we don’t have to eat meat. There’s soy and tons of stuff. There’s no reason for us to have to eat meat man.
Vdfpg: I’m not trying to fight you man, I feel like you think I’m trying to fight you. No man, it’s awesome, just not natural. Naturally we’re carnivores…
And the argument continues for several minutes in much the same fashion of point, counterpoint, same point, same counterpoint, no one really making any sense or quoting any real facts and both parties getting frustrated and Krista and Gill continually wincing…

***Peter seems to have his own explanation about the beds and blankets:
What? Pardon? Well all right. Gill started out on a top bunk, so not to be outdone, I did the same. Krista took the bunk under Gill. Then Gill jumped on her bed and didn’t like it. She moved to the other bottom bunk and took her blanket with her. Now she has two blankets and while I’m showering she taunts Krista – “I have twoooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo blankets,” this inspires Krista to steal my blanket. I crawl into my bed, go to grab my blanket, and come up short. I use my ancient, tattered, MEC sleeping bag liner while Gill and Krista wallow in blanketed bottom-bunk luxury. The next morning I walk in on mr. room cleaner changing the bedding, “how many of you were there?” “there were three of us.” “and you managed to use four beds?”
Maybe he thought we had snuck in an extra person without paying. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that I hadn’t even used my bedding.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Go, 'Go-Go'!

We are building rooms. It is very lovely. This is what I think about:

Why do you say, O Jacob,
and complain, O Israel,
“My way is hidden from the Lord;
my cause is disregarded by my God”?
Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
The Lord is the Everlasting God;
the Creator of the ends of the earth.

~ Isaiah 40



For the past 2 weeks we’ve resided in a trailer-shaped addition to a boho backpacker joint. It’s affectionately referred to as “the annex”, more commonly referred to as “the budget room”, and casually referred to by the housecleaners as “the old storage closet”.
I love our old storage closet. I love sleeping on my little bed, and I’m reminded me of home when I wake up feeling the bed-slats beneath my back.
There are large wire lockers in Budgetville. In one of them we keep our three different tubs of peanut butter, packages of tea, a loaf of bread, stale crackers, apples, Peter’s margarine, Easter-sale chocolates, Gil and Peter’s nasty old beef jerky, (Peter –“We’ve still got beef jerky?!” Gil – “It’s called biltong.” Krista –“Call it what you will, it’s still nasty.”) etc…
There are books everywhere: Bibles, poetry books, journals, several novels, torn up pieces of Virginia Woolfe, books about Jesus, more journals, books about history, biographies, etc., all strewn about the room. We love to read.
We eat dinner in our storage closet, so sometimes you’ll find a teapot and mugs, some plates, and crumbs that don’t belong.
My clothes are not neat anymore. I have generally been keeping my three T-shirts and two pairs of shorts in line while traveling from place to place, but somehow my organizational skills have unraveled as of lately. Gil’s clothes are still folded and Peter has claimed a couple of the wire lockers –he needs it since he managed to bring three times the amount of stuff that Gil or I did.
There’s barely enough room to squeeze by each other between the lockers and the beds, and our doorknob consistently fell off every time we tried shut to the door (until a couple days ago when the managers realized and had it fixed,) but I’m going to be sad to leave our annex. It has been really wonderful to have a place (even this place) to call our own, a place to come home to, to hang out in, to escape the world in…

We are now in search of secondhand stores. After two weeks of cement mixing, brick hauling, sweat-breaking, tear-your-hands-up, hard work, most of our clothes are looking a little shabby (the key here is that “shabby” is probably an understatement seeing as I already feel as though I’ve been walking around in rags for the past two months).

I tore my fingernail off. A large brick fell onto it. It was bloody. Now my finger looks like a nasty, demented, zombie finger. I thought I would be self-conscious about how hideous it is, but mostly I just think it’s hilarious how grossed out Gil gets when she looks at it.
(Jennifer, you’re one for two: I broke the toe next to my big tow on my left foot. And I tore the nail off my middle finger on my right hand.)
I also got food poisoning, or something like that. I ate a crab curry across the street from the Indian Ocean, it was really amazing, but I’m not sure if it was worth it. Puking is gross.

