Saturday, September 27, 2008

community stay

i’m back!

this past week, i’ve been able to stay in one of the homes in the masoyi community. 4 nights and 5 days with no running water, no real bathing, minimal food supply, minimal living accommodations. i can’t describe to you all that has happened because it has been so eye-opening. the level of poverty is blatantly apparent in the community, yet it is so humbling to see people persevere through such conditions.

i stayed with one of the pre-school teachers at k2. her name is cindy. she lives with her two younger sisters and two year-old son. she is 23 years old and has taken entire responsibility to care for her sisters and child. her only job is the one she has at k2, which gives her a very small incentive each month – 600 rands, she says, which is roughly around $86 per month. her house is made out of bricks, cement, and metal roofs, and all four members of her family sleep in one bedroom. it seems her family lives on a day-to-day basis; everyday is a challenge for survival. this past wednesday, we ran out of water. knowing that i was there to spend the week with them, cindy seemed reluctant to burden me with carrying the buckets to and from the community well. so cindy borrowed water from her neighbor, who was also reluctant to share water. none of us washed that day or had much water to drink.

daily chores are also so much more work than i experienced them to be. washing dishes is especially a big task since water needs to be conserved. a small amount of water with a few squirts of dish-washing soap would be poured into a small bucket to wash all of the dishes of the day. by the fourth dish, the water would already be brown, and there wouldn’t be any soap left to clean the dishes. on wednesday, we had to use water that settled down with sediment in metal tubs at her house. i could see more than a few dead cockroaches floating on top, but we still used that water to clean the dishes.

food is also very scarce. most of the meals consist of pap (maize meal) and a gravy mixture of beans and vegetables. during the last night i stayed at the house, cindy told me she wanted to cook a nice dinner. when i got to the dinner table, there laid on the plate pap and chicken’s feet. i’ve certainly heard of people eating chicken’s feet, but never have i tasted or much less seen them. the foot on my plate looked especially grotesque; it had everything attached to it – toes/claws (?), pointy nails on the toes, etc. i’ve gone through 22 years of my life not even tasting shrimp or any kind of crustaceous seafood because they resemble insects. but how could i refuse? This was their nice dinner cooked that evening because i was there. so i smiled and found myself nibbling on the chicken’s foot. tasted the same as chicken, only less meat, more skin, more cartilage. but it still felt like i was nibbling on… someone’s hands and fingers *_*

the general lifestyle in the community is also readily different. i was surprised by the large amount of time spent in doing nothing. school and work end around 2:30 to 3:00pm, and supper isn’t until 5:30 to 6:00pm. bedtime is around 8pm, and we wake up around 5:30am. during those hours in between, we just slept or sat in the room talking with the tv on in the background. during hours like these, i would normally go out with a couple of friends to watch a movie or grab a cup of coffee. but those activities are not even considered because watching a movie, grabbing a cup of coffee, and casually going out to town are for the lives of the wealthy. experiencing such idleness helped me understand just a little of why so much of the youth become involved in crime or sexual activity. parents are dying, jobs are difficult to find, money is scant, and there simply isn’t anything to do.

but it’s hard to explain such things as a foreigner. who am i to say anything of the matter? i’ve only experienced 5 days living in the community. i would always have a life to return to in the states, but for people like cindy and her family, this is their life. it was hard to explain such things to cindy.

“hannah, why does it seem that white people don’t suffer like the black people do?”

i tried to explain things in terms of the differences in government, job availability, and pervasion of disease/illnesses in africa. i even tried to explain how things in the states aren’t that glamorous either, that a lot of people in america are suffering, too. but at the end, it seemed that all my explanations were useless. i couldn’t communicate what i felt deeply in my heart.

then, as ingrid, one of cindy’s sisters, explained to me her family situation and struggles, she said to me, “i think it was God that you came.” i replied with a shy, “oh, nooo.” but she continued seriously, “no, really. i am telling the truth. i was praying to God everyday that things might get better. and then you came. cindy and i really believe that it was God that you came.”

just listening to what she said, i was taken aback quite a bit.

