We are marching to the light


Patson the ranger is a fascinating man. Big in heart and stature. His
wife died from TB last year. His 10ish yr old son Thobie occasionally
hangs out with us. When you go on a bush walk with Patson, you
immediately get the sense of comfort. This guy knows the rhythm of the
wild like no one else. He can do every animal sounds so accurately that
the animals themselves take notice. This was seen on my frist lion
sighting day. And Thobie is just a super well behaved adorable kid.

This morning we got to sleep in a bit. Our pick up time was 6:30am. The
plan was to drive over to Patson's village which is about 1.5 hr away
from Makalali and go check out his home and church. This was my first
foray into the 'Black culture', so to speak.

Along the way we stopped quickly on the road side of a town called
Acornhoek and picked up some Makani worms for dinner at the bush camp.
These suckers were gigantic. I didn't try. It looked so friggin gross.
Vlad said it tastes like a mixture of sawdust and fish sauce.
Unfortunately some were picked up for cooking at the bush camp later.
The town
isn't a mud hut cluster like what you would imagine rural africa to be.
Instead it was pretty well developed (prominently noticeable by the
presence of KFC. I immediately thought of Jevaun and fried chicken as
soon as I saw it). People live in unadorned concrete houses.

20 minutes or so we made a turn into a little unmarked road and made a
stop at Patson's house. He has loads of fruit trees growing in his
garden, along with a beautiful grave of his first wife. The house,
simple and comfortable, gets water delivery every monday. One has to
ration it for the week. Lea, Patson's second wife (or maybe
girlfriend) lives at the house with her little daughter Hslalala.
Hslalala is the cutest little girl ever. She had a cute little blue
polka dot dress on all ready for church. We picked them up and then
headed over to Patson's mom's house where 3 generations of family and
relatives live together in a quarter. There, he explained that most
people have never seen a white person before. Upon our arrival the
little children would come out peeking behind their moms.. some would
cry as we approach. It was weird. I mean, shit, if they've never seen
a white person before, I'm dead sure they were even more freaked out
by the lone Asian. Patson's sister got us ready by putting head
dressings and long sarongs on the ladies. You have to have all your
hair covered as well as wear long sleeve shirt and ankle length skirt.
Everyone spoke Shankaan (sp?) or Zulu (sp?). Only Patson and Thobie
spoke English.

The church is pretty much a big dirt ground with a little hut-like
building on the side. Upon entering, the pastor (right? I donno ..
some dude) throws water in your face and body and then again on your
back and hands for cleansing. Women and men then split into 2 groups.
People gather around in a spiral circle. The men sang and stomp on the
ground in an African marching-band like fashion. Very manly. Use your
imagination. The women sang songs - usually with one or two lead
vocals and the rest would chant chorus. All the songs are religious.
The only English one I remember was "We are marching to the light".
There's a little bit of step dancing thing going on also. I joined
them, singing whatever I could repeat. (It's not in English). Everyone
exchanged stares, especially long ones with little children. I wasn't
sure if we were welcomed, tho it didn't feel unwanted. The circle had
a pattern and rhythm to it. New women join in a cirtain way, walking
inside and then around the circle at certain pause points. Children
were in the middle. Some are carried on the back with a towel by the
moms. 45 minutes into singing and dancing, with the blazing sun and
the long-sleeve everything, I was thanking mom I was born in the
tropics. The other two white ladies (Marion and Helga) must be dying.
Hslalala was next to me, not really wanting to dance at first. She
mostly stared at me and smile. We held hands at times. After 15
minutes or so she was so tired that I lifted her up on my waist. As I
bounce to the rhythm of the songs, she kissed me on the cheek and
slowly fell asleep on my shoulders. Never in my life have I held a
child like that before. I continued to hold her, rocking back and
forth for a long while before her mom came by to put her on a mat next
to the circle. It was the last time I saw her. Every now and then you
come across an experience that makes a lifetime impression, however
fleeting that moment may be. This one was it for me. Something inside
me changed after meeting her. For those keeping track, no, it's not
the maternal clock. And no, despite the fact that this is indeed my
first time in a Christian service, I'm not becoming a born-again.

As we were departing, the whole circle of women and children waved at
us. Two little boys blew me a kiss and giggled away. The men greeted
and thanked Patson. Patson was glowing. He later told us that they
were very excited to have us there, to share with us their god, and
their culture. That wherever we go we can take with us memories of
their god. Something like that.

Everything else that day was a blur. America felt so far, far away. I
did not take a single picture.

Monday is city day. Hello internet! After much discussions amongst the
travelers, I changed my mind the last minute and will be heading south
to the Wild Coast instead of Southwest to the Elephant Coast. The Wild
Coast is much more rural, dotted with cliffs, ocean, and local Xhosa
and Pongo villages. Booked my bus back out from Hoedspruit to Jo'burg.
Will be spending a day in Jo'burg, hopefully not dodging bullets n
muggers, and then fly out to Mthata where I'll catch another transfer
to a small idyllic beach town overlooking cliffs called Port St. John.
The plan is to spend a day at the Amapondo backpacker lodge lounging,
and then pick up a 3 day 2 nights hike south towards Coffee Bay,
camping along the beach or Pongo villager huts. The last 2 nights will
be pure sitting around. Maybe surf. There won't be much internet again
down there so we'll see how well GSM reception is. I'm almost at quota
with the data usage also. Bummer.