Tidbits from the work site:
On our first day, Gil and I walked up and down a giant hill carrying cinderblocks… allllll daaay. The pile at the top of the hill would get smaller and smaller, and we would encourage each other by saying things like, “Look, Krista, almost done!” or, “Only 30 more, Gil!” and then the delivery truck would come back and drop off 200 more bricks, and again, and again. Slowly my positive groove dissolved. It’s funny how physically disabling a pissy attitude can be.
Also on that day, GogoRegina (aged 50-something) and her mother (no one even knows how old she is,) helped us haul bricks. There’s nothing like your grandma doing the same job as you to keep you motivated.
No one knows my name. They all call me “Kristine”, or “Kristina”. It’s awful. Peter and Gil play it up, refusing to call me Krista in front of those who think my name is some other Kris name.
Last week some time Gil was mixing cement with one of the guys. Uncle Stanley (the one with toothpick arms,) said, “It’s heavy?” “Yes, it is,” said Gil. “It’s heavy because you are a girl,” replied Stanley. Gil fumed. Today Peter and Gil were both mixing cement and GogoRegina said, “I think Gil’s shovel is heavier,” to which Peter replied, “Yes, it’s heavier because she is a girl.” More fuming.
I can mix concrete. I can carry 50 kg bags of cement down a big hill. I can complain too much. My body didn't know what to do with itself.
Peter’s funny when he’s not in charge and learning to do something new. My favourite thing is when he finally masters something then looks around to make sure I saw him do it.
Building with wood is much faster than building with cement and bricks.
There are kids running around everywhere.
After not even two weeks of work, all six boys are already moved into their new rooms. The rooms are painted bright pink.
I shall not plaster anything in the near future. I shall have no part in dealings of wet cement of any kind. (Unless I have to.)

I’m very glad for this experience, and I’m very glad that Peter’s going to fill you in on the rest.
Love, Krista.

P.S. Mother, call when you get bored and lonely over the next few days… be well soon.

The Ram-Jam
Two weeks ago today we arrived in Pietermaritzburg and Met for the first time with Gogo-Regina (Zulu for Grandma-Regina). She’s a Black (black isn’t a racist term in SA by the way) Christian lady who takes in small children from her relatives and the community who need to be looked after. I believe at last count she had 18 people living in her small government-built brick house, but she’s hoping to take in 4 more babies now that she has more space, and she’s already making plans to build again. We know about Gogo through Anja Reuter who has raised monthly support for her from a family at Southview. Gogo is a simple but wise seeming woman, not seeming to care too much about money but well looked after by God. Our funds consisted of about $2600 gathered together from Southview and various other sources by Anja. Our experience consisted of my framing knowledge (useful only briefly on the roof) and minor missions experience in bricklaying. Also, Gill is a painter and Krista is a visual learner. Our goal, in less than three weeks; to construct a freestanding two room building appx. 4m*7m. Gogo took us to her house to see the site, and we met her brother Stanley who had been recruited to help us. He has toothpick arms as Kristina says, and said that he knew “a little” about bricklaying. The odds did not seem to be in our favour for any kind of success by worldly measurements, but fortunately, God really does seem to be on Gogo’s side. We immediately found a contractor who happened to be available to help us, and at a cheaper price than any of the other estimates that Gogo had received. His name was Moses and on the very next day he met with us to order supplies. He helped negotiate discounts, which started paying for his fee immediately. On day three he worked 11 hours, long after the three of us had taken off to go to the airport to pick up Anja. Anja thinks he’s the hardest working man in Africa, and she just might be right. He continued working from 7am to after 6pm, often to the consternation of the girls and in 4 days, with our help of course ;), he had the bricks laid with the roof on, the windows in and the doors hung. It was more than I could have ever expected, and quick even by framing standards. Then mysterious worker-machine vanished into another job and we were left with uncle Stanley to do the finishing. Fortunately, Uncle Stanley turned out to be a perfectionist and quite handy at plastering. He taught us all how, and Gogo’s son Man-X (real name unpronounceable with a click symbolized with the letter “x”) was home on holidays from school to help as well. Today we finished the plastering, and started on the fascia, which will get finished tomorrow.
Man X is one of the people moving into one of the rooms (actually, they’re putting the 6 boys in there) so he was particularly anxious to get finished. The day we finished plastering the interior, we found out that you need to wait at least 7 days before you can paint so that the plaster has time to dry. Very well we thought, we’ll spend the next while finishing the outside and paint when it’s ready. Not a chance. When we showed up the next morning at 7am, Man X was well into priming the first room. We tried to protest, and Gill, the painting expert gave a valiant try at explaining the need to wait, but Man X just brushed us aside with “no no, it will be fine.” He also rightly pointed out that it was likely to rain that day and so we shouldn’t start to plaster outside. We had no choice but to help him. Of course though, once the primer was done we had to wait a few hours for it to dry before putting on the first coat of paint. What will we do while waiting? We didn’t have a chance to think too long about it because Man X was painting peach first coat all over as soon as our backs were turned. Again Gill tried to explain to him the basic principles of painting, but again we were reassured that it would be fine and we returned to helping him cutting in the edges. At one point Man X started his second coat in the same room immediately after finishing his first coat. I think Gill almost lost it, and if he weren’t twice her size she might have succeeded in stuffing him into the paint bucket. On the bright side, we got all the painting done, primer and both coats, all in a couple hours and could leave early. Not bad for a Saturday. On Sunday when we showed up to meet the family for church we weren’t even surprised to see Man X already moved in, furniture arranged so as to not be touching the walls. So, today is the end of our second week and there are already people living in the house. Amazing!

