End of a Long Season: Bye Bye Cape Town

September 23, 2010

This is the hardest blog I have ever had to write, and that says a lot for a guy who wrote blogs while he was homeless! But part of who I am and how I’ve “worked” over the years has been by sharing both my joys and sorrows, victories and defeats; certain pieces of my life in South Africa, if not huge chunks, have been lived publicly, so in many ways I feel I owe the “public” an update of what’s going on. It’s hard to know where to start…

I’ve lived and worked amongst the “youth at risk” of Cape Town for the past ten years, ever since I met the kids living on the streets of downtown Cape Town way back in 1999 during my first ever visit to South Africa. I cannot even begin to explain how wonderful my time here has been, what a privilege it has been to do the things I’ve done, be in the places I have been, and make family with the people I have grown to love so, so incredibly much; really, no words could ever do it justice. I know I have gotten way more from this place and its people than I could have ever given, and I’m cool with that.

On a personal level (totally un-“work” related), the past three years have been the most difficult years of my life. I’m left feeling pretty drained, dead, and lacking passion for life in general, much less my purpose, calling and “work”. I am healing, and trying to pick up the pieces and put them back together but I know it’s not going to be a quick process. It will take time, but I know with that time, healing will come, along with a rediscovery of the “me” I can’t seem to find right now, or at least a new and improved version of me.

All these years in Cape Town I have worked as a “volunteer”, depending off support from whoever found it in their hearts to give. I have seen God provide, through people, in ways that would blow your mind. I’m talking random people, I have still never met to this day, contacting me out of the blue asking if I “would mind” if they gave me large sums of money. But that’s another story for another day. For many different reasons, that support has dwindled in the past few years and pretty much come down to close family. I’m in the place where I’d like to just “get a job” (doing pretty much anything) for a season, but I can’t do that here in South Africa because, believe it or not after ten years, I am still not a permanent resident.

Along with that, my current three-year visa runs out on 30 November, along with the lease on my flat the very same day, and I was planning a trip to the States around that very time anyways. So, all of that to say, in late November I will be leaving South Africa for an indefinite period of time. It brings tears to my eyes to even type that, and I’m still working it out in my soul, but all arrows point me in this direction at that moment. I may do what I need to do in three months and return, or I may never live here again, the latter being pretty scary for me.

They say home is where the heart is, and for now my heart is still in Cape Town. But something that is more difficult than leaving here is actually being here without truly “living”. And that’s what I’m needing to sort out. Now, I’m definitely not writing this for you to feel sorry for me or something like that. But as I said, I have been here for a while, I love this place and all my wonderful family here, and I did not want to leave without saying a proper goodbye. I don’t know what the future holds but I know these last ten years have been a journey and a half! I want to thank you all for all the many, many, many wonderful years of laughter, pain, joy, sorrow, guns, knives, gangsters, adventures, smiles, hugs, tears, gifts, and memories!

I also just wanted to let you Cape Town people know so we could have enough time to meet up for a coffee, gatsby, or whatever before I go. I would appreciate your thoughts and prayers in this time too, if you have some thoughts and prayers to spare…


Random Thought #104

September 20, 2010

I really take for granted how good it makes me feel to see someone fake yawn, until I see it again, and man oh man! BLISS!

Ramblings on a Sunday…

September 19, 2010

If we are always looking for the worst in others, we will most definitely always find what we are looking for…

We are made in God’s image but we often choose only to see the results of a fallen world in one another. We have the potential to look deep into a person, or maybe not so deep depending on the person, and see God within them; and whether they acknowledge Him or not, or whether we acknowledge the way they choose to acknowledge Him should not bare significance in our findings. Because if we are looking to see good, we will see it. If we are looking to find love within, we will find Him. However, if we are looking to see bad…well, that we will most definitely find it, in anybody and everybody, with no exceptions.

But how great would it be if we could look beyond all the behaviors we don’t like, things we label as “wrong”, the outer appearances, just putting them aside, and we make the decision to look another person in the eyes, peering much deeper of course, into their inner most being, and we greet the God that lives within them, whether they ackowledge Him or not, or whether we agree with the way they choose to acknowledge Him if they do, and we just say, “Hey. What’s up? I like you.”?

That would be cool.

I have seen some strange stuff lately, and by stuff I actually mean people. I realize I am a hypocrite, because this very thing I speak of I cannot do myself, when it comes to some. I do try. For me, it’s easier to see God in the homeless, the gangsters, the materialistically “poor”, and the outcasts of society; mostly because they are real. They often have nothing to loose and they rarely see the need for false pretenses. It’s easy for me to love them. They are humble. They are genuine. They are generous with what little they may have. They are not proud.

