Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Happy Merry New Christmas Year…

So it has definitely been a little while since my last post, but I can assure you it has been a bit of a journey for me too! I spent Christmas at Kenosis where I was visiting another volunteer’s placement site. It’s really amazing how each and every one of the volunteers alongside me are really having their very own experiences as we are all being in very different ways. With that in mind, I met some of the orphans, some of the foster moms, some volunteers from Germany, and the Sisters (Nuns) that Kenosis houses. Due to the holiday season most, but not all, of the orphans and foster moms were at their original homes, but that really didn’t burden my experience of Kenosis.

So Christmas day… it turned out to be a very bright South African experience! Kate, Amanda, and myself woke up, got ready for church, and then loaded the Kenosis Kombi where Sister Happiness, Sister Lindeni, and Sister Sthembi took us all to the ELCSA church in Imbali. Now I must admit that I was very thrilled on this very event because it’s really not every day that you see nuns in a kombi and driving it too!! It was AWESOME! On other notes, it was a very simple service that was full of singing Christmas songs in Isizulu, a nice message of why Christmas is celebrated, and of course saying, “Ukisimusi Omuhle,” (Merry Christmas) and then giving a nice, warm hug to those all around us. We then loaded the Kenosis Kombi again where Sister Happiness dropped the three of us at the kombi rank. From here we headed to the Maqoqo Township, which is a rural village outside of Pietermaritzburg, where one of the Kenosis foster mom’s invited us for Christmas lunch.

Upon arrival, we started right away with helping Thandekile in the kitchen as she was the only one cooking for about 25 people and at the same time watching and trying to entertain about ten children! The three of us ended up making potato salad, beef curry, stiff pap, cole slaw, chakalaka, and for dessert custard with fruit. We also helped with taking turns in entertaining the children in the midst of all this cooking too… it was really a challenge trying to cook and clean and keep things as organized as possible when you had children between the ages of 6 to 15 poking you every so often! But none the less, it was nice being able to help Thandekile, play with her children (most are her foster children), have the opportunity to talk and meet her and her neighbors, and most importantly be in her home and experience the simplicity of Maqoqo. As time quickly passed by, the three of us then had to leave Thandekile and her children to go to a Christmas dinner that the Sisters were preparing back in Kenosis. As much as we all just wanted to stay and just be in Maqoqo… taking in the air, witnessing and experiencing the joy and love everyone has for one another, knowing that we all now have a home in Maqoqo, and learning that Christmas really is not about gifts… we said our goodbyes, but only to experience more of the “blessed unexpected” that is South Africa.

Christmas dinner was just about ready when we arrived back in Kenosis. As each and everyone took off their shoes before entering the Sister’s home, I noticed that the sisters had set up a nice buffet style meal that included mashed butternut, green beans, mashed potatoes, gravy, turkey, and for dessert custard, fruit, biscuit (cookie), and whipped cream layered in a big bowl; a very simple and satisfying meal. As the 20 or so of us talked amongst ourselves, it was soon time to clean up. So Kate, Amanda, and I headed towards the kitchen to help put leftovers in containers and in the fridge, wash and dry the dishes, put the dishes in the cabinets, clean the counters, and sweep the floors. What was probably the best part of this meal was cleaning up with the sisters. As the three of us came into the kitchen to start helping we all, in some odd way, began to sing hymns in Isizulu as the cleaning process continued. It was so much fun being able to sing, clean, and dance and WITH the sisters too. To see the light, smiles, and joy in each and everyone’s faces was really a piece of the spirit living and being expressed in each and every one of us… this will really be a Christmas to remember! After cleaning, we then said our goodbyes and headed back to Kate’s room where the three of us were able to have a bit of a traditional Christmas of our own; listening to Christmas music about snow when there was no snow anywhere to be seen (at least this was a BIG change for Kate and Amanda), opening presents that we ended up buying for each other, and reading a Christmas book before we all fell asleep (thanks to Kate’s mom who sent her a Christmas book for Christmas in the mail). Christmas day was definitely filled with unforgettable events, love of family, warmth of friends, and the spirit of Christ… which is how Christmas is like at home in Texas.

Now for the New Year! Can you believe it’s already 2011… as 2010 brought about great things for me (graduating from TLU and then finding myself coming to South Africa), ringing in 2011 in Lesotho was definitely something I’d NEVER dreamed of one day doing. And just so you know (as I thought these were some pretty interesting facts), Lesotho is known as the ‘mountain kingdom in the sky,” for the magnificent and wondrous Maluti Mountains make this country the highest elevated country on Earth and they still have a reigning king and queen, and some describe this country as ‘sitting on top of South Africa,’ as this country is surrounded by South Africa and its lowest elevated point is higher than South Africa’s highest point. So yes, I was in Lesotho with eight of my other MUD family members to bring in the New Year. Lesotho included a great deal of hiking, exploring, and laughing, but it also included a great deal of peacefulness, being, and witnessing. Now I’m no preacher, but Psalm 30:5 (“…weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.”) quickly comes to mind when I think of our Lesotho adventures because pretty much most of the time we were in Lesotho it rained… and not just your average 30 minute or so “light” rain either… it really poured, for hours at times too. But even with the rain coming down, it did not alter our great experiences. We all still managed to have a great time with each other… as not having a good time has never really been the case when we all manage to be with each other.

Some of my favorite parts of being in Lesotho were hiking and getting to the top of the mountains where you could really witness the beauty of this country (I got some really great panoramic pictures too!), playing Uno around the table (a fun filled card game that brought a piece of home to our journey into Lesotho-thanks to Christine for bringing the cards along too!), banging pots with spoons as the New Year came in (all for Kate-as this is what her family does as a New Year’s tradition… and I must admit I may be brining this fun filled experience home for when 2012 comes along!), riding a pony just like the Basotho (thanks to Andrew who introduced us all to Rose and Kennedy, the people in charge of an HIV/AIDS orphanage that Andrew’s nonprofit organization-Bloom Africa- raises money for clean drinking water) who own a horse and know friends who allowed us to borrow more horses for riding in Lesotho, meeting the Thorns, Rose, and Eric (the amazing people who provided lodging for us, helped us with transportation from Roma to Ramabanta and vice versa, and put our feet in the ‘right’ direction as we explored the paths while in Lesotho), and getting over the flooded bridges caused by the heavy down pours from Ramabanta to Roma (what a stir of emotions this brought to us all!). Lesotho is really one of those places that will never get old as you look at its scenes over and over again. I remember feeling like a broken record at times as I would state to myself how beautiful this place was and then still not even believing that I was actually there. You can literally take several pictures of this beautiful country and send those pictures home to let others see what you’ve seen, but it still would not portray the wonders this place has you feel or give any justice to the originality of its culture and peacefulness until you witness it for yourself. It’s the part of the commercial that I would consider “priceless,” MOST DEFINITELY!

With that said, Christmas in South Africa and ringing in 2011 in Lesotho was extraordinary. I hope each and everyone had a great time at home, with family and friends… as a part of me wished I was home doing the same things that are done every year! However, 2011 is here and I’m still learning about myself as my South African hosts continue to lead me; especially when I arrived back in Umphumulo with NO water and electricity! Funny thing though, is that I was expecting the unexpected. Oh Umphumulo… what a great place to be and breathe it all in! :)