Unbeknown to us, January starts very slowly here, partly due to the heat but also it being the main school summer holidays with many people travelling long distances to see friends and family. We did feel a bit sorry for ourselves at times, but we had a couple of highlights.
Don had his first ever birthday in the sun, spending it on a nearby beach which has a penguin colony. We enjoyed a day of swimming in the South Atlantic Ocean with the penguins and reading our books. The beaches are very different here from Europe, there are no sun beds or beach bars to relax on and in. Everyone simply arrives on the beach with towels to lie on, and their own picnic. Despite asking Capetonians why this is the case, no one is able to give reason for it. Surely a business opportunity for a local entrepreneur?
The 19th January marked our 1st year anniversary in Cape Town and it has been a year of mixed emotions, struggles and triumphs. We wanted to thank all the people we have met and who have made us very welcome, encouraging us and helping us settle in to this city of extremes. We moved in December into a small loft apartment in a very large garden and in January we were able to host a braai in the garden for all those people. We invited those we work alongside in Khanyisa and Sweet Home Farm, people from our church here and others we have met along the way. It was a very diverse mix of over 50 people from very different backgrounds who would not normally have the opportunity to spend time together but they all had in common, making a middle-aged couple from Glasgow very welcome. We all shared food, drinks, fun and laughter and the last people did not leave until after dark. We have already been asked by many when we are planning the next one!! We recognise that we have a unique privilege here as we work alongside communities who have very few material possessions yet live beside others with plenty, and we feel that part of our mission here is, in a small way, to be a bridge between them if we can and give opportunities to meet to help break down barriers which are longstanding. Maybe the isiXhosa lessons we have been taking since January will assist with this, but it is not an easy language to learn (Ndithetha kancinci nje, kumnandi kodwa kunzima).
Lorna started health education and fitness classes for NewDay United (www.newdayunited.org) in Khanyisa which have been very well received by the local community. She is covering a different subject every week, including the heart, the liver, the kidneys and the digestive system to help people get a better understanding of their own body, how it functions and why illness occurs. The attendees are mostly men in the community who are waiting in the church car park for food from the soup kitchen and there has been lots of discussions and questions during each session. It has been a privilege getting to know more of the community and listening to many of their stories. Unfortunately, due to gangland violence in the area surrounding the church, the kitchen has had to close on a couple of days for the safety of the ladies who work in it and for those waiting for food, so a couple of the health classes have been cancelled along with the afterschool programme to ensure no one is caught in the crossfire as they arrive at the church.
The infrastructure upgrading work continues on Sweet Home Farm, but frustratingly slowly. Many of the people there are being relocated into new but sub-standard, city-built homes to make way for new roads, and sadly this is a process big on disruption, and short on dignity for the families involved. In fact, at recent community meetings there has been a rising ground-swell vocally calling for the sand-bag incremental houses like the Process House UBU (www.ubu.bz) has recently demonstrated. It will be amazing when the infrastructure works are complete, and plots are delineated so that community members can work with us to make these homes possible. In the meantime, as well as facilitating the upgrade works between the community and the City officials, we progress ‘micro-projects’ in other areas in an effort to create training and employment for our team. We have just completed the erection of the timber ‘eco-beam’ frame for a small but growing grass-roots project in Khayelitsha.
An area of potential overlap between our roles here is in the development of a Community Hall within Sweet Home Farm and we described the need for this in our last blog (‘Looking Up, Looking Out’). As we write, there is a concept design on the table for discussion and we are turning our minds to raising the necessary funds. A short video has been prepared to share around when we briefly return home in April.
The main reason for this return home, though, is for our first Grandson, Samuel Donald McLean, born on the 17th March to meet Gogo and Tatumkhulu and we can’t wait to see him…and everyone else, of course.
‘I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing’
John 15:5 (NIV)