Sunday, October 31, 2010

Journay to Joburg: Day 4: Soweto

Journal Entry: Monday, October 11th, 2010
Our visit to Soweto was pretty intense. Only our second day here in SA and we're starting off with a packed day.

Laura and I started our day a bit late. Our phones hadn't switched over from London time, so when her alarm went off at 7am, it was actually 8am. So, needless to say, we were in a bit of a rush. However, we still managed to enjoy a lovely English breakfast, sip some tea, read a bit of scripture and pray before we set out to the Oasis Haven SA office. We meet the SA team, took a brief tour of the office, and then headed to Soweto. Soweto is the largest township in South Africa. It is home to 4 million people. FOUR million!! This area is quite large, but not nearly large enough to house 4 million people. Not comfortably at least. I still need to get the square mileage for Soweto. I asked a couple people, but they were unsure. When I do find this bit of information, I will most definitely come back to it in this post. It's worth knowing.
I also learned that Soweto is abbreviated for South West Township. I also was informed that Soweto is a township home to primarily black people and of those 4 million people, alone about 4 people living there are white.....and they are witch doctors. I wouldn't classify them as good people to be around. We definitely stuck out as tourists. It's rather uncommon for white people to visit Soweto.
It's pretty difficult to describe in detail what I saw and felt. It's a culture shock. There were corrugated tin metal houses built up against brick homes, run down homes, rubbish and rubble, dumps, etc... There were people selling fruit and other items along side the roads. Little shacks were set up called tuck shops, which sold items like chips, soda, etc.... There aren't a lot of opportunities for work in the township. People work in the city, Johannesburg, or they create their own informal business...such as the tuck shops or fruit stands on the side of the road.

I also noticed that most people were on foot. The vehicles on the road were mostly tourists and taxi's. It made me both sad and angry seeing how many children were walking home from school alone. It's so dangerous. You want to offer them a ride but then reconsider when you think about how dangerous that is as well. You'd be teaching them to accept rides from strangers and putting them at risk of getting in the car with someone who doesn't have a kind heart.

Beth told us about the transportation in and out of Soweto. Most walked a few blocks to get a taxi which would take them to a stop where they would then take another taxi, or more, to get to their final destination.....which they usually had to walk a few blocks to get to. The taxi's here are not like our taxi's in the States. They don't pick you up and take you to any destination you'd like. If you're walking and a taxi is driving by, the honk, you then give a sign, which is a symbol of the destination/part of town that you're needing to get to, and if that's where they're headed, they'll pick you up. If not, you keep walking, or waiting, until another taxi comes by that is going in your direction. Another form of transportation is the train. There are two railways that run through Soweto. And both are very dangerous. I think the train is like the last resort. Women are often rapped on the train. Beth said that it is rather common for women to put on 3 pairs of underwear before leaving the house in hopes to slow a rapist down. I couldn't imagine going through what these people face and live with everyday.

During our visit in Soweto we went to the Oppenheimer Tower which was built to honor Ernest Oppenheimer. He was an architect from Germany who came to Johannesburg during the time it was settled as a mining town, and built 1,400 matchbox homes for the men working in the mines.

We also went to the Nelson Mandela Family Museum and the Hector Peterson Museum. Both were very informative about Apartheid, the forced segregation among whites, coloreds and blacks. I really should post more information about these museums, but right now I can't locate the information I received while at each museum. However, if you do want to know more, you can google Apartheid, Hector Peterson and Nelson Mandela. And, as soon as I do find those pieces of literature on the museums, I will post it in this blog.

Oh, side note.... I also fainted at the Tower. Yeah, how could I forget about that!? lol
It's sort of comical, really. I mean, it is now but it definitely wasn't at the time. I'm not really sure what exactly happened but all I know is that I felt an anxiety attack coming on while we were at the top of the tower, then my vision blurred and then I was on the floor with both the US and SA team surrounding me. Thank God for Paula and Lori who caught me and kept me from tumbling down the curvy set of 49 stone steps. Phew!!

After our adventures in Soweto, we went back to the B&B to freshen up before dinner. We went to dinner at the Chairman of the board's home. He and his wife made us a delicious South African meal of bibotti and pavlova for dessert.
Our day ended at 10:00pm and we were all surprised to have made it up so late.
These first couple of days have been amazing. I thank God for this wonderful opportunity.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Journey to Joburg: Day 3: OR Tambo

Journal Entry: Sunday, Otober 10th, 2010

So, apparently the trick to good sleep on a plane is lots of walking prior to the flight, Dramamine, a couple glasses of wine, a neck pillow, eye mask, my cozy blanket, eye mask and my stuffed animal puppy, Love. Oh.....and head phones.
I slept about 8 hours of the 11 hour flight. It was awesome!! I literally shut my eyes within minutes of sitting in my seat. We hadn't even taken off yet and I was out.

Our arrival into South Africa seemed pretty surreal. It still hasn't (hadn't at the time) fully hit me yet that I'm actually here. I'm not just taking about going or dreaming of being in South Africa. I'm here! Well, I'm somewhat here.... I'm still out of it from the flight.

