Traveling in Africa

An Essay By Sarah // 8/14/2012

This is a compilation of all the blog posts I made before and during my mission trip to South Africa with the Oregon Adventist Mens Chorus. I've taken out most of the fundraising spiels.

Monday, 25 June 2012: "What's up with this trip, anyhow???"

Hi people. Many of you may be curious, wondering, or just downright confused as to what OAMC is, why I'm trying to go to South Africa with them, and what we plan to do when we get there. The answer to all three questions (plus more!) I promise will be more or less answered in this blog post.

What is OAMC, anyway?
OAMC stands for "Oregon Adventist Mens' Chorus". Their website is, and has lots of information about their mission and the South Africa trip that is coming up in only a few weeks!
OAMC was founded in 1994, 19 years ago by two awesome people: Dave & Lou. Their goals are to spread God's love through their music, through bringing people into the chorus who they can help, and to impact the world in any way that God leads them to.

So why are you trying to get to South Africa?
OAMC was approached last year by some leaders from the SA mens' chorus and was asked to come to SA as a mission trip and sing at concert with the SA mens' chorus as a way to break color barriers and promote racial equality! South Africa is still suffering the effects of the apartheid regime that was broken in the 1990's, and there is much racial tension in the country.

Well that's neat and all, but last I checked you're not a man, Sarah! Why are YOU going?
Ah, well you see there are many women involved with OAMC as staff and support. I would be going as an assistant for several of the staff ladies who are in charge of everything from feeding the guys to giving them Tylenol, sewing on buttons, finding the tour buses, and much more!

And what exactly is it that OAMC is going to do in South Africa?
Excellent question! OAMC is going to be meeting up with a Romanian chorus and a South African chorus in Johannesburg. From there, we have 5 concerts scheduled (possibly more to surprise us!). We will travel through 5 out of 9 of their provinces, live, breathe, sleep, eat and sing with the two other choruses, and totally promote racial equality and harmony everywhere we go! It's seriously going to be awesome.

25 June 2012: "Fundraising: Day One"

Well folks, it's my first day of fundraising and I'm doing it busily. I'm writing and sending out letters to literally dozens of people, compiling the list of which is a busy job in and of itself! I'm also going to a neighbor's house and offering to do yardwork for a donation, which promises to be a sweaty, hard prospect, but possibly very lucrative.
I was all gung ho about this over the weekend, but I'm getting very bogged down in the details and becoming discouraged today. It's impossible for me not to become overwhelmed by the big huge picture of it all, so I'm focusing on one tiny task at a time, which right now is tracking down some email addresses and street addresses.
Pray for me!

Monday 2 July 2012: "Prep Work For Fundraising Letters"

Two days after my first post I spent the entire day working extremely hard. My boyfriend's mom, Estée, gave me a copy of her fundraising letter, so I revised and edited it to be my own.
Well, actually I made two versions of it and am working on a third. I have divided all the people to whom it will be sent into one of three groups, and each group has a letter specifically tailored towards them, plus each letter is also personalized. It was an enormous amount of work, but that is not all I did.

Earlier in the week I had compiled a list of over 30 people to whom I wanted to send the letter. Since I don't even own a phone book--handwritten or official--I went to and started looking each individual up and copying their address down with a half-broken pen onto envelopes, writing my return address, and stamping them, then sorting the envelope into the right stack.

Needless to say, it was labor intensive. I hand addressed 35 envelopes, stamped them all, wrote up two versions of the letter, sorted everything, and headed over to the boyfriend's house to use their printer. That was fun. Kind of. I had to personalize every letter to the recipient before printing it out. I ended up printing out, folding, stuffing and mailing about 25 letters that day and still have not gotten around (5 days later) to printing out the 10 others, sending them, and finding addresses for the additional 20 people that I have on my list, but I will do that later today after I get some sleep, promise!

In the meanwhile, I also helped a friend handwrite addresses onto dozens of envelopes for her wedding invitations, stuffed a few hundred fundraising letters for OAMC, and generally ran around busily. It has been a productive week! I even had time to make Banana-Raspberry bread & muffins. They were delicious.

My main stress right now is that I need to have about 2k raised within about a week in order to get a plane ticket in time. Scary!!!

