As I’m writing this, the first month of our stay here in South Africa has passed, and we have done a lot! Going around to different Parishes, meeting different people and seeing different places every day. Since this is the second text being published by us on the blog I will only write about what we have experienced since last time. What I’ve realised though is that one month can feel like a whole year and just one day, in the same time. It feels like we have been here forever but also, like we just came. With all the thing we have done its hard to realise that we’ve only been here for one month however, since everything has been so much fun, it feels like we came yesterday.
We have continued are journey through the northern province of ELSCA and we are now in Lobethal, close to Jane Furse, Limpopo. Since we came back from Nelspruit (see August’s text), we have been in Durban, Groblersdal and a short term in Middlesburg. Today we arrived in Lobethal where we will spend a few days, before we go to Palaborwa for a youth conference.
Two weekends ago we went together with some of the youth from the Northern province to Durban, for a youth cultural calabash. It were in total over 100 youths from all over South Africa there and we even met the bishop from the south eastern diocese, Bishop P.P Buthelezi. He had been in Sweden several times and it turned out that he is a good friend of Åke Bonnier, bishop of Skara diocese, whom was the one who baptised me! Expect being in church to sing and praise the event also focused on cultural heritage. The participants dressed in culture attire and sang traditional songs. South Africa is a country that is very rich in culture, there are eleven different officials languages and even more cultures. To remember your heritage is of big importance here and the whole of September is seen as a heritage month. We also got the opportunity to see Durban and I can say that it is a very nice c
ity. We swam in the Indian Ocean, played beach volleyball and really enjoyed ourselves.
After being in Durban we went to Groblersdal where we stayed for a few days. During these days we visited a college, spent a lot of time with the youth league in the local parish and visited an orange farm, just to mention a few things. We also attended a funeral for a young woman that passed away just before arrived in Grobelsdal. A funeral here is not something that lasts just for one day, instead there are several services spread over a whole week. We went to the last service (that was held at the church) and also to the cemetery. The whole funeral was very emotional and at the lunch afterward there must have been more than hundred people. When someone dies here, the whole community helps with everything from cooking the food for the funeral to digging the grave, a very beautiful and uniting tradition, I believe.
Directly after the funeral we went back to Middleburg to attend the confirmation service for the confirmands that we met a few weeks ago. The service was five hours long and the whole church was packed. Confirmation services are always very joyful and this one was no exception, five hours felt like one hour, if you ask me. Afterward we visited as many of the confirmands reception as we could, I think we made 7 out of 15… It was a long day but very much fun and it was interesting to see how a confirmation service is in ELSCA.
One thing that I have noticed is very different here in South Africa compared to Sweden is the amount of soda people drink. We have had soda to almost every meal here and I would say that is almost more common to drink soda or juice to a meal, than it is to drink water. Some people are even surprised when we say that we prefer to drink water instead of soda. A lot of people don’t see to realise how bad soda is for you, especially in big amounts. The health knowledge is in general quite low and different type of fast foods are popular. As a result of this obesity is something that we come across often in the different places we visit.
Another thing that I’ve thought of is that there are no locks at the toilets. As a person who cares about my private spaces this sometimes causes some problems.
The driving is also something that differs a lot compared to what I’m used to. Not all cars have seat belts and not many people uses them, unless when they have to. The drivers rarely respects the speed limits and I remember once when we drove in over 180 km/h! Fatal traffic accident are much more common here than in Sweden and I would say that the only times when I haven’t felt completely safe here have been when I have been in a car. When we went to Durban, youth that we travelled with even prayed before we went in the car and I can see why…
I think it is impossible to write a text on the blog without mentioning the weather – IT IS HOT, sometimes even over 35 degrees! I’m already almost out of sun cream and I brought a BIG bottle with me… We have experienced some rain but most of the time it is sunny and since it’s only October we still have warmer months ahead of us.
When it comes to challenges that the society faces I would say that the biggest challenge is the high rate of unemployment, especially for the youth. A lot of the young people we meet are unemployed and they are not so hopeful about their future. There is also a big problem with drugs among young people. These aspects are what I will focus on for my special project – the situation for the young people.
I’m still amazed by the hospitality people show us everywhere we go here, especially from the ones that hosts us. They are so thankful that we are with them and we always tell them we are the ones that should be thankful, which we are of course. People take time to be with us and to speak with us, especially the youths. We are being so well taken cared of and I can really say that South Africa is a welcoming country.
Till next time! Love and blessings,
Julian or my new name Hlabirwa.
Together with the Bishop of the South eastern diocese. For some reasons I can’t upload more pictures…