Friday, March 26, 2010

Crocodiles, Great White Sharks and Cobras

Nothing is better than letters from home! The other day we received this letter from Sheree, Karl’s cousin…

We hope you are enjoying your experience so far – better than you even expected – except for the whole “snake in the kitchen” episode.

The day before we heard about that, Jackson (6 years old) came down from his room holding three of his wild animal cards. He had sorted out the ones that could be found in South Africa and announced with some worry in his voice that, “These are the three animals that could EAT Karl and Julie!”

They were crocodiles, great white sharks and cobras.

I ASSURED him that all of those animals live VERY FAR from Karl and Julie – out in the wild.

But alas, the next day mom was proved wrong! (see the "snake video" if you missed it -

So now every night Jackson also prays that you all don’t get eaten by crocodiles, great white sharks and cobras. This is in addition to him praying that there wouldn’t be any earthquakes either…so know that you are well covered in prayer by Jackson alone, but the rest of us are praying too – just for good measure.

Thanks, Jackson. We thought we lived VERY FAR from these animals too. But apparently in Africa your kitchen counts as “the wild.”

Friday, March 19, 2010

Three Things I Love About Africa

#1 You can buy avocados at a red light. Seriously – at the “robot” (aka “stop light”) near our home a man walks from car to car selling bags of avocados for less than a dollar.

#2 Buy a Donkey - “Thank you” in Afrikaans sounds like you’re saying “buy a donkey” (Baie dankie). So if someone gives you back change at the grocery store you say “Buy a Donkey.” It seems like you’re unveiling plans for your next big mule purchase – but in actually it’s just a little gratitude.
#3 Pick N Pay – There is a real grocery store here. They do things a little differently – but it’s essentially the same. I do marvel at the name, however. In the states most businesses tend to avoid using the word “Pay” in your company name (people don’t PAY – they SAVE!)

I took a poll of our fellow CPx students (from all of the world, including Africans) and asked “What do you love most about Africa – in 10 seconds?”

Top 10 Things CPx Students Love About Africa:

1. Food (freshest food in the world – especially fruits and veggies)
2. Natural Beauty (back-drop of the ocean, mountains and forest is truly amazing)
3. Soccer (the style of soccer looks more like a dance)
4. Wildlife (penguins, baboons, elephants, ostriches, etc.)
5. Colorful People and Diverse Cultures (a unique blend of western and African cultures)
6. Patterns on the clothing (so colorful)
7. Sun (most days are sunny and warm)
8. Joyful people (even in the worst of circumstances)
9. Hospitable, warm, open people (no one hesitates to invite you into their home for tea)
10. Most people speak multiple languages (as in- more than 2 languages – it’s impressive – I feel like they often have to accommodate the poor American that only knows 1 language)

Friday, March 12, 2010

Low Carbs, the StairMaster and Good Genes are Overrated

Have you heard about this?

Roseto, a little Italian community in Pennsylvania in the 1960’s, had no suicide, alcoholism, drug addiction and very little crime. No one was on welfare or had ulcers.
The death rate from heart disease was about 50% lower than expected. In fact the death rate from ALL causes was 30%-35% lower than the United States as a whole.

I’m reading “Outliers” by Malcolm Gladwell (a book about the unexpected pattern behind success) and it talks about Roseto. They couldn't figure it out!

At first they wondered if it was diet – perhaps the Rosetans were using some healthier Old World cooking practices? But they discovered they used just as much lard, sugar and fat as the average American. They didn’t exercise particularly much, smoked and struggled with obesity.

Then they looked into genetics – thinking that perhaps they all came from a hardy stock that protected them from disease. Not the case – as other decedents from the same town in Italy who did not settle in this little Roseto were not as healthy as their Rosetan cousins.

They also considered the possibility that maybe there was something special about the foothills of eastern Pennsylvania that was good for health. Another dead-end – as near-by towns did not have the same glowing health records.

After a while they realized it was the town itself.

“What (they) began to realize was that the secret of Roseto wasn’t diet or exercise or genes or location. It had to be Roseto itself. As (they) walked around the town, they figured out why. They looked at how the Rosetans visited one another, stopping to chat in Italian on the street, say, or cooking for one another in their backyards. They learned about the extended family clans that underlay the town’s social structure. They saw how many homes had three generations living under one roof, and how much respect grandparents commanded. They went to mass at Our Lady of Mount Carmel and saw the unifying and calming effect of the church. They counted twenty-two separate civic organizations in town of just under two thousand people. They picked up on the particular egalitarian ethos of the community, which discouraged the wealthy from flaunting their success and helped the unsuccessful obscure their failure.”

