Friday, August 29, 2008


Whew! After Adrianne (Audri) left, I had a week and then Kate, Rachel, and Lindsay arrived. I cannot say enough about these three teachers who I admire. They teach at YES Prep in Houston and are really giving of themselves to input into the lives of these kids and build them up. In the process they are being built up though that’s not their motive.

What amazes me is that (most likely for all three of them) they will not end up in teaching as a final career (or at least it won’t be their only career because two of them might do it combined with another passion), and yet they are willing to take some time to truly and really give. It’s hard not to enjoy such meaningful work even when you don’t enjoy it, if you can understand the paradox that defines them. They are hard workers and they were just in town for a break.

Their break amazes me, too, (sorry in constant amazement) because these three with Haley have some weird kind of symbiotic love for each other, a love so strong that those three get up and travel to Haley wherever she is. During Haley’s first year from YES in 2007 at the University of Denver, the girls went up there to go mountain slaloming with moose. And then they met again to come out all the way to South Africa to hang with Haley. Now, people say that they have seen me and came out to see, but let me be honest: no one that I have seen in South Africa came to South Africa because I was here or came for the sole or main purpose of seeing me. This has happened for Haley time and time again. And let me say, if you can put yourself in a position where you have and can experience love like that, do it, because it is a wonderful thing. My guess is that they probably receive from her as much as they give to her. But it is a definite blessing to give of your time and presence, to travel here just to be. It’s beautiful.

So Kate (very passionate fireball whose connection with kids has grown and grown), Rachael (a natural born counselor blessed with many options growing in strength and courage every time I see her) and Lindsay (also a counselor with an amazing ability to listen and through that gain and give wisdom beyond her realization) came into town. They stayed with me for a few days and braved the Cape Town winter which tamed itself for them. But they received hot water bottles and extra bedding to keep them warm. Haley came into town to pick them up as well (she came in from Uganda, Rwanda, and DRC). Both Haley and KateLindsayRachael missed flights to bring them to Cape Town so I went home the first day with no one. The next day (the 17th of July Thursday) they both came in. Yayy! And the adventures began.

Unluckily for them Table Mountain Cable Way was closed. But they were still able to do a lot – Kirstenbosch Gardens, Cape of Good Hope, Robben Island, the Penguin Colony, etc. Haley left Sunday to get back Monday to turn in a paper which the girls graciously gave time between Thursday and Saturday for Haley to write. And the girls stayed with me one more night before renting a car to take along the beautiful Garden Route (a coastal interstate with similarities to Route 66 in the U.S.A.) They went to Stellenbosch and did wine and cheese tour (Stellenbosch is Cape Town’s suburb full of vineyards that grow well here due to the “Mediterranean” climate, then to do whale watching in Hermanus, and then on to Wilderness (I think; city on Garden Route) and Knysna (voted best city to live in South Africa for multiple years). They drove all the way to Haley in Grahamstown after seeing an elephant park. Then all the girls hung out with her and went to some of Haley’s service projects like a home for the elderly (most Xhosa people) and a township school. Then they went deeper into the Eastern Cape (Haley’s Territory/Province/State) and stayed at a hostel while mountain biking, sleeping under the stars, and discussing boys like giddy schoolgirls. I think they did some other stuff but my head was stuck in thinning arteries (read later). PLUS I had a birthday to plan.

Before that, while the girls were gone, a high school friend of mine arrived—Autumn. Autumn has a special personality that is guarded if she doesn’t know you well but is pure theatre. She is an actress (a good one) and was accepted in a masters program in drama therapy at NYU!!!! I was so excited when I heard. She had a year’s fellowship with the Alley Theatre Company in Houston where she discovered drama therapy working with kids. And now she’s going to use drama to help people! The fellowship includes travel money which brought here to check out South African arts and drama therapists. She had an excellent time hanging out. She was just a bit cold and a bit sick. But she used the heating fan and the hot water bottle the first night. There after she just used the heater. But we had a good time. And she accompanied me on Saturday (Aug 1) morning to kick of my new tutoring program with kids from two townships, even though it was my birthday. My birthday!

This year I decided to celebrate my birthday on August 2nd. [My mother reminded me of this decision with a wake-up call at 5 in the morning my time (she was in Trinidad). Thanks, Mom! Thanks also to my dad and sister for trying to reach me though I was out most of the day.]

