Monthly Archives: April 2013

Post 57. Cry Freedom.

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Tony got a job at Legends Restaurant in Rosebank.   He had advertised himself as, “Willing to do anything; cook, wash dishes, sing, dance on the tables,” The owner liked that.  His wife was due to have a baby so he gave Tony the day manager shift.  It was perfect.  He could work all day and spend the evenings with his new fiancé.

It took him a while to work out the bus route.  It sounded so easy but he kept missing the bus.  In his desperation he climbed onto the “blacks only” bus not realising that he had.  There were lots of smiles of appreciation from the passengers.   They weren’t used to seeing white people on their bus.

South   Africa wasn’t doing so well.  We were at the peak of our dark apartheid years.  The townships were erupting.  People were being necklaced* and schools were being burnt down.  Prisons were bursting at the seams, mostly with political prisoners.  The ANC had been operating underground for years and their struggle was fierce.  Nelson Mandela seemed to be our only hope.

Tony went in and out of  Alexandra Township  for 6 months sharing his story in the schools.   One day he was in our little blue VW beetle, making his way through Alex.  He almost drove right into a burning barricade and an angry mob.  He pulled the handbrake, spun around and took off in the opposite direction.   We were still living right on the border of the township and the gun shots got more frequent and one night, a brick came through our window.

Our black brothers and sisters way out numbered us white people, but we ruled.  They lived in their townships and weren’t allowed to live in ours.  We lived apart in every way; separate schools, churches, buses, movies, shops, parks and park benches.   Everything about it was wrong and we felt the need to make things right.

Malcolm Du Plessis brought his musician friends with him to Waverly.  A band called Friends First was formed to encourage reconciliation of the races.  Nic Paton, Steve McEwan, Joe Arthur, Victor Masondo, Lloyd Martin,Vuvu and others sang and danced out the message all over South Africa.  Some of their songs were banned from the radio but they kept going.   They put a documentary together called, “Another friend in another city,” encouraging whites and blacks to make friends with each other.  It was a demonstration of reconciliation and the love of God across the massive racial divide. It was sent to 10   Downing Street and Reagan’s cabinet.  Their response was, “You have given us more hope for South Africa than any of your politicians.”  Those were radical days.

Some of our young men refused to fight the racist war that was being fought on our borders.  They became known as conscientious objectors.  They were given menial tasks and their lives were made miserable for being unwilling to fight.

“Prophets” were predicting a blood bath, but we lived and demonstrated as best as we could the “new” South Africa.

Even in our darkest and most dangerous time, we held onto the hope that South Africans could be healed.

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Post 56. Love and an empty tank.

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After our time in Durban, Wilf and Val drove us back to Johannesburg.  We drove into Rig and Sue’s drive way, happy to be back.  As Val got out of the car, Nelson, their huge Newfoundland, walked up to her, cocked his leg, and wee’d all over her, from her waist down.  She felt so welcomed.

A week later, Cathie, Barry Poppleton, Tony and I decided to drive down to Cape Town for Christmas.   It was a long 16 hour drive and the guys took turns at the wheel.  There was plenty of time to talk and we had fun trying to keep the drivers awake along the dead straight, nothing-in-sight roads.

We stayed in some student’s accomodation having braais and lots of people around.  When Christmas came, Tony’s chef hat went on.  He decided to do a roast leg of pork.  We didn’t know Cape Town at all, so we drove around for ages trying to find a butcher.  We found ourselves in what felt like an unsafe area.  Tony went into a small butchery and asked for a leg of pork.  He came out, without a leg, looking a bit shaken.  It was a Muslim butcher.  We laughed and drove off quite quickly.  We managed to find our leg somewhere else. He did the whole thing; tooth-picked bits of pineapple and cherries all over it, crackling and apple sauce.  It was delicious.  I was impressed and told him I was marrying him because he could cook.

Gill Coetzee and Shena were also there.  Gill was funny.  If there was anyone I could imagine having tea with the queen, it was Gill.  She reminded me so much of Julie Andrews in the Sound Of Music.  During one of Rigby’s preaches, he had thrown out the question, “What would you do if you had a million rand?”  Gill, who was single at the time, stood up and replied, “I would get someone to marry me for my money.”  We nearly died.

I first met Shena and her identical twin sister Alanna at Mitchell Girls High School.  They were the hippy art teachers who turned the school upside down with their radical faith.  So many girls had came to Jesus through their lives.