They didn’t have any less stress or problems than anyone else – they just had each other. Community in the truest sense produces better health and life expectancy than good diet, exercise or genes.

I was fascinated. I had to know more!

I researched the current status of Roseto and found that after interviewing town citizens in the 1960’s, researchers predicted the town would change, as the youth at that time had more “modern” ideas.

The town did change. Unfortunately.

The people of Roseto don’t go to church as much, stopped naming first born children after grandparents, put older people in nursing homes (instead of keeping them with the family), and are no longer concerned with hiding wealth and bought flashy cars.

Essentially selfishness was killing them. Literally.

Who has time to go to church? Who has the energy to take care of aging family members? Who doesn’t want to show off with a few impressive possessions?

Roseto makes me think of Africa townships.

There certainly is a sense of community here – people don’t hesitate to invite you into their home. It’s not unusual to find three generations living together. And they all seem to go to church.

But something’s missing. The death rate and level of disease is horrific, and crime is off the charts.

The family structure here has completely fallen apart – and I think that’s the key. Family.

Rosetans had family. Real deal family. Not just the basics – mothers and fathers (most homes here do not have both parents) – but grandparents – and essentially a whole neighborhood that functioned like family.

That’s what I want.

We are learning to live in community here at All Nations –this close knit group of strangers from all over the world. There is something to be said for cooking together, cleaning together, playing together, praying together and working together. Being family.

I want to have this lifestyle of “family” – wherever we go….making strangers feel like neighbors….making relationship more important than accomplishment…making time for the seemingly unimportant. I think this is what Jesus did all the time.

It seems family is better than vitamins, gym memberships and perfect genes. Huh!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

I No Speaka English.

Apparently it’s me that doesn’t speak English.

I keep using the wrong terminology and people look at me like they really want to understand - but honestly have no idea what I’m saying.



- "Take Away" food is "To Go" food
- "Chips" are "fries"
Do you want to take away your chips? (Do you want your fries to go?).
What I'm thinking: Please don't take away my fries.


- "Tumble Dry" is the "clothes drier" - as opposed to wash line drying
- “Nappy” is diaper
I'll change Emme's nappy then tumble dry her pants (I’ll change Emme’s diaper then put her pants in the drier).
What I'm thinking: Isn't "nappy" what Emme does in the afternoon while she's sleeping?

- “Crockery” is “dishes”
- “Cutlery” is “silverware”
- A “serviette” is a “napkin”
- A “tap” is a “facet” (you "open" it - instead of "turning it on")
Throw away your serviette and open the tap to wash your crockery and cutlery. (Throw away your napkin and turn on the facet to wash your dishes and silverware.).
What I'm thinking: What??!?


- “To pitch” is to “show up”
- A “robot” is a “stop light”
- A “traffic fine" is a “speeding ticket”
- A “speed cob” is a “police man"
- “Skipped” for “ran through”

I didn’t pitch at the meeting because I got a traffic fine from the speed cop when I skipped the robot (I didn’t show up at the meeting because I got a ticket from the police man when I ran through the red light).

What I'm thinking: I don't get it! Whenever someone says "turn left at the robot" I can't help but picture Rosie, the Jetson's maid, out on the streets of Africa directing traffic.


- Costume is a "swimming suit"

You're going to the beach? Let me get my costume! (You're going to the beach? Let me get my swimming suit!)

What I'm thinking: Wow! They wear costumes to the beach here? THIS I've got to see! It was very disappointing to realize a costume is only a swimming suit. If only we wore costumes to the beach!

Monday, March 1, 2010

The White-ies are Coming!

Walking through Ocean View (the township where we are working several days a week) the children were shouting in Afrikaans, “The White-ies are coming! The White-ies are coming!”

Well, I can’t say I’ve ever been called a White-ie before. But I guess I am – a White-ie that is. I was with my White-ie husband and White-ie kids. We can’t help but feel rather pasty in all our whiteness.

Jensen however – doesn’t know she’s white – and I don’t think we’ll be mentioning that to her any time soon.

Here are some friends she's made in Ocean View.

Note: Ocean View is the least "poor" of three communities where All Nations works. However, it's plagued with unemployment, crime, rape and murder.