Friday, June 08, 2012

Durban ho!

A long ride in the mini-bus and we arrived in that Indian-flavoured African city.  The city is beautiful – but I’ll let the pictures tell you firsthand of the stately buildings, Zulu dances (carefully censored so Curt & I don’t have to dress anyone in magic-marker swimsuits), and many Indians (apparently the largest concentration outside of India itself.)  Aaron had his beautiful DSLR Canon along, and whenever we cracked it out for pictures we felt every eye gawking.  In a place where people are killed for their shoes, we felt it was something of a liability.  And perhaps that’s why we were a little less careful of my camera –take note.  Anyways, we hightailed it for the ocean and spent that afternoon in salty sunlight, tossed about in the Indian O's warm surf.  We eventually emerged to discover that my camera, left under the eye of the lifeguards, was gone.  It was foolish of me and I’m sorry to you, Dad & Mom, who gave me the camera.  I also lost many pictures, and there will be none for the remainder of the trip :( 

 Nonetheless a good curry dinner cheered things up a little, and we scuttled off to a hotel.  The Metro Lodge had the luxury of toilet seats (the first we’d looked at didn’t!) and we booked two rooms there for the night (for those wondering, rules of propriety were definitely followed.)
On Tuesday we went to uShaka – shark, in Zulu-speak.  It’s a massive marine aquarium, the best I’ve seen yet, and we were thrilled by the graceful dance of the dolphins, the slinking sharks, the crotchety old faces of sea turtles and muscle-crackers, and the African penguins who were swallowing fish twice the length of their heads.  But I think I liked the seal show best – it was more of a play than anything, and one hapless gent was voluntold from the audience to come “on stage.”  But he was petrified by animals in general and only ventured near the area at the persuasion of the trainer.  There a seal burst out from nowhere, he gave a girlish scream and the seal chased him off stage.  The seal returned a minute later with underbroekies in his teeth :)
And then we left the blue and yellow world of Durban –its sea, sky and sunlight—and headed back to Richmond.  I said goodbye to Aaron (it was really REALLY nice to trade experiences with an old friend!) and arrived much later in Pretoria.  And there’s not much more to say, except one very interesting event.  While waiting for my ride in Pretoria, a young man sidled up.  He was Sebastian.  And his story poured out in emotionally-loaded pieces: parents dying, leaving him only deep debt, depression setting in...  A close encounter with death and deep scars to tell of it.  Then somewhere along the line, God stepped in.  He sent a man to tell of Jesus and offer hope.  After some time in rehab, Sebastian was released three days ago.  He had been living in that terminal, trying to raise funds to make it to Pietermaritzburg where he might have family.  And so our paths crossed: he was headed for the very place I’d left!  Suddenly I knew why that ride was taking so long.  We prayed together, and I told him of Immanuel’s Wish Foundation (the hospice/ rehabilitation centre) in nearby Richmond.  God willing, he is in Pietermaritzburg as we speak – and if he doesn’t find family, he’ll find help at Immanuel’s Wish.

Just clownin' around

Ugh, this is really long.  But so much happened!
I set out early Friday morning for Richmond, Aaron and ultimately, adventure in Durban.  Our coach began rolling bumpily across South Africa’s bumpy rolling scenery.  Even now I’m distracted by the barren scenery.  The flat brown mesas look like this land of hills was run through a planer that sheered its peaks off.  A speedy Greyhound is ok, but one can’t help but long for a horse-back trek through it all.
The bus held some fascinating characters: Louisa, marketing intern from Germany who’s still trying to sorting through South Africa’s social puzzle, Marcus, the Zulu with a genuine perma-smile and dozens of tales about his people and Rashul, the emo from Durban who is “addicted to sadness,” longs for heaven but isn’t sure if that “kind and gentle” Allah will let him in.  Between roadblocks and delays it was a slow ride but at last the brown scenery began to crack with green, opening into the lush valleys around Pietermaritzburg.  Anticipated arrival 6:30 pm.  Actual arrival 9:30.  This is Africa.
 We were all quite relieved to see each other at the terminal.  Aaron had been wondering why his three calls hadn’t connected (I forgot my phone in Kwamahlanga) and I was worried about them being worried. 
The next day was designated a “Fun Day” at the hospice.  While that combination may sound a little odd, it was actually, well, quite fun.  The kids from the nearby squatters’ camp were invited in for a rollicking time on the rented jumping castle, the pool (if I hadn’t seen the water beforehand I would have sworn it was filled with old coffee!), musical chairs, dance competitions and face painting!  I was lord-high clown and fool – while I wasn’t a natural at it (no smart comments, Matt!) :P I did enjoy painting 40 squirming black faces!  A mulungu (white person) can be frightening, but a painted white person?  That’s enough to send little babies screaming.  But I smiled bravely through it all :D
As yet another batch of candies was pressed into little hands and mouths, I commented to Linda that these kids were going to be hopped up on sugar.  “That’s a good thing,” she said.  What on earth did she mean?  “No, it is a good thing.  Many of these kids don’t get square meals.  It’s a good thing.”  Wow, there is indeed a season for everything.
Linda was one of the very special people at Immanuel’s Wish.  I’m not sure how much I should say about her story, but God has clearly brought her from darkness into light.  Her compulsive hugs and bright smiles are a testament to recreation in Jesus.

Then came Sunday.  Aaron had warned me that this church put the charisma in charismatic, and we weren’t disappointed...  or, well, you know what I mean :)  It was a glossy blue and white church, and with its royal hangings, flags, replica of the ark and various Zulu artefacts it defined beauty in an African style.  The music was likewise: bright and loud.  And then the pastor came on and launched into the story of David’s anointing.  In shouting baritone, he performed a one-man drama of Samuel’s task.  A man in the front row was the recipient of many rejections as Samuel filtered through Jesse’s sons. Upon reaching David, the man’s bald head was seized and rattled back and forth in acceptance.  All this while a Zulu translator leaped like a shadow and echo alongside the pastor.  While the sermon didn’t follow the finer points of Calvinistic hermeneutics, it brought the story to life and showed God’s power poignantly.  And so were quite sad when health and wealth sneaked in.  Three hours later and it was all over.  Second service, anyone?
We walked towards Richmond after church.  Call it lost, call it “not entirely sure where we are” as Aaron did, but we were in unfamiliar territory.  We spotted a house with six dogs... and a man with a parrot: with so many animals we knew he must be of good character.  And so we asked directions.  And within five minutes, Steve was inviting us in for a cup of coffee with his wife Zurika!  They were a delightful couple.  We met the rest of the family (two more parrots, two cats and unnumbered fish,) and before we left they invited us to their church’s evening fellowship.  This is getting quite long, so let me just say that soup and buns were served alongside an informal play about Aladdin, with the upshot being that God is NOT our genie. 

 Photo credits to Aaron