Saturday, September 14, 2013


Time to leave Africa, so what's next? Where do I go? I'm wandering, at this point. I have to be somewhere on this planet and time had run it's course here. I booked a flight to Thailand, because I'd heard so many amazing things about the country, and conflicting emotions of excitement and sadness welled up inside. 
Three days to leaving africa, so I had to make them count. 
I went down to the harbor in Cape Town, and found  
it was festive and beautiful.

I discovered the US was so close there was even a sign to point you in the right direction.

I caught a ferry to Robbins Island where Nelson Mandela was held prisoner for twenty-six years.

The prison
Nelson Mandela's cell

The 'Yard" where they sat and broke stones for hours on end in the heat and sun.

In this corner, buried under the vines is where Nelson hid his writings every day.

Although this looks like just a pile of rocks, it was made by the prisoners years later as they returned in peace and forgiveness, the impact immeasurable. The pile remains untouched to remind everyone.

My south african friend, Saranne, said I could not leave without seeing the western cape in all it's unspoiled beauty.
 She picked me up in her car and took me on a day tour.
She was so right.

The flat mountain on the left is Table Top and the peak to the right is Lions Head.
Tomorrow I will climb to the top of the Table.

But for now the sun sets as we head back to Cape Town.

                                                I climbed to the top of Tabletop Mountain

Yes, that is CapeTown you see below.

The top of the mountain really is as flat as a table.

The view is so endless you can see the curve of the earth.

Africa had become familiar.  I was here long enough to embrace the energy, and the people. I learned to appreciate their thinking, their hurdles, and their indomitable spirit. Africa had stretched me, pushed me and challenged me in ways I never dreamed imaginable. I faced so many fears here. I became comfortable with being uncomfortable, which I realize is a valuable gift. It seems impossible for anyone to come away from here unchanged, and I myself am very different than when I touched down in Tanzania. On the flight to Thailand, the airline has said I am only allowed to take one bag, period.  I can not  pay money and take another. The few belongings I brought with me on this journey have now been cut in half.  I'm stripped down to just me. I guess I'm going to find out what I'm really made of.

Africa, my love. Good-bye.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

lion of judah

       "Hello everyone, I'm Tom, your guide from Cape Town. Welcome to the Full Moon Hike up Lions Head Mountain. Does anyone know why you picked the right month to make this hike?"
        "It's a Super Perigee Moon", said the person next to me.
        "That's right. It means the moon is larger and closer to the earth than it has been in almost twenty years, so this should be awesome! The climb gets progressively more challenging as we go up, with one part being an actual rock climb, should you choose to take that particular path to the top. Keep your buddies nearby. Everyone got water?"
       He looked at me, "Where's your group?"
       "Just me." I grinned. "Always just me."
       "Ok cool. Well, follow me." As we headed up the hill, he was soon surrounded by people asking questions.

       Cape Town, South Africa reminds me of San Francisco. It's a cosmopolitan city on the edge of an ocean with a kaleidoscope of people and many exciting things to experience. One can go Sand Boarding down a huge dune, shark cage diving with the Great Whites, hang out with Penguins, go to Carnivale, visit Robbins Island where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned, and one of my personal favorites; climb Lions Head Mountain.


Lions Head 
Views from the climb


       As we worked our way up the mountain I fell behind the crowd, becoming engrossed in the same thought patterns and questions that dogged me the last months.
       ‘I’m at the tip of the continent; there’s nowhere else to go and I am confronted with myself. What do I do now? What is my purpose? What does my life even mean? I should have these answers by now.’ 
       In a moment of complete exasperation I looked up and for the first time on this entire trip, cried out to the heavens in my head, ‘What do You want me to do?!’

       “I’ve given you a lifetime of experiences. Use them to help people.”

