Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Goodbye Africa!

Coming back to Heronbridge was such a strange feeling.  As we all got off the bus you could hear everyone saying, "this is so weird!! It's like we never left!"

Ending off this 3-month adventure of a lifetime in the same place we began it gave us a very odd sense of deja vu and made it seem like the last 3 months had literally flown by.  In some ways, it seems like we've been in Africa forever, but at the same time it feels like we've just arrived.

Our time in Heronbridge was full of 'lasts'.  Our last time moving, our last time packing, our last debrief, our last church service, our last meal in Africa, our last time soaking up the hot African sun, and one of our last time together as a group.  There was also a lot of reminiscing, "Remeber when..." was a phrase often heard.

It was a bittersweet 6 days, knowing that our time together was coming to a close and that Africa would soon be a memory.  But we also knew it was less than a week until we would be on Canadian soil with a Tim Horton's iced cap in our hands reuniting with our family and friends.  It was a very strange mixture of emotions, but that didn't stop us from having an awesome last week!!

A multitude of hours in the pool and in the sun were how our days were mostly spent, although volleyball, cricket and euchre were other options (when we weren't debriefing of course).  We even had an Easter egg hunt!  Although, technically it was more of an Easter P.S. Bar hunt...  We also had the pleasure of being with Ryan as he was baptized on Easter morning!

It was an incredible week, but as awesome as this country is, it's time to say goodby and go back home.

Good bye Africa, it's been a blast.

Written by: Kelsey

Monday, 9 April 2012

African School of Missions Assignment: Debrief

Purpose: To determine everyone's thoughts, experiences, and opinions of their Outtatown year through debrief.

Hypothesis: If there is the right combination of rest, relaxation, recreation and good food, then the time spent at ASM doing debrief will be amazing.

- 30 Outtatown students
- 4 Outtatown leaders
- 1 bus driver
- 34+++ bags of luggage
- 2 tennis courts
- 1 soccer field
- 1 swimming pool
- many hangout areas
- 6+ decks of cards
- 34 chairs for debrief sessions
- constant supplies of hot tea
- lots of good food

1.  Arrive at ASM after leaving Swaziland
2.  Unload bags into rooms of 4
3.  Attend the best breakfasts of all of South Africa.  One day people had the option of sleeping in and missing breakfast, but strangely enough, not many people did.
4.  Listen to students talk about their Outtatown year.  Each student shared for 15-20 minutes, followed by a time of encouragement and prayer.  Every student was well prepared and everyone really enjoyed listening to the stories and insights from the year.
5.  Allow time for euchre.  In Swaziland, Hugo and Mark started a euchre tournament and many games were played at ASM.  There were 13 teams in all and some of the games were very exciting and nerve-wracking as only 8 playoff spots were available.  The winner is yet to be determined.
6.  Allow time for recreation.  There seemed to always be someone in the tennis courts or in the pool.  It was great to have space to play ulitmate, soccer or sit by a fire at night.
7.  Make sure that there are some new experiences.  For example, I'm sure it was new for many girls when they found a monkey in the hallway outside their rooms.

Discussion/Conclusion: The time at ASM was a great bonding time.  We had some well deserved rest and spent a lot of time enjoying being with each other.  It was great to start the debrief process, as this year has been full of new, surprising, fun and challenging experiences.  We had time to kick back and enjoy God's creation through our surroundings.  One night there was a beautiful and powerful lightning storm that has us all in awe!  I know that I speak on behalf of many when I say that Outtatown is so amazing.  The places we go are all so unique.  Even though our time is quickly drawing to an end, we still have had fun together during the last days.

Written by: Megan

A brief step out of South Africa

For our time in Swaziland we stayed at the New Hope Centre.  This place was one of the most inspirational organizations we worked with.  Upon arrival, our host informed us that Swaziland is dying of AIDS.  Literally.  78% of the people are thought to have HIV/AIDS.  New Hope Centre is an orphanage that promotes leadership; their slogan is "orphans today, leaders tomorrow".  Interestingly enough, New Hope doesn't search for orphans, but allows God to lead specific children (orphans who have lost all family members: mom, dad, aunties, grandfathers...) through their gates.

