Category Archives: The Long and Winding Road

Living life on the way: From a South African childhood to life in India and everything inbetween.

Post 129. Goodbye my lovely dad

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I was shaken but the steel in me refused to bend.   I knew then why I had been so strengthened by God.  I was going to need all the strength I could find.  A few phone calls to South Africa, confirmed dad’s critical condition.  Tony booked Jordan and I on the first flight out of Delhi.   I packed my bags and we did the eight-hour drive to the airport.  My stomach was in turmoil the whole way.  There was no way to keep in touch with Tony or my family in South Africa once I left the house.  I kept wondering if dad was still alive.

I said goodbye to Tony and prayed there would be someone to help me with Jordan on the way.  I wasn’t sure how I would manage with my suitcase, bag, nappy bag and Jordan.  What if I needed the loo?  I got to the check-in and a man travelling from Delhi to Durban started talking to me.   He was a “typical” South African man.  He smoked, talked about rugby and the meat he couldn’t wait to eat.  He had no idea he had been chosen by God  to be my very own angel.  When I needed to change Jordan he looked after my bags, he kept me a place in the queue and held Jordan when I checked in.  When I got on the plane, there he was in the seat right next to me.  I told him about my dad and he was concerned when I cried on and off throughout the flight.  Fortunately Jordan travelled amazingly well.

When we touched down, I was shaking.  My “angel” helped me off the plane and walked with me into the arrival area.  I could see my family waiting for me.  They all looked pale.  The first thing I asked was, “How’s dad?”  He was still alive but it wouldn’t be for long.  I handed Jordan to my mom and my legs collapsed under me.  I shook for about five minutes.

Everyone made a fuss of Jordan.  He was just over three months old and a real cutie.  We went to Rolleston Place to freshen up and then headed for Entabeni Hospital.  Dad looked awful.  He was black and blue.  It was a shock to see him hooked up to pipes and breathing apparatus.  He was weak but so happy to see me.  The nurses felt he was still alive because he knew I was coming.   I was told to keep him calm. When he held Jordan, his heart rate went up and we had to take him away.

We had a quiet conversation. In a very weak voice he expressed his last minute doubts about going to heaven.   I assured him that his simple prayer of surrender to Jesus that many years ago had secured his place in heaven.  Jesus had taken away his sin and in that instant, he had been born-again.  He was a new creation.  The old had gone and the new had come.

He also talked about his dreams and morphine hallucinations.  He could see himself in a huge warehouse full of wood, then on a stage surrounded by musicians and people and then in a bookshop.  On the shelf was a book about his life and his family, written by me.  He asked me if I could do that since he hadn’t got around to it.  I didn’t make any promises.   I realised that all the things he was thinking about were the things that he loved; wood, books and music.  Those were his passions.

I was with him when he took his last breath.  I had never seen a person going from being alive to being dead.  Gone.  Just like that.  In one second, my lovely dad was gone.  There was such sadness but as we were leaving the hospital, someone said, “It must be so bright in heaven.  I hope dads got his sunglasses.”  We laughed until we cried and then we cried until we laughed.

Going through his cupboards was hard.  He had no worldly wealth to speak of.  He had lived a simple, contented life.  He left the house to mum and his entire jazz collection was sold to the Natal University Music Department.  They got the best end of the deal.  It was awful watching it go. I got his old typewriter and his tartan bomber jacket, which he got in his early 20’s. I also got his diaries.  The earliest one was from first grade.

When I was going through his things, I was amazed at how sentimental he had been.  There were boxes of photographs and reel-to-reel movies of holidays, births, weddings, relatives, babies, cousins and every family get together.  There were neatly stacked piles of all the cards we had ever made for him and every letter we had written to him.  He hadn’t left us with any “inheritance” to speak of, but such wonderful memories.  It sat well with me.  That was the kind of inheritance I wanted to leave my kids.

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Post 122. Little blue tent

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My favourite place to sleep

I had just turned thirty-four.  It was 1994.  Ash was about to turn eight and Zoë was going to be six.  I was happy they were going to be old enough to help with the baby.  Three mothers are better than one.  We were all so excited.

Life continued at a rapid pace and before we knew it, it was time for our three week Goa holiday.  It was too expensive for us all to fly, so we started planning our long road trip.  Tony took the jeep to the carpenter in the bazaar and showed him our ingenious design.  We wanted to turn it into a bed so we could stay anywhere along the coast and not have to spend money on accommodation.  The ply-wood bed was put on stilts so there was plenty of room for our luggage underneath.  The bed was at the height of the driver and passenger seats.  There was a section on a hinge, which could flap over and rest on the dashboard.  At night the whole jeep would become one big bed; big enough for one man, two small girls and an almost seven month pregnant lady.  Or so we thought.

We packed the car and the girls were happy on their big bed.  There wasn’t much height for them to sit up, so they spent most of the time lying on their backs or tummies.   It wasn’t long before their elbows started getting red and raw but they were happy with their books, toys and plenty of water and snacks.

