“We are Preparing”

I, my friends, am wearing jeans! And its the middle of the day! You don’t know how happy this makes me. … OK I have to admit I still have the fan on, but we are making progress toward winter. To understand my feelings about heat I suggest that you check out Joey’s blog post from earlier this summer.

Quick update (where we at?):

We are finally getting back into the swing of things after our wonderful and wild trip around most of South Africa with my folks. You see, after sending them off to the airport I had to get ready to head to a training at Sparkling Waters near Rustenberg which is about 10 hours away if you go by bus, then public taxi, then private taxi, and finally a Peace Corps Taxi. On request from PC I brought one of the grade four educators from Jacob Langa Primary. Madimetja Mabua is a younger educator with tons of energy and joy. He is also my right hand man when it comes to learning about computers and I hope by the end of my stay here in SA he will be hacking into the CIA mainframe (just kidding). The training lasted from Thursday to Monday. I came back to the village and then turned right back around to head out to Pretoria for a Volunteer Advisory Council (VAC) meeting. While I was in Pretoria Susie went down to Rustenberg area work with another Peace Corps Volunteer helping her get set up for her girl’s empowerment program “Power Girls”. We both met up in Pretoria and headed back to the village. I must say it is nice to not have to travel for a bit.

The Fun Stuff (a story from my folks visit to SA, there are so many I wish I had more time to write):

Week Three:

After experiencing the exotic wildlife of greater Kruger (both animals and people – ask my folks about the Paradise Crew, I dare you) and the vistas of Capetown we began our journey to the village.

At this point we were traveling by X-Trail (a 4×4 that we rented at the Airport in Joberg). On the road from Pretoria we received a phone call from our host brother Moricho (Morichani Majadibodu aka John). He was checking our progress to see when we might arrive. I asked him what he was up to and his only response was that they were “preparing”. Now, preparing can mean a host of different things. Maybe there were cleaning the house, or maybe cooking a meal, or maybe something else entirely, but what? We drove on.

The roads from Pretoria to Abbotspoort are good and well, fairly well marked. I was driving and though I had made this journey a few times before I had never driven it myself. Needless to say after a statement like that, I made a few wrong turns. We were heading for Mokopane and the signs were plentiful, until they weren’t anymore. There wasn’t a sign indicating which exit to take they just had stopped. I ended up in Polokwane which is quite far out of the way and had to turn around. This is about the time I got phone call number two.

It was Moricho again. “Where are you? When will you be here?” I had to fess up and tell him that we had added a few hours to our journey with a wrong turn, shame. During the call he once again mentioned that the family was still “preparing”. Hmm

When the sun sets in rural South Africa it is like the realization that you forgot to pay your electricity bill as the lights suddenly go out. I guess it was time for a little night driving. Sadly we missed some of the beautiful scenery along this leg of the journey, but we were doing well and hadn’t hit any warthogs so that was pretty good. (See Hunting by Taxi.) Due to wild animal danger I was driving under the speed limit somewhere close to the center of the road. This of course once again extended our journey, so we got the third call. “Where are you? Yes, yes we are still preparing.”

It was maybe 9 before we turned off the tar road into our village. We wound our way around the dirt streets until our house came into view. The headlights swept across our gate I saw children running to open it for us. As I moved forward the rest of the yard came into view. There were people everywhere! Moricho was the first to greet us with huge hugs and much dancing. Singing filled the air as the place came to life. Family members, neighbors and friends had gathered to greet us. (I wonder how long they sat there to wait our arrival.) None the less It was truly a reception that I will never forget as the Wilson family danced in a circle with the Majadibodu family as the crew sang “Dumela Dumela.” Chairs were arranged in a circle as we were instructed to sit. Moricho sat to my left and wispered in my ear the instruction of how the formalities were supposed to proceed.

Some of the Family: Back Row – Mama Wilson, Mama Majadibodu’s Sister, Sesi Paulina (host sister), Mama Majadibodu, Papa Majadibodu, Papa Wilson, Moricho (host brother), Front Row – Susan Majadibodu (host cousin), Happy Majadibodu (host neice), random child probably related in yellow, Matiba (host brother, feeding Sesi Paulina paper), Caiphes (host neighbor), Sammy Majadibodu (host nephew)

I prayed and introduced my parents to my host parents and spoke a bit about our journey. I so wish my sepedi was better as Moricho translated much of what I said for the benefit of those who gathered around. My parents were then questioned by Mama Majadibodu. “How do you find South Africa?” “As you can see we are poor, we are suffering. Tiro says there are also poor people in America what do you say?” It was a bit intimidating I would think, but it was all in love and there was much joy go all around. Soon the evening came to a close as we proceeded to gather our luggage from the car and to move it into our small two room place. By the time the car had been moved closer to the house the guests were heading home and the family was heading indoors. We had come late and the village was tired. But what a welcome to be had.

Now, as the four of us started to settle into our little home I contemplated what Moricho had told me about the next day.

