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What to see in Cape Town

Kommetjie

This past week we booked our flights back to Cape Town, South Africa. We’re going back Sept. 10-28 for the annual All Nations Leaders Retreat. I’m really excited about getting back to Cape Town for a visit — most especially to see our friends that we had to say goodbye to when we moved to Nairobi in March.

It was really hard to leave Cape Town, mainly because of the relationships we had there. But, let’s be honest, also because Cape Town is probably one of the most beautiful cities in the world. It recently made it onto the list of Top 25 Cities You Should Visit in Your Lifetime. Also, Forbes named Cape Town the best African city to live in. There are mountains and beaches, access to Western amenities, great infrastructure, and with the falling value of the rand an American dollar can be stretched really far there.

So I’ve created a list of the things in Cape Town I’m most excited to visit, and I thought I’d post it here. In case you’ve ever thought of visiting Cape Town, you should check some of these places out (in no particular order):

  • Simon’s Town, to walk down the main street and then see the penguins. You can view the penguins for free; just take the boardwalk to the penguin sanctuary, but don’t go in. Keep walking on the boardwalk and keep your eyes peeled on the left. You’ll see lots of penguins beside the boardwalk. We may also try to go to Boulder’s Beach and swim with the penguins, weather permitting.

Simon's Town

  • Scratch Patch Mineral World. This is on the way south to Simon’s Town. Basically, someone carved out a fake cave and then covered the floor in polished stones. Kids can come and pay a few bucks and sift through the stones, collecting the ones they like best and filling up a bag or cup that they can take with them. We took Mikayla at about 18 months and she loved it. Those rocks made it in our carryon and are still some of Mikayla’s favorite toys.
  • A picnic on Noordhoek Commons, located on the left if you are heading north just before you enter Chapman’s Peak Drive. Lovely view of the Noordhoek mountains.
  • Chapman’s Peak Drive, seriously one of the most beautiful scenic drives in the world.
  • Visit the play ground at Imhoff’s Gift. Good play ground, with an amazing view.
  • Petting zoo at Imhoff’s Farm. For less than $2 kids can play with chickens, bunnies, etc. Priceless! Then have a coffee or meal in the cafe and enjoy the scenery.

Dining at Imhoff's Farm

  • Boat ride at the V&A Waterfront. There’s a nice one that lasts about 30 minutes, and only costs about $6/person. Watch out for seals and sea birds!
  • A stroll along Kommetjie beach — gorgeous view, but too icy to swim. Then take the boardwalk to the Kommetjie lighthouse.
  • Beach day at Fish Hoek beach, making sure to stay in the shallows so the sharks don’t get us!
  • The Cape Town Aquarium — truly impressive and a big hit with the kids.
  • Kalk Bay. It was our favorite place to go on off day mornings. Pick up a cappuccino and pastry at Olympia Cafe or Bob’s Bagel Cafe, then walk down the pier or play in the park. I’m hoping to make this excursion more than once while we’re there!

Kalk Bay Harbour

  • Old Biscuit Mill, and Tokai Earth Fair Market. I still haven’t found a replacement for these wonderful markets, which we loved visiting on Saturdays.

That’s most of my list. Is there something else you think I should add to my list?

How to Win Friends and Influence People — Nairobi Edition

Goodbye, Cape Town

For me, the hardest thing about leaving Cape Town and moving to Nairobi was saying goodbye to my friends in one country and trying to make new ones in another. It’s been harder than I expected to develop a strong community here.

I admit I’ve had it easy in my two previous moves of my adult life. First, I moved from San Antonio, Texas, to Norman, Oklahoma, to start university. As a freshman, I was surrounded by thousands of other freshmen all looking desperately to make friends. It was incredibly easy to attend the Baptist Student Union and quickly surround myself with a large group of friends that mostly looked, acted, and thought like I did.