It all went well until our third day on the road.  We were crossing a narrow bridge.  A jeep came from the opposite direction and onto our side.  Tony swerved and slammed on brakes to avoid him.  The girls were lying on their tummies with their faces right near our heads.  They flew towards the dashboard and I screamed out the name of Jesus so loud it freaked Tony out.  I put my arm out to stop them in their flight and Tony somehow managed to get the car under control.  When we pulled over we were all crying.  We looked for blood but there wasn’t any.  Disappointing after such an ordeal but we were grateful to be alive.

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Our favourite place to be

We went to Palolem, our favourite beach.  Tony talked Gaitonde, a resort manager, into allowing us to set up our tent on his property.  He said he would charge Rs 50 a day. We agreed.  We found a spot under a lamppost.  There were two coconut palms for our hammock and a tap right nearby.  The showers and toilets were a few metres away and there was a children’s park in the middle of the resort.  The beach wasn’t even 500 metres away.  It was so perfect.

We spent the whole day setting up, getting rations and hanging up big bed sheets for some privacy.  Tony got some fresh fish and fried it on our little gas burner.  We were all so happy.  The girls were excited about sleeping in our tent.

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Our little blue tent

It was a five-man tent and there was just enough room for all of us including my tummy. Tony felt the need to be our security person.  He did a good job of locking us in so that nothing could enter or escape.  Including air.  It was tight and the ground was bumpy but we all somehow managed to find a comfortable position.  We lay there talking and laughing about storms and wind and what would happen if the weather changed.

We talked until we were exhausted.  It was hard for me to breathe in such a tight air-less space but I did my best to concentrate on other things.  Just as we were about to drift into much needed sleep, Tony decided to fill up the tent with his pent up gas.  We all started flapping which made things worse.  We couldn’t breathe and we couldn’t get out of the tent.  Our eyes were burning and we didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.  We hit Tony with our pillows and told him he would be sleeping on the beach if he even thought about doing that again.

As soon as the sun came up, I crawled out of the tent on my hands and knees. I took a deep breath of fresh Goan air.   It was so different from the air in our small blue tent.

Post 121. EEEEEEEeeeeee!

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Zoe- photo by Terry Kreuger

The girls and I were in the bazaar so I popped into the pharmacy to get something for my nausea.  I had been feeling sick for a while.  We seemed to live with those feelings so it wasn’t really a big deal but Tony was away in Australia and New Zealand and I didn’t want whatever it was to get worse.  I was also feeling really tired.  We had visitors every month and life was full on and I needed to be well.

Our Tibetan friend Sonam and Vijay Masih were in Australia with Tony.  He wanted them to meet our friends from NCMI and see that we were part of something bigger.  We were so grateful for the many friends we had made in South Africa.  Many of them had visited us and helped us to get the community up and running.  It was an exciting, fast growing movement.  After we left South Africa there had been an explosion of community planting all over the world.

A couple of years before that, we were stuck.  There were international sanctions against South Africa and we were an “unwanted” people.  The world wanted us to change our racial policy; a fair request.  Things started to change when Nelson Mandela become the first black president of South Africa.  The world loved us again and we became the “Rainbow Nation.”

In the late eighties our prophetic, eccentric friend, Malcolm Du Plessis, prophesied, that in a few years we would be bumping into each other in international airports.  Many of us took it with a pinch of salt, having no idea how that could possibly happen.  From May 1994, our prison doors opened and we were free. Then we were everywhere.

Many left South Africa for safety reasons.  They wanted their children to have a quality of life.  Many left because they were racists and couldn’t stand the idea of being ruled by a black political party.  Unfortunately they took their racism with them and struggled with people of colour wherever they went.  Many were fearful.  There were prophecies that there would be a blood bath.  It was a miracle there wasn’t.  White South Africans had been dominating the majority for generations.  They had no idea how the majority would treat them now that the tide had turned.

There was also a prophetic word that the nations would call South Africa.  She would be a lighthouse to the nations who were still struggling with racism.  South Africans had been there and done that.  They had fought the apartheid system and won.  It was a miracle and no one could deny it.  Tony was in Australia for one of the first NCMI conferences with excited, wide-eyed South Africans carrying brand new suitcases.

The girls and I got home and I unpacked my packet from the pharmacy.  I asked the girls to come with me to see what I had bought.

It took me ages to get hold of Tony in New Zealand where he was visiting his family.  International calls were always a challenge.  When he finally got on the phone, I didn’t ask him how he was.  The girls were shrieking and jumping around.  Through all the crackling and chaos, I shouted, “I’m pregnant!”

Post 109. Funny signs.

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We loved getting in the car and going on long road trips. There was not a moment of boredom.  When we exhausted all known car games, we made up another one.  “Let’s look for children along the way and see what they’re doing.”  The girls loved that one.  It was fun and serious.  They were amazed to see how little girls their age carried such heavy things and how such little boys could handle such huge animals.

One of our favourite things to do was to look for funny signs.  I would jot them down and it wasn’t long before we had quite a list.  We had fun reading them with our put on Indian accents.