More romorrowl

Today we finished the fascia, painted it, and installed gutters. Everything looks very nice, especially considering that the insides have already been mostly furnished and it’s very satisfying to look at the house as a finished project. The only disappointing things about the project have, perhaps inevitably, been dealing with people and money. Moses worked like a wild-man, but after the four days, he found a second job somewhere and denied that he told me he would plaster for the agreed upon price, and even said he wouldn’t do the floor, something he definitely had said he would do. He also forgot that he said he would pay helpers R60 per day, money we were donating back to Gogo Regina. I got a substantial discount out of him eventually, but he didn’t look happy about it. Then, Uncle Stanley somehow got the idea that we were paying him R1500 to do the plastering (the price Moses wanted to continue) but he didn’t mention it until we were mostly done. We offered to pay him R120 per day, for the time he was in charge of plastering – double the labour rate or R60 per day – but he had gotten the idea of R1500 stuck in his head, and the greed doesn’t seem to be letting him go. One night when we finally discussed everything he was quiet for a long time, and finally said, “I was just coming to help my sister.” And shook our hands before we left. Unfortunately he didn’t come back to work again, and he’s still complaining to Gogo that he’s owed money. Please pray for this man as he struggles between love and greed. Gogo Regina cares so little about money that she says she will pay him little by little even though his attitude seems to make her sad, just so he won’t hold it against her.

Enough about that. Today was lovely. The children are adorable and they are loved and now they have more space to live. Most people are very friendly towards us, and God is working. Africa is very interesting, how much evil and good are going on all at the same time. Pray.

Peter out.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Perhaps Candice's Last Post

Unfortunately, by the end of my trip, I will have only posted twice. Fortunately, that means I'll be home in a week! Or a week and 6.5 hours with the time difference. I must say I'm looking forward to it. Not because I don't like it here. I can't even count how many times I've compared Canada and South Africa in conversations with people and in my own head (snow vs no snow, community culture vs individualistic culture, education vs unequal education, degrees of care in government hospitals, history demanding a space in EVERYONE's life vs not much life-changing recent history, violent crime vs not violent crime, structure vs little structure - I will let you figure out which goes with what country)... and have concluded that they're just different. Neither is better than the other. But I still overall prefer Canada, and idealistically, if I could bring the opportunities and people from here and meld them into Canada, it would be very nice. But also very sad because it still wouldn't be ideal. I have a bittersweet thought process about the people and culture in south africa. I've also discovered a bittersweet thought process about the people and culture in Canada. I realize those are all very generalized statements. I could make a list of all the little things I like and dislike about each place, but I'm not going to at this moment. You can ask me about it when I come home though if you're interested!

The last week was fairly quiet, but included working with some interesting, but sad, cases: hand injuries from bullet wounds to the shoulder, from being cut up with a big knife (there's a word for it here, but I don't remember it), and from protecting one's head from being struck with a telephone cable (next time you need to protect yourself from being hit with a telephone cable, please have the backs of your hands facing out. Makes functioning a little easier later on). Also, there is an unknown boy in the hospital that I am working with - his parents have not yet claimed him. I had my midterm evaluation on Friday (the paper work got lost... typical), and one of the comments was that I was able to handle the traumatic events quite well. I think I have chosen to not have my heart become too soft in dealing with these cases or else I may cry myself to sleep every night. Also, it seems to be more of a norm. Have I become insensitized? I don't think so. It's just the way of life here.