We helped build a garden at New Hope using principles of "Farming God's Way" with the children living there.  Through this we formed deep relationships with the kids, some of the most meaningful of the entire semester.  It was really great to live at New Hope for the week, at the end of the school/work day we got to hang out with them.  On our last night there we had a braai and listened to many stories of how God has worked in some of the children's lives.  One boy had prayed for a bicycle for six years.  Wow.  It was moving to realize how essential God is for them.  God was their everything. 

One kid, named Asher, grew up taking care of animals that his family owned instead of attending school.  Now, at New Hope, he is able to do both.  The centre offers lots of unique opportunities to nurture the kids' passions.

Random facts:
- New Hope is striving to be self sustainable
- All the kids have the last name 'Abraham' since we are all children of God

Written by: Andrew and Emily

Sunday, 1 April 2012

We pooped, we puked, we partied

Hello and welcome to another addition of Site 2 Blog. Our time in Durban started off a little bit rocky and rough. Sickness overcame some of the group but we conquered that and enjoyed our time. The visit to Durban consisted of visiting temples and learning about the different religions that the East Indian people of Durban follow. Did you know that Durban has the largest Indian population outside of India? We enjoyed curry; for some it was delicious and others couldn’t handle the heat. The home stays were very enjoyable and each group had their own unique experiences. For myself, I enjoyed the home and talking with the family every night learning about them and what they do. Very fun. We also got into the Soap Opera scene and we are all into Days of our Lives and other amazing t.v programs. We learned about how the East Indian people came to South Africa and how Ghandi helped in the movement towards abolishing apartheid. A very interesting experience and we ended it off with a visit to Ushaka!! A wet and wild, fun filled day. Waterslides and lazy rivers filled our last day in Durban. All in all it was a fun experience. Well that is all folks. Until next time.

By: Hugo Malan

Saturday, 31 March 2012

Surf's up in J-Bay!

Before heading to J-Bay for a short 'all sites' reunion, our site was going to participate in a little Outtatown ritual over the Blaukrans river... Bunjee jumping!

From day 1 of the program the bunjee jump was somethign that frequently came up in conversation.  In fact, I remember at Camp Squeah when we would practise jumping from the benches.  We made it as realistic as possible you see...

When it was time for the real thing most of us were leaning towards being more excited than terrified.  There were the odd exceptions... *coughjessica&kendra*  Jumping from the bridge was a totally surreal feeling and everyone who ended up jumping had no regrets.  As you're flying through the air, leaving the pounding music on the bridge, all that you can think of is just how much you love Outtatown.
That's it! The bridge we jumped off of!
Getting ready to go!
All done! Go Coral, Alisha & Kaitlyn!

All Sites at J-Bay was a very enjoyable and relaxing 2 days.  We got the chance to take surfing lessons and go for a canter along the beach with some African horses.  After that we took the opportunity to shop in all the outlet stores, searching for a shirts and swimsuits to show off our tans when we get back.  Or, in a couple cases, rent surf boards on our own and spend all day in the water. 
Jess, Carol, Lisa, Kaitlyn, Alisha, Coral, Tobi, Becci & Megan going riding

All in all, it was a fantastic way to spend the  half-way weekend of our semester!

Written by: Andrew

Pietermaritzburg service & Drachensberg Hike

The time at Pietermaritzburg was fantastic!  We met some amazing people who were doing God's work at Project Gateway Prison.  We felt very blessed to be a little part of what they were doing while we were there doing service work.  Whether it was scraping off old paint or painting interior/exterior walls, we enjoyed helping out Project Gateway one group at a time. Both groups worked on preparing and painting some accomodation rooms, painting the hallway and other exterior painting jobs.  It was good to be put to work and I know the people at Project Gateway appreciated everything we did.

We also got to experience some of the Zulu culture one night.  The kitchen ladies prepared a Zulu feast for us, including chicken feet, tripe (cow intestine), chicken gizzard and sour milk,  Let's just say it was an entertaining meal as people tried all the new food.  After dinner we got to play games with some of the local children and that was very fun!  The whole evening was a great taste of Zulu culture.

