Wednesday, June 23, 2010

I ate Chapati with Ol’ Bessy and the angels on the MR3 in New Zealand!

Unjani (oon Ja Ni), How are you in Siswati!

This update is going to be pretty long but i’m hoping yall enjoy and feel apart of some of the amazing experiences happening in Africa this summer. I miss all of you!

Chad and I have been camped out here in Swaziland for a little over two weeks now, and are just beginning to feel more at home. It’s amazing to adapt into a new way of living that is in total opposition of my perceived normality at home. The week from the 14th to the 21st has been a week for the record books. Its become a definition, a stable example of pushing our human limit, relying on our heavenly father and receiving blessings from the least expected. I prepare to document it for all of you the best way i know how.

To live faithfully: I am learning

Woke up Monday, not sure what the day will look like. It appears that our attempt at forming a structured ministry schedule has fallen through the cracks yet again. Fail. We had hoped to remain busy visiting schools, food camps, HIV centers and being with the orphans all in hope to grab a better grasp of what life is like living in Swaziland and how we can document it. I guess we are on our own today the kids are off to school and the fortress is empty, except for Chad and I.
Breakfast menu: Chapati, Cheese and multiple cups of tea!

New Schedule; Monday

We have decided to spend our afternoon cooking chapati. It nearly took us an hour to light a fire under our sweet stove. Which happens to be a series of rocks stacked together, wire that we have found around the fortress and a bunch of wood thats just laying there. Chapati is a delicious fried bread, similar to a tortilla but with more sugar. I learned how to cook this in Kenya and currently Chad and I have made this our stable food, consumed at nearly every meal. Amazingly enough we have been able to keep occupied for the remainder of the day, filming shots for the documentary around and continually cooking chapati after chapati after chapati. The kids arrived back at home: its 2!

This is always a funny time because we love talking and playing with the kids but our siswati and their english only goes so far. So there is a lot of hand signals and sounds that we use to communicate. Helping them with their homework is the funniest part. Lets see tonight’s homework assignment was read, translate and write about 20 siswati words. Of course i am of no help in this situation and i begin to search for someone, anyone who is working on a universal language like Math. After a slight success, Chad and I head out to meet our new friend Viyuni (we call hime V) because we can’t pronounce his name well. V lives right across from the street from the church we attend on sundays. He is a Pastor’s Kid, and professional footie player. He plays for the Mbabane Highlanders and the Swaziland National Team.

The night and day blend, all i can see now is the orange horizon in the distance and remember hours of footie (soccer). I’m relaxing outdoors on our bunkbed hammock system we have rigged up. I’m excited to see the stars tonight. The moon is out, the milky way is in full view... i can see the hands of God carrying Chad and I through this summer.

Tuesday: ................?

Some how Chad and I have eaten about 3 hours worth of Chapati making from yesterdays cook off. This is okay, because flour, sugar, salt and water are accessible.. no worries.

We talked with the lady who operates the fortress today and she assured us that if we are to remain busy with filming this week, the following week will be busy with schools and orphanage work. In hearing this Chad and I began to become excited but a little confused. At this Tabby has basically told us there was no plan for this entire week of scheduled ministry. I am confused and thought maybe she didn’t understand we are only here for a short time. But as these thoughts entered i remembered something i learned in Kenya. TIA, and africa time. “This is Africa”, when i begin to control things with my American perception i loose the beauty of a lifestyle and culture that God has created.

I will continue to trust in a Father who has brought me here to Swazi,
I will understand that through his allowance i have been given this opportunity
I will remember that his work is done in his timing.

The mid week went by quickly. We got some great film.. and climbed Mount Fortress ( see Chad’s blog)

Thursday; Does Milwane even exist?

Thursday we had planned out, in fact this was the only day this week we had formed a legit plan of what the day might look like. Since again we had no set schedule and the kids weren’t expected back till 2 we had set out to go visit one of Swaziland’s famous Game/ Nature reserves. Milwane! We got up extra early this morning and waited for Tabby to arrive so we could get directions to where we were going. At this point we had not fully grasped how ridiculous of an idea getting directions here is. Since there are few street signs, the main source of direction includes petrol, circles and robots. Translation (gas station and traffic lights). This mornings directions. Drive, take a left, drive past manzini, when you see Coca Cola and a bridge turn left to the old road, take a left at the circle and look for the Milwane sign. This of course was our best attempt at getting directions as these directions were quickly affirmed by Tabby’s friend who was sitting nearby. I was skeptical to say the least.