Where do I struggle then? I struggle to see God in the self proclaimed “man of God”, who stands at the pulpit bragging of his wealth, his fancy cars…yes plural…his large house in an expensive area. It’s hard for me to see God in him because I do not recognize the God this man speaks of. “How can he drive those cars, or be driven around in them rather, when majority of his congregation will not even eat three meals a day this month?!”, I scoff. But I realize that does not reflect anything on him. It only reflects what a hypocritical wretch I am. Because if I truly believe what I say I believe then I must also look past the bodyguards, through the expensive cars, past the fancy suit, and see the inner most parts of the man I can’t stand to be in the same room with. I have to choose to see God in him.

I have to not listen to his accounts of the God he says he serves, not get caught up staring at the spectacle he has created around him, but rather, I have to make an intentional decision to look into him, not in the way we are accustomed to look, but with a supernatural eyesight. I have to look and find God within him, and as hard as it may be, I have to acknowledge He is there. Because, whether I agree with him or not, whether I like the way he goes on, and the things he does, and the way he treats people, and the way I perceive his representation of God to be “wrong”, I have to take a step back and accept the fact that no one is either all bad or all good. We are just humans, who are made in God’s image. And I have to choose to see God, and not just the human.

Burning the Holy Quran…

September 9, 2010

I really wanted to write a heated, well thought out blog about this topic but I’m actually just too tired. This kind of situation (where an american Pastor is having a Quran Burning Day on September 11th to “take a stand against Islam”) really just makes me sad…and tired…and…sigh. I get so sick and tired of the ignorance mixed with arrogance of the Christian extremists who all too often make headlines!

Oh the arrogance! Oh the ignorance! Ugh!

So, I am just going to keep it simple speaking to my Islamic friends: in the same way that an extremist group who flies a plane into a building does not represent an entire religion they may be connected to, these idiots down in Florida do not represent all of Christianity, an dthey embarrass me. Please forgive them. Please forgive us. عيد مبارك‎ (Eid Mubarak) to you all after a long month of fasting!

Conversations With a Four-Year-Old…

September 9, 2010

I realise I should not expect stimulating and profound conversation from a four-year-old. I mean, four is not many years to have lived on this earth and therefore acquired knowledge, and vocabulary to express what little knowledge they have attained, is minimal. I get it. But today, when I took out my friend’s four-year-old girl Caitlin for the day, I realised just how random conversations with a four-year-old can be.

They don’t really follow any specific train of thought, or even the conversation itself for that matter; they just kind of say the first thing that pops in their heads, usually thoughts inspired by some random key word in a sentence, but not necessarily a word that relates in any way what-so-ever to the topic of the conversation. Take this conversation between Caitlin and I as we drove to town:

Caitlin, “Whose birthday is it?”

Me, “Sherilyn’s is tomorrow.”

Caitlin, “I know but whose birthday is it today?”

Me, “Um, no one I know.”

Caitlin, “But it’s someone’s birthday today.”

Me, “Yes indeed. Just no one I know.”

Caitlin, “Then we need to look for the good little boys and girls and tell them it’s their birthday.”

Me, “That’s not really how a birthday works. It’s the day you are born on.”

Not totally convinced Caitlin, “We need to check it out.”

Me, “Check what out?”

Caitlin, “Whose birthday it is. We need to check it out.”

Me, “How?”

Caitlin, “We need to check it out.”

Me, “But how do you plan on checking it out?”

Caitlin, kind of singing as she speaks, “By making a list.”

Me, “Um?”

Caitlin, “And checking it twice. And then we find out who’s naughty or nice. And then we will know whose birthday it is.”

Me, “That’s Christmas.”

A song I like comes on the radio and I turn it up, only to find out it is an advert.

Me, “I hate it when they use a song like that.”

Caitlin, “What did they do?”

Me, “They played a song I like and I thought it was playing but it was only an advert.”

Caitlin, “What’s and adfart?”

Me, “Like, when you are watching tv…the things that come on to tell you to buy stuff.”

Caitlin, “Baby, Baby comes on the tv.”

Me, “Um, yep. Sometimes it does.”

Caitlin singing, “Baby, baby, baby oooooooh! I thought you’d be mine!”

I just nod my head to her song.

Caitlin, “Justin Bieber makes great music and he comes on the tv and the radio and he’s hot!” 