Our drive back to Johannesburg was interesting.  We ran out of petrol about 3/4s of the way out of the Karoo Desert.  Tony was driving and I was supposed to be sitting in the passenger seat.  It was too far away so I sat on the little seat right next to him.  It was the middle of the night and there was nowhere to get fuel.   There was no way we wanted to breakdown in the pitch dark. We prayed we would make it.

We talked for hours.  Tony told me his whole story again with other things he felt he needed to tell me.  I listened and asked questions all through the night.  He wanted to tell all and then give me the option to change my mind.  I felt the need to tell him that there was longevity in my family and that I might be around for a very long time.  Did he want to change his mind?  Neither of us did.

Before we knew it we were out of the Karoo and at a petrol station.  We had driven on an empty tank and love and fresh air,  for hours.

Post 55. Let’s wait.

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Wilf and Val were at the station to meet us.  They were so happy.  It was good to be home.  Dad and Tony sat in the lounge chatting about New Zealand and jazz.  Val and I sat in my room and she told me how handsome she thought Tony was.  There was a lot to catch up on.

Tony slept on the front veranda in Papa’s old room.  The heavy lace curtains were still up.  Nothing much had changed.

Val brought him tea and avocado on toast in bed the next morning.  He thought all his Christmases had come at once.  He knew he was onto a good thing and I knew what it meant.  She wanted him to stay; forever.

A few days later, we went off to get a ring.  I had NO idea how much money Tony had for it.  He was so sweet.  “Just get whichever one you want.”   It was so exciting.   We had been engaged for 6 months, and now I was going to have a ring.  After trying many rings,  I found one that I liked.  It was small and dainty with three little diamonds in a row.  He kept checking that I was sure.  I was sure.  I loved it.

When he looked at the price, it was exactly the amount he had saved for my ring.  If it had been even slightly more, it would have been too much.  He was relieved.  What were the chances of that?

I didn’t want a big fuss; just a few neighbours from Rolleston Place and some friends from the Full Gospel Church.  We had it on the back veranda.  There were some eats, some speeches and Tony put the ring on my finger.   It was official.

Dave and Bev loved Tony.  He never said no to food, so Dave said he was a man after his own heart.  Pete was doing his two years of compulsory army training but he got out for a weekend while we were there.   Tony passed the brother-test.  He fitted in perfectly well.

One night we were sitting on the swings in the park.  We had already talked about not sleeping together until we got married.   I had boyfriends who put pressure on me to sleep with them.  There were times when I actually ran away from very close shaves.   I didn’t want to say yes.   I wanted to wait for my husband.  Now, in my fiancés arms, I wanted to say yes but had to say no.  We had made the decision to wait.  It was the hardest thing for us to do.   We were so passionate about each other, we were engaged and we were going to get married in 5 months time; what was the point?

The point was, we weren’t married.  Tony wasn’t my husband and I wasn’t his wife.  We had no right to each other.  We needed to wait just a little while longer.  We knew we weren’t going to regret it.

We laughed about how bad it would have been if we had been together on the Doulos.  We would have been so distracted and would definitely not have been able to stick to the “no more than five minute conversations” or the “no physical contact” rule.

Our long distance relationship had been perfect.  God knew exactly what He was doing.

Post 54. Welcome to South Africa

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Engagement

Engagement

My fiancé, Tony, who I had never been with, arrived in South Africa in December 1985.   We had been pen pals for a year and a half.  Cathie Beattie came to our house early that morning.  She was almost as excited as I was.

I filled up the bath and was happily soaking in my bubbles when she knocked at the door informing me that the plane had landed.  We weren’t far from the airport, but I was still pushing it.  I had been day dreaming; imagining what I was going to do when I saw Tony.  We were engaged, but we had never been together.  I pictured myself putting my hand out and saying to my fiancé, “Welcome to South Africa.”   Just thinking about the whole thing got my tummy going and by the time I left the house, I had the runs.

I was so nervous.  Rig drove me to the airport and Cath sat on the backseat smiling from ear to ear, trying to calm me down.  As soon as we arrived, I bought some gum and then ran off to the loo.  Rig and Cath waited in the car outside.  When I came out I saw Tony looking around for me.  He looked so handsome.  I crept around behind him, put my arms around his waist and said “Welcome to South Africa.”  He turned around, we looked into each other’s faces, smiled and hugged and kissed.  It was as if we had always been together.

We walked out to the car where Rig and Cathie were waiting.   I introduced them all and off we drove, chatting about his trip.  We found out why he arrived wearing such a heavy sweater.  He had been travelling for days and wasn’t able to wash anywhere.  He was wearing it to hide any B.O he may have had.