Beth picked us up from the airport, we rented a car, loaded all of our luggage into the back of Beth's boyfriend's truck and then went to breakfast. After breakfast, we headed to our B&B, the Pepperwood Lodge, where Donovan unloaded all of our luggage. We had an hour to shower and freshen up before we headed off to one of our homes.
Today I met Amanda, Fifi, Thandi, Caroline, Banelli, Nicholas, Leroy and Kia.
They're all so sweet and cute. And of course they have awesome accents which just melts your heart a bit more. It was so great to finally meet them. I'm excited to go back when I'm well rested and have more energy. They all just want you to play with them, push them on the swings, climb on you, play with your hair and ask A LOT of questions. Question after question after question. They're like every other child I've ever met. They're so incredibly loving and trusting of complete strangers. It was amazing to me. What a blessing they are.
Tomorrow we head to Soweto, the largest township in Joburg. But for now, I'm going to bed. I'm spent.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Journey to Joburg: Day 2: London

Journal Entry: Saturday, October 9th, 2010
We arrived in London around noon. After not much sleep we headed out into the city. We took the Heathrow Express to Paddington, then took the circle line to Hyde Park. We had tea at The Orangery at Kensington Palace. It took every last ounce of energy in me to keep from falling asleep in my tea. My equilibrium was seriously off. I felt like I was spinning. I'm guessing it may have been due to the fact that we had travelled by car 2 hours, at the airport for about 3, on a plane for 10, had some, but not a lot of restless, uncomfortable sleep, and quite a bit of free wine!! I had to excuse myself from the table. I kept having this vision of face planting into the table. I had to get moving! I walked around outside, took some pictures, watched the brave, cheeky little squirrels come right up to people in search of food. The pigeons were ballsy too.....and not on the petite side either. The other gals finished their tea and we killed the time by wearing ourselves out by walking all around Hyde Park. I slowed us down a but by stopping for random pics of trees, flowers, and swans (I've included a few in this post) And then we headed back to Heathrow Airport via underground and the express train to endure our last leg of journey to Joburg. But not without buying some Dramamine.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Journey to Joburg: Day 1: Travel

Journal Entry: Friday, October 8th, 2010

It's amazing to me how much I've grown just in the last few months alone.
When I first spoke of my plans to go to South Africa my family was not too thrilled. They brought up questions like; What? When? Why? What about your job, your career? How about your future? Your life with Jacob? Aren't you planning to get married? Can't you just send money? Why do you have to go?
And I have to admit, they were all very valid questions.
At first, I didn't know how to answer those questions. They all hit my like a freight train.
Not having to give it much thought, I answered, "Well, I know the strong passion I have for this organization, I'm not sure yet how the rest of my life is going to pan out, I'm not quiting my job, and I strongly feel called to go." Let's just say that it didn't put their minds at ease right away, but they definitely had a change of heart.
And as I sit here today, currently on an airplane headed to London, all those questions are still there. They haven't all been answered entirely and I'm at peace with that. I have faith and trust that God will take care of all of that.
My journey thus far, the idea of going on this trip alone, has drastically changed. As I left for the airport, I departed with the full love and support of my family. God has used my passion for Oasis and philanthropic adventures to bring my family closer together. He has blessed me in so many ways. I am so excited to see how God is going to use me and where he leads me.

Return from Africa: Day 4 of being home

Now what? What's my next step? I thought I had a clearer picture. I had a better idea of what my purpose is. But being back at home now, I feel even more lost than ever. What am I supposed to do with those experiences? What does God want me to do with what I saw, what I learned, what I felt....? How do I tell others. How do I open their hearts like mine has been. How do I change the hearts of those who just don't understand; both believers and non- believers. They don't know what South Africa is like, what the people are like, their circumstances, what real poverty is. I can't expect others to go through the change I did. They didn't get the opportunity that I did. I've changed, I've grown, and I come back and everything is still the same. No one else changed. And it's ridiculous for me to think that they would have.
What's God's purpose for me? What is God doing through me? How am I to fulfill what He wants of me when I don't know what that is? Am I on the right path? I'm unclear of the direction He's pulling me in. Can I get some help, please? Something, anything so that I can better serve you, Lord.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Skinny Jeans: Every woman has a pair

You women reading will completely understand this.....especially if any of you have seen the movie Eat Pray Love.
I'm sure all of you have a pair of jeans that you just LOVE. You wear them all the time, they're your absolute favorite....... maybe these jeans might even be a pair that you haven't been able to fit in for a while but you just can't seem to part with....? Is anyone able to relate?
(Just a side note, when I say "skinny jeans" I mean the jeans you can no longer fit into....)

I have several pairs of jeans in my closet. Most of these jeans I don't wear for many different reasons; they're too long, too tight, they've got rips in certain areas, etc...etc.
But this one particular pair of jeans I have in my closet I really love but haven't worn in over a year because they're just a bit too, ummm.....well, they're snug and they started to create this sort of muffin top situation. I think it had to do with the combination of being unemployed for several months, boredom, falling in love, being wined and dined ........ It's a good thing I continued to workout because it kept me from gaining too much weight. But I sure did fluctuate quite a bit during those months.
Like most girls/women, we're never really happy with our body. We are our worst critics. And my wonderful, loving boyfriend is probably going to want to smack me for this post, because he thinks I'm the most beautiful woman to walk the face of the earth, but I have to do it.
The other day I was getting dressed and dreading it like I do most days trying to figure out what to wear, when I came across that pair of jeans in my closet that I haven't worn in over a year.
I decided to attempt to put them on. This is where Eat Pray Love comes into the picture because the scene that went on in my room was much like the scene in the movie when they're trying on bigger jeans due to their muffin tops. I was hopping up and down, sucked it in, did a few squats, got them wet.... everything possible. But lo and behold, I got those suckers on. Now they didn't fit perfectly, they were still snug, but I'll be damned, I was going to wear them. I felt so proud. And I lasted all day in them. I'll admit though, at the end of the night, I did have to unbutton the top button. I was just so thrilled to be able to get into them again.