Me? I am the answer to your prayers?? you’ve got to be kidding me! because boy, there isn’t much that has been answered. even as i listen to the Hands’ country representatives sharing their prayer requests for new volunteers to come into their region, i can’t imagine that i might actually be the physically-manifested answer to their prayers. what can i do? what can i possibly do to make a difference?

but after mulling over this and my incapabilities for some time, i finally realized,

God, it isn’t me. it isn’t us. it’s You, oh God. You are their hope and answer.

oh Lord, all i ask is that You use me. all i ask is that they be able to see You in me.

But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere.
- 2 Corinthians 2:14

Sunday, September 21, 2008

let my words be few

today was absolutely beautiful.

clear blue sky with perfect white clouds.

i couldn't take my eyes off of the sky.

You are beautiful.

Friday, September 19, 2008


though there have been many kinds of events and gatherings, i think the most apparent change since last week is that in my relationships with people here. it has been a little difficult interacting with the hands family; it's only natural. but i can sense that i'm getting a little bit more comfortable as time passes: my quirks, idiosyncrasies, and inner sarcasm are coming out.

the benefit of this is that i'm becoming much more transparent.
the danger in this is that i'm becoming much more transparent.

it seems that there's so much risk in being involved in any kind of deep relationship. it's a choice, it's a conscious decision to become more vulnerable. but i realize that people here deeply desire that, in hands and especially in the community. anywhere you go, people want you to know their names, they want to be touched, they want to be cared for despite having to expose themselves in the process. coming from the western culture, i'm used to interacting with small talk, with numbers, facts and figures, so it's easy to think that the problems here can be solved with money, food parcels, buildings, and programs. but it's not that simple. problems aren't merely surface-level; they're deep wounds, and people want you to know that. everything must be relational.

While he was in one of the cities, there came a man full of leprosy. And when he saw Jesus, he fell on his face and begged him, "Lord, if you will, you can make me clean." And Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, "I will; be clean." And immediately the leprosy left him.
-Luke 5:12-13

don't simply heal.

stretch out and touch.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

lion and carnage

kruger park is definitely Not a zoo.

while visitors drive around on paved roads, wild animals are crossing streets and roaming around the natural park.

we saw a lot of cool animals: rhinos (Right next to our car!), a lot of elephants and giraffes, baboons, hippos, and deer-like creatures, (e.g. a Lot of impalas). for the most part, i think this experience was... exciting?

more like mentally exhausting!

you see, we were trying to spot any kind of cat (e.g. lion, leopard, cheetah) the entire time but ended up seeing none. our car was especially desperate to see a lion and some "real carnage." one of us would shout, "LION!" and jon (one of the volunteers here), would slam on the breaks, back up, take out his binoculars and search in the distance, only to find... a rock. we would even stop at sites where birds seemed to be hovering above in circles, but find no carnage. the last hour at the park was the worst because we kept on shouting and stopping. no lion, no carnage, but we did end up buying our own impala meat at the park and cook it for the evening's braai. it's crazy to think that the park is not a zoo; the animals are actually living there, and people are free to drive around and see them.

(huge kudu!)

(bats sleeping/cleaning themselves inside the cafe hut *_*)

anybody interested in seeing some live action at kruger, watch this:

we were at that exact site, but... no carnage.


Friday, September 12, 2008

rest assured.

dear wellspring family,
the moz missions team has arrived safely! they came in last night, and we spent this afternoon at k2. some of them wanted to come into the office this evening to contact you, but i haven't heard from them after parting. but they are safe and well, and i'm sure you'll hear from them shortly!
contrasting to the hot weather of only three days ago, today has been quite the opposite. it was cold, misting and raining for a bit, so it wasn't exactly the type of weather one would imagine when he/she thinks of africa. normally, i would spend an evening like this cozying up in my couch, popping in a movie, and watching it with close friends while sipping on some hot chocolate.
but with changed circumstances, i am slowly learning how to find suitable alternatives:
(1) engage in random conversations with housemates.
(2) read.
(3) sleep.
although any of the above would've given me more than enough satisfaction to conclude the day, i thought i'd take this opportunity to do something i promised long ago.