2 July 2012: "Early Monday Morning"

It's 6:09am on Monday and I am wide awake. Not very odd, considering that last night I never went to bed. It was my full intention to crawl straight into bed after checking my email and reading a chapter of a book, but suddenly the 800 page book I was about 1/3 of the way through was entirely gone, another e-book of about a fourth of the length as the first was open on my laptop, then I was finishing said second book, and I glanced outside and scared myself.

There was sunshine! Light! What was this? It turns out that I still rather thought it was around midnight....when in fact it was a little bit before five. So I finished the last two chapters of still another book while eating my cheerios, and planned out my (very busy) day. So far my schedule is thus:

Call Amtrak and find out how to refund the tickets that I'm not going to use to get to Eugene this weekend. (done!)
Go to my mother's house and pick a few gallons of raspberries to turn into jam.
Make said jam.
Arrive at my boyfriend's house by noon to talk on Skype with his (foreign exchange student from 2010-2011 school year) sister in Germany.
Make bread with the boyfriend's brother's girlfriend. (complicated, I know!)
While the bread rises, print out and write up more fundraising letters, find addresses, address envelopes, and put all of the above in the mailbox.
Print out information from my college to send off to financial aid.
Go by my doctor's office, find out where my inhaler prescription went, and get a current order for physical therapy for my back.
Before 5pm arrive at the post office and put the Amtrak tickets for refund and the college information in the mail on overnight shipping.
Decide what to make/buy/send my sister & her boyfriend (who are both working in the woods for a conservation corps, on different crews) because the package needs to be sent Tuesday afternoon.
Clean up my house before bed (bedtime will be no later than 10pm...since I didn't sleep at all last night.)

And I promise that at least three fourths of the things on this list will get done. Really. When I itemize things like this, I actually tend to get results. It is my current hypothesis that when I write out a list of things to do, as long as most of the items have a solid deadline of less than two days away, pretty much everything gets done.

That is why I can be so bad about making baby blankets for people and getting them out within a relatively short time of the baby being born, because the due date is so far away, that my brain thinks that I have plenty of time to complete the task, right up to a week before it needs to be there and my brain finally realizes that it's totally messed up and this project needs to be worked on right now.

So today will be a very full, long day in which crucial tasks to my trip to South Africa (from now on to be referred to affectionately as "Seffrica"). Still stressing me: I need a plane ticket in extremely short order, and have no idea where the cash is coming from. Hopefully the financial resources will show up soon! There's no way that I would have such a strong spiritual pull towards this trip if God wasn't planning on making sure I went on it.

Bless you all.
Sarah Herbert

Wednesday 18 July 2012: " A (Somewhat) Unexpected Devastation"

I had secretly been expecting this, but had been so strongly hoping that this wouldn't be the case that it was still blindsiding. I leave for the Portland airport to go to South Africa (theoretically, now) on Monday night or Tuesday morning. That is five days away.
And today my invoice for the fundraising results came in and I found out the results of my tireless fundraising and 30+ letters I had sent out. $0. I raised $0 dollars so far. Truly, I know that OAMC is run by all volunteers, and that there was probably no way that I could have gotten this invoice before now, but still it would have been nice to know that I owed the the entire amount before now! This is crunch week. No idea how this will work out.
Thankfully I had the funds to buy my own plane ticket a few weeks ago, which means that I need to somehow come up with *only* $2,000 more in less than a week. This is the most stressed I have ever been in my life.
It is just incredibly depressing that somehow, even despite doing everything correctly, I've failed somehow. Right now it's impossible for me even to think of logical options. Choices. How can I do this?
The worst is knowing that somehow, this is failure.

Four weeks ago my plans for right now were to be working for a company called NorthWest Youth Corps (NYC) doing trail conservation work in a Wilderness area. It took a combination of realizing that my back was not well enough to do this, and feeling incredibly drawn to OAMC's (Oregon Adventist Mens Chorus) mission in Africa while helping the staff ladies at a rehearsal plan to change my plans. The sermon given that night at the rehearsal clicked for me. I thought to myself that I was being drawn to this for a reason. Things got even more amazing when I got a school grant that I was not expecting from last year's school that allowed me to buy a ticket without relying on fundraising for that.
Even more exciting was when I realized that I could visit a close friend in Germany on the way home with little to no extra expense and hassle.
It seemed like a supernatural thing,, how easily things were falling into place.