But i couldn’t complain Ol’ Bessy ( our 17 passenger van) that we are delighted to drive around was up and running and we headed out the garage after a quick goodbye. We were on the road. To me, each and everyday that Ol’ Bessy manages turning over her engine is a miracle. She has over 245,000 K’s on her and requires a series of buttons and security checks before she will allow us to start. We made it and in no time we were completely lost. Our directions have proved to be insufficient, leading us down dirt roads coming to a complete stop at a large white tent that looked as if it could house my entire block in Chicago. This was a clear sign that things were not going our way this morning. We got back on the MR3 and drove to where we thought we saw some Coca Cola signs and what may have possibly been a bridge. These directions were hilarious, i secretly had admitted in my mind already that there was almost surely no chance of us making it to the game park anytime soon. But to our amazement we found something glorious! The Kingdom of Swaziland is completely surrounded by a huge mountain range. More beautiful than i have ever seen in my life. At the near moment of panic and failure Chad and I both gazed in awe, to the right of us stood a Huge Mountain: our hiking dream was at our finger tips. We barely had to say a thing to each other. Ol’ Bessy swerved off the road, parked by a nearby hut village and Chad and I began the journey up.

It took about two hours to travel up this beast and about the same traveling down. It was amazing the amount of different eco systems we encountered just on this journey alone. To my knowledge, at the summit we were in view of the whole Kingdom of Swaziland. I couldn’t imagine a greater beauty then what my eyes were seeing at that moment. It was as if on that day God showed a piece of himself to me, an experience i can’t forget. My eyes were opened to one of the most beautiful Kingdoms on earth (Swaziland), as a parallel glimpse into the Kingdom of Heaven that our Lord is preparing for us.

Ol’ Bessy remained stationed where we dropped her off, and we began the drive home after loading about 15 kids into the back and dropping them closer to home after their day at school.

We were back on the MR3. As we pulled out. We both started laughing... no way was this true. No way was this happening. We had turned the wrong direction and were forced to drive no more than 5 minutes down the MR3. We spotted 3 signs for Milwane. It was only 8 km away. If only the directions said stay on the one road (MR3) and look for the sign we would have made it. But then again... would i have wanted my plan to work out?? Naw, I think i’ll settle for the day God had prepared for us.
The sun fell, all became orange...
God i thank you for teaching
Even if i don’t want to be taught at times

Saturday came around so quick, as Friday was spent collecting firewood with several Swazis. Only God knows how this took so long, yet after the collection our stove has been much more efficient these days.

6/19.. We had planned to play footie with the youth from Joy church. In fact this had been planned since the previous Sunday and was even announced in the church. We had failed to communicate during the week on the time or the place so we have resorted to making sure all was ready for the departure to Nelspruit that night. We were leaving early to cross the border into South Africa and get to Nelspruit a night before the game. This was the idea, but as usual our plans haven’t gone as we intend.

L came to our house around 10:30. I call him L, mainly because his first name is so wildly different than anything i have ever heard but i am fairly confident of the first letter and he doesn’t seem to mind this gesture. He was our main man for finding information on this footie match, it turns out that the game is on and we have roughly 5 min to prepare our things and go play. We assured L that we were excited to play but had to be back home by 3 at the latest because we had intended to exit from the nearest gate which was due to close around 6 and we still had to pack Ol’ Bessy with our things and make sure all was good. L agreed and gave us a confident assurance. HA

We made it to the side of the road at Joy Mission. We were eagerly met by about 15 other guys all around my age or a little older. This was our team. We were set out to go battle another neighborhood church. I couldn’t be more excited. We hoped in the back of a pick-up and drove off. That’s right... there were 12 of us in the back and 3 up front! TIA. L scrambled some english and said what we believed to be the field is not too far away.

We left at 11. Arrival time 12:30. Ha the truck broke down around 6 times. When this occurs everyone jumps out the back stretches, pees on the side of the road and someone grabs a jug of water and dumps it on the engine. With my little knowledge about trucks i came to the conclusion that this truck was on the brink of exploding roughly every 5 kms, so a must needed shower was occuring quite often for her engine. The game didn’t start until around 1:30. I already knew by this time that we were not going to make it home. There was no way we would make it by 3 or even 4.

But hey, the experience of a true African footie match was ridiculous. It was so cool to be so involved and make friends with the youth of our church. At this moment there was nothing in the world that mattered, except this match and being apart of our team. Footie is a great communication tool worldwide!

