South Africa – Week Three

I realize that these Daily Cups are really just glorified and lengthy postcards, but there’s so much to share!  My husband and I went on a game drive on the eastern cape last week and The Peaceable Kingdom it is not.  The lion and the lamb do not lie down together.  In fact, as we know, the lion eats the lamb…and the baby giraffes…and the springboks.  And yet our small group, led by a very knowledgable guide, was intent on seeing lions in as natural a habitat as possible these days.  I have to say that when we finally found them, they looked for all the world like lazy relatives of my own cats at home.image


We also got stuck in the African bush’s equivalent of a traffic jam on the way back to the lodge, when we came upon a herd of elephants in the road who were in no hurry to leave the roadside creek they were drinking from. image

And we saw a baby rhino, perhaps 2-3 months old, and were told about the perils from poachers that the mother faces.  I don’t know exactly why the world has rhinos beyond a general need for bio-diversity, but I know that no creature deserves to be brutally killed for the perceived value in some countries of its horn.  That horn is worth millions of dollars to the poachers and its very possible this mother won’t make it.image

I think the lessons that I’m seeing played out in South Africa again and again are ones of cultural awareness and appreciation for differences.  Perhaps it begins with the rich animal world South Africans have lived with.  The circle of life is always on display and the ways of so many different kinds of creatures are constant reminders that things are better when we learn to live together.  That life is enriched when lived with respectful openness instead of fear.  And I assure you that I am very respectful of the lion’s power and a mother rhinoceros!

On the way back to Cape Town we stopped briefly at a Benedictine Anglican Monastery outside of Grahamstown begun by the American Order of the Holy Cross.  The brothers felt a call some time ago to build a school, and we were happy to see it flourishing and hear stories from the brothers about its successes.  We also stopped by a small town where whales find sanctuary for calving in the large bay and swim just off the rocky beach.

Abundance.  Of wildlife, of natural beauty and resources and cultures.  What comes to my mind again and again is how much this country reminds me of the United States.  Or rather a U.S. of a hundred and more years ago.  Abundant natural resources, revolutionary overthrow of an oppressive government and a population of mixed races.  Except that as a young country just finding their way in the 21st century, South Africa has a chance to do it right.   The government’s awareness of environmental degredation and  determination to mitigate man’s damage to the planet, and the intention to create their rainbow society that has Xhosa speakers learning Afrikaans in school and Afrikaners speaking Xhosa and working side by side with those they oppressed only a few decades ago give me hope that this country will succeed in ways we have failed.  South Africans are clearly and justifiably very proud of their country, and my strong feelings about keeping church and state apart have been briefly put aside when, at the end of each Cathedral service, a prayer for Africa is sung by all.   God bless Africa, guard our children, guide our leaders and give us peace for Jesus Christ’s sake. Amen.

imageI’ve come across relatively few Americans (compared to travel in Europe), but this past Sunday at the Cathedral of St. George’s the Americans did briefly take over.  I conducted their choir in works by American composers Richard Dirksen and Ned Rorem and the preacher was Jim Wallis, author and founder of the magazine and community called “Sojourner”. Wallis told one story about visiting prisoners in New York’s Sing Sing prison, and made the point that South Africa used to have the highest number of prisoners.  Now the United States leads the way in that grim statistic.  He spoke as well about the formational experiences he had in that cathedral decades ago as the apartheid system was falling apart and Archbishop Tutu was urging the police stationed outside the cathedral, outnumbering those in the pews who were praying for an end to the intolerance, to join the “winning side”.   An abundance of hope and truth are two other characteristics of this place.image




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5 Responses to South Africa – Week Three

  1. Lauri Fitz-Pegado says:

    You are so blessed to have this experience. South Africa stays with all of us who are privileged to know it. Had Eric and Mina at my place last night. Enjoy.

  2. lostratton says:

    Sonya: Such a lovely commentary. Will and I went to S. Africa from Moscow one cold winter and loved it. As a photographer I was totally struck by the clarity of the light..The whitecaps on the sea so white, the blue of the sky and sea and the greenness of the land. Nothing like it! Have fun. Lois

  3. Christian Miles says:


    Please note my new email: Mobile: 202-302-1390

    Sent from my iPhone


  4. Eileen says:

    Exquisite insightful writing! Love those cats and the history, psychology, sense of the place. Thank you for these inspiring messages. This will be a memoir some day I trust…..

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