The thing is this: some Americans and a lot of South Africans kept asking me what am I going to do for my birthday. What am I going to do? What am I going to do? I never do anything. I come from a culture where even if you don’t do anything, people do things for you. They ask “What would you like to do for your birthday?” That’s the question. They are asking because they are going to make it happen. Even if they do ask what you are doing, they are asking to participate. The people here were not doing that; they were asking just to find out and then think “that’s nice” and then change the subject to more important matters. Just to have something to say, I decided to just have a Latin dinner with a live band. So Autumn and I searched at four places. The nice thing about our search is that I now know all the places to go for salsa music during Thur-Sun and whether it’s live music or someone playing CD’s. Autumn and I chose the best place, and I called a few friends who were asking what I was going to do so that they could participate. I told Autumn the hats the waiters wear are cool. She asked about purchasing it and the waiter laughed in our faces. I wanted to wipe my face but refrained from communicating that his saliva was blocking my view of his faith. He sais it was too expensive, but that he could arrange a hat for me. “We’ll make a plan,” he said.

And a plan he did make. When we arrive he had a hat for me, and I was dressed Cuban style similar to the male waiter. Everyone came—Jeannie, Craig, Monique, Melissa, Ross, Takalani, Autumn, Anna, and myself. But then during the dinner before we ordered drinks, Haley, Kate, Lindsay, Rachael—all walk in!! What a surprise! I told Haley on the phone that I was going to cry myself to sleep [ people were worried that I was having my birthday in another country]. You see, I expected Kate, Lindsay, and Rachael to arrive back in Cape Town to fly out to the States in another week. I even felt immediately bad thinking they cut their vacation short to come and surprise me.

It was SOO amazing. And that’s not it. Melissa and Monique gave me a card and a huge embarrassing button to wear that lets everyone know I chose to celebrate my day that day. But their card was so touching saying something about how I don’t know how I’m touching people around me. It was nice and meant the world.

Haley gave me a card that said something ever-precious. And then she and Jeannie gave me a small gift box. I was SOOO super excited because I thought I was going to have my first proposal. I’ve been waiting so long for a woman to step up; it can make a man feel a bit insecure. Well, I shook and though it felt like cubic zirconium I was happy. I mean they didn’t support the black diamond trade. I open it and it’s a guitar pick. ImMEdiately I knew what that meant. And I just kept thinking “no, no.” You see I was even shopping that day for guitars at the Waterfront. I really liked these electric guitar “township” guitars made from Castrol Oil cans for the guitar body. Well, they commenced to take out a HARD-body case of a steel-string acoustic-electric guitar with spruce wood top and graphic equalizer. I mean these girls were not playing around. It’s a pretty guitar! But the reason I loved Haley and Jeannie’s gift (thank you Jeannie and Haley) is because they give gifts in line with my heart. I love when people do that, when they know me enough to give a gift like that. I’ve been starving here spiritually (musically) because I have no instrument at home, so I’ve been saving for a guitar but wasn’t sure yet because of some US bills to pay back home. And then, in my misery (understand that in the US unless my father has locked the piano) I play and/or write each day. It’s just part of living, part of my day. So it’s been difficult. The university doesn’t give access to the building to non-music students at night. So I can only go during the day. So the gift was huge and made me emotional . . .and almost cry (just for the pictures).

Then dinner started and it was wonderful. There was a guy singing Frank Sinatra tunes ruining the Cuban vibe and salsa music played during his breaks. He gave me this kind of pink angel feathers or cabaret singer feathers to wear. And he kept referring to me and singing to me(?) during his songs. He needed me as much as I needed him.

I danced with Haley and Monique. It was funny. Haley is good at following especially when we make up a type of step to go with the music. It was a good night. Afterwards we went to the beach to a place with salsa music allegedly. It had a private party with 80’s music or something so we just went to a cafĂ© and went home.

Kate, Lindsay, and Rachael left Monday. Then Autumn left Tuesday morning, and Haley left Tuesday evening. Before leaving, I took her to Bo Kaap a Muslim community with colorful houses, amazing views, and sloped streets as it sits on the slopes of Signal Hill. It was glorious. I wanted her to meet the 8 people doing the communal living (Shane Claiborne-Simple Way style) in Bo Kaap.

Autumn had an AMAZING time. She was overjoyed and just happy to have a friend here to show her around. I wish I was there in Joburg to show her around there. She is part of a program called couch surfers. If you’re interested and must travel and want a couch to sleep on, check out the website:

When the girls left they left me a card, the contents of which are unknowable. No, it was just so special. They were very appreciative, grateful, humble, and expressively touching with their words. Great girls. The card is beautiful and sits in my office. It speaks of friends coming together as they cook and share food from a pot. And I feel they were saying we are friends. THEN they bought me a Michael Buble CD. I really enjoy it. It’s nice. I was looking for Mrs. Jones. But I think he must have two albums out because it’s not on there, but it’s good. His team (A&R, producer, himself, etc.) picks out great songs for his album, great songs. They are good for ballroom dancing as well. And they left a whole lot of money for these parts, especially as they wouldn’t take my American change and loose dollar bills. Strange, but their gift was nice and accepted. They were an honest joy to have.

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