Thank you for all of your love and support I am so excited to share this experience with all of you!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

A South African Easter

Happy Easter!

I thought I had seasons in the southern hemisphere down. I loved celebrating Christmas in the hot summer sun, loved that while attempting to bake Christmas cookies I was on the verge of heat stroke and my chocolate was just a pile of melted goodness. But now the days are getting shorter, I have overcome my fear of using a space-heater, and the winter clothes I packed but never thought I would use are becoming staples; winter is upon us in South Africa.

Celebrating Easter in the fall has made me re-examine what Easter means and how I celebrate. Much like Christmas I was amazed how much of the Northern Hemisphere traditions carry south, there were eggs, and bunnies, and other decorations I associate with spring decorating stores and on tv commercials. It felt as silly as seeing the fake snow while applying sunscreen in December. I am used to talking about Easter as the world around me is coming back to life from the long cold winter, now I am just going into winter. Instead of associating Easter with the resurrection we celebrate and the world resurrecting here I have to trust that as I see the leaves falling and the days getting shorter that there will again be resurrection.

Along with the seasons being different I was able to celebrate this time with my ELCSA (Evangelical Lutheran Church in Southern Africa) hosts. The Soweto circuit hosted it's second annual Easter Conference. All the perishes of the circuit came together to worship for Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Vigil, and the Resurrection Service. The hall was full of nearly 2,000 people! It was an Easter to remember. Here are a few of the highlights!

Palm Sunday with palms cut from the tree outside the church then processing singing through the streets of Soweto

Learning that washing feet at Maundy Thursday involves bringing your own towel but learning this as my feet were in the water.

Stations of the cross devotions through the streets of Soweto Good Friday morning.

All day Good Friday service that included a brass band, singing, and dancing!

My host family sharing their traditional pickled fish for all the meals of the week. (I pictured the pickled herring my dad would eat that I can barely stomach but in reality this was more like a curry! Tons of spices and pepper with onions along with the fish it was so tasty!)

Easter vigil starting at 8 pm Saturday evening and going until 8 am Sunday morning. (I wish I could say I did the whole service but I did sneak a power nap from 3-4:30!)

A sunrise procession around Soweto with candles at 5 am singing and dancing.

The resurrection service ending the whole event.

It was an Easter to remember. One I will always cherish. I got home Sunday morning slept and then with my host family went to a gospel concert by, Joyous Celebration. Check them out!

Now I am enjoying a quiet week with public holidays Monday (Easter Monday) and Wednesday (Freedom Day the anniversary of the first democratic elections in 1994!)

Hope you all had a blessed Easter and for those in the Northern Hemisphere that you are enjoying spring!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Piki Tup

Piki Tup is on strike. I didn’t really pay attention to piki tup until a few weeks ago. They are the waste disposal company that serves Soweto and the greater Johannesburg area. But for 2 weeks piki tup has not been picking up anything.

I have never before noticed trash like I have this year. One of the first realities of life in South Africa, especially in the black townships is the trash. It is only recently that Soweto has gotten the piki tup service, like so many other services it was reserved for the white areas. Trash pick up and collection is not the norm. But living in Soweto I get the benefit of being in one of the most progressive townships in the world. We have buses, trash collection, police stations, and hospitals, things other townships that are not so prominent or in such urban areas only dream about.

I knew that I was fortunate in this regard especially comparing stories with other YAGMs and their dilemmas of what to do with their trash. Prior to this yeah I didn’t give a second thought to recycling let alone how my trash just disappears once a week. Now that it is gone I feel guilty with every piece of paper I have to throw in the trash since there is no recycling option. Yet, I have the privilege of trash cans that get picked up weekly.

That was they did get picked up until two weeks ago. Living with about 6 million people the trash piles up really quickly. It is everywhere. There is usually trash on the side of the roads but this is mounds. I thought it was bad in Soweto but then I was traveling through central Johannesburg. Walking through streets with thousands of people as we all try to dodge trash, each other, and the taxis speeding down the road makes the journey even more of an obstacle course. It has sadden me to see areas that weeks ago had kids playing now have trash and to see billowing black smoke from trash burning since there is no other option.

The strike is not over. I find myself asking how all of this will ever be picked up? How will this all be cleaned up? Then I realized how close we are to Earth Day. Earth Day is easy to celebrate in the United States. I live in Denver, Colorado a pretty environmentally responsible city but how do I recognize this holiday in Soweto in the middle of a garbage truck? I try to do my part; reusing paper until there is no space left, composting what I can. For now I am hoping that the strike will end soon and that trash collection will resume.