Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Changes - 5-29-2010

The seasons are changing here. I'm sitting in my granny flat, bundled up in thick woolen socks, wearing a shirt and sweater, and still shivering occasionally. I'm in the midst of the rapid South African autumn – three days ago, it was too hot to wear jeans.

I'm changing as well. I realized, looking back, that I needed a full two months to feel comfortable in my new ward in Stadium Terrace. I've been here two full weeks now, and I'm starting to feel comfortable. My research is progressing well – still in the preliminary stages, but moving forward - and I'm not as frantic about my field notes, though I'm farther behind than ever.

I hope this represents improvement – an increased ability to react and adapt – i.e., a shorter time requirement. If so, this is clear evidence of divine intervention and help, as I've blundered through the past two weeks.
Another change I notice is that I care for children a lot more than I did before. I hope that I have always loved children, but in the past two weeks, some of my discomfort around young children has decreased.
Tutoring has been particularly rewarding. As I sat and read with a young man named Nqaba (N – (pop the tongue off of the middle of the roof of the mouth, simultaneously moving the jaw downward) -ah -bah) I got the distinct impression that no one had ever read with him before – really read with him. He said he didn't like reading, but that he did like sports; his reading material was a junior encyclopedia volume on Sc-Sz, so we picked skiing and read about it.
Although I'm not a skier, I tried to enliven the reading with descriptions of my own – here's how the ski curves, etc. A lot of the entry was about Sweden, so I was able to incorporate some of my experiences there. Anyway, I didn't think too much of the reading session. The next week, I met Nqaba again, but didn't get to tutor him. He actually came early, as had I, so we sat and talked for a bit. After the students had finished their tutoring time, he and a girl and I walked to the taxi area together. As we walked, he mentioned that he reads at home now, and then asked, “You know why I like reading? It's because of you.” This was one of my proudest and most rewarding moments of the past year.
I don't know what the change was. Similarly, on our second trip to Zamani daycare, I felt far more comfortable with the children. Although I was uncomfortable and a little distant again at first, by the end of our time there, I was dancing and playing with the kids, and felt comfortable letting them climb on me. This was not good for my laundry – my shirt had a small dirt footprint near my collar, and the collar itself was a different color than it should have been – but it was good for my soul.

I think the Lord has other purposes for my being here. Based on an interview yesterday, I think that my research itself may be useful in helping the pastors in the area encourage their parishioners to act according to their faith. However, I think that the personal changes the Lord is causing in me will be far more valuable. I came here hoping, praying to be changed by the experience. It looks like that hope and prayer is being answered.
Interestingly, part of that has been a result of attending Baptist services. Honestly, I have been uplifted by the faith and love of the people with whom I work, and I do feel a unity and love with people of other Christian faiths and other religions generally. I think that a lot of my fears about other Christians have been allayed; I don't feel that I have been persecuted for my LDS beliefs. I thank my Protestant brothers and sisters for that – it has been a blessing to me.
This whole trip has been a blessing to me, troubles and all. I came here without a clear idea of why – I felt it was the right thing to do, but my original need to publish research findings in a scholarly journal evaporated with my success in sociological research. I will still do my research to the best of my ability, but I no longer feel that is why I'm here; my research seems to be a mechanism, not a goal. But the Lord is in charge, and I do feel that He is leading me onward. And so, I feel to cheer - “Lead thou me on!” (Hymns 97, Lead Kindly Light)
This is from Eastern Beach, the day I was walking to the Prevention of Human Trafficking Conference. I don't go to this beach often, but I really like it when I am able to.

This picture above, (Sorry, I'm having trouble tagging these photos) comes from a fun photo shoot I did around Valda's house on one particularly beautiful evening. Sunsets here are amazing. I often look into the sky to see a flock of birds winging in a turning arc across skies like the one above.
Photo below: I had some photographic difficulty in this stage of the photshoot, but I think the photo still puts the idea across. This is Valda's (and thus temporarily, my) backyard.

Here are the Kids at Zamani Daycare - we went back for their festival.
And here's Heather with one of the boys. They were clambering all over us that day - evidently, Macrae has a picture of me buried under about eight little kids. I'll see if I can get it from her and post it.

Just a random picture I took, that I thought was kind of fun. It's the bonus picture - I try to give 5 good ones, and the sixth may be questionable.

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