I Am an Immigrant

 

I made it a policy not to talk about politics—South African or American—on this blog, but I cannot keep silent by the recent events in the USA, concerning immigration.

Yesterday in chapel, we had a Thanksgiving Eucharist for the 10th-anniversary of Growing the Church (GtC), the organisation with whom my husband and I serve on the field. In lieu of a homily, staff members shared some of their favourite stories about GtC, especially those that displayed God’s provision. When it was my turn to share, I broke down in tears. I couldn’t believe how emotional I became. I talked about my first encounters with the GtC staff and my earliest days at GtC, about how everyone had welcomed me with opened arms.

You see; I am an immigrant. I know what it feels like to leave one’s beloved family, country, and culture and move half away across the world. I know what it feels like to quit a good job and head into the unknown of financial security. I know what it’s like to completely uproot, to sell one’s possessions and to arrive in a new country, carrying only three suitcases and two carry-on bags.

I am a foreigner. I know what it’s like to learn how to grocery shop again, learning new foods, how to read labels, new terminology, a new system of weight and volume. I know what’s like to learn to drive on the left side of the road and to learn different rules of the road. I know what it’s like to struggle to communicate, to understand people and for them to understand me. I know what it’s like to feel so homesick at times that the feeling feels almost like physical pain.

dscn0606
Within a month of my arrival in Cape Town, I was in George, helping out with a Rooted in Jesus training. We were in an Afrikaans-speaking community, and all the parishioners, including the ones in this group, welcomed me with opened arms.

I am an immigrant. I know what it feels like to be welcomed with opened arms and with love, for people to be happy that I am here, for people to have me over for dinners and braais and to take me for walks on the beach. I know what it feels like to receive needful help and advise and guidance from opening a bank account, to cooking, to where to get the best bargains for clothes, to which neighbourhoods to be cautious of, to which doctors to go to for medical help. I know what it’s like for people to be patient with me, as I struggle to communicate in their language. I know what it’s like for people to live out Leviticus 19:34a, “The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself.” This has been my experience in South Africa, and I can never thank my friends, family, colleagues, parish family, and all the countless churches, parishioners, priests, bishops, students and other individuals who have welcomed and loved me as one of their own.

 

Girlfriend Time

Having coffee with Betsy
Having coffee with Betsy

This past Friday, 9 August, was Women’s Day in South Africa; and I had a fabulous weekend celebrating the joys of sisterhood with my girlfriends. On Friday, I went to breakfast with some girlfriends and in the evening went to the gym with one of them to work off the breakfast. On Saturday, I had my first “girls-night-out” with some new friends, and it was great to hang out in Cape Town, eating Thai food and enjoying good conversation. On Sunday, I met a new friend, Betsy, a fellow Nashvillian who recently moved to Cape Town with her family. It was great to finally meet Betsy, and I’m grateful for our mutual friend who put us in contact with each other.

The past few weeks at work have been very hectic, and I was thankful to have a little girlfriend time over the long weekend. I keep saying that I want the next six months of life in Cape Town to be about making friends and embracing life here. I’m so grateful for the five new girlfriends I have met in the past two weeks. At all times God is simply amazing, but sometimes he just outdoes himself.

Connected!

I finally have Internet at home, and I am excited beyond belief! I had to go through loads of paperwork to have a phone line in my name and to get a DSL service provider; but once all those things were in place, it didn’t take long for the companies to get me connected. Yippie!!! Can you tell that I am excited?

Boys Fishing in Gordan's Bay
Boys Fishing in Gordan’s Bay

I have been in Cape Town for nearly a month, and things are going well.  However, during the past few days, the mental stress of settling in has caught up with me. Each day I have spent loads of time trying to get Internet at home, a cell phone, a bank account, and a car. In a normal situation, these things can be time consuming; but as a foreigner, it seems to take triple the time. It can be quite exhausting. Plus, not having Internet at home has made me feel very disconnected from my family and friends. That feeling was definitely adding to my mental stress. I’m thrilled that my family and friends are now just a click away. Thank God for our marvelous technology.

I’m grateful, though, that my friends and colleagues at Growing the Church have helped me with all the settling in items that I named above. I can’t imagine trying to do this on my own. After experiencing such things on the “other side” as a foreigner, I will be much more empathetic and helpful to my international friends when I move back to the States. Moving to another country is truly like starting over. In a way, you have to rebuild your life—establishing yourself and unlearning a lot of things that may work in your home country but not in your adopted country. It is definitely a learning experience and not for the faint of heart.

First Few Days in Cape Town: Highlights

I have been in Cape Town less than two weeks; but in many ways, I already feel like it is home. My colleagues at Growing the Church have become my new family. They are taking such good care of me, and I feel like I have known them for a long time. Trevor, Estelle, Janice, Auntie Joyce, and Mike have welcomed me into their hearts and homes. I am blessed to have them in my life, and I look forward to being a part of their amazing work. In my short time here so much has happened. Here are some highlights:

1. The day after I arrived, Trevor (my boss) and his wife hosted an afternoon tea for me.
2. I started to work on my first project—helping to write and edit some sessions for the Anglicans Ablaze DVD study guide. (Anglicans Ablaze was the big Anglican conference Growing the Church hosted in Johannesburg last October.)
3. I moved into my flat, which exceeded my wildest expectations.
Walking the 5k 4. I walked my first 5K.
5. I went grocery shopping for the first time. It will take me a few more trips to get used to the  different foods and the method of shopping, but I loved buying fresh tropical fruit—mangos, avocados, lechi nuts. Plus, the eggs I bought are farm fresh and don’t have to be refrigerated; there were even a few feathers on the eggs.
6. I went to an afternoon braai (barbeque). My friends Estelle and Thurston braaied yellow tail and snook. Yummy!Estelle and Thurston
7. I learned the basic rules of cricket and rugby. (But I think I have forgotten them now.)
8. I had a lovely Sunday lunch with my friend Ali.
9. I attended Sunday morning service at Christ Church.
10. I bought a duvet for my bed.

