Click on link to see some recent photos: June 2019 Photos
It's hard to believe that we now have two teenage boys who could legally be driving in the USA! On May 25 we celebrated Jacob’s Sweet Sixteen, and on June 7 we'll celebrate with his friends by having a High Tea party. The fancy cakes attracted Jacob, and the chance to get all dressed up with his closest friends while eating lots of sugar. Should be a splendid occasion. We’re proud of him and the young man he’s become. Also, grateful for the good friends he’s made here.
Meanwhile, his older brother has taken on new responsibilities signaling his own maturing and young adultness. A couple months ago John-Clair was hired by a local coffee shop to work Sunday shifts as a barista, starting at 6am, which he has dutifully done every week. We’ve tasted his yummy coffee, and heard compliments from others. We’re so happy for this gainful way of fulfilling some weekend time. Additionally, his Grade 12 has a class project of producing a play. That means doing everything, planning, advertising, set-building, acting… it’s quite an ordeal. John-Clair has been co-coordinating the set design. Some of us parents will assist in construction, and we’re greatly anticipating this fascinating South African local history-based drama production set in District Six, the heart of the Cape Town area where forced removals of non-whites occurred during the 1960's. They’ll perform during the 1st week of June.
The big news for the boys is their upcoming trip back to the States, sans ses parents! That’s right, they’re on their own: from Cape Town, they fly to Seattle for two weeks to reconnect with family, church and friends. Then they're off on July 2 to attend the MCUSA (Mennonite Church) National Youth Convention in Kansas City with the WA youth groups including several from our home church (Evergreen MC) and others they know from Seattle MC. It’s so wonderful for us that they get to have this opportunity to stay connected with friends and with the Mennonite Church, which we hold so dear. The time in KC will be followed by more connecting with family, from Dan’s side. Getting to meet their new cousin Mona will be a very exciting treat. They’ll spend the remainder of their time in Iowa with Dan’s mom, then return to SA on July 17. It’s incredible to think that we feel confident in them to make this long journey without us.
As for us, we also will have a little excursion. In July, we commemorate our 20th anniversary (which actually occurred last Dec. 27) with a 12-day camping tour through Namibia, Botswana, and ending at Victoria Falls. We wanted something special in the region to do on a tight budget that celebrates our travel spirit, and Victoria Falls was on our bucket list. We fit it in while the boys are away, and will enjoy our last vacation while on the continent.
Speaking of needing a vacation, it’s been very hectic at SADRA Conflict Transformation. So far this year, we’ve helped with trainings, including a Peer Mediation training we were able to do while Oscar was away, visited embassies and government departments to promote the work of SADRA and look for funding, and most importantly, prepared for and aided the mediation efforts during the national election that happened earlier this month. Since preventing election violence is a major objective of SADRA, this election was a main reason we extended our contract through 2019. Starting two years ago, we’ve hosted regular round-table dialogues with different stakeholders about violence and conflict prevention around elections, which included a wide range of topics, from fake news and the use of social media in elections to community protests over lack of services and inter-party conflict. We’ve been training community mediators for years for this very event. During election week, Dan acted as a certified Observer and Kathryn served in the mediator’s panel, those responding to area crises, working in the provincial Information-communication hub as a liaison between the police and the provincial conflict management coordinator. She kept track of which neighborhoods needed attention and coordinated mediator deployment. While we were all exhausted by the end, the election is being hailed as a success with no one injured or killed, for which we are thankful and happy.
What is election violence, you may ask? South Africa is still a very young democracy, and complicated socio-economic problems are not fixed easily. Racism and the privilege (or lack thereof) that goes with it are clearly seen every day. For those without power or resources, who still have not been able to gain stability despite these twenty-five years of political freedom, one way of making their voices heard is through using “election violence,” everything from verbal threats against politicians, to burning tires on the streets to disrupt civic function and express discontent trying to force actions in their favor, but usually ending up with overreactions of force by the police and people being injured or killed. Our mediators are sympathetic to the frustrations of the many that still live under apartheid-like conditions and extreme economic hardship, and a large part of what we do is try to help them find a way and a place to legally and nonviolently have their legitimate concerns heard, including elections.
What is this privilege (so often race-based), you may also ask? We can answer that for ourselves. Here in SA, it’s the fact that we have a car and house near town, and can easily drive home from work in minutes, while our co-worker must take 2-3 taxi-buses to get to the low-income township where she can afford to live. Those taxi-buses are not on a time-table – she spends a lot of time waiting, in rain and wind, and without safety. We can decide to stop for groceries on the way home, and even to go to a gym class before she ever reaches her house. We pick up our children when needed; she’s busily arranging neighbors to get her son from preschool when she is stuck between buses. She and her husband dream of having their own car, of safer transport and house, but that reality is out of reach for now.
The problems South Africa is facing are hardly unique – these issues are all around us. Maybe your neighborhood, your town, or even your small country in Europe is reasonably equal and fair. But in this shrinking world, our neighbors on the other side affect us – global disgruntlement with democracy and the world order of capitalism seems to be everywhere. As our Election Commissioner says, wealth itself is now holding politics hostage, and how can we talk about fair elections when the conditions people are living in are not fair?
These are not easy questions and we don’t have the answers. One common reaction when we discuss these issues here is for someone to say, “Don’t take this wrong, but I think your own country needs you for this work more than we do.” Frankly, we agree. The current news and political dialogue out of the USA is depressing and somewhat unbelievable. Working in our own country of citizenship to counter these forces that seek to sow division among people of separate race, or economic status, or gender, etc. is as important now as anything we’ve ever done in Africa. It’s what each of us must do, as much as we’re able.
We remain deeply thankful for your continued support and look forward to hearing from you. We realize these updates have become less frequent, but please know that we are working hard and missing you.
With great love,
Dan & Kathryn