I had found a small garden cottage for him, just up the road from the Wallace’s place.  It was tiny and perfect.  I filled up the little fridge with food and he was so happy.

My friends loved him.  He found Waverley quite unusual. The first Sunday he was there, Marie Dunn linked arms with him and swung him around during the one of the songs.   That was a first.  Strangers kissed him on the mouth in typical South African style.  That was another first.

In a few weeks we had our official engagement party at the Wallaces place.   Everyone knew we were heading off to India so we didn’t get a lot of gifts and there was still no ring.

After a month of being in Johannesburg we took our first train trip together.  Tony was going to meet Wilf and Val and the rest of the Lowe family in Durban.

A friend of ours offered to give us a lift to the station but didn’t tell us he didn’t know how to get there.  We got hopelessly lost and missed the train.  We rushed into the Station Master’s office. There was a group of tourists who had missed their connection and there was a bus taking them to meet the train at the next station.

We got on the bus then boarded the train, huffing and puffing.  There was an excitement about the edginess of the whole thing and we loved that our lives together had started that way.

Post 53. India- Second time round

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Indira Gandhi was assassinated by her two Sikh bodyguards in Delhi.  It was 1984.  Tony had left the ship and was travelling back to New Zealand via India with his Korean friend, Sebastian Kim.  He was in Ranchi, Bihar when it happened.   Riots broke out all over the country. There were over 3,000 Sikhs killed.  

Tony and Sebastian had to stay in their room until the riots were over.  When they were able to get out, three days later, they were shocked to see that every single Sikh shop and house had been razed to the ground.  Not one brick was left standing on another.  Mobs poured into Sikh neighbourhoods carrying clubs, kerosene and iron rods.  They killed any Sikh men or women they could find.  They were pulled off buses and trains and beaten or burnt alive.  

The guys were on a tight budget so they slept on floors and in all kinds of buildings.  After the riots they went onto the streets of Ranchi with picture story cards, sharing the story of Jesus.  Hundreds of people crowded around them in a matter of minutes. 

One morning, in Bangalore, Tony prayed that somehow he would be able to share his story with millions of people.  Later on that day, a man asked him for directions to the Far East Broadcasting Association.  Tony knew where it was and they got talking.  He was interested in Tony’s journey and invited him to do a radio interview at the studio.  He found out later that his story had been heard by millions all over India and South East Asia.  His prayer had been answered within 24 hours. 

Tony, Sebastian, a Cockney guy and a translator visited the infamous brothels of Grant Road, Mumbai.  200,000 sex workers lived in misery and squalor.  Most of them had been tricked into being there; promised the world and taken to “Bollywood.” Some girls were as young as 9 years old.  They were trapped until the brothel owner had earned enough, or they contracted a disease.  They were subjected to physical and mental torture and there was no way of escape.  

It took them a while to accept that Tony and his friends were not there to exploit them.   They sat and listened to Bible stories from Genesis to the resurrection of Jesus.  They listened so quietly; hungry for the freedom they were hearing about.  Many bought Bibles and wanted prayer.    

On this second trip, Tony was moved again by India and her people.  There was so much hunger for truth and peace.  Everywhere he went, there was need.    He wanted to help in some way but wasn’t sure exactly how.  He just knew he was going to be back.

Post 52. Living with the Wallaces

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Rigby and Sue were leading a small but growing church called “Waverley.”   It was full of life and an oasis after my travels and intense ship life.   It was an important time for me, watching their marriage and observing how they raised their children.  I also saw the stresses and joys of church life.  

We were no longer living under the rules and regulations of our former church.  We could dance, wear jewellery, jeans and go to movies without thinking we would be left behind if the rapture took place.  It was lots of fun and I made some amazing friends.    

I loved living with the Wallaces.   I had been in love with my nephew Ryan from the moment he was born.  

The Pink Family from New Zealand was touring around South Africa.  They were a Maori/Pacific Island family and we had become friends.  There was a farewell party for them about an hour away from Rolleston Place and I couldn’t go by myself.  Sue was 8 months pregnant and we managed to convince Rigby there was NO WAY the baby would come 6 weeks before its due date.  He REALLY didn’t want us to go, but being the girls we were, we drove off up to Botha’s Hill.   The party was well under way.  Sue seemed fine.  But she wasn’t.  We had only been there for about an hour when her waters broke.  Rig was an hour away and furious.  A trip that should have taken an hour, took him 25 minutes.  He did not stop telling us that he had told us so.  She was taken straight to Addington Hospital and Ryan was born 6 hours later.  He was 6 weeks premature and looked slightly monkey-like.  There was hair all over his ears and body and he just couldn’t  keep his eyes straight.  He was the most beautiful thing we had ever laid eyes on.  I was smitten. 