Me, “If you say so.”

“An Apple a Day” Ain’t Got Nothing On Me!

September 5, 2010

In the ten years I have lived here in Cape Town I have often been asked to do things that other people spend ten years in medical school learning how to do. Ok, ok, that’s a bit of an exaggeration; I mean, I have never performed brain surgery or anything major like that. But I have removed thousands of stitches, dressed tons of wounds, “diagnosed” everything from STD’s to the common cold, and pulled out hundreds of teeth.

In the early years I was most famed for my stitch removal and teeth pulling; removing stitches from the kids on the streets and pulling the teeth of the kids who lived in the children’s home I worked for at that time. I had pretty much mastered both, but I had a very special trick with the teeth pulling. The kids were often scared to have their teeth pulled, and I am talking about baby teeth here, not rotten permanent ones. I had to develop a special tooth pulling strategy. And once I became renowned as the local tooth puller, all the kids were sent to me.

I always used the same tactics. The kid would nervously open his mouth and I would say, “I just want to feel if it is ready to pull. I don’t think it’s even ready yet.” Then I would take a piece of tissue, dry off the tooth, and yank it out before the kid even knew what hit him. That maneuver was always followed with a bloody smile of relief and usually a comment like, “Is that my tooth?!” Easy as stealing candy from a baby, which, on a side note, would probably lead to less rotten teeth if I did in fact steal more candy from more babies. But let me not get too side-tracked here.

I had some kids over this weekend and the one kid Kevin kept getting food stuck in a hole in his one tooth. It was really bothering him. He asked me to get the food out so I folded up a piece of paper, making an impromptu toothpick, and tried to dig the shrapnel of food out of the tooth. The paper just got soggy, becoming totally useless. That plan failed. I them remembered a military doctor’s kit a friend gave me (as a joke when he heard about my street doctor exploits). I went and dug it out of my junk drawer and amazingly it had one of those cool hook-dentist-tool-thingy’s.

Kevin laid back on the couch and I successfully dug out all the food stuck in the tooth; let me just add there was much more in there than I ever could have imagined. After witnessing my seemingly incredible dental skills, with the proper tools and all, Broetjie (who just turned ten last Friday) asked me to pull out two of his teeth that were loose. Like any good dentist would, I took my hook instrument over and poked around in Broetjie’s mouth, making dentist-like comments. “Mmmmm, yes. I see.”

The one tooth was a rotted lower first premolar, and though it was indeed very loose, it was a permanent tooth and not a baby tooth; I wasn’t going to go near it. The other one was a small tooth in the front; the lower canine to be exact. It was not as loose as the molar and I realized my “I just want to feel if it is ready” trick was not going to work. I diagnosed Broetjie with a premature-pull-attempt and perscribed an immediate “wiggle-the-rest-of-the-night-whilst-watching-the-Jackie-Chan-movie” treatment. Broetjie took his treatment seriously and vigorously wiggled his tooth as Jackie Chan beat everybody up.

After a while he called me back over, as he thought it was ready to come out. I went over to inspect and though the tooth was a bit looser, it looked a bit bigger this time around. I looked at the rest of his teeth, all looking pretty permanent to me. I saw a gap on the other side of his mouth, where the matching lower canine had once dwelled. I inquired about it and he said it also became loose and he “pulled it and it was very sore, and it never grew back”. It was at that moment I realized this very loose tooth was most likely not a baby tooth at all, and maybe, if not most definitely a permanent one. I rediagnosed the tooth as a loose permanent tooth, prescribed an immediate “no touching or wiggling of the tooth”, and suggested he go for a second opinion, of the educated type. And THAT is why people study for ten years to become medical practitioners!

Ten Things I Love About Jackie Chan…

September 5, 2010
  1. He does his own stunts. I mean, not many stars do that these days!
  2. Between him fumbling English lines and injuring himself trying to do stunts he has the best blooper reels ever!
  3. He is freaking hilarious, with a great sense of comedic timing.
  4. He never hits or kicks a woman, even if she is ferociously attacking him.
  5. In every film’s blooper reel he never fails to bleed or get knocked-out at least one time.
  6. Not only does he do his own stunts, but he also does his own English dubbing for his movies that are dubbed, even though he really can’t even speak English all that well.
  7. He smiles 86.2% of the time.
  8. He is always optimistic.
  9. He is 56-years-old and still going strong.
  10. In his film Concord he sings a song called “High Up, On High”. Yes, Jackie Chan sings the song himself!