Friday, January 31, 2014

The Big Mac

It would be a big fat lie if I said that my time in South Africa has  been all smiles and rainbows. I, like most people who are thousands of miles from home, get homesick. I thought that I was pretty good at hiding this emotion from the people here , but about a month and a half into my stay it was very apparent - even to strangers.  
Due to the schools being closed, I had a week off of work.  This amount of down time was not very good and it made my head spin like a ferris wheel.  The honeymoon phase was really wearing off and I was craving something “homey”. This feeling built up and built up all the week thru to Sunday when I felt the waterworks starting. 

My host rotates churches every week and she decided to change up her rotation to a church that she said  I would really enjoy.  In my head I thought to myself, “if it is under 5 hours long, I will enjoy it!”.   I know, I know, it was a bratty thing to think.  As soon as we walked into the service I started to cry. It was in English and it had a worship band - two things I had not encountered since I arrived here in SA. 
As we were leaving, I over heard a man talking to my host sister. He said to her,
“You should take her to McDonalds. She looks homesick and they have those in her country!”
I laughed at his comment and realized that it was probably the week’s worth tears that were now on my face that clued him into my homesickness. I am pretty confident that I had tears in my eyes the whole service.  They were tears of joy,  for I was able to get a little piece of home, thousands of miles away. Now, I probably will never go back to that church and may not experience another service here in English again, but I am very thankful for my host realizing what I needed that day and allowing me to experience it.

PS  This occurred at beginning of my journey, I thought it was pretty funny and fit into my journal of grateful moments...No worries, I am doing very well.:)

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Spiders and Bats and Lizards…oh my!

Growing up with Bob Mack as a father has given me a great appreciation for the natural world around me. Much of my childhood was spent following animal tracks, catching snakes in the forest, and saving injured birds, bunnies and turtles. It wasn’t until recently that I realized that this love for nature has its boundaries and this specific boundary is my front door. I love nature in the outdoors, but when it creeps past the cement that acts as a barrier between my bed and the grass outside I will protect my territory

In the past few months I have had some fun roommates, and not of the human kind. These roomies include spiders the size of tarantulas, lizards, beetles, and bats. Part of me is convinced that God is playing a little joke on my cries of loneliness.  As much of a nuisance as these creepy crawlers have been, they have definitely provided many stories, some of which I would like to share with you.

Spiders and Beetles:
Lets just say that I find so many in my house dead and alive that I tend to just kick them under the couch and just sweep them out at the end of the week!

Bat: I am convinced that if I had a hidden camera in my house I could make money off of the ridiculous videos that they would produce. I really wish that I had a camera rolling on a specific Monday night. I was sitting on the couch writing letters when I heard a bit of a ruckus in the kitchen. I hear noises quite frequently and I wasn’t in the mood to investigate what may have been going on it there. About 3 minutes later this black blob came swooping in front of me on the couch. It flew into the wall and continued to do it over and over -smacking itself senseless. This is what I was hearing  in between my screams as I covered myself with a blanket and rocked myself in the fetal position. I had a quick flash of The Office episode where Meredith gets rabies from a bat and I found myself spending a few minutes talking to myself to build up the courage to leave. I quickly got up and ran to my neighbor’s house to see if she could help me.
We walked into my house and the first thing she grabbed was a broom. This tiny little 40-year-old woman just started swinging at this bat. Naturally the bat defensively started to fly all over the room. I hid in a corner covered in a blanket, laughing and peering out to see what was going on. This went on for about 20 minutes until she looked at me and said “Lets get the Raid. Let’s make it drunk!” Next thing I knew, the two of us were hysterically laughing as she is spraying Raid at this bat flying around the room. - Long story short, after quite a while the bat finally fell to the ground and we swept it out the door. My animal loving heart was frightened we killed this confused bat, but thankfully once it got outside it flew away. I haven’t had another bat yet (knock on wood), but I still need to patch up the hole in my kitchen ceiling where the bat crept in.

Lizards: I found a couple of these geckos in m my house and unfortunately am not 100 % positive that they have left. Let’s hope that they will not climb into my mouth like the scene in Parent Trap!
I pray that all of you are having bug and critter free homes these days!