Our group was split in half that week.  While one group stayed to do service, the other group left to hike Rhino's Peak in the Drachensberg Mountains.  The hike was both challenging and rewarding.  The hike, so beautiful!  It was such an amazing experience to sleep in a cave for two nights and cook our food in a little pot over a single flame.  At night we were surrounded by stars and bats, and in the morning we were greeted by the sunrise rising up through the mountains.  It was such a wonderful experience to be completely surrounded by God's creation.  The hike was challenging and took about 3 hours to get to the top where we met some BaSotho herdsmen.  Along the way we got to drink water right from the river which was a very cool experience (literally, the water was freezing!).  Everyone encouraged one another and I know everyone loved getting to the summit.  We could see for miles - it was such an incredible view!  We also had a lot of fun with our guides, Paul and Josh, who talked with us and even played cards with us.  Overall the hike was one of the most amazing experiences we got to do this year and I'm sure it was a highlight for many members of the group.

Written by: Layla

Carol & Alisha in our home cave
Sandy, Kaitly, Tobi, Carol & Alisha nearing the top

group shot with the BaSotho herdsmen in the country of LeSotho

Chloe taking in the view over SA

Take a walk on the Wild Side

Our week at Mdumbi (on the Wild Coast) was very relaxing.  We enjoyed having free time on the beach with the cows and other random livestock.  There was a cozy chill room where we spent most of our evenings playing cards, listening to music and chatting.  Our hike to Coffee Bay was definitely a highlight.  We hiked along the coast - down the beach, through a cave and off a cliff into the ocean.  With only 2 nights left, some of us decided to sleep outside on the beach:

"So a few of us hauled our sleeping bags, blankets and pillows down to the beach.  Others decided to mooch off the people who did bring warmth *coughandrewcough* and one true woodsman thought to make bot rock lounge chairs to keep him warm throughout the night.  Too bad it took him all night to make it!  About 10 of us drifted off to sleep by the fired, snuggling in the sand, looking at the starts and hearing the crashing of the waves.  However, as we slept, the waves kept crashing and the tide rose higher and higher... higher than it had all week.  Some beach bums felt the waves coming earlier on, but instead of warning the rest of us they decided to keep that information to themselves leaving the rest of us to a shocking wake up.  Water rushed into our sleeping bags, soaking everything inside and taking our pillows, sweaters and glasses cases right out to sea!  It was a mad dash to find all our belongings followed by a lovely hike back up the hill carrying all our dripping sleeping gear with us.  Not the most ideal thing to be doing at 3am... but it sure makes for a funny memory!"

Nathan Reiger also flew down to spend some time with us and Site 3.  Many of us got to have one-on-one conversations with him.  He spoke to us about V.I.M. - Vision, Intention and Means.  This was important to learn about as many of us are considering our next steps following Outtatown.  In our Knowing Yourself session with Sandy we discussed the importance of transitioning well.  Leaving our Outtatown community and transitioning well back to Canada will take intentionality!  With only 10 days left, we want to make the most of our time and finish off the year well.

One final note, one beautiful morning at the beach, Kaitlyn decided to get baptized.  It was an incredible moment where she dedicated her life to Jesus.  Cool beans :)

Written by: Emily Brubaker-Zehr
Story by: Rachel Parkinson

Kaitlyn sharing her testimony

beach at Mdumbi

hiking to Coffee Bay

Our apologies

Hi Everyone,

I'm sure you're all rather frustrated with the lack of posts on the blog lately.  All we as media committee can say is, sorry.  Internet has been scarce in the past month as we've visited a few of our more remote locations.


Good News!!

We have internet again and hopefully you'll be overwhelmed with our stories in the next day or two.  And pictures, so check our some of our older posts!  We miss you and will be seeing you again shortly.  Who can believe we're only here for another 10 days?!

Site 2

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Time for some R&R

Bonnievale was a place with a gorgeous view where it felt like we were camping for a weekend.  We got to swim, soak up the sun, play games, hang out and have lots of fun relaxing.  One of the best parts of the weekend was kayaking up the river to the rope swing!  We also got to go slingshot paintballing - it's a ton of fun hitting your friends and comparing bruises afterwards.  Another highlight was the high ropes course we got to do!  Later we got an adrenalin rush on the King Swing, which is where you're sitting on a seat 30ft up in the air, let go of the rope you were pulled up by and swing like you've never swung before.  Tons of fun!

During our time at Bonnievale you could tell that our site had a different, more relaxed, chill atmosphere which was really nice to see.  We also loved the food that was cooked over an open fire, delicious after an afternoon swim.  Bonnievale was definitely a highlight for everyone.