I went to Soweto today - one of the biggest Townships where there were student-led protests (that started off peaceful) about not having education done in Africaans. It sort of started off the end of apartheid process. We went to the church where 5000students fled when their peaceful protest march turned into a bloody mess of police and soldiers shooting at them. Amazing story - there were no causalties inside the church. Bullets were flying from inside and outside, and there were no causalties inside the church. The altar was broken, bullet holes in the ceilings and through windows, but no causalties. We also went to the Hector Pieterson memorial (one of the kids who died in the protests above - look it up on the internet... I never knew about him before today), and Nelson Mandela's house.

And I also went to an orphanage, and the kids are incredibly sweet. Little black kids waiting to be held. Some don't smile, and some just need some stimulation. That's the first orphanage I've ever been to. After that, we drove through the Baragwanath Hospital - a HUGE hospital serving the Soweto area. It apparently has the best burns unit and care in the southern hemisphere.

Oh - and this morning I also went on a small plane trip flying over Joburg and area. Pretty fun! Interesting to see the contrast between downtown, the suburbs where everyone has a pool, and the poorer, quite shabby neighborhoods.

This last week has been fairly quiet. I had ALOT of alone time. Which fit perfectly with the idea of having solitude (which was my spiritual discipline to do during lent... but has overflowed with little effort on my side). It has been very good and refreshing for me, I think, to have time by myself. And to curb the loneliness, God has also provided thunder storms where I can sit and watch the lightening and be comforted by the thunder (which normally makes my heart beat very fast. The girl I was hanging out with today got a spark through her finger touching a metal map outside the memorial when the lightening and thunder came). I think, too, God has been purposely waking me up early so that I can pray... especially to continually consciously remember that Jesus died for me, and that I can live because He lives. I wish He didn't have to use pigeons, doves, car alarms, house alarms, gate alarms, roosters, and dogs to do that. But it seems to do the trick.

It has been good for me to think about what I'm doing in life right now. And to think about the things I would like to do as an OT. Or even not as an OT. To remove myself from the busy-ness at home and think and pray about how I want to tackle the next few months; what kind of focus I want to have, and how I continue on with what I've learned here, but at home. It's been so nice to renew the ability to not worry about tomorrow, or even the next things happening - even in the times I'm not doing something. And instead, take that moment to pray. To talk with God about what is happening. To tell Him I don't understand, or feel inadequate, to ask for guidance in little things, to ask Him to heal the people I work with, to use me, to mould me, to just sit knowing that I am forgiven and loved and not condemned. It perhaps took me 4 weeks to settle down enough to be able to be calm, but I am thankful that I have been here where I have not had much of a choice.

I have SO much to learn. Both as an OT and as a person. I am glad that God has taught me much while being here - or maybe not very much, but still significant things. And that He still is teaching me, and that I am still able to learn and grow.

I will be back next weekend, but may also sleep all next week, so I still might not talk with many of you for another couple of weeks. Half of me is defying the possibility of jet-lag, and the other half of me doesn't care and will deal with it without being stressed about it if it comes. Also, if there's anything I've learned while being here, it is to slow down a bit, and not do things (ie be on the go all the time, hang out with people all the time) because I think people expect me to (which isn't always the case, but sometimes is). I have enjoyed being quiet, and alone. As much as I love people, I have found this quietness to be a very valuable thing, and I think that lately it's been very pleasing to God. So when I get home, I promise I'm not avoiding people. I miss you all and would like to see you all. But I may not hang out as much, or perhaps I'll hang out a bit differently, because I have learned to value space when it is just quiet - where there is just God and me for a little bit.

So, I have one more week to pour myself into, and then I'll be home! See you all soon! And I'll give you hugs! I promise!

Much love,

Thursday, March 27, 2008

March 18th? Commune.