Appalachia Service Project

 *This one goes out to all of my ASP friends.*
 It’s been mentioned before, but I tend to have an abundance of thinking time here.  Mostly my nights are spent reading, writing and  reflecting on my day, my future plans and the things that make me happy.  Guess what?  Appalachia and my memories of ASP (Appalachia Service Projects) are usually on the top of my “happy thoughts” list. It wasn’t until recently that I realized how many times a day I am reminded of my time at ASP.  Below is a list that I have compiled of the many similarities between my time in South Africa - specifically Masealama.
1.) Morning Mountain Mist.
To some, the dark foggy mornings can be a bummer, but for me it brings me back to doing early morning hardware runs. I find myself sometimes singing “And the sun comes up about 10 in the morning…” , because much like Harlan County, Masealama doesn’t see the sun on most days until about 10 am.

2.) Bulk Ordering.
The former
OpCo (Operations Coordinator) in me was so happy when it came to grocery shopping the second month I was here. In October I didn’t spend nearly as much on groceries as I did in September. Why you ask? Bulk ordering/buying. Thank you Mr. Craig Griffie.
3.) Cows and Dirt Roads. Pretty self explanatory.

4.) Bats. I feel like there are a pretty good amount of staffers that have their own bat stories. I don’t have one from ASP, but my SAfrica bat experience has been pretty epic. (In future entry)
5.) Feeding the Masses. Everyday it is my job to help distribute and feed 80 little children. This is about just as chaotic as feeding 80 hungry volunteers.

6.) Showering? Lets just say I should probably bathe more often than I do. I am pretty sure that the addition of “every staffer must take 2 showers a week” to the staff contract was because of me and my first summer on staff. Thanks to my summers on ASP staff I learned some pretty nifty ways of cleaning up.
6.) Talking to Laura Kelly. Some miraculous thing happened when I moved here. I started communicating with Laura Kelly more frequently than I have since we both slept next to each other on the science room floor of Chapmanville Middle School.
7.) Relationship Ministry. I realize the idea of accompaniment is much like how we describe ASP's ministry.  ASP is " a relationship ministry with construction on the side”.  I see my time with YAGM as an extremely similar concept - with my work in the creche and youth on side.

While there are many similarities - a few of the differences would include: no blue monster, lots of sleep and being alone instead of always having 3 other hooligans to stay up to absurd hours of the night with. I try to look past these differences and savor the similarities that bring me back to one of my favorite places with some of my favorite people!

I miss all of you and I pray that you are doing well!

Peace, love and the Porch,


Wednesday, January 22, 2014

I Want to Hold Your Hand

As much as I desire to learn the language here, and I am - ever so slowly- finding that the language barrier has allowed for us to communicate in different ways.   Holding hands has become a definite way of communicating for me.

Every morning when I walk to work, I always seem to run into a mother or gogo (grandma) walking their child to the crèche. When we cross paths, I watch as they take their child off of their back or let go of their tiny fingers and then I know that it is my turn. This simple action says to me “I recognize that you are a part of this community now and I trust you with my child -  the same way that I trust the people of Masealama.”
The next thing I know, the little child’s hand has slipped into mine and we are on our merry way. It is usually a silent walk with the occasional giggle and stare, but there is ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS, hand holding. These 5 minutes fill me up and speak to me loud and clear.   I am being told… 
You are a funny looking white girl, and I trust you!”
Smiles from across the world!

"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit."  Romans15:13

Friday, January 17, 2014


I get it now. It has taken me 22 years, but I finally really understand that Thanksgiving is so much more than the turkey and the cranberry sauce and the turnips and the pumpkin roll that my mom so deliciously makes. It actually is about being Thankful. Shocking - I know.

Being away from home this year has allowed me feel deep gratitude for so much in my life, both in America and in South Africa. I have found that it is never for my bed, or a shower (which I probably should be craving a little bit more), but rather more for the people and the little moments that I took so much for granted. I could go into a 50-page blog post about how my time here has made me so grateful for people and communities back home, but I won’t  bore you with clichés that I am now finding to be common when describing my life. All you need to know is that my journey here thus far has taught me more than I could have imagined and helped me grow in ways I wasn’t expecting. There are days that I really miss people at home and even just the ability to contact them on a regular basis, but I am so Thankful for those hard moments. They have made me appreciate everyone I took for granted and has allowed for me to value the relationships  I have formed here in South Africa.