Except they didn't.

This is such a depressing post that I ought to delete it and write something peppy, uplifting, full of Bible verses and reasons why you guys ought to help me out, because, seriously, I have over 300 facebook friends. If each of them sent me $10, that would be more than enough. If all of you got a friend to send me $5, and you each sent me $5, that would also be more than enough! If half of you sent $20 each, I'd be covered with some extra to help someone else go.

This isn't eloquent, inspiring, or even fluent. But this is honest, true, and exactly how I feel right now. Helpless. My excited fundraising letter completely failed. This will now take a miracle to pull off and I don't know how to make it happen.

My brother fundraised enough to get himself to a mission trip in Alaska where he is right now. We did the exact same things. What went wrong for me? He's gotten the support of his community twice to go on different mission trips; the previous one was in Albania. My last mission trip to Mexico in 2008 actually went poorly also. My fundraising efforts then also failed, and I barely managed to scrape it all together by working several summer jobs at once, and borrowing some money which I paid back later that autumn. So I must assume that it's me; something I'm doing is wrong.

If you want an excited, happy reason why you should help contribute or donate somehow, the first post in this blog explains all that.

For all of you that prayed for me, can't afford to help, kept me in your thoughts, or told your friends about it, thank you so very much. Keep praying for me. But I could also use some fiscal support.

Comment on blog post: "Sarah,
It is important to differentiate between disappointment and failure. You have not failed and this is not failure. This is disappointment! You have done much correctly. Failure will raise it's ugly head when you give up or quit. TO ANYONE ELSE READING THIS POST: I'm the conductor of the OAMC. I know Sarah and she would be a great asset on this mission trip. The initiatives we are undertaking are significant and far-reaching. The opportunities to learn and expand ones understanding of global, community dynamics provide that "once in a lifetime opportunity." Sarah is worthy. Invest in her! You'll be glad you did! Lou Wildman"

Monday July 23 2012: "Nearly On My Way!"

These last few days have been crazy. Packing, finding the last few things that I need, getting my mail held, giving away all my perishable foods, cleaning my apartment, THEN there was the Car Debacle yesterday.
That tale is as follows:
Oh yes. Long story forthcoming.


So Hannah (from now on known as Pixie) (my lil sis) needed to be driven to Idaho (4 hours away) where her next conservation-work session in the woods was starting. So I emailed her bf's aunt and uncle (who are in Romania currently) and asked if I could borrow one of their cars to take her. They said I could take their 1989 Subaru Justy but to be careful because they didn't know if it was really reliable or not, and the oil leaks.

No problem, thinks I, the oh so clever one. I'll just add coolant, and oil, and take some more with me, and all will be fine!
2 hours down the road (roughly 10am) and Pixie turns to me and says "Thanks SO much for driving m...." and trails off because suddenly the Justy makes a funny noise, like the gears aren't quite matching up anymore. Expert me on the stick shift lets off the gas and hits the clutch; noise quits. Release the clutch: AWFUL NOISE AND A BANG AND SMOKE APPEARS AND METAL FALLS OUT FROM UNDERNEATH THE CAR! D:

At this point I'm rapidly slowing down from 75 miles per hour, hitting my hazard lights on, pulling off the freeway and putting the car in neutral. We examined the car cautiously because all the oil was pouring out of the bottom of the engine block and it was spattering everywhere and it was HOT. We deduced that the engine block exploded. Asploded. I like the sound of that better.

I called my cousin & his (eight months adorably pregnant) wife who, luckily, live about 30 minutes from where we were and explained (asplained ) the situation, including that Pixie REALLY needed to be in Weiser, ID in only about 2 hours and the car ASPLODED.