Seven years later, I moved to Cape Town with Brandon. We immediately started a five-month training program with All Nations that was filled with 50 other students, almost all of whom came from another city or country and were also desperately looking for friends. It was so easy to make friends in this move too. This time, my friends were from other cultures and different walks of life, but they still mostly thought like me — all believers passionate about seeing God’s kingdom come to earth. In my four years in Cape Town, I developed deep, lasting relationships that I will treasure always. It made it incredibly hard to leave!

Our amazing All Nations community in Cape Town sent us out so wonderfully in March. Here, some of our community prays over us at our farewell picnic.

But this time when I moved to a new place, I didn’t have an automatic group of friends also looking for friends. I think I got used to that, actually, and have been struggling not to feel lonely over the past few months. I still don’t have nearly as many friends here as I did after five months in Cape Town. And I think there are a few reasons for that: it’s harder to make friends in the real world, and I don’t my friends to all be like me. Let me explain.

Starting university and starting a big missions training school are pretty unique circumstances. I’ve talked with others who have made post-college moves to new cities in America, and they all tell me the same things: it’s a lot harder to make friends as an adult. People are busy, if you live in a big city (like Nairobi) it’s hard to get across town to connect with someone, etc. Also, I think people usually aren’t used to going deep with people, and so it takes time and intentionality to move a relationship from surface level to a real friendship. And let’s be honest, this is also my first move with a child, and Mikayla’s early bedtime severely limits our social opportunities!

The second reason I don’t have very many friends yet, is that I intentionally wanted this move to be different from my other ones. In Oklahoma and Cape Town, I quickly surrounded myself with others like me, specifically Christians. But that’s not what Jesus did — he hung out with tax collectors and sinners. I don’t think my sheltered Christian upbringing in Texas really prepared me to make friends easily with those who didn’t also grow up in the church. And that’s something I’ve realized over time, and want to remedy.

One of the big things I learned in Cape Town was that God likes to bring transformation in people’s lives through the context of authentic relationships. Programs and projects are great, but helping people move toward Jesus in the long-term requires walking with them in a relationship that touches all spheres of life. That’s what we call discipleship. You can’t do that if you can’t make friends with people who are different than you.

I also read a great book last year on community, Unexpected Gifts: Discovering the Way of Community, by Christopher L. Heuertz. It made me stop and evaluate my relationships, and I realized they’re not as diverse as I would like. I don’t want diverse friends for the sake of diversity, but because I want to learn about life from all kinds of people. Isn’t that what the kingdom of God is supposed to look like?

Mikayla hasn't had any difficulty making friends. Here she hangs out with her new best friend, our neighbor from Uganda.

So instead of joining the mostly-foreign church here I’ve heard such great things about, Brandon and I have tried to meet other sorts of people. There’s nothing wrong with having friends like us — we need a safe place to talk about the 4th of July with other Americans — but we didn’t want those to be ALL of our friends. And we’ve had mixed results. Things seem to move slower if you’re not part of a church with someone. So yeah, June was pretty lonely (after our team of other Americans all left for furlough). But in July we got to know a handful of great people. And here in August things are picking up even more. I’m hopeful we’ll develop even deeper relationships with more people the longer we’re here.

Have you had a similar experience moving to a new place? How did you reach out to others and form deep relationships? I’d love any ideas you can offer!

A Long Overdue Update

Family Easter pic

Um, yeah. So, it’s been a long time since I blogged. Years, actually. So this is the obligatory sorry-it’s-been-so-long-since-I-last-posted post. Let’s go ahead and get that out of the way.

I can tell you I’m turning over a new leaf, and I’ve decided to start blogging again. I have a long list of posts to write, so this isn’t an empty promise. I was inspired to blog again from my friend and neighbor here in Nairobi, Laura Swanson. She has a fun blog of all kind of things that strike her fancy.

I’ll save my longer posts for their own entries, but wanted to start out this introduction by sharing some pictures from our life here. I just love taking pictures with my phone, especially of my darling Mikayla, who turned two in June. If you are on Instagram or Facebook, you should follow/friend me if you want to see more pics!