No doubt I missed my family this year for Thanksgiving and even more at Christmastime, but I am unbelievably
Thankful for the 14 other wonderful people I spent the holiday with - laughing, cooking and most importantly Being Thankful for this life we have been given.

“To give thanks in solitude is enough. Thanksgiving has wings and goes where it must go. Your prayer knows much more about it than you do.”-Victor Hugo

Living Grateful,


Thursday, January 16, 2014

Monkey Girl


One day I was at my house making lunch when there was a knock at my door. When I answered, there were 3 boys standing there not having much to say. They just stared at me and giggled. Now I see these boys everyday and they usually have something to say. :)  Earlier in the day I had been hanging in my hammock, and I thought that maybe they came over wanting to hang in it.  So I said "hammock?" and "swing?" many times until one of the boys whispered into the another boy’s ear and they giggled. The boy yelled “MONKEY” and they laughed at the expression on my face. My face dropped, I squealed and ran to get my camera.

I followed these little boys to a tree about 3 minutes from my house. There we found about 10 boys climbing trees yelling “monkey” and “tshwene”.  I looked up high in the tree and there it was; a little black and white monkey perched at the top. Every once in a while it would hop branches and we would all run around the tree to get a better view. We all hung out for about 2 hours around that tree and it was one of the most special times here in Masealama - Not because I saw a monkey, but because I felt like I had developed a bond with these boys.   They knew I loved monkeys and they didn’t want me to miss it!

Haven’t seen a monkey in Masealama since, but am hopeful we will see more.  And now that I have 10 other pairs of eyes looking out for them, I think the odds are pretty good.

That afternoon, I left the tree with a smile on my face, a stiff neck and  a new nickname - Monkey Girl.   Now every time I walk past the school all the kids yell out “Monkey Girl -  Monkey Girl - Monkey Girl.”


Monkey Girl

Friday, January 10, 2014

Hamba Kahle, Tata Madiba

I remember earlier this summer when I was at home and my mom and I were watching the news and we both had heard that Nelson Mandela was in critical condition. We both had mixed emotions about this. Aside from the sadness that we felt about the fact that the world was inevitably going to lose a true hero, we had similar but different hopes. My mother, while praying for healing, wished that if he was going to pass soon, that it would be before I left on my journey to South Africa. This was out of fear of what might happen in the country after his death. I, on the other hand, also prayed for his recovery, but knew that if he was going to pass, I wanted to be there. I wanted to experience the joys and pain felt in the country and with the people directly impacted by this man.

I was saddened by the news of Madiba’s passing that I heard on that Friday morning when I woke up, and  I was also  looking forward to seeing  how this country was going to celebrate it’s hero and father. While there was nothing really happening in Masealama or in the areas around me like the bigger cities, I still was amazed at the doors that were opened for conversation. It gave me an opportunity to start conversations, but more importantly it provided the people of South Africa a platform to share their deep and heartfelt stories. These conversations and stories were about him, about what he did and how he directly affected each person’s life. I had these inspiring conversations with my neighbors, friends and even strangers. His death was a segway to having these important conversations that I was too afraid to have since I arrived.  This discussions and shared stories have taught me more about the government, Nelson Mandela in general and the incredible change he created in South Africa. It blows my mind that all of this occurred in my lifetime.

The week after his death I basically was glued to the TV watching all the documentaries on him and interviews about him and every time I hear about his life and the extraordinary things that he has done I continue to be in awe. I was impressed and proud of this country’s tribute to their father and I pray that the country continues to remember him and make him proud as they move forward as a nation. Mandela fought hard and suffered greatly for this countries freedom and it is the people of South Africa's turn to continue the fight for equality - for everyone. 
Hamba Kahle, Tata Madiba! (Go well, father Madiba)



Monday, January 6, 2014


*This looks like a long post and it is, but it is one of my favorite moments in South Africa so far. I hope you read it and enjoy!*
There are days when I doubt. Some days I doubt myself and other days I doubt humanity. On some really bad days I even can doubt my faith. Don’t even get me started on how hard the days are when I doubt all three. It seems that when I have these doubts I usually get a big slap in the face proving me otherwise. The morning of Mandela’s memorial service was one of those slaps in the face. Literally!