He, being awesome and stuff, got out of bed (because he works the night shift as a train engineer) and came and found us about an hour later, and towed the Justy back to his house and his (8 months adorably pregnant) wife followed him in another (stick shift) car which Pixie and I promptly moved into, along with Katie, who came along for the ride, and rapidly drove to Weiser. We took a wrong turn twice and lost a half hour each time, because we had only slept 3 hours last night. So even though I've been there repeatedly, I took wrong turns. :(

We got to the campground only TWO hours late! :clap Her bosses didn't care much because it had been an emergency. Then I had the worst time trying to leave her, because I absolutely adore the program she's doing (have done it twice before) and if my back hadn't gotten messed up, I'd be 2 weeks into a session of my own right now. So I ran off and drove away before I could start crying in front of 40+ strangers, and nearly fell asleep at the wheel during the 30 minute drive to the nearest food place, where I eated. Then I took another wrong turn, lost an hour, and turned on my German-learning CD's for half the way back to my cousin's house.

Where my mom came with a dolly and gave me a ride back home along with the (most likely totaled) car.

I emailed the owners of the car (who are in Romania, recall) but no response yet. I'll see them on Weds in South Africa, and am a bit nervous. :look Even though it's not my fault that the car committed suicide.
So that was my day on Sunday. Quite stressful, and I barely got back in time to go take care of the livestock that some friends asked me to take care of while they were gone to the Oregon Campmeeting.
Since last (maudlin) post I have raised (to my best estimate) roughly a quarter of the total amount that I need. Ergo: $500 out of $2,000 so far. It may be a bit higher or lower than that, but at least I have some of it.
I found out a few days ago that I don't have to have quite all of it raised before leaving; the amount I have may carry me through, but OAMC is dead broke right now and as much as I can raise will be gratefully accepted.
So thank you so, so, so much everyone who has already donated, prayed for me, and spread the word around; it is forever appreciated.

Monday July 30 2012: "The First Few Days"

We’ve been in South Africa for four days now, and it almost seems like I have been here forever. Everything is new and odd, and at the same time, rather familiar. The oddest thing of all is the sun and moon. Because it is Winter, the sun is low on the horizon as it moves across the sky, but it is low on the Northern horizon, not the Southern horizon, so I constantly have the odd feeling that the sun is rising in the West, and setting in the East.
Today I may have managed to orient myself slightly better, because I unconsciously pointing north when talking about the north instead of pointing towards one of the other cardinal points on the compass.
OAMC and Arise O Men just finished their third day of rehearsals, and it is amazing. Lou, OAMC's conductor, and Mokale, Arise O Man's (the chorus that we joined here in SA) conductor took turns conducting today, depending on what type of work the guys needed to do on the various pieces of music, and it was interesting observing how their styles differed.

But the music! I must rave over this. The ladies especially tend to be relatively busy while the men rehearse; running to and fro in meetings, preparing food, taking quick trips to the grocery store, sewing buttons back on, fetching water and cough drops for the singers, and much more. However, there are moments where everyone stops dead in their tracks because now the two choirs (plus our two guys who traveled down from Romania to join us: Allin and Dr Petrea) have suddenly begun to sing as one voice.

The different parts can clearly be heard, but all the voices--American, South Africa, Botswanian, and Romanian--are all singing in perfect sync, breathing pauses are perfectly timed, crescendos are breathtaking, and when Lou or Mokale's conducting becomes tiny and precise, all the 150 mens voices sink to barely above a whisper, and all the listeners hold their breath as each note is hit perfectly.

I got goosebumps so many times today, and not once was it from the weather. The most incredible song of the was when the entire choir stood in a circle around the inside of the church holding hands and sang Go My Children as their last song of the rehearsal, and all the ladies were sitting inside the circle, listening in utter rapture.

Surround Sound has nothing on being inside a circle of OAMC and AOM men singing their hearts out.
This is truly the single most inspiring and incredible trip that I have ever been on. As far as I know, not a person is here who wishes that they had remained at home. The only danger is that we'll arrive back home 50 pounds heavier, since we're eating about the same amount as usual, and sitting far, far more than--I, at least--am accustomed to.