We left the field at 4 haha! Chad and I now had to discuss what we were going to do that night. Our jenk directions to the closest gate were all we had, yet by the time we got home packed and left the gate would be closed. We had to travel to the 24 hr gate. That was the only option. But first we had to get home... this proved to be quite a large effort. It was freezing outside and once again we were all slammed in the back of the truck stopping almost every 10- 15 minutes. Chad and I exchanged glances. TIA was still spinning around our heads. At one point we stopped in the middle of the road and half our truck jumped out and we kept moving.Since Siswati was the only language being spoken, we had absolutely no idea what was going on. Shortly after we were stopped by a female police officer and told to continue on our way. We stopped about 1 km down the road, jumped out the car and flipped a U turn to grab the rest of our group. They hopped in the back and came to grab us quite easily... we had some how just beaten the Swaziland Road enforcement system, very sloppily.. i am still unsure how the police officer did not notice this plan. Once again the 15 of us were headed home. We made it.... it is now 6:30pm!
There is not much point in rushing now since we were headed to a 24 hour gate. We cooked up some jungle oats and had ourselves a couple battle axes of peanut butter, packed up our food (chapati, rice, beans), clothes, camera equipment, double checked our tickets and got some AWESOME directions to the gate. It was once again Me, Chad and Ol’ Bessy hitting the road.

This time we assumed bad directions. We had forgotten all our maps, our directions were as follows: go on the MR3, go past Mbabane, turn left at the gas station and the robot, take the road straight to the gate. Yet again we found ourselves failing to figure out this African way of guidance. We located what could be the gas station he was talking about and met with an angel. We both were saying silent prayers for the Lord’s guidance, right as we pulled into the gas station we stumbled upon a man who spoke brilliant English and happened to work at the gate we were trying to get to. He ended up driving down that way and allowing us to follow him the whole time. He called himself Brian, i know that can’t be his real name... but it was great to be able to pronounce something again. He gave us sound advice regarding Nelspruit and traveling safely at this time. I thank God for sending us this gas station angel to direct us out of Swaziland.

Everyone here always tells us “ oh Nelspruit, thats close, no worries.. its about 2 1/2 hours away”. This is not true. In fact it is much further than that. Its around 250-300 K’s away from Manzini and i guess maybe if traveling at 100- 120 K, knowing precisely the correct turns you may get there around this time, Chad and I could not manage to do this. In fact Ol’ Bessy tops out around 80 unless she is cruising down a paved mountain in which her top speed is limitless.

Speaking of limits, we were pushing Ol’ Bessy’s gas limit a little too close for comfort. We had figured like America, Africa should have gas stations nearly every 20 k’ s or so. This is not the case. In fact, we drove nearly 100 K’s without the site of petrol at all. Ol’ Bessy had managed to guzzle down the rest of the tank in a matter of 150 K’s. We had began the battle with the E. We were forced to engage homemade cruise control ( leave in neutral as long as possible) until speeds slowed to nearly 30 K’s. We were cruising past a small town called Badplaas, Chad and I decided that this was our last chance for petrol. If we could not find it here, we would sleep in Ol’ Bessy in town, and search for gas in the morning when it was more likely for a small town to have an open petrol station. For some reason our priorities got mixed up and plan B was to resort to prayer, asking God for direction. I find it annoying when i realize time and again that continually i try to control situations myself instead of allowing God to do what he does best! I said my prayers and just as Chad’s voice rang out “ I think this is the decision point, we might want to look for somewhere to crash”, a huge Total gas station appeared around the corner, with a working ATM for us to take rand out to purchase the fuel we needed. Its as if God had known the whole time that this would happen, in coming to this junction he wanted us to feel the need for him and faithfully rely on the God we claim we have come out this way to serve. DUH!

Worries slipped away, Ol’ Bessy received her first of many battery boosts by a strange South African man, who was barely able to handle his own vehicle. Slowly but surely we managed to re juice her to health and head the last 90 K’s or so to Nelspruit.

Since we had arrived to Nelspruit so late really our only mission was to find a place to crash. I had been to this area before on the way to Kruger, and this was the location of the poosher junking out in the middle of the road. We felt fairly confident about the area we were now driving in.