When he was four,  I was his first date.  He wanted to marry me.  We dressed up and went to the movie, “Never-Ending Story.”   It was unforgettable.  He was 10 when I moved to Johannesburg and not interested in any more dates, but we were still friends.  

Leigh was born when I was on the ship.  I missed out on so much of her babyhood but we made up for it.  She was gorgeous.  She had a thick head of blonde hair and a pouty mouth.  It was a challenge to get her to smile or laugh.  She was so serious.  I loved blow drying her hair and making her look pretty.  Her favourite pastime was staring.

They had two dogs; Nelson Wallace, a huge black Newfoundland and Jackie Wallace, a little white fox terrier.  Jackie loved to jump up and hang on Nelson’s ears.  He shook her off and sent her flying.  She would just rush back,  growling for more. When she got too frisky, Nelson put his big paw on her and pinned her down.   Brenda Botha had been visiting us.  When she got home, Jackie jumped out from under her car.  She had found a little space and curled up near the engine.  We aren’t sure at what point of the journey Jackie woke up, or what went through her mind when she did.

Rigby was terrified of mice.  The property next to our house was vacant and we had quite a few visitors.  One night I was reading on my bed and a mouse ran into my room.  I screamed and Rig came running in wearing his dressing gown and slippers.  He was armed with a bucket and a broom.  He looked so brave.  That changed when he saw the mouse.  He was jumping and twitching all over the place.  I was standing on my bed shouting and pointing to wherever the mouse was.  It disappeared behind the curtain and I couldn’t see it anymore.  Rig stood on the bed, poking and prodding the curtain with the broom, for what seemed like ages.  Suddenly, the mouse jumped onto us from the curtain rod.  We flapped and screamed and fell all over each other.   We stood on the bed and could not stop screaming.  When we realised the mouse was nowhere to be seen, we laughed until we cried.  Every time we thought about it we laughed again.  We laughed for weeks. 

Post 51. So, how old is your fiance?

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I didn’t hear from Tony for about 2 weeks.  The mailbox was empty.  It was the longest I had to wait to get a letter from him.  I was upset.  I wondered if he had changed his mind.  Worse still, I wondered if he had met someone else.  My imagination ran wild. 

In the meantime, I loved my job in the engineering company in Johannesburg.  It took a while to get on with some of the German secretaries, especially Charlotte.  She was blunt and she felt it her duty to let everyone know exactly what she thought of them at any time.  No one liked her.  I made her my mission. She started to warm up to me and we became good friends. 

One day she asked me what my star sign was.  I told her I didn’t believe in horoscopes and such things.  She eventually got me to tell her when my birthday was.  She was surprised.  Apparently people under my star sign and people under her star sign didn’t get on; ever.  She had never met a person born under my star that she got on with; ever.  I didn’t fit into the “star” box.  She was surprised again when I told her what I was like as a child and how I was changing all the time.  She was concerned that Tony and I wouldn’t be compatible.  I assured her that he had also broken out of his box.  The stars had nothing to do with the changes that had taken place. They had no power to change anything.  She was fascinated.

Everyone in the office was involved in my love life. The guy who picked up the post from my desk teased me for running after Tony.   He could only see the letters going out.  He had no idea how many letters had been filling my mailbox at home.  

We had been writing for months and neither of us had thought about asking each other’s age.   After we got engaged by phone, cassette and letter, Tony thought he might as well find out.  The post guy in my office picked up my letter with the answer and posted it without a stamp.  It went to all the islands in South East Asia and it was weeks before Tony got it.  His friends in New Zealand were asking him how old his fiancé was.  He kept telling them he had no idea.  They thought he was crazy.  

It was two weeks before I heard from him.  When he called, his voice was shaky.  The police had come to their house and Tony was asked to go with them to identify a body in town.  It was his dad, Doug. He had died from a massive heart attack.  

Just a few months before that, Doug and Tony talked about their relationship, their differences and their issues.  Tony was able to totally forgive his dad.  It was a heavy, 24 year old weight off his shoulders. 

Doug had been into a big property deal in the centre of Auckland.  His risky, high powered life had taken its toll.  He was only 59. 

I felt helpless.  Tony was so emotional and I cried with him.   I felt awful for having been so selfish and also happy that we were in touch again.  He hadn’t changed his mind.  

Everyone wanted to know what was happening and when he was coming.  As soon as he had enough money; that was when he was coming.