Friday, January 21, 2011


Have you ever paid attention to the process a plant goes through when it is transplanted? In its original soil it is usually healthy and happy, though something catches your attention and makes you think, “Hmm… something isn’t right here.” So you move the plant to new soil, and at first there is no noticeable sign of change. Things appear different than they once were, but only because the plant is in a new location. Generally though, the plant looks okay, until you suddenly wake up one morning to find your happy plant not looking so happy anymore. The leaves are wilting and maybe even turning a sickly shade of yellow. The plant is getting used to its new environment, although it doesn’t look like it’s enjoying the process. However, after looking pretty sad for awhile, the plant begins to thrive anew, growing new leaves that are even fuller than before. It might even produce flowers or fruits that you didn’t even know it was capable of.

I’ve had the opportunity these last few months to transplant many plants in the garden, and I am always amazed by the fruitful results. It’s not so hard then, to apply this same process to what I have been going through myself. When I applied to YAGM, I had the uncomfortable sensation of having ‘outgrown my pot’, and was ready to try something new. Once transplanted to my African environment, I was so overwhelmed and excited that I didn’t notice much of a drastic change in myself. Then, December arrived, and I found myself feeling strangely… yellow. I was unsettled and restless. I felt a bit droopy as I settled in to my daily routines; my new exotic environment didn’t seem so new or even exotic anymore. The novelty had worn off, leaving me prone to face a sometimes disappointing and frustrating reality. No, I don’t know what you’re saying when you speak in isiZulu.  Yes, I was really looking forward to moving to Swaziland in January. No, I don’t think I can watch another minute of WWE Wrestling on TV. I felt confined and trapped in my new container.  

However, just as abruptly as it arrived, one day this wilting feeling of discontent left. I woke up to a renewed appreciation of my surroundings; once again I was basking in the sunlight, noticing things I hadn’t before, and enjoying the people, places, and yes, even plants, alongside me. Yes, I recognize that face! Yes, I know where to buy that! Of course I can pick spinach for you! As I write this, signs of new life are everywhere- flowers are blooming, vegetables are growing, and the weeds are sprouting like crazy. All is as it should be. As for myself, I feel rejuvenated and joyful in my home environment. I know that I too am producing blossoms and fruits that though are growing now may not be harvested for some time. But without being transplanted, they might never have been at all! I was afraid when I recognized the signs of sad yellow leaves in myself, but I shouldn’t have been. They were merely a herald of the fruitful things which are to come! Hurrah for being transplanted! 

Sunday, January 9, 2011


These are a few questions I’ve received that I’d like to share with all of you. Please remember that my answers are based solely on my own experience; I know from talking with the other volunteers that we are all seeing and doing very different things. Please think of them as the Christine version of Africa!

What do people do for entertainment? Watching television is probably the primary form of entertainment. My family cannot afford to eat out, go to sporting events, or see shows. My 24 yr old brother has never seen a movie in a theater and can’t even tell me where the closest one is to Carolina. Most nights we watch at least 1.5 hours of TV: English news, then Xhosa news (which I don’t understand) and then Generations, a soap opera played during prime time that is followed by practically EVERYONE in South Africa. You can almost guarantee that wherever you are at 8pm, you’ll get invited to sit down in front of the television so you don’t miss an episode! We get three channels on our TV; two of them are run by the SA government. My family does not follow soccer; their sport of choice is WWE Wrestling, imported straight from the USA. Truthfully, this is a bit disappointing, as soccer means so much in this country, but there’s not much I can do about it, except watch hours of wrestling instead! Although I don’t enjoy watching this much television I know that just sitting together during the evening is very important to my host parents. It is acceptable to bring a book or some other activity with you to the living room, as long as you’re there!   

 We don’t have any board or card games, and I haven’t seen anyone in my family pick up a book. Also, just visiting with friends over tea and cakes is a good way to pass the time (and check up on your neighbors!) I have been able to read a few books while here- some I brought with me, some I’ve borrowed from other volunteers, and some I’ve checked out from the public library. It’s nice to have options! Also, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the presence of music in African entertainment. There is almost always some kind of music playing at our house, and usually some kind of musical show on television… Gospel reigns supreme!

Have you had time to go exploring on your own or just have time to relax and reflect? I haven’t really done much of what I would call exploring, but I do walk to and around town. All of the places to which I walk I was shown by my host family. “This is the grocery store, this is the post office, here is the internet cafĂ©,” etc. Granted, Carolina isn’t that big, and all of these things are on the same street, so it’s very easy to learn your way around! There is a small man-made lake on the north side of town, located below a natural bluff and beside an open meadow. I have found that this is probably the most peaceful and quiet place in town. Although you can’t get very close to the lake from the road, I enjoy walking there and just listening to the birds and the frogs sing away; one day I even saw a few horses in the meadow. Unfortunately, there are no benches, curbs, or even trees to sit on here, so it’s walk-by entertainment, rather than seated contemplation. It’s probably the closest thing Carolina has to a city park.

I am fortunate, however, to have time for reflection while I am at home. I certainly don’t have much of a formal schedule, and so I frequently get to enjoy quiet moments with a book, journal, and hot cup of tea! In fact, just having time to think is one of the biggest surprises I’ve had this year. I didn’t realize how busy I used to be until coming here and having little to no scheduled obligations. It’s a real treat for me, and I can tell that my spiritual and mental state is much stronger and healthier because of it.

I also get to travel with the Bishop when he goes to various communities for Sunday worship, so even though I’m not exploring on my own I really enjoy it. Seeing different parts of the region and meeting new people is always a new adventure!

Thursday, January 6, 2011


2011 already! Thanks for your support in the new year!

1- Don and Judy Nielsen
Happy New Year!

18- Bob and Gerry Grover