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

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