Susie and I knew that there was to be some form of wedding celebration that was happening for our extended family across the village the following day, but Moricho told us that “the program” was going to start about 2pm at our house. We figured that the wedding celebration would start across the way and then move over to our house as the family had erected a tent in the yard in a similar fashion that families do for large gatherings like funerals or weddings here in South Africa. We had asked if it would be alright for us to take my folks on a walking tour of the village in the morning and then to meet them in the afternoon for “the program”. Moricho said that this would be “no problem” so we had a plan.

We arose early the next day to the sounds of much commotion. The family was here and they were once again, “preparing”. In the back of the house the women were pounding the mealies (corn) into a fine powder to be used to make bogobe (pap) the staple food of South Africa. Around the corner Papa was doing the honors of butchering a goat that had been killed for the occasion and the traditional beer was being strained in the kitchen. The cooking fires had been lit and large metal three-foot pots sat atop boiling away. The food preparation was tremendous and looked as though it could serve the whole village.

My folks were truly good sports about the whole endeavor. They took pictures, shook hands, tried out their Sepedi greetings they had been practicing at home and along the trip, gestured and helped (as instructed) to prepare the mealies.

Before the sun rose too high in the sky we decided to head out to see the village. We saw the high school, the shops, the clinic, the Home Based Care and the river and along the way we greeting all those who we passed. As we traveled we where told over and over again that we would see them later at the party. It was beginning to look as though the entire village was coming to our house for the wedding celebration. Once again we received the phone call. It was Moricho. “Where are you? When will you be back to the house?”. “Soon, we are near the river,” was my answer.

We made our way down towards the Palala river enjoying the peacefulness that truly embraces as you watch the waters lazily flow past. As we walked along its banks we again received a call. “Where are you? Come back to the house man there are people arriving who want to see you.” I was starting to get a bit apprehensive. It appeared that the family had been preparing not only for the wedding but also on our behalf. So we started making our way back toward the Majadibodu family dwelling.

The number of guests was truly swelling as we arrived and next door a troop of traditional dancers was getting prepared. Chairs had been pulled out from every nook and cranny numbering in the hundreds spread out under the tent and across the yard. Moricho met us at the gate and instructed us that we should go inside and make our selves ready.

Wasting no time we headed inside and put on our finest duds. My feeling that this extravaganza was more than just a wedding celebration was increasing. As the program start time neared we were shown the head table that was to be our seats. In front was beautiful display of traditional equipment and art that had been laid out before the table. Dancers took center stage (the middle of the yard) and the drums began to beat.

Soon I was asked if I could make a speech about the village and what the Majadibodu family means to me and if my parents could do so as well during the program. A man arrived who was to the the master of ceremonies as well as the interpreter. He had a 7 part program written on a piece of paper and was gathering information (like my parents names) to help the program go smoothly. I added Susie’s name to the speech along with mine and we were set.

Our local “headman” chief was there and was dressed in the traditional skins, hat and carrying the traditional staff. The dancers sang and people poured into the yard filling all the available space. By the time the program got underway there must have been 200 people on site.

Mama Majadibodu sat next to me and I leaned over to her to ask the one question that stood out in my mind. “Mama is this for the marrage celebration?”

“No,” she replyed, “this is for you because you are special.” As it turns out it really wasn’t for the wedding. The wedding ceremony was actually a traditional joining of the two families that will get married at a later date. This celebration, the one with 200 guests, was only for my parents and for us as a welcome into the family. May I be the first to say, HOLY COW!

When it came time to make our speeches Susie did a wonderful job of greeting the family and telling them how much we appreciate them in Sepedi. I spoke in English that was translated to the masses about the joy that we felt bringing these two families together. I shared at how overwhelmed I was to have such a showing of welcome and if there was anything that we could bring back to the United States it would be this ability to truly show welcome.

My father rose to speak and as he stared out at the masses he began to weep. The feeling of gratitude was so overwhelming that it took his words away. As I gazed across the crowd there was many a tear that glazed the cheeks of the Majadibodu family as well. Finding his voice he thanked the family for their generous hospitality and my mother said that she would like to wrap her arms around all of them in one gigantic hug and that she wished that she could take them all home with her in her suitcase.

Mama Majadibodu broke out into tears thanking God for this gathering. You see, before we left to pick up my parents, Susie and I made the comment that it might be fun to have my parents meet the family and maybe to share a traditional meal together. To us that meant maybe Mama and Papa and their children, our host brothers and sisters would gather together. We had no idea that this might mean “the whole family”. Mama, when she heard this request, became worried, how were they going to be able to afford to bring the entire family together and to feed and entertain them. Yet she took one step at a time with God at her side inviting the family and friends, in the end the village came and the whole village ate, and the whole village rejoiced.

To close, Papa thanked the family for coming and joining in in the joyous celebration.

What an amazing experience. There is no real way that I can put this moment into words, but I will say that we are truly blessed. We are truly blessed.