We found it. “The Town Lodge.” We were going to crash here for the night, we pulled in, slipped by a guard and went and parked Ol’ Bessy in the back between two huge busses. We had no intention of finding a room, or a bed. Our night would be spent in Ol’ Bessy with our sleeping bags,15 extra seats, a stove, rice, beans and of course Chapati. I slept fairly well that night, numbed to the huge lights flashing in the windows and the sound of sirens i felt at peace. I had arrived safely to Nelspruit and Chad and I were going to see a World Cup match the following day. It was a like a dream, i had to continually convince myself this all was actually happening.

Chad woke first, as I laid there convincing myself to attempt to sleep longer. As i opened my eyes i was pleasantly surprised to see the sun out, it appeared Ol’ Bessy had managed through the night okay. We ate Chapati and peanut butter celebrating a successful night of car camping. Today nothing could go wrong. We were going to the World Cup!

8:30 am: Chapati
9:00: Picked Chad’s debit card up at the Fifa office which had been previously left there. This to my shock was given back to Chad with ease. Realizing that we had just received a debit card that had gone missing for nearly 2 1/2 weeks in Africa we stopped and thanked God for his work.
9:30: explored the riverside mall where we would park our car and ride to the stadium, then went to an early morning movie to kill some time. “the Killers” Weird movie ha

We parked our car around 12, ate more chapati and beans then headed out to the stadium. i could barely contain my excitement and neither could Chad. Both of us were laughing and amazed at this once in a lifetime opportunity to attend a match in South Africa for the first time.

New Zealand Vs. Italy

The crowd is ridiculous. Hard to describe the passion here, or the noise.. but we have captured a lot in pictures and film. Chad and I pretended to be hard core New Zealand fans and they put on a great game. Tying 1-1, with Italy scoring a weak sauce PK that was only given by a bad referee call.

6:30pm: The game is over and we decide to head to fan fest. No idea what this is, but the name is compelling. We imagine a whole load of people will be there. We smash ourselves into a way overcrowded bus and head that way. The crowd even on the bus still remains fired up about the game.

8pm: Fan fest was kinda a dive, but we were able to munch some African food and jam to some African music for a while. Our plan for tonight was to remain in Nelspruit and wait til morning to head to Swaziland. The last thing we wanted was to be crammed at a border gate for hours while Ol’ Bessy sucked down more petrol. We tried driving to the “Funky Monkey” which is a back packers lodge that we stayed at the last time we were in Nelspruit. We felt comfortable and knew the bartender who assured us of a good time if we were to stop by, plus this was the best bet for a safe place to park Ol’ Bessy for the night. We never made it there tho, yet again we became lost and some how found ourselves at a New Zealand Street Festival that seemed to have just sprung up in the middle of a block downtown Nelspruit. There was a bonfire, a live dj and tons of people. It was surreal. We made friends with some people from New Zealand who had sat near us in the stadium.. they all seemed to be having a great time..their laughter was contagious, the atmosphere was indescribable! We left early, it was a long day.... Ol’ Bessy lead us to a 24hr Gym, we made camp for the night and slept as best as we could.

Monday: Its now a day after the game, Ol’ Bessy’s battery has died roughly 10 times and we are stuck at the border gate to Swaziland. We woke up early this morning after a rough night sleep, but decided to munch some Chapati and hit the road early. After loosing our way several times we were now stalled out about to enter into Swazi. Ol’ Bessy refused to start, we ate Chapati and peanut butter again... She finally started and we had picked up a passenger along the way. The border police asked us to take this old man to Mbabane which was on our way so we agreed. He did not speak any english, i almost forgot he was still in the car after a while driving. I was more concerned about the road that lay ahead of us.

The border police had told us this road was a gravel road for a while, then evened out to a paved road going towards Mbabane then Manzini. We were okay with this, we had no other option at the time we had already crossed the border. Little did we know the road was loaded with tree stumps, boulders and grand canyons... the road was barely driveable. Ol’ Bessy chugged along, amazingly passing a couple stalled out cars, including a car loaded with some of the New Zealand people we were with last night. We exchanged greetings and kept on our way. The road seemed as if it would never end. Some how once again Chad and I have discovered what seems to be the longest route from Nelspruit to Manzini. But who cares, the ride was beautiful and the experience was even better.

3pm: The journey had finally come to an end and we were pulling through Manzini. Chad and I were both exhausted but had managed to keep good spirits as we celebrated by taking a mountain dew each. We were amazed at all the obstacles we faced just on this short journey across Swaziland to Nelspruit.

Psalm 16:11
You made known to me the path of life;
in your presence there is fullness of joy;
at your right hand are pleasures forever more

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