Dumelang (Hello) from South Africa

Rebaona (Reb-ah-ō-nah). In Setswana it means “we all belong to God.” Rebaona is my Setswana name given to me by my language teacher Botsang (Bōt-sahng). It is also the name of Botsang’s daughter.

As I think of all the many things that I could share, I think first of this, we all belong to God. Over and over as I have met new people, seen new places, tasted new foods, and experienced a new kind of simple life—this has been impressed upon me. We all belong to God.

As of the writing of this post, I have been in South Africa for about 2 ½ weeks. (Since we have limited internet access, I am writing posts in Word and plan to post them on Blogger when I have the opportunity.) I am staying with a woman name Motsogo (Mōt-sō-hō) and her two great-grandchildren Jerry, age 3, and Shantile, age 4. Motsoho owns a “tuck shop” which is on the same property as our house, and her daughter Shirley lives in the room attached to the shop. A tuck shop is similar to an American convenience store, but ours is a very small shop compared with others in the area. Of the 25 people in our training group, most are staying in the same village as I am where Setswana (the language I am learning) and Sepedi are the primary languages. The rest of the group is in a nearby village where more people speak Zulu and Swati, the languages that a portion of the group are learning. In total, South Africa has eleven recognized national languages. Our training group meets almost daily for training sessions at the college of education in a village between the two homestay villages.

My mma (mother), Motsogo, is a very kind and very gentle woman. She shows me in many little ways how glad she is to share her home with me. When we arrive home from training in the evenings, she frequently asks me to get out my notebook so she can see what Setswana we learned. We sit on the porch as the sun sets, and she helps me to study. Her frequent “alright, darling” is encouraging and endearing.

Jerry and Shantel are cousins. Shantel’s mother (Shirley’s daughter) is going to school in Pretoria, about a three hour drive from our village), and Jerry’s parents take care of the family’s other tuck shop in Jo’burg. They are both friendly and sweet children. They've already won my heart. I have been teaching them “The Itsy-Bitsy Spider”, and they in turn teach me Setswana songs.

Our home is fixed up with plenty of modern conveniences such as electricity and television, but I still have plenty of opportunity to enjoy the nuances of bucket-bathing and the pit toilet. Neither is actually that bad. I truthfully enjoy bucket-bathing as it cools you off more than anything else. We are still in the summer months here, and tin roofs make for very hot houses which make hot days even hotter. I am slowly adjusting to the heat, however. Hand-washing the laundry is not that bad once you find the rhythm of the chore. I find I usually walk away with a sense of accomplishment. (We will see if I still feel that way after a few more months of it.)

Food is a whole new adjustment. The two main staple foods in my new home are pap and meat (bogobe le nama). Pap is similar to grits, but add about four more cups of cornmeal and take away all seasoning. It’s very thick and heavy. Meat is mostly chicken or beef—chicken is usually boiled and served with the skin and beef is most often stewed in our home with big chunks of fat. My favorite new food that I have come across is called merogo which literally means vegetable, but commonly refers to a kind of African spinach. It looks much more like grass than what Americans would commonly think of as spinach. My mma served it stewed with tomatoes and onions. It was amazing.

It hardly seems that it has only been two and a half weeks. Staging in Philadelphia and leaving my family in Lubbock seem so much farther away in my memory than that. I will write more in depth on the many experiences and discovery’s I am making later, but I’ll leave this post as an overview. Many blessings to you.