Christmas Rocks!

Last year at the Longtom Marathon Event in Sabi, AJ, a fellow volunteer, asked one of the staff from the backpacker, “Is there any good rock climbing in this area?” His response was, “if you want serious rock climbing in South Africa, bra’, you need to check out Waterval Boven.” So that’s exactly what we did.

Rhonda, Craig, AJ, Susie, Benjamin

Initially our party was only only AJ, Susie and myself but as soon as Rhonda heard word of rock climbing she was all in.

After backpacking in the Drakes we asked everybody what were their plans for Christmas. Craig said that we was going to be with his host family at a game park for a few days before Christmas but on Christmas day he may just be hangin’ in his little thatched outside room. This was unacceptable! Even though Craig had never rock climbed before and was a might concerned by heights we convinced him that he needed to make the hour journey from his home in Nelspruit out to meet us in Waterval Boven. More new outdoor adventures for Craig with the Barr-Wilsons!

A beautiful hike we took around Waterval Boven… it was an adventure; ask us about it sometime

This time our gear was truly thin. Suz had her harness and shoes and AJ would have had his shoes, harness and chalk bag but he had some complications on his way back from climbing Kilimanjaro the week before. When I say complications I mean Tanzania Air went bankrupt and shut down. AJ and his little crew of three had to find other means to get back to South Africa from Tanzania all so that he could come out climbing with us. Needless to say it took him a few extra days to get back, but he made to us right on schedule.

Getting ready to repel down into the Tranquilitas Crags

We rented what gear we didn’t have and hired guides to show us the ropes… and rocks for a few days. After getting acquainted with the area we chose to make our own way out to the crags to climb. We even went climbing on Christmas day, now that’s a Christmas to remember.

Susie and Rhonda showing us the way

We didn’t forget to celebrate. Suz and Rhonda found some cute toys and decorations at the local mart in town, unbeknownst to the guys, and on Christmas morning we awoke to find four Christmas sacks duct taped to the mantle. We enjoyed a Christmas breakfast, played with our toys and waited for the rocks to dry off after a night of light rain.

We climbed all afternoon and then came back to the backpacker to prepare our Christmas feast. AJ and Rhonda made curry and rice, Susie made fruit salad, and Craig and I attempted to make candied yams (or squash). Let’s just say we didn’t have any measuring tools so we had butter, cinnamon, squash, marshmallow soup but it still tasted good as long as you used a slotted spoon to get out the “yams”. Craig also did a number on our Christmas decorations so the table looked fabulous.

Christmas morning… Santa even found us here in South Africa

Enjoying our Christmas morning

Our Christmas feast

AJ, the most experienced climber of the crew, led the way, but we were quick learners and both Suz and I did our first lead climbs. Rhonda challenged herself on slabs of the like she had never faced before and Craig… well he made his first assents ever and truly mastered his fears as he enjoyed some fabulous climbs.

Rhonda on “Little Bonsai”

Craig’s first crag

We managed to stretch ourselves with our greatest attempt at a 5.10a. Suz, AJ and I all managed a full assent on a 5.9 and the rest of the crew was able to solidly climb a 5.8.

AJ attempting the “Endless Blowjob”

Benjamin chimney-ing up  “Jackie Chan”

Suz climbing to clear “Little Bonsai”

All in all we had an awesome time and wish we were still out on the rocks. I know that I for one am hooked. There just is something about being out in the beautiful wilderness and getting up close and personal with mother nature.

Nuff said!

Check out the entire photo album at  Rock Climbing 2008

Where did you spend your Christmas holiday??

“Green,” she said… “all I want is to go somewhere green.”

In the scorching heat of northwest Limpopo we triple lined our backpacks preparing for rain. First our clothes and gear went into gallon sized Ziplock bags. These went into durable garbage sacks and into our packs. Finally we got our duck backs ready to go around the outside of the pack as the first defense against the much anticipated precipitation.

The Drakensberg Mountains jut out of the flat farmland of Free State, surround the country of Lesotho and spill down into Kwa Zulu Natal. They beckon the ones such as ourselves who live in the dust with their vibrant green lushness.

We had seen a picture or two from fellow volunteers who had braved this gem of South Africa last year, but alas most of these photos were taken from inside the clouds so the vistas were mear mist.

Suz and I had found a small crew of volunteers who were willing to take a walk on the wild-side, to head up into the clouds where the dust of Africa has come alive with vegetation.

John Clemo, Kristy Gilijohan, Craig Grundwald, Susie and Benjamin

We were an assorted crew of  5, made up of experienced hikers and those who hadn’t set foot on a backpacking trail in their lives. As we all had come half way around the globe our equipment was limited and some had to beg, borrow and steal to assemble usable gear. Even so, some of our packs and “boots” were not originally intended for multi-day mountainous terrain.