Mikayla lounging

Mikayla checks out the tomatoes at our local produce stand/duka.

Our wonderful language tutor, Beatrice, smiles after she places some of our Swahili word flash cards on the table.

This is our home now, with our new (to us) car parked out front.

It's been winter here in Nairobi, and because the elevation is so high it's been pretty cold (even though we're near the equator). Our duplex doesn't get much sun, so we've been keeping warm huddled around a fire during language class every afternoon. It's finally starting to warm up here though!

The toy toys

Today during a meeting I received several urgent "Please call" messages on my phone from the same two teenage girls in Masi. One SMS said "Do you like toy toys?" And I started to worry. Then I received a phone call and I stepped out of my lunch meeting to take it.

Me: "Hello! Are you OK?"

Girl: "I am fine, thank you, and how are you?"

Me: "Is something wrong? What's going on?"

Girl: "Toy toys. Ifoodis. Do you know what toy toys are?"

Me: "No, not really. What is it?"

Girl: "It's like an animal. Can you come now?"

Me: "Are you OK? Is your family OK?"

Girl: "Yes. We are fine."

Owing to my limited knowledge of Xhosa, after much questioning I still wasn't sure what this girl was talking about. But I was worried. Because here in South Africa, a "toi toi" is a protester, someone going on strike, a demonstrator. I thought perhaps young people in Masi were demonstrating, and it could turn violent. So after my meeting I went straight to this girl's place in Masi. She took me to the see the toy toys.

And there it was: a tortoise. (Of course, with the Xhosa accent, it did sound an awful lot like "toy toys.")

Turns out, these girls had found and caught a 6-inch tortoise near their home in the Wetlands. In a really endearing move, they thought I would like the turtle as a gift. I didn't realize this was happening, however, and after I shared some admiring phrases ("Cool! How nice!"), they put it in a plastic bag and handed it to me. I recoiled in fright, and all the family spectators died laughing at me. If I'd known what was coming, I would have braced myself and accepted the gift politely. These girls come from very poor families, and I enjoy buying them small treats sometimes. They have never been able to give me things in return, so I was touched by their thoughtfulness in wanting to give me this tortoise.

Unfortunately, I didn't really get that at first. Once I realized what was happening, I thanked them profusely for the offer, but couldn't really rescind my initial negative attitude toward the gift. I stayed and hung out with them for a while. In the meantime, one of the mamas went and got someone else to give the tortoise to: A local sangoma, or traditional healer/witch doctor. She didn't speak very good English, but I tried to figure out what she was going to do with the tortoise.

All I got was, "[I will] give it water and cabbage."

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More about our Africa trip from another's perspective

Just thought I'd post a link to our friend Bowen's blog:
http://bowenparrish.tumblr.com/

He came with us on our journey around Africa and he gave more detailed
reports about what we were up to (and posted some great pictures from
Zimbabwe). Check him out!

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It was the "real" Africa

I thought I would show you a few photos of our monthlong journey across Southern Africa. It was a whirlwind trip!

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This next one is of Brandon and I in front of one of the places we stayed in Zambia. We stayed at this campsite on the way up and back. The first time we arrived about 10 p.m. and so all of us stayed in one "chalet," pictured. The second time we arrived just after sundown and camped in tents.

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This is the food set up for our whole trip. The orange cups are set out for our evening coffee ritual.

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This is Titus on the team in Malawi. The team cooked their food over a fire for two months. They were super tough!

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Here is the team in Malawi again, at their camp site in the village.

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Welcome back to Cape Town!

Well, it’s been a crazy past month. We’ve traveled about 12,000 km
throughout Africa. We’ve seen mountains, valleys, beaches, lakes, arid
land and the tropics. We’ve endured chilly nights and sweltering ones
too. We’ve eaten more germs than you could possibly imagine through
local food and lived to tell the tale. It’s been an amazing trip!

I’ll blog more about specific scenarios later, but for now I just
wanted to let you know that we are back safe and sound in Cape Town.

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