Friday August 3 2012: "A Chilly Adventure"

2 August 2012. 10:13 am.
If I have ever previously said that South Africa is not cold in the winter, it was an awful lie. An accidental lie, to be sure, but completely untrue. South Africa can be bitterly cold in the winter.
Yesterday morning, the members of OAMC and AOM packed our bags back up, headed to St Mary’s Cathedral to sing in a mid-week service, then left Johannesburg for Cape Town; about a sixteen hour drive. If we had stayed on schedule, we would be in Cape Town right now; as it is, we have about six hours left of driving.
OAMC and AOM mostly fill up three buses right now, and for the first four or so hours, we convoyed right along with no problems. Then the bus ahead of us developed a problem; as far as I’m aware, it was the suspension system. We parked on the edge of the road for over half an hour until the drivers got it more or less patched up, and we proceeded to the gas station where there was a Steers (fast food place) at which we had planned to eat supper. While there, it was discovered that the one bus with the suspension problem was now irreparable by us. A couple dozen people remained behind at the gas station while the two good buses went on, and Don Hepker communicated with various bus companies via telephone, and eventually cajoled one to send us a bus so that we could continue our journey.
It arrived, we went on for about an hour, then that bus also broke down. I had been napping, but not very well, because the heater on that bus was not working as far as I could tell, and it was absolutely frigid on there. The bus company sent another bus, and a lot of us helped transfer luggage from the underside of the old bus to the new one. It was ridiculously cold; I was shaking uncontrollably straight from my core as I hauled luggage around.
It was a gorgeous night; the constellations in the Southern Hemisphere are mostly unfamiliar to me, but the Southern Cross was burning brilliantly on the horizon, and there were two yellow-white stars that were huge and luminous as they hung above a set of hills. Several people think that they were actually Venus and Jupiter, gracing the cold, clear night sky as partial recompense for the temperature.
Unfortunately, someone keeps requesting to have the televisions in the bus turned on to a showy, flashy, overly-polished Christian television show with a lot of poised people singing beautifully, but in such a fake showy way that it’s relatively revolting. The full, string orchestra playing for all the singers is really quite excellent, however, even if the songs are repetitive with uninventive lyrics.
We stopped in the little town of Beaufort West and had a rousing game of hacky sack, and I got a 1.5 litre of water for my parched throat before throwing a couple of handsprings and re-loading back onto the bus. Only six hours behind schedule, and 200 kilometers (125 miles) behind the other buses which are also behind schedule more so than they ought, due to one of the guys needing to go to the hospital in extreme pain from passing kidney stones. Thankfully, his bus was the one that our trip doctor was either on, or close to with the other bus. He’s all right, apparently, and back on the bus traveling, but it delayed them even more than the long stop at the Steers gas station did.
Now, even though we’re traveling long distances on the bus, I’m still keeping very busy. Last night I took my laptop around my bus and told everyone that one of my jobs on this trip is to write down peoples’ stories for the OAMC blog, and asked if they had a story for me. On my bus I wrote down eleven stories with a total of 4667 words, and on another bus I wrote two stories with a total of 603 words. So my fingers were very busy last night.
Currently I ought to be very busy editing them and turning them over to Sam Wright who’s in charge of the OAMC blog on this trip.

Friday August 10 2012: "The Concerts!"

So far we have had three concerts; Cape Town, Grahamstown, & Durban. All of them have been awesome, although extremely different, experiences.

Cape Town:
In Cape Town we arrived at the enormous concert hall (unheated, of course) and began our pre-concert work. The men all sang in an afternoon rehearsal while the media team set up their cameras and cords, the ladies worked on registration and other important concert-related details. Others prepared food, and I ran to and fro giving sick people water and cough drops, helping Connie, and for a while I was preoccupied with taking apart one of the staff ladies’ scarves and re-sewing it into two because we had ended up one short.
When the concert was about to start, we had only a few hundred people in the audience, if that. Despite this, the men began to sing, and people never stopped coming in late. I was helping one of the media guys on a videocamera and was right next to the stage. The audience was very much enjoying the songs, although they were all in English, and none were South African.
Mokale (the South African conductor) changed places with Lou in order to direct a South African song, and the polite applause the audience had given for the English songs rapidly turned into cheers, whistles, dancing, and singing along as the chorus sang Bawo, Uthando, Siyahamba, and some of our other songs in African languages. Bawo particularly was a favorite; more than half the audience were on their feet dancing, ululating high and shrill, waving their arms, and singing along. It was hard not to join them! The atmosphere was infectious. The white men in the chorus had in rehearsals been quite reserved when Mokale tried to get them to move a bit during the African songs, but now with the audience cheering them on, even the most staid gentlemen were swaying, smiling, and really getting into the music.
Although we had to skip one song due to the soloist, Gary Parks, being unable to sing (about a half dozen guys couldn’t sing due to illness) the concert as a whole was quite successful and raised the mens’ morale considerably.