i haven't actually taken any photos during my training period. so here are some images from my trip to blyde river canyon [9-6-08].

local streets on our way to the canyon.

souvenirs and various items sold by street vendors.

i was tempted to buy one of these :)

a wide selection of jerkies/biltongs. kudu biltong was our choice.

i'm such a tourist :p

brunch at the famous "harrie's pancakes." amazing.
the two aussies of our group, ro and jon.

emily, a fellow footprinter and my roommate.

climbing up to reach "God's window."

stairway up to the site.

enjoying the beautiful scenery at "God's window."

our final destination, blyde river canyon.

alisha, my housemate, enjoying her kudu biltong.

something's not right here :p

our entire group!

the four footprinters: me, jessie, alisha, and emily (clockwise).

standing in front of the expansiveness that is of God.

hello and good bye,

for now :)

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

in the heat of things

these past couple of days have been hot.

hot, hot, hot!

it's supposed to have reached a peak of 42oC yesterday afternoon, but being american, i didn't know what that meant. doing the conversions in my head:


is that even possible??

so it didn't help that a lot of walking needed to be done around the masoyi community; yesterday and today marked my first days going on home-based care (hbc). while having done some research on the system and structure of hbc before coming out here, i must say, it was an experience. what kind? i can't really say.

i followed a couple of nurses and local volunteers, and we visited a number of patients -- some suffering from swollen legs caused by arthritis, some suffering from injuries from accidents earlier this year, and some who were simply mourning over the deaths of their loved ones. while giving out medication, we also sang for them, shared scripture, and simply prayed for their healing. more than the immediate pain that we witnessed, i was struck by the general atmosphere of desolation in many of the homes.

on one hand, i felt utterly useless; i wanted to Do something, i wanted to Fix something. on the other hand, i was moved by the entire scene of what this ministry was all about: simply showing God's love. and during those moments, i couldn't help but be in awe of God's perfect plan. while on earth, Jesus was not only fully God, but He was also fully man. He knew all of our pain and suffering, He knew all of our comings and goings, He felt all of our emotions -- joy and grief; He empathized with us. Yet He endured it all without sin, and He was able to heal us inside and out. and when I think of this, i only slowly begin to realize what it really means when verses in scripture read, "for God so loved the world," that "Jesus had compassion," that "Jesus wept."

sandy, one of the nurses here, has been ministering this way for 7 years in masoyi. she simply says,

"give. give until it hurts, because it hurt God to give His Son."

By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.
-1 John 3:16-18

Sunday, September 7, 2008

identity crisis

i am a married chinese female.

i'm kidding, of course, but lately, there have been way too many hilarious incidences for which i thought it just. might. be. easier. to live with that kind of perspective.

incident #1:

a couple of volunteers and i had the opportunity to spend the entire friday at k2 in masoyi. the kids at the day care center are so cute! sweet! and wild.

as soon as i opened the door for the toddlers' room, all of the kids ran toward me and offered me hugs, or rather, asked that i lift them up and twirl them around. after being caught up in this for a while, i got to sit down and play with them for a little bit more. many of them actually just wanted to touch my face; i think they were somewhat intrigued by my asian features, looking into my eyes as they brushed my hair away from my face. it was soon time for snacks, and all of the kids were called outside to drink their rooibos tea. i was standing against the wall after the food had been passed out, and for a brief but definitive moment, i found all of the kids -- literally, all of them -- staring at me, giggling, and shouting,

"china! china!"

at this point, the local caretakers and other volunteers were also laughing. laughing along, i tried to clarify,

"no nooo~ korea~ i'm korean~ do you know korea?"

a moment of pause.