Written by: Larissa

Jess, Lauren and Alisha post paintball
Chloe taking some serious R&R, Mowgli style
Megan, Rachel, Lauren and Jess on the high ropes course

Stellenbosch Work Projects

During our time in Stellenbosch we did service work in the local township Kayamandi.  We were split up into 6 groups and each group was assigned a local organization to work with.  Each organization gave us suggestions as to how we could most benefit the community and once each group had a project in mine, we set out to plan how to achieve this goal.  we had 3 days to complete our projects and a day to plan what supplies we needed. We were all given the task of budgeting out what supplies we could buy with the ZAR 1800 we were given.  This showed us how frustrating and difficult it can be to make these people's dream become a reality, but ultimately how gratifying the work was.

Each group was given a local guide, which gave us the chance to really connect with people from this community.  Working with the guides was a great opportunity to learn more about their lives as we worked side by side with them.

The projects that were completed varied from painting a creche or fixing a bathroom and soccer stadium to building a library at the local high school from scratch and rebuilding a guard house.  it was an amazing experience to see first hand how we influenced the community and how, in return, they influenced our lives.

Written by: Jessica and Kaitlyn

Chloe working on a Kuyasa bathroom
Goerz, Chloe, Matt, Kelsey and Becci after a hard day's work!
Kaitlyn looking bright and lovely

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Strandfontein Homestays!

Last Sunday we arrived in Strandfontein and after church we headed off in pairs to our new homes for the week.  Anticipation, excitement, and a little nervousness filled the air as we began our first homestays.  We weren’t sure what to expect, but I think I speak for the group when I say that we all felt incredibly welcomed by the Coloured community of Strandfontein.  The warm hospitality we experienced was greatly appreciated and very encouraging.  When the bus picked everyone up in the morning we had fun sharing stories of the time we had spent with our host families including enjoying delicious suppers, visiting relatives, walking on the beach, and sometimes just relaxing and watching TV.  Being apart of a family for a week was a very meaningful way to get to know the community and gain insight into their culture.  Personally, I found it very interesting to see and hear first hand about remaining racial tensions between Coloureds and Blacks.  I also enjoyed getting to experience a more relaxed lifestyle as compared to Western society (which tends to be focused more on efficiency than people).  I think we can learn a lot from the way these people live their lives honoring and valuing relationships.  Here people very purposely greet and say goodbye to everyone they are with.  Most of us observed the close connections our families had with their extended family, gathering together quite regularly.  Even fairly relaxed service days during which the locals didn’t seem to mind us taking lots of breaks taught me that slowing down can create space to engage and appreciate the people I was working with.  Hopefully we can find ways to take some of what we saw and experienced in Strandfontein such as gracious hospitality and valuing relationship over efficiency and apply it to our lives back home.  Next Sunday at church the change in all of us was evident as we all said our goodbyes to our host families.  We exchanged contact information, took pictures, and some even tried to plan future meetings.  There were lots of hugs as we tried to portray our gratitude for an amazing week!  
Homestays were clearly an integral part of our time in Strandfontein, but we also had many great adventures together as a group.  On Monday we continued our apartheid education by visiting the District 6 museum where we learned how a vibrant Coloured community was destroyed when it was declared an all white area and residents were forced to relocate.  Later we spent two days working to start community gardens as part of a food security program.  An attempt up Table Mountain on Thursday was foiled by clouds and wind but we still had a great day exploring the waterfront area of Cape Town and learning about conflict resolution.  The week was finished off with a visit to Robben Island which included a tour conducted by an ex-political prisoner who called the very prison we walked through his home for 5 years.  The week was rounded off by lots of time working on our tans at the many beautiful beaches in the area.  Life is always busy and exciting here in South Africa!  