Suz and I had come to SA ready to head out into the wilderness so we made sure that others had the essentials for a 4 day 3 night excursion into the wilderness but even the day of the great trek we were lucky enough to borrow a mountain guides sleeping bag and mat for our fellow compadraes . So with a well packed medical kit and Suz our own personal Wildness First Responder we set forth onto the trail.

Okay, so our first night in the the Drakes we spent at Inkosana Lodge, a beautiful backpacker created to be a basecamp for those who were headed into the hills. After a long drive from Pretoria we got to our room took a shower or two and then began distributing the gear, and the waterproofing bags, everybody needed to be ready.

The next day we got up to the trail head by 7am and the heavens looked stormy. The mountains above us were wrapped in an ethereal mist. Numerous campers who were pitched at the campground at the trail head paraded past questioning our decision to head out considering the probable showers. (Showers are what I dream of every night so I was overjoyed by their worry. I mean if a couple Washingtonians can’t handle the rain who can?)

Packed and ready to brave the elements

Suz stands next to Crystal Falls

We hadn’t been on the trail for more than an hour or so when the hills above us began to disappear into the fog.

Hiking into the mist

Donning our rain gear we prepared for the worst. Our hike into the Drakes was shrowed in mystery. At times were were able to glance a chance view of the green hilsides along which we assended but most of our travels were something out of a storybook. Our map was good but the verbal description of the forks in the trail that we needed were, shall we say, less than steller. Luckily we listened keenly to those who were leaving the Drakes like sopping lemmings shivvering down the trail. They described our hopeful path with anicdotal accuracy that we needed (or at least we thought). Along our path we came across a team of college age folk who were heading in the opposite direction, apparently they had been attempting to find Zulu Cave for the past few days and were rather lost. This made them rather chipper to see hikers who had recently come from the way down. We wished them well and continued on our way.

Cloud walking

I had brought my trusty GPS along. We used it constantly making sure we were following the right contour lines and ensuring that if worst came to worst we always had a way back from whence we came. Along our way it became clear that our intended destination was too far away for our journey through the wet so we altered our course and attempted to find Zulu cave ourselves.

A glimpse through the fog… its photo time

Wet, yet still smiling

Taking the second fork to the right off the main trial we headed down into a deep river valley where our trail quickly disappeared. Splitting up Suz and I searched for the continuation of the trail across the full creak that made its home in the valley floor. By this time we were fully drenched as we walked through tall grasses that had colleted the clouds thoughout the day and the daylight was quickly begining to wain. We approached our comrads who were huddled together at the last remnants of the trail with the news that it looked like this was going to be our camp for night number one.

As we got out our tents and began to set up the heavens opened up and the rain came. “It’s hailing,” someone said as enormous raindrops pummeled us from above.

Craig, our beloved city boy, was chilled to the bone shaking from head to foot. As soon as I could get under the rainfly to the tent in the vestible I had him get out of his wet clothes jump into the tent, dry off and get into his sleeping bag. As he did this we set up the tent around him. John quickly followed suit and I put on the finishing touches.

Suz and Kristy on the other hand had a second tent and were making due on their own as the rain poured down from above. That evening after everyone had warmed their bodies we cooked our eveing meal (in the tent – I know we are bad people not following safety protocal). Warm food truly helped get the blood flowing and by the time we were ready to turn in spirits overall where reasonably high.

Craig confessed to us the second day that he was truly wonderin

g why anyone would  put themselves though such an ordeal until he unzipped our tent for the first time in the morning. The sunshine poured in and so did the most breathtaking view of the mountains one could ever hope for. All at once that doubt was washed away and we were made anew amidst the beauty that held us in the palm of its hand.

Zip open the tent and the mountain splendor washes over us

A window far above us through the rock

Drying out everything

Day two we dried out and explored our little valley. Day three we found the trail to Zulu cave and even though it was occupied we camped just down along the river that had previously just spilled over its mouth. By the time we headed back home we had truly drank in the freshness and fullness that the Drakensberg Mountains have to offer. I think Suz and I could have stayed out there for a week more but time was short and we had other adventures on our plate for the week ahead.

Zulu Cave in the distance

A view from inside Zulu Cave

Two very happy hikers

Check out the full photo album at Drakensberg 2008

A quick trip home that I wouldn’t have missed for the world

You may have heard rumor that I (Suz) flew home for a week in September. Well I’d like to officially confirm that that rumor was correct. 🙂 I flew home for the wedding of one of my dearest friends, Sarah Spring! Although I was only in the states for 6 quick days, it was totally worth it. The wedding was absolutely beautiful and Sarah was naturally a gorgeous bride.