"okayyy, close enough."

it's so much fun when you don't take yourself seriously. really, i had a blast. :)

incident #2:

i have a ring that i regularly wear on one of my right-handed fingers. it was a gift from my campus ministry when i graduated, so i carry it around with me with no specific purpose. i guess the only problem with this is that the ring causes a lot of confusion:

"are you married?"

"oh no," i would say, as i try to explain the significance of the ring.

during our friday visit to k2, the other volunteers and i had the chance to stop by a local high school to meet some of the afterschool youth program leaders. there were a lot of students walking back home, so we were approached and greeted by many of them. it was actually quite chaotic; every step we took, we found ourselves shaking hands and introducing ourselves to the students. many of the students would jokingly ask the foriegn female volunteers, "do you have a boyfriend?" or "are you married?" these encounters would last a couple of seconds, and we would simply laugh, brush it off and continue to walk on.

at one moment, though, as one of the program leader was introducing us to his group of friends, the crowd forming around us seemed to be getting larger and larger. after a couple of seconds, i glanced past the crowd only to see the rest of my group walking ahead. the other female volunteers had managed to get past the crowd, but i found myself stuck in the middle of it. in a desperate attempt to escape, i frantically waved my arm and shouted, "lacey! lacey!" (lacey is a february-intake footprinter who coordinates much of the afterschool program; she lives with me and knows many of the students at the high school). i saw lacey running to fetch me. she quickly pulls me out of the crowd, grabs my arm, and thrusts my right hand into the middle of the crowd:

"see, see!! she's married!!"

but.. alas.

no ring.

i had taken off my ring at k2 because of all the confusion it had initially made. but it was causing even more confusion at the end.

lacey: "where's your ring?? what happened to your ring???"

haha..ha. ^^;;

"just keep the ring on" was the conclusion of that matter.

of course, the latter incident carries less levity than the former; i'm never left alone, and i will always be on my gaurd and try to be cautious of my surroundings.

but i guess from this situation and the like, i cannot help but feel a little



this was a rather trivial account of the days past, and there are so many other -- perhaps more important -- things i wanted to share: my first prayer meeting in masoyi, my first sunday at salt church, my encounter with a girl named carol, and the volunteers' weekend trip to blyde river canyon.

but i figured, this is all part of the experience, and these incidences make my stay here much more memorable.

so good night until tomorrow!

i Will be posting photos soon.

notes to september wellspring missions team members:

i am praying for you!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

starting line

it's been two full days since i've arrived, and things are slowly but surely starting to settle down.

yesterday was the first day of training: carly, the footprints volunteer coordinator, and i went over the core values of the organization and began to talk about the vision of hands at work as well as the challenges that it faces. today was more of a cross-cultural workshop: i actually got to spend the morning in masoyi with carly as she showed me around and introduced me to people at the lula center and k2 (orphan and youth day care centers).

i am set up for 10-weeks' worth of training, the first five weeks consisting of various workshops and participation in different kinds of ministries in the community. while looking forward to all of these activities, i am especially looking forward to the community stay: i'll be living in one of the homes in masoyi for one week and experiencing life without much of the support i have at asm. after this community stay, i'll be assigned to a country for a project and go into individual preparation or the rest of the training period.

besides the regular meetings and workshops that training entails, evenings are usually filled with family-style dinners and spontaneous conversations. yesterday was my first experience with a south african bry/brie (?), a term locals use to describe a bbq. 10-15 people gathered around a pit of fire with steak, lamb chops, pork belly, sausages, chicken wings, and who-knows-what-other-kind-of-meat grilling over it. i was so full by the end of the meal that i couldn't even fit a cookie into my stomach for dessert. i've heard a lot about africa, but i did not hear about them african bry's.

even though it's only been two days, i can sense the general atmosphere of geniality here: everywhere we go, people seem to be genuinely nice. as soon as we enter the door, people immediately stop what they're doing and greet us with hugs and big smiles on their faces. it seems that having a conversation, sharing a meal and simply building a relationship take obvious precedence over following a certain chedule and completing a task, and it makes me wonder why things are so different back at home.