Written by: Carol

Monday, 13 February 2012

From Deserts to Beaches and Everything In Between

After our wonderful time in the desert (which will be passed on shortly via the incredible musings of our very own Laura) we headed to south to Simon's Town.  It's a small little town on the coast of South Africa close to Cape Point, also known as the Cape of Good Hope.  What a marvellous week filled with all sorts of relaxing and adventurous activities!  The week started off with a bang... or should I say a fall?  Skydiving was on the menu and twenty-four of us ordered it.  The skydivers went off early in the morning to experience what it is like to fly, or fall, with style.  A quote from midair:



A couple of days later the team met up with the one and only Archbishop Desmond Tutu.  Yes that's right.  The Archbishop who has played such an incredible role in mediating peace in South Africa by heading up the Truth and Reconciliation Commission after apartheid ended.  Archbishop Tutu spoke to us about the importance of youth being involved in the world and answered questions we had about South Africa, apartheid and where the country is today.  The Archbishop is a wonderful person with a great sense of humour and will remain a highlight that won't be forgotten any time soon.

As the week went on we continued to relax on the beach, hanging out with penguins and seagulls, looking out over the ocean wondering what is under that beautiful blue water.  Well a few of us decided to find out by climbing into a cage under the sea to see what there is... and there was plenty!  In the words of one of the divers, "We're gonna need a bigger boat!"  Why you might ask, well because we saw huge great white sharks! Jaws in real life!

All in all it was a wonderful and relaxing week.  Loving the beaches and fun times.

Love from the warm, sun-soaked beaches of South Africa.

Till next time.

Wtritten by: Hugo

meeting Archbishop Tutu

Larissa, Sandy & Kaitlyn

Tausha, Lisa, Carol & Sandy braving the winds at Cape Point

Thursday, 2 February 2012

A new perspective

Our week in Pretoria wrapped up quickly, and before we knew it we were on our way to learn about black culture in Soweto.  There were many heartbreaking moments - when we visited the Apartheid Museum, our trip to the Hector Pieterson Memorial (in honour of those who lost their lives during the Soweto uprising in 1976), walking through the tin-shack townships... It's sometimes hard to know what to do with those experiences.  Sometimes you wonder where God is in all this.  Especially when you think about your life back home in Canada.

One of the best parts of our week though, is the time we spend volunteering in Kliptown (the township outside of Soweto).  We join up with ministries and organisations already at work and provide whatever other service we can.  Sometimes that means playing with 30 children under the age of 6 in a nursery school, sometimes that means gardening at an HIV/AIDS foundations, sometimes that means sorting toys at an orphanage, and sometimes it means keeping people company throughout the day.  What always gets me is that among all the heartbreak one can see in South Africa, you never see places without hope.  The smiles on the kid's faces, the passion in someone's voice as they say, "We may not have much, but we are so rich here" and points to his heart, those moments leave you believing that whatever the past, whatever the future, South Africa will move forward.

Our world view is shaped by so many factors: where we grow up, what we experience, the people who influence our lives.  I love Outtatown because it blows your world view to smithereens.  It challenges what you have experience and says, "Have you thought about this?"  It makes God real, because sometimes you don't have the answers and just have to trust that He knows what's going on.  You question the way things are and sometimes you're inspired to make change.  I love our week in Soweto because it leaves us all unsatisfied with how things are.  The hope, as we move forward in our semester is that we are convicted to get involved, to take part, to be like Jesus and make things better - in whatever way we can.

Written by: Sandy Town

Sandy & Brenda - the lady who sells candy at our compound

gumboot dancing in the township

kids to play with at the nursery school

taking on Soccer City!

The Cage

We were trapped.  The gates were locked and the fences loomed too high and dangerous - there seemed no possibility of escape.  All wondered how long our sanity would last in these quiet evening hours at the Mamelodi Compound outside of Pretoria.

Then came the idea.  A simple idea.  It began as a whisper that quickly turned into a roaring cry of, "REVOLUTION!"

Songs rose up out of the compound, beyond the cage and into the starry night.  A chorus of, "Freedom, freedom is coming, oh yes I know" was joined by the sympathetic barks and howls of the compound dogs.

In reality, our quiet evenings were pleasant, as we were given a lot of think about.  A visit to the University of South Africa (UNISA) early in the week brought a lecture on the history of the Afrikaner people, after which we venture to the Voortrekker Monument.  This day brought a combination of hard questions and an understanding of the people that created the apartheid system.

A lecture from Piet Meiring about the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) was especially impacting.  This man was asked by Archbishop Desmond Tutu himself to be a part of the TRC, to represent the Afrikaner people.  It was such an honour to hear his many stories of forgiveness amidst the incredible pain and sorrow of those oppressed by the apartheid system.