Sarah and Suz in the bride’s room, moments before the ceremony

While home, I also had the chance to see Stella, Meghan, Jacque, and my family!

Stella and Suz in a “dancing, squishy, bug-hug!”

Meghan (P.P.!), Suz, and “My Friend” Jacque

Barr Family Sibs (Dan “Barrvinkski.” Phil “Monkey,” and “Sooooz”)

Suz and Mom (Awe…)

Mom and I ended up going bowling on my last night in Seattle. We had a blast and she totally kicked my butt without even trying! 🙂

Aunt Diana and Uncle Ron kindly let me stay at their place for the week, borrow their car, and come & go, as needed. Hurray for wonderful family and friends!

Without meaning to, I themed my “limited time American meals,” Asian-style. I enjoyed Thai food, Vietnamese food, AND a Mongolian grill! I visited Starbucks (3 times) and brought back tasty bread from the Great Harvest Bread Company. I managed to acquire items for girls club and for Ben & me at REI, Good Will, Target, Safeway, Bartell’s Drugs, and Barnes ‘n Noble. It was a wonderful feeling being home in familiar areas and shopping in stores I knew, but everything felt so BIG! Not that there aren’t stores in South Africa, but there just seems to be more of everything in the U.S. It was sad to leave, again, but I took comfort in knowing I would be back in less than a year. And, besides, I had to return to my husband in our little South African concrete house and tin roof! Until next year, Seattle…

Double-Double Your Vacation (Part Two)

Hey, everybody! Suz here. Long time, no updates, we know. Things just seem to keep getting busier and busier…Girls Club is rockin’ and I just finished two humongous Peace Corps reports on the project, we organized a huge celebration for Women’s Day, Ben has been busy being the official “Village Tech” as well as doing the detail work on our girls club AIDS mural, and I went home for a week in September. But more on all of that later. Allow me to continue where I left off after our massive double-double-your-enjoyment vacation…

Mid-Service Vacation Part Two: Barrs!

So we dropped off Bob at the airport and a few hours later my parents and brother, Dan, arrived. I was soooo excited to see them! So much so, in fact, that I ran right by Dan when they entered the airport, hugged my parents, then asked where my brother was. Ha! I swear he had grown two feet since I last saw him, so I just didn’t recognize his new tallness.

Barr Family arrives in South Africa!

Our first Barr Family Vacation adventure was getting our rental car. After waiting in line at the rental office for an hour and being specially driven over to their lot, we learned that our “car” was actually a 14-passenger van with more space than most of the public taxis we take everywhere. Ha! We thought it might have been fun to drive it all around the country, picking up random hitch-hikers, seeing a whole elephant without moving our vehicle…but we decided in the end it would probably be best to get something more manageable, so the next morning, a nice little mini-van was delivered to our hotel. It was made for a cosy, but much more comfortable & enjoyable method of transport.

Now that we had the right vehicle, we were ready to see animals at Kruger National Park! We saw tons of elephants (one that nearly walked on top of our car!), giraffes, cool birds, and a first for Ben and me: Rhinos! It was awesome, to say the least. Who doesn’t love African animals?

Rhino in Kruger National Park

The next highlight was a cultural endeavor in Swaziland. What a beautiful place! We drove through endless green rolling hills, small villages, and evergreen forests. Dan helped us keep our eyes out for the Swazi king, but we had no luck spotting him. (Sorry, Dan!) We stayed at a lovely hotel with a delightful staff that serenaded us at dinner. We sat outside in the cool & comfortable patio, candle-light atmosphere, and enjoyed the traditional African music. Such a great “Welcome to Africa” experience for my family! The next day we visited an authentic Swazi village that opens their space to visitors to generate income. We peaked in their huts, hiked to a waterfall, and enjoyed their beautiful singing and dancing. Dan and I even got pulled onstage to participate!

Ben exploring a hut in a traditional Swazi village

Suz learning a Swazi dance onstage

From Swaziland we made our way to St. Lucia, which should actually be named, “Hippo Country.” It’s a cute little town right on the water, where we stayed in a fantastic condo for a week. We enjoyed the nearby smaller national parks, played rugby on the beach & waded in the Indian Ocean, saw hundreds of hippos on the river, and even took in a whale boat cruise!

Dan and Suz on the hippo tour! Awe…

Dan pretending to be a hippo by holding a tooth up to his mouth.

Yikes! “Hungry, hungry hippo” now has a whole new, terrifying meaning!

Whale-sighting from our whale boat cruise. They were swimming all around and underneath us. Mom and I both got a little seasick, but it was incredible to be so close to these amazing creatures!

Our last stop was a chalet in the mountains, near the town of Ladysmith. We went from the mild climate along the ocean to a hot-in-the-day, chilly-willy-at-night environment, but it was fabulous. We drank hot chocolate, played card games, enjoyed tea and breakfast at a cute cafe’ in town, and visited the “smallest church in the world” which apparently is right there in Ladysmith!