Okay, okay we’ll turn it down. This is Peter now, so if you don’t like reading my posts or if you have more of a crush on Gill or Krista (understandable, I may be irresistable, but I’m engaged) you can skip down a few lines. Actually it wasn’t really a commune, but it seemed like one. I think they refer to themselves as a mission. I was a bit leery about going to some hippie place nonetheless, but Gill was all for it (being a hippie) so I went along with an open mind. It’s free to stay there, and they provide free basic meals for you while you’re there, and they make it clear that you don’t have to help with anything and they want people to be able to come and rest. They stuck me in a dorm with a bunch of Europeans who mostly were there to help for a year or so, and on our first day we got a tour. He mission started with a Zulu revival where God’s spirit came down and hundreds of people came to repent of their sin and know God. It was started by these German South Africans praying in 1966, and the two main guys are still around running things. The mission grew and grew though, and there are over 100 “coworkers” (full-time missionaries) along with other full-time volunteers, hundreds of paid workers, and various other people associated with the mission. Over the years they’ve started various projects to help people or raise money, and now there’s about a million things going on there all the time. To make a short list:
-they discovered an underground spring, built a water-bottling plant, and are now south africa’s #2 producer of bottled water with a tractor-trailer full of water bottles leaving the mission every four hours around the clock.
-they had a few dairy cows which they’ve expanded into a huge dairy plant that sells milk and yoghurt all over SA
-some hydroponic expert taught them growing techniques and now they have state of the art greenhouses supplying the best peppers all over the world.
-they have planted several churches and schools throughout Europe
-they started an AIDS hospice where they pray for people to get better and it works
-they started a school for mission kids which now takes in several students from all over
-they started a college to train teachers which also now takes in students from all over.
-they started a radio station as an outreach to Zulus which now broadcasts all over SA
-they started a bakery which sells all over now
-and on and on, knitting, building, etc, they are always looking for more projects and use the money they make communally and to help people.
They have odd customs that remind you of a Mennonite colony like guys and girls don’t associate with each other, and girls wear skirts, but God really seems to be at work. Often a guy will sense that God is telling him to marry a particular girl. Often the guy doesn’t really know the girl, but he goes and tells an elder, and the elder goes and speaks to the girl, and then the girl prays about it a whole bunch until God confirms with her, and then they get married. We heard many personal testimonies of this, and it always seems to work out “wonderful!” The lovely lady who ran the coffee shop (another enterprise I forgot to mention earlier) said she hadn’t even touched her husband before they were married twenty years ago, and it’s still as lovely today as the first year they were married (which was lovely, I was told).

So, to sum up, a bunch of German guys got together and prayed for revival, and then it happened and tons of people came and became Christians, and then they set up this place for people to find rest and help them and then God gave then huge financial blessings so they could do it, and then God started setting up the marriages and everyone seems joyful and devoted to God.
I spent the week helping a couple Germans (Eddie and Marcus) building a cool octagonal kindergarten. Fun fun.

Peter out!

p.s. joel, you could come here for a year to see God working.
p.p.s. big shout-out to Josh who’s hair is dashing!! I mean seriously, have you ladies checked out that boys hair lately? Dashing.

Hello there littles, let me say something about Kwasizabantu. Pete forgot to mention that after the first day a cloud descended onto our hill and never left. My lips were blue, I wore sneakers with my skirt, the sweater I washed reeks like mold. Poor thing couldn’t dry, hanging out there for days in the cloud.

For all who wondered, I’m not staying at the ‘commune’ forever, not even longer than a week. I’m coming home, coming back to the World with all its confusing, convoluted splendor. Unlike Peter with his happy-go-lucky, all is well personality, I seem to think most things kind of suck. So, Kwasizabantu with its happy marriages, fantastically successful business ventures and people who so willingly gave up everything of ‘themselves’ to serve God and submit to the authority of the Mission was a little much for me. Too much sweetness, or simplicity, or purity. I don’t know fully but I suppose most of it has to do with something rotten inside of me. I felt if I stayed I’d have to be entirely different than I am – which was particularly sad for me to realize. For people to live together, so many of them, it seems to necessitate identification with the group self and goals, rather than those of the individual. I did see how the individual thoughts, perspective, etc lost significance in light of the whole, in light of authority, which was taken to be set-up by God. I think perhaps this pattern is indeed beautiful but it is a beauty I’m not quite able to recognize. I was unprepared for how much that bothered me in reality, because I’m pretty sure I’ve gone on about wanting it before. It seems for so many people to live together in peace and harmony they have to become almost un-human.

I came away thinking I needed to pray more, understanding that I do. Fearful – for it seems once you try to pray it brings shame – some sort of litmus test of faith. I never want to stick the paper in for I’m afraid it will come out the wrong color. Not sure what you’d want to be though, Acid or Base and which one does God want more?

I spent time alone this week, for the first time really in months. Normally I’m addicted to being alone but, being lately out of practice, found my own company unsettling, equally unsettling the company of others once you realize you’re not comfortable on your own. Being on this trip and trying to learn and make the most of my chance to change, serve people, etc, I sort of forget how to be at rest in my own skin. Forget the significance of sitting and thinking, forget about your own self as it is, apart from its growth.

