Sunday, November 4, 2007

it's been a while

Hi, friends! Sorry for the long delay in new posts! I've arrived safe and sound in South Africa. I'll be in the Johannesburg area for another week before heading to Cape Town for a week and a half and then rounding out the trip visiting relatives in Durban.

You haven't heard from me partly because I've just been tired of writing. Yes, that even happens to writers. This first week here in Joburg has turned out to be unexpectedly refreshing, though. The first half of the week I overlapped here with some friends from Nashville who were my original connections to working for the Upper Room. We've never spent so much informal time together, so it was a treat to visit with them here.

The second half of the week I had planned to do some interviews, but the people I needed to talk with weren't available until this coming week. I ended up with about four days with nothing scheduled. The down time has been great. I've slept a lot and had time for praying and reflecting and trying to catch up with my email inbox (putting all those things in one sentence shows I'm not buying into any sacred-secular life divide, right? :-) ), and I feel ready to work again. I did have a bout of loneliness yesterday, but God unexpectedly managed to provide a good conversation with an instant new friend and prove that He's watching out for me.

As my itinerary marched toward South Africa, folks have commented fairly regularly along the lines of, "Oh, it's a lot like America." And, I have to say that it was nice to arrive at the airport and find that that comment seemed true. And then to leave the airport on roads that felt like roads at home. And then to eat at a nice restaurant that seemed much like something from home, except for the "monkey gland burger" on the menu. Go google it to find out what it is if you're curious enough. My second day in town I made a quick shopping trip. Somewhere along the way I commented that it seemed like the racial mix might be similar to that at home. Are there really so many more white people here than in the rest of Africa?

My friend explained that South Africa is actually 80% black and 20% white. It really is still Africa here. Places have been built so that you don't always see those percentages. Oh. On Day 3 I went along on a tour of some of the informal settlements where folks with the ministry Come Back (who I'll be interviewing this week) work. It was interesting to find so many similarities to things I've seen on other parts of this trip. It doesn't feel strange to be here because it feels familiar now. And it's different from America. This is really still Africa.

And then I started wondering how often at home we don't see the poor places where the people who live with less live. How often are those places hidden away from view, suggesting a reality to casual travellers through our cities that isn't real. I've been struck before by how pretty and glossy things can seem in Nashville. It's the good life there. Then I would meet the homeless man who frequented our Starbucks parking lot. Hmmm.

I don't really have many conclusions to share yet. Just these observations. I'm still in Africa.

And though I'm ready to be home, I'm still glad to be here. I've been here long enough that it's almost beginning to feel like I live here. Things are starting to feel normal.

1 comment:

Mark Kelly Hall said...

Glad you had time to rest, even though unexpected (that can be the best kind).

Make sure you let me try to hook you up with my friends in Cape Town!