I made my way down to the local town, Turfloop, in hopes that they would be having a group showing of the memorial service. My friends and I were sadly disappointed when there was no viewing to be found; therefore we were going to miss the service. Since the trip back up at that time was going to be a hassle, we decided to make use of our time in "Turf " by grocery shopping and getting some lunch.
I told Maishe and Taylor to go ahead to lunch and I would meet them after going to purchasing a bus ticket. For those of you who are not aware, there are good times and VERY bad times of the day and month, to go and try and purchase a bus ticket in the same place that they give out government money. I unfortunately had chosen the worst time (mid day) and the worst time of the month (early-mid month). The line was outrageous, but a ticket had to be purchased and therefore I waited in it. I spent about 30 minutes in line praying for patience and being silent. Out of an effort to distract myself from the hour or so I had left in line, I began to talk to the girl standing behind me. We talked about what she was studying in school and I shared what I was doing here in South Africa.
After about 15 minutes of talking to this girl I began to feel like I was going to pass out. In the years past, this was not necessarily an uncommon experience and I have learned that all that I need to do is go and sit down somewhere for a few minutes. As much as I didn’t want to step out of line, I knew that I had to. I quickly told this girl that I had to leave and about 50 steps of leaving her I passed out on the brick ground outside of Shoprite. Next thing I knew, this young girl was at my side asking if I was okay. I felt fine, but embarrassed. I then began to panic a little when I looked down and saw blood all over the special Nelson Mandela newspapers I had just bought. She helped me move myself out of the way of foot traffic and pointed out to me that I had cut my chin. As I felt my chin I could tell that there was a pretty large chunk that was cut out. I tried very hard to keep calm and handed the girl some money and asked her to go and purchase me water.

While she was in the store, Maishe and Taylor came and looked for me. They found me all shaken up and since I had no way of seeing my face, they told me that I was definitely going to need stitches. The girl came back with my water and in a daze I said thank you and walked off with Maishe and Taylor to go and get stitches.

Dear Girl in the Shoprite line,
I am so deeply grateful for you, your help in my time of need and the fact that you stepped out of that long line for me. I pray that someone let you back into your spot in that long line.
The Girl With The Chunk of Chin That is Lying Outside of Shoprite

Doctors Office
As we left Shoprite I began to panic a little bit about going to the doctor. I really do not enjoy going to doctor at home, let alone in a foreign country. Not sure what the conditions and procedures were going to be like at the doctor made me worry. I kept this very much internal around the boys, but I asked a lot of questions like: Did the Dean recommend this doctor? Are you sure that this is the doctor that you went to when you lived here? Both answers to these questions were, yes.
We walked right into the doctors office and I put my name on a list, answered a few questions, and laughed at the receptionists comment about them not having any white skin to fill the chunk on my face. As I sat down in the waiting room, Obama was just beginning to speak at the memorial service. Taylor and Maishe joked that this was a blessing, because it allowed them to watch the service. I unfortunately missed the speech because I was called into a room not shortly after I sat down.
I hadn’t cried once since I fell, but as I walked into the office by myself  that's when the waterworks started. This gentle, patient doctor let me shed a few tears before he asked me how I was doing and if it hurt. I said between sobs, “It doesn’t hurt, I’m just really far from home.” He looked at me and said some of the most comforting words that I have heard since arriving in South Africa.

The same God who sent you here is with you today!”

Naturally the waterworks started again. (I am learning how emotional I truly am!). This doctor, not knowing who I am, or what I believe chose to share something with me that I needed to hear in the midst of my fear. Before I knew it my chin was stitched right up. I shared with him what I was doing in South Africa and without any hesitation he began to say a prayer for me right there in the office.  

Dear Doctor in Turfloop,
Thank you for showing me that God is present even in the crummiest of days. Thank you for stitching up my face and reassuring me that I wont have a heinous scar for when I go home. - and even if I do it is like I got a free tattoo.
The Girl Who Could Not Stop Crying in Your Office

On this day in Turfloop I learned so much.  I should not doubt - I no longer should doubt my ability to do things on my own. I no longer should doubt humanity after a random stranger helped me. And I no longer should doubt God’s presence in my life - for He has been with me all along.

It is quite a beautiful thing that this all happened on a day that the whole world was coming together to celebrate the life of an exceptional man, Nelson Mandela. Individuals in this community came together to help me, a white girl, in a time that I needed it most.

Madiba, there is no doubt that your legacy continues through your people and their random acts of kindness.