Breakfast at the tea house, right next to the “Smallest Church in the World.”

It was awefully sad to say goodbye, again, when we dropped my family off at the airport. (I think I went back to get “just one more look” at them in the South African Airways line at least three times). 🙂 But Ben and I eventually left, a little teary-eyed, but overjoyed with all of the memories from this spectacular vacation.

We’ve been blessed with SO many wonderful memories of family and friends that have come to visit, memories that lift our spirits in the tough times and add to our delight on the days we can say, “This is why we’re here. This is why we’re in Peace Corps.” Memories of a lifetime that we’ll keep close at heart and treasure forever and always. Thank you to our Wilson ‘rents, thank you to Bob, and thank you to Mom, Dad, and Dan, for blessing us with your love and support, and for such wonderful South African vacations. We love you all kudu kudu (very, very much)!

Double-Double Your Vacation (Part One)

Wow, it’s been a while since we’ve updated our blog! I guess that’s what happens you go on two incredible vacations, eh? It’s time to start catching-up…

Mid-Service Vacation Part One: Bob!

On June 19th we left our village to make our way to Pretoria. We picked up Bob at the airport on June 21st and took him to our favorite backpackers to crash for the night.

Ben let me celebrate being on vacation by getting long African braids! Only took 3+ hours and four different people to make it happen, but it was totally worth it. Just something fun I’ve wanted to do for a long time!

On the 22nd we drove west to Upington, South Africa, just south of the Namibian boarder, and crossed into Namibia on the 23rd. What a beautiful country! We went from 44 million people in South Africa to 2 million people in Namibia with barely another car on the road.

The biggest highlight in Namibia was naturally the infamous sand dunes. To be honest, I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect. Ben was ecstatic about going to the dunes from the beginning, whereas I was excited about seeing the animals in the national parks, so I was more along for the ride for this part of the trip…This soon changed as we drove toward Sesriem Canyon and the dirt-covered hills began to lose their desert vegetation, and our dusty surroundings gradually became a deep reddish brown. Before we knew it, we were surrounded by enormous mounds of rolling sand, beautifully chiseled by the wind in artistic swirls and peaks. Already tremendously impressed, little did I know the best was yet to come. We made our way to the well-known “Dune 45” and began our trek to the top. Once there, Ben didn’t waste any time. He took one giant leap off the top and…

Geronimo!

Bounding down the side of the dune, springing through the sand, Ben demonstrated what this mountain-trampoline was all about. Bob and I were quick to follow. What a rush! I had no idea jumping off dunes could be so exhilarating. I felt like I was flying!

Watch out, Michael Jordan!

We left the dunes on the 25th to head towards Etosha National Park in northern Namibia. From the moment we entered the park, we felt like we were in the Lion King. An elephant greeted us from the side of the road before we were even through the main gate, and the first watering hole we visited had at least 6 different kinds of animals. We couldn’t have asked for anything more!

By the 27th we were making our way through the Caprivi Strip towards Victoria Falls. We had a gorgeous campsite at Zambezi Lodge and the falls were absolutely breathtaking…

Victoria Falls, Zambia

While staying at Zambezi, we drove into Botswana to see Chobe National Park, and were blessed with the most amazing riverboat safari we could have imagined. Elephants crossing the water in front of us, a lion stalking her prey on the shore, water buffalo, crocodiles; it was incredible!

Chobe National Park, Botswana

On the 30th of June we stayed near Botswana’s Okavango Delta, the largest inland delta in the world, and enjoyed a mokoro tour. One of the most peaceful experiences a person could ever have…

Mokoro Boat Tour, Okavango Delta (Botswana)

We crossed back into South African and stayed at our village on July 2nd-3rd. It gave us a chance to introduce Bob to our host family and to catch our breath before the next adventure. After putting nearly 6,800 km on our rental car in less than two weeks, we were all a bit on the tired side. 🙂 What an incredible trip, though…So many highlights, so much fun, and such great company. We love you, Bob!!!

Coming Soon…Mid-Service Vacation Part Two: Barr Family!

“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.

Wilson Family Visit

This Easter break the Wilson parents came out to South Africa to visit. Mom and Dad Wilson stayed here for three weeks. We explored Greater Krugar near Hoedspruit on the Balule Nature Reserve. Later we traveled to Sabie. Next to Capetown and then back on the train to Joburg and out to the village for a week. Quite a whirlwind adventure, if I do say so myself.

Three cameras and hundreds of pictures later, we have a pretty decent record of our trip! Feel free to check out the pictures by going to the “Photo Albums” section of our blog or click here to be directed to all of our photo albums.