I think I did find help at Kwasizabantu and for that, as well as for the many small and unforgettable examples of self-sacrifice, I say thank you and recommend their hospitality to any of you traveling through South Africa.

o Leah and kajsa, I’m glad you found the cream. Left it for you guys to fight over, thought if we were going to be away we shouldn’t take Everything good with us. Who knows but you girls maybe in need of a little ‘pick-me-up’ one of these slushy march evenings…
o I made Cream puffs in the Bakery.
o I’m addicted to Peanut Butter
o Janess, I hope your eyes have stopped exploding

That is all, sorry for the low-quality post, there was something about my week at Kwasizabantu that sits oddly with me. I find it difficult to post.


p.s. Josh Wilson is my favorite person to make Ginger Tea for (next to Janay Newton I suppose who introduced it to me… Janay is, for the record, one of the best people to be next to). I wish you well in Vancouver Joshie, I feel a kindredness for your time there and my time there and hope you don’t get really sad. And if you do it goes away eventually.

Welcome, dear wonderers, wanderers, wisemen and wives.

According to Peter, my task now is to “endeavor to temper Gil and Peter’s opposing steel into a double-edged sword.” He seems to believe that I always fall exactly in the middle of any contrasting points of view that he and Gil muster up, and because of that I must always be a forceful advocate for peace and understanding. On the other hand, Gil brings up that she hopes I don’t feel as though I need to play the balancing, peacemaker role. Such contrast.
It’s lovely that I mostly enjoy falling in the middle, and I really don’t feel as though I must translate (I try to do it only when it seems absolutely necessary).
I have wonderful traveling companions.

KwaSizabantu feels like a long time ago. It’s a good thing those other two filled you in on the basic details of the operation, I don’t think I’d be very up for such niceties. (Writing last in our posts has its definite upsides.)

In this case, I believe Peter’s over-glossing life at the “mission”, I definitely understand Gil’s unsettled feelings about the place. (Pete really is pretty happy-go-lucky.) But I found a lot of comfort there, despite the constant (twice a day, everyday) sermons on sin and rottenness and the sometimes eerie, Pleasantville atmosphere. I drank a lot of tea, read pieces of multiple books, wrote some, drew some, walked around the beautiful gardens, and had numerous valuable conversations with people who were either visiting or living at the mission. Since you basically get to make your own “program”, there was a lot of leeway regarding my everyday routine, and I was very pleased to have a downtime week. I feel bad for poor Gil, forgetting how to be alone with herself. She’s been doing such a great job socializing with everyone since we’ve been here that it’s understandable how she could forget. But since I’ve been incredibly introverted, and a little bit of a mute at times I had a grand time in the slowness and solitude. (I hated the damn cloud though. One day I was wearing a tank top, a T-shirt, a sweater, a zip-up, and a wind-resistant raincoat. Too bad I had to wear my dang skirt, so I managed to remain freezing.)

I still don’t know how I feel about the apparent losing of individuality for the sake of a smoother community. It seems like it’s a little bland. It may be Pride, or some other warped part of my ideas talking, but it seems like God made you and I unique, and I like it when there’s a little more room to express that than there seems to be at KwaSizabantu.
The people there were really hospitable to us though. We had invites to tea dates, lunch dates, supper dates, all sorts of dates –and the people we interacted with were quite open to expressing their interpretations of the mission’s ideas. We asked a lot of questions, trying to figure out how things worked, and got a lot of biblical-based answers. People really felt called to be there, and God is obviously using the place to changes lives.

So, there are many things to ponder and perhaps integrate into my own life, and a few fixations I’d rather not spend any more energy on putting into practice.

Peter asked me numerous times, “What if God tells you to go back there?”
Well, if God tells me, then I guess I’d have to go back. (God’s track record of specific demands regarding the direction of my everyday life is comforting here.)
“What if God tells you to marry some guy there?”
Marry someone I have probably never even had the chance to talk to one-on-one? Probably one of the more ridiculous things I’ve heard of, and one that I’d have some serious issues following through on. It’s not happening anytime soon.

In any case, I’m glad that I don’t live in that commune. But I’m glad that some people do. There was a lot of beauty there, even if I was a little disappointed that I didn’t find a bunch of Amish people churning butter and making yoghurt in large crates.
I echo Gil’s recommendation to check it out. (Joel, I wouldn’t say that you should come for a year, but I did think that you would find it interesting.)

I love a lot.
Sometimes I’m not very good at showing it.

P.S. I helped out in a Kindergarten class where the children spoke German, Afrikaans, Romanian, and Zulu… anything but English, really.
P.P.S. Big shout-out to Josh, who we really like.