Umphumulo, South Africa

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Living Simply or Simply Living…

To have been posted sometime early this December...

“The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

I passed by this quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson when reading a newsletter from a fellow YAGM and thought it coincidental because of what has recently happened at my placement site. I find it continuously intriguing on how comfortable I ‘think’ I am with knowing, being, and living in Umphumulo’s church center when this mysterious place can never really be predicted. But it is this unpredictableness that continues to define me.

Last week was probably the MOST eventful 5 days since being here for over 3 months at the center, but not in the sense of having to be here or there as an agenda is at hand… more in the sense of where are we going to get water, where are we going to cook, and how are we going to retrieve hot water to bath ? Now, I’m quite used to the occasional power outage that Maphumulo gets due to the aggressive rain and thunder or high winds, but there’s still the running water OR even the mysterious reasons as to why the running water isn’t working, but there’s still the electricity. However, as I dreaded this ever happening, you guessed it! Someone somewhere, somehow cut the electrical wires that provide electricity to the church center and since the water connections are, for a reason I still don’t understand, connected with the electrical wires… the church center was out of running water too. It became a dim Friday afternoon after hearing this news with Nomfundo, but that really didn’t bother us as we always find a way to entertain ourselves in these kinds of rural Maphumulo ‘living simply’ situations.

Saturday morning came and the situation at hand was still no big deal, but then Nomfundo heard from Dlamini, the handy-man for the church center, that it was going to be like this until someone could come and diagnose the problem; this meant we had to wait until Monday before anyone could do anything. I thought to myself, “Ok, no big deal. It will only be the weekend.” So, before Nomfundo and I went along with our plans for Saturday, I decided to call Baba and Mama Mabaso and let them know of our situation and see if we could stay at their home, the electricity and water only being a problem for the church center. With the gracious and hospitable family the Mabasos are, luckily they said Nomfundo and I could stay with them, but the church center’s situation was only about to get a bit dimmer.

Come Monday, of course the first thing everyone was paying attention to was the electricity and water; how can a business run without either? Unfortunately, with all of the phone calls and talking to people that was done on Monday, no one could come to the church center until Tuesday morning… another day. So everyone living on the church center premises had to endure the situation at hand still. This included getting water to fill our buckets that were loaned to us by Samu, the church center’s Center Leader, and then figuring out how we were going to cook… this really did take all evening. Tuesday came, and sure enough the electrical guys came to look at what was wrong. Well, it turned out that the parts that were needed to fix the wire had to be ordered due to not having them at hand. In the end, no one knew how long that was going to take as it could be days, weeks, etc. At this point, I was frustrated with how the situation at the church center was going and I was upset because all I wanted to do was wash my hair; crazy to admit but it’s true! After explaining and venting to Nomfundo, she ended up being very understanding towards my ‘cultural differences,’ and told me to not worry. She then jokingly told me that we were going to check into a hotel tonight anyways. This then made me feel terrible with myself because I began to feel like I was acting selfish; knowing most of the families living around me go without running water and sometimes electricity daily . Nomfundo, again, told me to not feel bad or terrible or even upset with myself because it’s just new and different, and she made a good point in stating that the electricity and water was totally out of our control anyways. You see, it is sometimes the unexpected situations that are out of our hands that can make us or break us, and after my ‘cultural breakdown’ I began to look at the entire situation differently… this is Umphumulo’s ‘simply living.’ It also made me think… at least I’m not having to go through all of this alone . Nomfundo and I, once again, spent the evening getting water and figuring out how we were going to make dinner, but overall by the end of the day I was just astonished at how much of an understanding, blessed, and strong woman Nomfundo is. Being friends, sisters even, with her has been one of the utmost gifts God has ever sent to me and I am continuously learning through her, with her, and alongside her.

Wednesday… day 5 (at least for Nomfundo and me). I woke up this morning with a new attitude and a new mind, and we all went to work with everyone leaving at 1pm, as there was still nothing anyone could really do without electricity. After work Nomfundo and I walked towards the guest house to visit Mandisa, a new visitor staying at the church center for the weekend who just happens to be a pastor too. The three of us were just having a casual conversation that turned into a little bible study; I love these random acts of God. Mandisa turned her Bible to Psalm 92:2 which states, “proclaiming your love in the morning and your faithfulness at night,” and as we read the verse aloud we each took turns to explain how we interpreted it. After what turned into an hour or two of talking about this lovely verse, we all noticed how late it was getting and we still needed to fill up our buckets with water and make dinner, something that was beginning to feel like a daily part of life. As we all headed out of the room and into the hallway, I turned to my left and BAAAM! Like when you walk into a room and everyone screams “SURPRISE!” I noticed the hallway light was ON! As I started jumping up and down and screaming, Mandisa and Nomfundo were soon to join in on what epiphany I was most definitely having. We then started hugging each other as the jumping and screaming continued for what felt like 10 minutes, no joke! I have never seen anything more beautiful in my life and I will never see electricity the same way again. We then rushed out of the guest house to check our own homes on the church center premises to discover that the electricity was REALLY working. The next thing that was needed was the water, but with the electricity working the water was soon to follow.

The following days in Umphumulo have been very thankful, rejoiceful, and charismatic… especially from me. Some may think it’s just another casual day of work, but for me it’s another day “to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that [I] have lived and lived well,” like Ralph Waldo Emerson puts it. It’s having the opportunity to thank Him in each morning that passes and then giving all of my faith to Him to watch over me in every situation that comes and goes, like stated in Psalm 92:2. It’s being able to see the wonderful people that fill up my life here, and it’s even being here in my so called ‘living simply’ life that I am noticing how challenged I really am, how blessed I really am, how faithful I really am, how enduring I really am, but most importantly how true to others, myself, and Him I really am on a daily basis. I can’t really put into words how different I feel or changed I have become after the past week without electricity and water, but as the unpredictableness of Umphumulo still staggers around all I can do is smile and continue on with the day. I am living simply, but I am also just simply living… whether on my own or with my ‘partner in crime,’ Nomfundo.

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