       I stopped dead in my tracks and looked around to see who was speaking to me.
       No one. 
       I was alone.
       The hair on the back of my neck stood on end.
       In that instant I recognized the voice. I’d heard it only two other times in my life, and I clearly knew the source. A sob erupted from my chest that doubled me over and threw me down on one knee. I grabbed onto the rock to hold myself upright. Chills ran all over my body, chills of awe. At the same time a frequency that can only be described as the purest form of love flowed throughout my body.  The voice that speaks to me is without judgment, not commanding. It is more like a statement. A helpful piece of information given in a slightly matter of fact way. The voice was also wrapped up in a tone of endearing love. It was there, and in the next instant, it was gone.
       The low sun pierced my eyes as I looked upwards and shouted out loud, “Where…? How…? What people…?”  But I knew there would be no reply. There never was. He had given me what I needed at the moment, and no more. The rest was up to me. I pushed myself off the rock beside me, brushed my hands and steadied myself to stand.
       When my life fell apart, the pain was so deep that I went numb. An explosion of epic proportions had obliterated my heart. Walls shot up around it for protection and, God Himself, was not immune from the emotional standoff I was having with the world. But this separation from Him was new to me.  I have known I was a child of God since I was old enough to have a conscious thought. I sought out His word, studied it, memorized it, and taught it as I grew older.  More than words, though, was His steadfast unconditional love for me and mine for Him. He has always been my anchor, my strong force, my companion, and I’ve always understood that His place in my life couldn’t be separated from who I was.  Even many years ago, when my daughter died, I didn’t turn away.  I determinedly told everyone who questioned the tragedy, that God had a reason and one day I would understand.  But this time, I didn’t question, I didn’t get angry, I didn’t do anything; I went blanket numb. And so I ignored Him, covering my eyes to His stars of light, denying even His comfort.
       I would have thought by now He would have turned His face from me, but He waited patiently for my pain to run it’s course, gently reminding me of His love by periodically placing people in my path to tell me.  An American woman on the plane to Rwanda, an email from home, a new South African friend in Cape Town, and the wise words given to me by Mama Tofu.
        I know Him, but I couldn’t feel Him, and I operate on feelings. I know in my head He loves me and so had not turned from me, but I didn’t feel it.  And if I don’t feel, I’m like a little boat in the water without a rudder. I’ve been paddling around in circles. He knows this, of course.  He knows everything about me.  He knows all of the parts that make up my whole, and He loves me so completely anyway. At this moment, on the mountain, I can’t imagine why.
       The sob poured forth gratefulness that I am not alone, that He still cares for me and has a plan for my life that is greater than I could ever hope for or imagine. I let His love wash over me, and at the same time I am ashamed that He had to speak audibly to reach me.
       I don’t know how much time passed as I stood there.  The others were long gone up the path, but I had done some rock climbing when I lived in Colorado so I knew I’d be ok to make it to the top on my own. He had given me an answer to the long, sought out question that took me all the way to the other side of the world. I wiped my eyes with the tail of my shirt, and the snot, with the back of my hand. I’d like to say I returned His love with a moment of thanks, but as I started up the path, my human nature surfaced.  I am a child, after all, a stubborn infant, and knowing that He was still near I mumbled under my breath, “You know, a billboard on Interstate 40 would have been a lot easier.”
I watched the sun set beautifully in the west, turned, and watched the moon rise in the east from what felt like the top of the world. I realized it was time for me to move on.  Africa had given me all that it could, which encapsulates the irony of this great continent; I was supposed to help Africa and yet, Africa had helped me. 

Moon Rise

Thursday, October 27, 2011

right humans

       One of the best things about reaching Cape Town was being reunited with Seri.  You remember her, right? Seri of "Seri's Cross Culture Porch, of "Asante Sana" and kissing a giraffe, Seri of "Kili and Zanzi" the ice climb up Kilimanjaro, and the list goes on. She's practically a blog legend! It's not enough that Seri volunteered for three months in Tanzania, making a huge difference in the lives of everyone she touched.  That would be plenty for any person, who could then race back to the states, guilt free for hot showers and Starbucks and beds without nets. Oh no, that's not the stuff she's made of. Seri went straight to South Africa for another three months of volunteerism, with yet another school.  This is a woman who is clear about her purpose and passion. She's a ninety pound fireball of activism for children, and the importance of educating them to brighten their future.  Her enthusiasm is contagious and just being near her, the glow of it rubs off on you. After we'd caught up with excited, rapid fire talk-over-each-other sentences about our experiences during the last few months, Seri said,
       "I think you should participate with me in a march on Human Right's Day. We'll march for Minimum Norms and Standards in the schools, from the city center to Parliament where we'll remind the government that these kids must have the basics to get an education."
       Of course that would be her normal conversation. And of course I couldn't say no.

So march we did.

Having Tabletop Mountain as a backdrop, the rally started with a concert and speeches about education. With mostly middle and high school students in attendance, 
the final count was over 20,000!

Seri's posse also included some other amazing volunteers.

The band Freshly Ground performed. They were the band that sang
"Waka Waka" with Shakira at the FIFA World Cup. They
got the crowd pumped up!

Spontaneous dance circle 

um. yes.  another spontaneous dance circle.

backpack wisdom

Then the march begins.

At close look, the crowd behind stretches for a mile. wow

The students were so happy to have their say and stand up for their rights.
It was inspiring.

These are the things needed in the schools out in the Townships:
Water, toilets, electricity, enough classrooms, a library, textbooks, 
a playground, and an administration center. 

It's difficult for us to understand it, 
but these are the things they don't have. 



1.  Kids who have everything...

The Grio reports:
A dozen people were arrested after several fights broke out at a back-to-school rally in (a US State).Police were called in to clear the streets after the rally started to wrap up and several fights broke out in downtown (a US City) Thursday afternoon. Twelve people were arrested and several people were treated for injuries they received in the melee.  

2. Kids who have nothing...

The New York Times reports:
In a peaceful demonstration, more than 15,000 people marched in Cape Town on Monday to demand libraries, computer labs and other resources for township schools, many of which are vastly under equipped. 

Hmmm, interesting... peaceful?... violent?... what does this say?

I choose not be discouraged though, look where we ended up.