Our week was enhanced by two very different worship times.  Firstly, we joined an Afrikaner youth group for an evening of singing many familiar songs and discovering that worshiping God is not defined by where you live.  The second event had us up one morning 4am to find ourselves out of place on an extremely overpacked train.  We were the only white faces to be seen!  The chorus of voices on the Gospel Train (full of commuters attending church on the ride into town) swelled and the train walls transformed into reverberating drums.  The Gospel Train shouted its praises as even more people packed the doors on their way to work.  Scripture was shouted and uplifting words were preached.  Our very own Sam wisely spoke of how welcome we felt in the midst of this community  and how beautiful it was to be unified.

Later that morning the group pounded out their rhythmic fingerprints at a djembe workshop at the University of Pretoria.  Some of us left feeling rhythmically challenged although altogether quite invigorated.  We spent the afternoon hiding in the shade as we explored the gardens at Parliament.  There we had our first sharing circle experience.  Our group split up into guys and girls and in those separate circles passed around an object and allowed each person the opportunity to share what was on their hearts.

We had a few days during the week for a random array of adventures.  A number of us hit up an amusement part in Johannesburg and later on we had a wonderful wildlife experience at a lion park.  Zebras, giraffes, springboks, lions and cheetahs were among the many animals we got to see from the safety of our bus.  Feeding the giraffes in creative ways - such as holding the food between you lips and having their long, black, scratchy tongue explore your face to find the crunchy morsel of food was a hilarious highlight for many.  We were also given the opportunity to pet little lion cubs, and we wished we could bring them home with us!

Our week ended with many sunburned faces as we splashed about in the water park at Sun City, playing in the lazy river, surfing through people in the wave pool and very discreetly removing the wedgies received from the waterslides.

Fortunately the Cage was not so bad after all, seeing as we did end up escaping quite regularly.

Written by: Lauren Harms

djembe workshop

feeding the giraffes

lunch at Parliament

Friday, 20 January 2012

Extra! Extra! Read all about it!

This just in: A group of 30 students have been seen together in various parts of the world over the past week. They began to gather at their school, the Canadian Mennonite University, and only grew from there. Many teerful goodbyes were seen, but there were also many joyous reunions. "It was a pleasent experience flying from Winnipeg to Toronto, but our group seemed incoomplete. All I can say is that seeing the group all back together was quite magical," said one Lauren Harms. After some careful research, it has been concluded that the total flight time for those 30 students was approximately 20 hours! That's three flights in two days. The students were then seen traipsing around Mainz, Germany during their 10-hour layover in Frankfurt. A lot of the students enjoyed some German cuisine and others toured the city with some locals that they met. Rachel Parkinson was heard saying, "It was such a great day! We got to tour the city but felt less like tourists when we were with the locals. It was super sweet!" Upon arrival in Johannesburg, South Africa, the temperature was around 30 degrees celcius. After two days of travel, the students all appeared exhausted, yet shouts of glee could be heard over the hum of the bus. Apparently they were excited to be in South Africa. The first stop on their journey was a beautiful retreat centre called Heron Bridge just north of Johannesburg. The students were trying to overcome the symptoms of jet-lagg, so they spent the afternoon playing water polo in the pool. Some students had a harder time than others getting over jet-lagg, including one Carter Whyte who joked, "I loved waking up at 1:30 in the morning on the first night because I couldn't sleep!" The Heron Bridge retreat centre had many facilities for group sports games. There was a lot of volleyball, soccer and water polo played in those three days. On top of all the sports, the students also played many card and dice games and had a great opportunity to reconnect after a month of being apart. The weather was also something to be noted. "It was incredible watching the lightning storms roll in everyday and getting to witness the awesome fork lightning in the distance," remarked Matt Gain. They days were hot and sunny, but a thunderstorm and rain could be counted on in the afternoons. One day, a soccer game broke out in the midst of a storm just because the students enjoyed it so much. It was observed that although copious amounts of sunscreen were used, there were still more sunburns recorded than last semester. A noteable event that took place was that the students were seen meeting their country partners: Johan and Mpho. The students were informed of some things to expect while in South Africa and welcomed to the country. Three more months lie ahead for those 30 students. Stay tuned for more upcoming reports!

Written by: Megan Sherk