Sue Peeples – South Africa

This last week I went to the village of Auckland, which is near Hogsback Mt.

The villagers are pretty limited with what they can do because they have no transportation. I went all over the village and met lots of people but let’s just say that I didn’t need to take my usual morning walk to get exercise (on Tues I probably walked about 7-8 miles!). If the people need to go elsewhere, they get on a taxi. These are not taxis like we think of them but rather vans (and often mini-vans) that congregate in a certain area. If you want to go from the village, you go wait by the road. If the taxi is there you get on and wait. The taxi doesn’t leave until he has a semi-full load. Then along the way he stops and picks up more people until he can’t jam one more person on board (lying, sitting, standing, sitting on someone’s lap etc). I arrived in the village on Sunday. The missionaries with whom I am staying (Jon and Dawn) are both ministers and need to visit churches periodically and they had never been to this little one. This church is an outpost of the Knappshope church (I am not sure how far away the mother church is) and all the outposts share the same minister. The church in Auckland sees the pastor about 7 times a year. There are others where the visit is only once every year or two. The United Church of Christ for whom I am a volunteer affiliates with the UCCSA (United Congregational Church of South Africa) in this region. The UCCSA in the Kei region (Eastern Cape of SA) has 3-4 congregations in the cities that are predominately white, a medium number of colored churches where they speak Africaans (combination of Dutch and Koikhoi language) and all the rest (many small churches and outposts in the region) are black churches. The various races are starting to get along better but I can see that it has been a struggle after so many years of Apartheid where the races were separated by law. I spoke with a white lady who was born and raised in South Africa. She speaks English and Africaans. She said that during Apartheid they were told that all the services were separate but equal. The whites were quite frightened of the blacks especially and they tolerated the colored people (the Koikoi are not only a different tribe called the Bush people but also are a different race like comparing whites in the US to Native Americans). Of course the services were not only not equal but the blacks were kept in townships out of the city and were (and are still) extremely poor.

That said, the black church that I attended had quite a few people and we sat on wooden benches. The floor is like dirt but somewhat shiny. It is made of cow dung, dirt and water. If they “scrub the floor” as I saw them doing in the primary school, they bring in new dung,dirt, and water and put a new coat on. Guess all of the houses used to have floors like that. The place where I stayed was very nice. I will include a picture of the inside of the house. They are stucco and mostly rectangular now. Inside they have a sitting room with overstuffed chairs, coffee table, cabinets with all of their good dishes and knickknacks and important things that they have kept. The floors are tile. The place where I stayed had a big tank at the back of the house where they caught and stored rain water. That water was used for everything from washing yourself to cooking. There is no inside plumbing but they do have outhouses. Before they got the tanks, the women would have to go to the river (approx. 1 ½ mile)and dip the water out of the river with a big pot and then would carry it home on their heads. One still sees women carrying things on their head but not as often. The other thing that I found incongruent was the fact that most people have a least 1 TV. They can pick up about 5 stations. The other thing is that most of the people have cell phones (no running water but they have a cell!).

Everywhere I go, I see an interesting mix of western/modern with the traditional way. Some people feel that they have had enough of progress and they should be careful to remember traditional ways and others (mostly young people) think that the more western the better.

As we walked around the village, I saw the traditional houses, which are called rondavels as well as the newer styles. The rondavels are round and are started with support poles. Then mud is applied and if you have enough money today, you can add plaster (looks like adobe).

There are many more things to talk about but such little time! I goonWednesday to Queenstown, which is inland and in a high valley. It is more like home there (hot and dry). I will be staying with a man and his wife who run a home visiting service for HIV/AIDS patients. Will have access to the internet and will write from there. Will be in Queenstown for a month.

Grace to Peace to all,

Sue Peeples served as a short-term volunteer at the Samaritan Care Center, East London, which works with HIV/AIDS patients, the HIV/AIDS home based care farm project in Queenstown and other clinics/projects in the Kei Region as discerned by the ministers in the Region of Kei and Jon and Dawn Barnes, Global Ministries missionaries.