Grahamstown was cold. Very, very cold. It was also pouring down rain when we arrived; everyone got quite damp, if not soaked, just on the trek between the buses and the frigid venue. The concert hall was unheated (of course). All of the guys were on the stage shivering in their street clothes through rehearsal, voices were strained, everyone was stressed out. The guys with really short hair or that were bald got the coldest, or so it appeared; Ramon with his half-knit half-fur hat was probably the warmest.
One of the men, Bob Taylor, who is nearly bald and shaves the rest, was sitting in the audience just shaking. His arms were wrapped around himself, and I swear he was an unnatural shade of blue. I was chilly myself in my concert attire: slacks and a black blouse. My coat, scarf and hat were too damp for me to want to wear them, so I was wearing Estee’s white fuzzy vest and was wrapped up in my travel blanket, but I was pretty comfortable and certainly wasn’t as cold as Bob. I walked up behind his seat and wrapped my blanket around his head and shoulder. Instantly he said “ooooh, Bless you!” as I did so, and for the rest of the evening he proclaimed to many people that I was ‘an Angel of mercy’.
Then the lights went out. The mens chorus collectively gasped, grumbled, then continued practicing. Now it was rainy, cold, wet, and pitch black. We hoped that the power would come back on in time for the concert to start. The scheduled time for that was only about forty-five minutes away, and the men had not changed their clothes or eaten yet. Ariana Parks (a lovely young lady who came along as the administrative intern) and I shortly thereafter organized the sandwiches and fruit we had brought along from our last lodging place and called the guys up to eat. By the time they had done so, it was past time for the concert to start. The lights were still out, but a few people had arrived for the concert already, so the men lined up at the base of the wide staircase leading down to the foyer, and the audience all sat or stood on the steps.
There, in the dark, with flashlights shining on the various conductors so that the men could see the movements of their white-gloved hands, shivering and cold, the chorus gave the possibly most memorable concert in history. Right as the last songs from the first half of a normal concert started, the lights re-appeared! Impromptu cheering rose up from the audience, then they settled down to listen to the song Khutso (spelling?) started up. This is a song in an African language that asks “Why are we killing one another?” and has a plea for peace. Part way through a song a soprano steps in singing an overlay to the music that counterparts the African side of the song. It weaves together beautifully, and knowing what the words means while listening to the song makes shivers go up my spine every time I hear it.
Directly following Khutso, the chorus moved into the auditorium in order to collect their things, and the entire audience followed them in and sat down. The chorus saw that they wanted some more, and arranged themselves on the platform to sing a few more some. More than ¾ of the guys were in their street clothes, and they looked decidedly less than professional. Lou, right as he raised his hands to start conducting the first song stopped, leaned towards the guys and said “Well, I never thought I’d see this sight,” referring to the attire of his chorus. They all laughed and continued the concert. Needless to say, the last three songs that the chorus was were rather anticlimactic, but still quite good.
After the concert was ended, we all loaded the buses as quickly as possible and drove 2 hours to our next lodging which was midway between Grahamstown and Durban.