thank you for all of your continued prayers because much is needed!

hope all is well :)

notes to september wellspring mission team members:

adapters! have you already bought adapters for this trip? if so, please check that the adapter has THREE prongs (stuck in three points forming the shape of a triangle), or else, it will not fit into any of the outlets in south africa. the adapters i bought in the states do not fit, and hearing from other footprinters, most stores in north america only carry adapters for european and asian countries. if you haven't bought one yet, it can be purchased at local stores in south africa.

voltage converters! you need something that can convert 220-240V to 100-120V. most modern electronic devices (i.e. laptop) are rated for 100-240V, which covers both the US and South African (and European) voltages. All you need is an adapter for these devices rather than a converter. you would need converters for heat generating appliances such as hair dryers and other items that do not cover that entire voltage range.

the new hands at work village (where you guys will be staying) is NICE. the buildings are located right across asm, and they've just been completed, so the facilities are brand new. kitchen and dining area are more than spacious; bathroom consists of sink, shower, toilet -- everything you need; there's a laundry room with washing machine AND dryer. the rooms set up for short-term volunteers have four beds and two closets, a little more cramped than other rooms, but certainly not unaccommodating.

hope preparation is going well!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

point A to point B

despite the many mistakes and tedious steps taken in order for me to get here, the fact is,

i'm finally here!

again, sorry and thanks to all of you who have been involved.

i landed in joburg last night just in time to catch the last bus of the day. i tried not to look lost, but for those of you who know my sense of direction, i got kind of lost. so i tossed the idea of trying to look like i knew what i was doing and went right to the information desk after exiting the airport. with the directions i received, i found the public bus station relatively easily, and while i was waiting for the bus to arrive, i met a nice person, to say the least. she was waiting for the same bus as i was -- the citybug -- and she gave me her telephone number just in case i needed something. when we got to nelspruit, the stop where i was supposed to get picked up, she waited until the hands at work members arrived so i didn't have to wait there by myself. i was so glad to have met her. or else, i would've been completely... scared. haha

the lodging here is more than what i had expected or hoped for. i'm staying at ASM (african school of missions), and the housing is much like a college dorm (with more bugs, frogs, leaves, and dirt). we have a kitchen, bathroom with toilet and sink, hot water, bed, closet, etc., so this new environment doesn't require too many drastic changes or adjustments on my part. but i'm sure when i head out to the communities, things will be much, much, much more different.

people here are also really friendly. there are only three other footprinters; they all came in early august to start their training. the other two to three footprinters who were supposed to come in september with me had decided not to come, at least for this round of intakes. most of the people in this house are also caucasian... or more precisely, canadian. in fact, my first impression of the house and volunteers was: hmm. there are a Lot of canadians here! dinner today involved discussion over canadian politics and the sharing of many volunteers' stories about growing up in canada. i'm surprised to find myself having to adjust to the caucasian (canadian?) culture as much as i have to adjust to the african culture. it'll take time to get used to, but i hope i find myself well-adjusted in a couple of weeks.

despite my outing to nelspruit this afternoon and having spent an entire day in this country, that fact still hasn't hit me yet -- that i'm in africa and that i'll be here for an entire year.

what a year it's going to be.

in any case,
hello and good night from africa!

nights are dark, but stars are really bright here.


notes to september wellspring mission team members:

i'm sure many of you already know the directions to the city bug bus station, but they still might be confusing due to construction. as soon as you exit the airport after customs (i didn't have to go through customs), you'll see a rather narrow road filled with banks from right to left. turn left and follow the signs pointing toward domestic departures and parking. pass the post office and continue walking until you see signs on your right pointing toward the hotel and public transportation. cross the street and continue following the signs for public transportation. or... just ask the information desk.

days here are pretty pleasant in terms of weather, much like the bay area, but nights can get pretty cold. pants and sweaters/sweatshirts are advisable to bring.

don't worry about bringing everything. there's a grocery store in white river and a mall in nelspruit where you can practically buy anything you need.

*** photos will be coming soon!