South Africa 1, the journey narrative

July 15-6
We began the trip with an 18 hour plane ride and arrived in Johannesburg pretty jet-lagged. We started our adventure with a trip to the mall to pick up necessities like power converters and a cell phone sim card. It was amazing to both Sam and I the impressive amount of globalization in Johannesburg. Joburg is an incredibly metropolitan city, with some of the biggest security fences I’ve seen in my entire life. The population lives divided one from another by huge walls. Some have access to the mall which has everything from Prada to the Apple Store, but 80% of the population lives in the Townships and is fenced out. We stayed with a good friend from USD, the incomparable Ms. Juana Purchase. She was an incredible hostess and it was wonderful to reconnect and see her life in South Africa.
July 17-19 Safari Time!
We went with a small company to the Kruger National Park on Safari for 3 days. We had a blast and saw too many animals to count.

Elephant in Kruger Park

The highlights were definitely the elephant and lions. Our guide William was entertaining. Afrikaaner to the core, he listened to Rugby on the radio and told us stories of when he was a riot police officer in the Soweto Township during the Apartheid era. The physical beauty of South Africa was an important part of our trip, and the Kruger and surrounding area were a good introduction to this.

July 20-21 Joburg part 2
We had another two days in Johannesburg. We spent the first touring Pretoria and the capital, seeing the beautiful government buildings. We also visited a neighborhood that looked like it dropped right out of Ranch Santa Fe in San Diego, golf resort style with incredible houses. The division between haves and have nots is more extreme than anywhere I’ve ever seen. The next day we headed to the “Cradle of Humanity” where we saw the fossilized remains of ancient humans, some impressive caves, and an even more impressive Small World-style water ride through the elements of creation.

June 22-24 Cape Town Part 1
Next we headed to Cape Town to meet up with Ryan DeCook, a friend from USD who was one of my residents when I was an RA. Ryan is working with Africa Jam, and evangelical group that runs camps and afterschool programs for youth in the Townships. Ryan is particularly working in the township of Kayelitsha, and we spent a couple of afternoons in “the mansion” where they hold their meetings listening to the incredible choir (video to come later) and helping to teach some guitar lessons. Sadly Ryan was pretty sick while we were in CapeTown, so we spent a lot of the time lazing around and hoping he would feel well enough to accompany us to Grahamstown as planned, but his flu just got worse.
June 25-26 Grahamstown
We drove what we thought was a seven hour drive to Grahamstown through the Garden Route, an incredibly beautiful collection of villages and cliffs on the sea. The trip ended up taking 10 hours, and we spent most

The Monks, Anglican Holy Cross brothers
The Grahamstown Monks, order of The Holy Cross

of it reading “The Horizontal World: Growing Up in the Middle of Nowhere,” a book Sam was required to read so he can discuss it with the incoming freshmen at his college. The book was a disaster of a thing, but we barreled through and finished before we arrived at the monastery late that night. We spent the next day touring the Cathedral and town of Grahamstown with Cortney Dale, a new YASC volunteer in Grahamstown. It was fun to compare notes based on my YASC year in Honduras. We had a good time with the monks and even got to meet some of my new seminary classmates who were in town for a contextual theology class at the College of the Transformation, South Africa’s only residential seminary.

June 27-28 Queenstown
One drive over the mountains, a loss of several degrees Celsius in temperature, and one spare tire later we arrived in Bolotwa to stay with Monica and Heidi to Episcopalian/Roman Catholic missionary members of the association of Charles DeFoucalt. I went through the Christian Vacation edition of missionary training with Monica and Heidi several years ago and it was fun to reconnect and see the work they are doing which can be described as nothing short of miraculous. In three short years they have established parks and programs in three communities which have been devastated by AIDS. They employ an army of women who go to surrounding houses in the early morning to care for orphans and aging parents and generally build community. We were greeted with song in Ilinge, invited into several homes, and generally loved on by hundreds of people in the two townships we visited. It was amazing to see such incredible Kingdom-Community being generated.
July 29-30 Itipini, Mthatha
We drove on to Mthatha, the former capital of the Black Homeland. During Apartheid the White Government thought they might try and get 80% of the nations people to live in 14% of the land if they promised them self government. Mthatha grew exponentially as a city as a result and has a dramatically different feel than any other metropolitan area we visited. Basically, it feels more African. You hardly see a non-Black person, the roads in town are dangerously full of pedestrians, everything possible is for sale. We visited the poorest

Jesse just after playing for the kids
Jesse just after playing for the kids
of the poor communities where Jesse Zink, another YASC volunteer has been serving at the Itipini clinic. Itipini is Xhosa for “on the garbage dump,” and this is very descriptive. The people live in, under, on and around trash. For 20+ years Episcopalian missionaries have provided medical care to this community. It was impressive to see the infrastructure they have built with no water, no power, and surrounded by a dump. Every morning people receive food, children go to pre-school, people receive TB drugs and are treated for injuries. In the afternoon teens lift weights, sing in a choir, receive tutoring, and generally are kept occupied. Watching Jesse play “Johnny be good” while a room full of 3 year old danced around was a definite highlight. Jesse has a phenomenal blog here.
July 31-Aug 1 The Garden Route revisited
Rocks near the Knysna Heads
Rocks near the Knysna Heads
We began our slow trip back to Cape Town and stayed with the Monks in Grahamstown again. Monica and Heidi were there. It was a nice relaxing day before driving back down the garden route. We stopped in Knysna and saw the incredible coastline. The town is stunning, situated on a beautful bay, and we stayed in a hip little hostel. Unfortunately that night I had some bad seafood (never eat at the Greek Restaurant in Knysna). Sam was amazing and drove the rest of the way back to Cape Town the next day and then holed up with me and watched movies on TV as I groaned.
Aug 2-3 Cape Town part 2
I began to feel better Saturday morning and we were able to finish our time in Africa in style. We visited Desmond Tutu’s former cathedral in the morning and shopped for souvenirs. I got a sweet Djimbe and Sam a saxaphone made out of coke bottles. Then we headed to Robben Island to see where Nelson Mandela spent 18 years of his life in prison. The museum is run by former political prisoners. It was incredible to see the tiny facility and to hear first hand

St. Georges Cathedral, Capetown
St. George's Cathedral, Capetown

what was endured by so many for the hope of freedom. The next morning we met up with two of my former residents, Ryan again and his freshmen roommate Anderson who happened to be visiting at the same time. We finished our time in South Africa with Eucharist at the Cathedral in Capetown before getting back on the plane to head home to Colorado.

Published by Mike Angell

The Rev. Mike Angell is rector of The Episcopal Church of the Holy Communion in St. Louis.

One thought on “South Africa 1, the journey narrative

  1. I thoroughly enjoyed reading your blog. However, as a South African I have to correct this statement about Johannesburg:

    Some have access to the mall which has everything from Prada to the Apple Store, but 80% of the population lives in the Townships and is fenced out.”

    To say that the population of the townships is “fenced out” of the mall is simply not true. South Africa is now a democratic country and such a thing would never be allowed, let alone be practical. How could you possibly fence people out of a shopping centre? Please correct this on your blog if you want to reports facts and the truth.

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