By this time it seemed like everyone was either already sick, coming down with a sickness, recovering from a sickness, or was in imminent danger of catching a sickness. Ariana Parks had just spent the bus ride throwing up for no apparent reason, I had a scratchy throat, both soloist singers were half sick, and Warren had just barely recovered from his kidney stones which he had suffered from earlier in the trip. We got to Durban on the night of Wednesday 8 August, and morale was extremely low. We were tired of being cold, tired of being too hot, and tired of sleeping on the bus.
The leadership then made a very smart move. We had been scheduled to do two concerts in Durban on the same day; one at 10am and one at 3pm. The leadership canceled the first concert, let everyone sleep in for a few hours, than took everyone to the beach.
Now it is winter in South Africa, but Durban is to SA what Florida or SoCal is to the USA. It was warm outside. The water of the Indian Ocean was blue-green and warm. Some of the distinguished old members of the chorus stripped down to their boxers and trotted into the water. The teen boys largely left their clothes on, but went genuinely swimming and showed up at the Debonairs pizza place wet, salty, happy and ravenous. An Idahoan young adult expressed his surprise at just how salty the water was, having only been in the ocean once before, and hadn’t tasted the water then.
Didier Hepker and I did our level best to rent surfboards and spend a bit of time getting soaked, but the shop lady was unkind and refused to rent us boards without also selling us a lesson, which we did not have enough time for. We settled for getting damp nearly to the waist by wading deep enough in the surf for the waves to throw sand a considerable distance up my dress.
We only spent a little over an hour at the seaside, but it was enough. Ariana, though she hadn’t eaten in almost a day was playing in the water and waves (I kept expecting her to run out of energy and dissolve into a little unconscious puddle) and even had some good color in her face. Our coughing and throat-weary guys were laughing and eating milkshakes. It was exactly what the doctor ordered. Although I don’t know whether our trip doctor actually recommended this or not.
From the ocean we headed straight to the concert venue; a grand cathedral. It was most beautiful inside. Stained glass, carvings, vaulted ceiling; this was built straight to Gothic specifications right in the middle of Africa. The chorus filed into the third story choir loft and sang from above like a mostly-in-tune angelic host. The beauty of having a nearly 200 person chorus is that there so many people singing the right notes that no one notices the sick people are a tiny bit flat.
Both of the soloists sang their pieces of the songs Go Down, Moses, and The Midnight Cry, and they sounded fantastic. Both songs were audience favorites, although as usual, the African songs totally trumped any of the ones in English. Bawo always has people dancing in the aisles.
During this concert Rick had turned over his fancy new camera to me with the request that I take pictures, so I prowled about the corridors and shot people to my heart’s content. There was one little old lady who was adorable. She was small, slight, and all her clothes looked light and draped long and slender on her. She had a thin piece of green cloth on her head that was pinned under her chin and fell to her waist on either side. She came in and sat down on one side of the cathedral and, clasping a pamphlet in both hands, looked up to the choir loft with a rapturous expression on her face.
I kept sneaking around trying to get shots of her inconspicuously because she had noticed me taking pictures of her a few times before, and that spoils the point of sneaking around to take pictures.
The queen of the place was a heavy black lady in a long dress that looked Indian-inspired. She sat like a pariah in the back of the cathedral (which was normally the front; we turned all the pews around to face the choir loft) and loudly scolded everyone who walked across the raised carpeted area which was apparently a ‘sacred’ place where non-ordained feet are not supposed to walk. I think she got tired of that after a half hour or so, because people were constantly walking everywhere. She moved to an area of the cathedral where seeing the platform was impossible and studiously paid attention from thereafter only to the choir loft. Her name, I believe, was “Pinky”. Personally, I don’t think that name suited her at all. Her manner was that of a matriarch that knows her power over the people is absolute, and ignores the occasions in which her authority is disproven.
We have only one concert left, tomorrow night in Johannesburg, then we depart on Sunday evening. It is really unbelievable that we have been here over two weeks already. At the same time, it feels as though I have lived here forever. Two more days to change Africa.

This entire trip is going to be turned into a show that will be broadcast on the Trinity network, and it will be seen in dozens of countries, including South Africa and the US.
We are here with a message of racial unity for the entire world. A group of nearly 200 men of various races, ethnicities, and ages. We span the age spectrum from a 16 year old Hawaiian boy to a 86 year old Washingtonian man who has had three strokes in the last three years and still traveled over 20 hours by plane in order to gain the privilege of traveling dozens more hours by bus. All of this was to share the message with the world!
One concert left to change the world. This is going to be awesome.

Tuesday August 14 2012: "Final Days"

Note: I wrote this two days ago sitting in the airport. Currently I'm sitting in Germany waiting for my friend to get back from school so we can go EAT.