Random Reflections on Flight to South Africa

Since I wasn’t able to blog along the way (original flight out Nashville was cancelled and rebooked, making all of my connections tight), below is a compilation of random thoughts and events along the way. By the time you read this, I’ll be in Cape Town.

  • Saying goodbye to my family was the hardest thing that I have done in my adult life.
  • There was a “loud talker” on the Nashville to DC flight. I know waaaay more about that guy than I ever wanted to know. He truly needed to find and cultivate his “inside voice.”
  • Dulles is the worst international airport in which I have traveled. It is so confusing and not user-friendly.
  • Snow was on the ground in DC (hence my flight cancelation in Nashville); it will probably be the last time I see snow in a while. I’m OK with that. 🙂
  • On the transatlantic flight, I had two seats to myself. Yay!
  • I watched “Ice Age” and did some reading, but I slept most of the way to South Africa. I guess I was tired.
  • I’m now in Johannesburg waiting for my flight to Cape Town. I’m burning up. It’s time to shed the winter clothes, but I’ll wait until I get home. I’ll arrive around 11:00 tonight.
  • I met a delightful woman who was in Washington for the inauguration. She lives in Durban and invited me to visit her.
  • I hear children playing and their laughter. Some things are universal and priceless.

It’s great to be back on African soil. I’m blessed to call it home for the next three years.

An Opened Letter to Scrappy Squirrel, esq.

Scrappy
Scrappy

Well, it has been real. We knew this day was coming, and it has. Actually, it came. I moved out two months ago. Have you even noticed? You probably haven’t missed me. I haven’t missed you either, well, maybe just a little. But I definitely haven’t missed your waking me up at 6:20 in the morning, cracking your walnuts or whatever else you squirrels eat for breakfast. I haven’t missed your scurrying around the rafters, scaring me half to death at night. I certainly haven’t missed your eating my tomato plants or digging up my petunias.

I have to admit, as far as squirrels go, you’re pretty good. And yes, I have even developed a little soft spot for your kinfolks. I shudder ever time I pass one of your cousins splattered across the Cold Gray River (By the way, we humans call it a road). I nearly had a wreck the other day, trying to avoid hitting one of your kindred. He couldn’t make up his mind to cross the road or not, kept darting back and forth. He was kind of squirrely. Ergh, sorry.

Scrappy's 2011 Pumpkin
Scrappy’s 2011 Pumpkin

So I have learned a little bit from you. Will you miss me? Probably not. I think you are still mad at me because I didn’t put out a harvest pumpkin in the fall; but as I said, I moved. I moved. Don’t get mad at me because you didn’t have any seeds to eat. To be honest, I got tired of fighting over the pumpkin with you each fall. Somehow you always won the battle. I think you fought dirty.

What? I don’t know if there are any squirrels in Cape Town. There are plenty of baboons, though. No! I won’t take one of them as a roommate. They are too big and mean. Are you trying to get me killed or something? The only furry roommate I ever plan to have again is a d.o.g. Yes, I know you hate dogs, but they are g.o.o.d. Stop waxing wroth. If you try being nice to them for a change, perhaps they will stop chasing you.

I hope your new roommate will be half as good to you as I was. I don’t think you realized how lucky you had it. What? I was lucky? Hum, I don’t know about that. But I admit, we did have some good times together. I will miss you.

By the way, why don’t you ask out Skiffy, the cute little squirrelette who lives in L-25. She likes you, you know. Yes, for real.

Adieu, my little friend. Mind the Cold Gray River.

Affectionately,
Nicole

“Scrappy” was the squirrel who lived between my ceiling and rafters. He had quite a personality and became a little celebrity among my friends and me. He has kindred all over Nashville. Perhaps you have seen one of them. Since my blog posts have been so serious of late, I thought I would shake things up. However, Scrappy is most offended by this; he finds no humor in his current situation.

Training: Week Two—Stress and Rest

When I first came to training, I didn’t know what to expect. I have been pleasantly surprised. Each day gets better and better. I’m being stretched and challenged to grow both spiritually and emotionally. But more than anything, I love the amazing sense of community among my fellow missionaries. Although we have known one another only for a couple of weeks, there is camaraderie, fellowship, and loads of fun. It’s a joy to talk with people who are experiencing the same things that I am. My new friendships are a gift.

Playing with new friends at the Olympic Training Park
Playing with new friends at the Olympic Training Park

We spent most of last week talking about stress and rest. We were challenged to look deeply into how we handle stress and were encouraged to cultivate healthy ways to cope with stress. The life of a missionary (especially at first) is one of elevated stress. In my new life everything will be new; and although that is exciting, it is also stressful. For example, I will have to learn how to grocery shop, bank, and drive on the left side of the road. Grocery shopping, banking, and driving are things I can do in my sleep back home (well, maybe not drive)), but even the most mundane tasks will become stressors in my life as I have to relearn them. I need to be prepared, and awareness is the first step.

We also spent significant time on the need to practice Sabbath rest. I was reminded of what we talked about in my huddle group (small group) at church—scripture teaches us to work out of our rest. Ironically, before I said “yes” to God’s call to serve in South Africa, I used to have a healthy rhythm of work, rest, and play. But the past two years have been filled with preparations, and I fell out of that rhythm. I am determined to create a new rhythm of work, play, and rest that will fit my new cultural setting. Living a balanced lifestyle will make me a better team member, a more in-tuned daughter, sister, and friend, and a healthier child of God.

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.”Rest by the Lake

–Matthew 11:28-29, The Message