Our last concert in South Africa went off without a hitch. The building—Wits University Great Hall—nearly sold out, and the crowd was extremely enthusiastic. We had to do the song Bawo Thixo Somandla a second time in order to be able to record it properly. The audience’s whistles and yells of delight were so loud the first time around that the cameras did not pick up the singers adequately.
On this concert I got to run a video camera on my own which was quite fun, and made me a bit nervous. What if I didn’t shoot the things that I was supposed to? But these are relatively unfounded worries, since my shooting in the previous rehearsal pleased the powers that be.
The only problem about the final concert was that it got over a bit late, we then had an hour drive back to our lodgings, then we had to pack to leave. I ended up not getting to bed until after 1am, as far as I can recall, and unfortunately the lack of sleep allowed the bug I’ve been fighting to get rather bad today. I’ve had a slight fever, body aches, a very bad stomachache, and a stuffy nose all day. It got a bit better after Estee gave me some Tylenol and advil at the airport, but previously to that I was so tired and sick feeling that if someone asked me how I was doing, or said goodbye (since my flight is way after most of the other peoples’) I’d be fighting tears like mad. Post-medication I am feeling much more normal, but still achey and tired.
Right after the concert was also hard, emotionally. All the African guys wanted hugs and photographs, and handshakes. It was quite hard to say goodbye and smile when I’ve grown to like them very much, and leaving was difficult! I managed, however, mainly by pretending that the tour had just started and that I’d see them all in the morning. Which I did not. Tis when the reality set in, methinks.
Whatever else we did on the trip by coming, we at least helped change their lives. We shared stories, laughed, cried, had services together, played games, and color and/or race completely stopped mattering for everyone on both sides of the color line. Which is really more like a continuum then a line anyhow.
So far (it’s 8:08pm) I’ve been at the airport ready to go since 4pm, and my flight doesn’t start boarding until 10:40pm. This is, truthfully, miserable. There was no way that I could have arrived later, since only two buses dropped people off, and the other would have put me here at 11:30am, which would have been even worse. Despite these tribulations I am in fine spirits and am very much looking forward to my plane getting here so I can pop a sleeping pill and be unconscious for a large part of my upcoming 10 hour flight to Amsterdam.

But I haven’t mentioned the worst yet! Or at least, the most irritating to me. I am eighteen and a half years old, and on this trip I discovered that I have at least one baby tooth left that is working on loosening and falling out. Of all the indignities! I still haven’t lost all my baby teeth! I can feel the adult tooth working its way down, and the loose tooth is frustrating to no end. My teeth are so close together and tight in my mouth that it’s quite difficult to wiggle it at all, not to mention that trying to do so makes me feel like I’ve suddenly regressed in age about ten years. It’s been noticeably loose for about 2 days now, and I’m ready for the darn thing to fall out already.
Wow, spoke too soon! I was just now working on prying it loose with the tip of my mechanical pencil and it popped out! Whoot! And not a minute too soon for my sanity. It is my pleasure to report that this was a healthy baby tooth; no cavities in it and the root was all deteriorated already. Congratulations may be directed to the comments and/or my facebook page. –bows to the fans- I may be the only eighteen year old in a first world country to still have had a baby tooth and it is your pleasure to know the young lady!
Bother. The problem with not having a tooth in this spot is that now I can’t stop touching the place with my tongue. It feels funny and I haven’t had this sensation for yeeeeears. Didn’t miss it, either. My newest problem will be figuring out where to put this tooth so I won’t lose it. I’ve collected all my baby teeth and don’t intend to misplace this one.
It’s nearly time for my flight to leave now, and if this post made less than perfect sense, chalk it up to lack of sleep and the presence of a fever.


So glad you're back.

Nice essay! Sounds like a super fun and rewarding time. I would love to go to Africa!

This is like something I write for my friends allb the time whenever something like helping out in a Vacation Bible School or helping out in my friend's daycare or going to PA--something like that. Since this is written in blog/journal format, I am not going to point out a few minor grammar errors I spotted. But I liked this essay!

God bless you as you keep serving others!

Lucy Anne | Tue, 08/14/2012

"It is not the length of life, but the depth of life." Ralph Waldo Emerson