ON THE BACK OF TRUCKS:

Love is froud

Haran pleej

Use diaper at night

Bearak please

Horan plese

Liver box

Fata box

ROAD SIGNS:

“Drive like hell and you’ll be there”

“ Hell or helmut. You choose”

“Sharp curves. Please adjust your bra–s”

Please park in take off position

Bye pass edns

Hotel Ramkana- parking left behind

Eneterence

Toilet faslitis

Way to in

Way to out

Drinking whisky makes you frisky

ADVERTISING:

Grewal stones

Denting and peinting done here

Chrishtmas

Chirstan cemetery

Prosecuute

Cotton pluffs

Concenitrates

Three whiler

Rewainding

Wear unders

Electrition

Housh numbers

God-fearing finance Pty Ltd

Weeding sarees

Do not pluck flowers, leaves and keep of grass

Machines and had cranes

Higer interest, lower tems

Crockries and gift centre

Spaire parts

Seet covers

Tyre puntcher

Dyanamo/Dianamo

Sutings and sweaters

Suitings, shirtings and trouserings

For the perfect holyday

Doormattery

Our all time favourite was one we saw in the classified section of a newspaper:

“One full box of sheet – Very good condition.”

Post 38. Is this the Love Boat?

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While no-one wanted to admit it, the ship was a great place to meet one’s life partner.  Some called it, “The Love Boat.”  That really upset the leaders.  Funny that, since many of them had met their partners there.

The big rule was “No relationships in the first year”.   When their year was up, a guy could go to their leader and ask for “Social Permission”.  That meant they could spend more time with the girl they were interested in; if feelings were mutual.

The second biggy was, “No more than five minute conversations alone, with the opposite sex.”    Things could get out of hand after five minutes.  Most of the shipmates were single.  Some were happy to stay that way, and others really weren’t.  It was obvious that some were there to find a husband or a wife.

Those who were single and satisfied didn’t really notice when the year was up.  The desperate ones headed for their leader’s office on that very day.  There were all kinds of surprises sprung on people.

When our batch’s year was up, I was called into the girl leader’s office five times.  “So and so is interested in you and would like Social Permission.”  I was horrified. Also slightly flattered, until I found out that the same desperados had done the same thing for just about every available girl on the ship.

Things got really awkward.  The guys who I saw as friends, got all weird.  I couldn’t be as friendly for fear they would get the wrong impression.  I decided I didn’t want to know who asked for “S.P.”

I told the leaders it didn’t matter who asked, my answer was “no”.  I was not interested.  I did NOT want another trip to the office.

It seemed angelic.  The truth was, I had broken the rules in my first year and not been caught.  Mike and I had talked too much and got on way too well.  To complicate things, he had a girlfriend, Debbie, who was at home waiting for him.

He was finding it difficult to make a decision, so he asked the cute Kiwi boy to pray with him about his dilemma.  He obliged.

Mike’s two years were up and he went back to the States.  I went on to do the Public Relations for the ship.  We went ahead and got the port ready for the ship’s arrival.  We got interviewed on local radio stations, wrote articles for newspapers and contacted schools, church groups and town mayors.  We lived with local people and got used to living on land again.

When I was in Liverpool, I got a letter from Mike, letting me know of his decision to stay with Debbie.   I had expected it.  I was prepared.

What I wasn’t prepared for,  was the almost audible voice that I heard in that moment.  I knew who it was.  He had spoken to me before.  He had told me not to panic.  He had told me to stay in the ocean of His love and I would be okay;  no matter what storms came my way.

Those messages were clear and they needed no interpretation.  This one was different.  It was sing songy and kind of cheeky sounding.  I could almost imagine a smile on His face as He whispered into my ear,

“There’s Tony.”

Post 37. Nations

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There were about 300 people on the Doulos.  Most were there because they wanted to serve and see the world at the same time.  It was a great way to do both.  

I fell in love with South America and her people; Spending weekends with families in small villages and towns, practising our Spanish, learning from their cultures and eating lots of amazing food. 

We had to get up early to exercise no matter what.  That was a challenge in Argentina when the main meal was brought out at 11 pm.  We slept on heavy stomachs way after midnight and got up a few hours later to run. 

It took us two years to circumvent the continent; Brazil, Venezuela, Colombia, Peru, Chile and Argentina.  We had also stopped in Puerto Rico, Barbados, Jamaica, Trinidad, Mexico and Florida. 

Lindy and her family lived in Kentucky.  When we docked in Florida, I got a week off and took a Grey Hound Bus to see them.  It was a long trip but  worth it.  There were so many changes and we had all grown up.  I got a taste of American culture, ate lots of fried chicken and loved being with the Stuthridges again. 

Those days were not easy for South Africans.  One evening, Henriette and I were sitting on a small beach near the ship in Barbados, watching the sun go down on the ocean.  There was a daddy Rasta and his son, having their bath in the sea.  Their dreads were down and they were using sea sand as shampoo.   They came out of the ocean shaking their hair.  It was a beautiful scene.  We waved and they came over to talk to us.  It was going really well until he asked where we were from.  Suddenly we were being blamed for apartheid, racism and all the problems of South Africa.  It got really ugly so we said goodbye and left. 

When we arrived in Trinidad we were ship bound.  No South Africans allowed.  We had to get permission to stretch our legs on the quayside.  A team went into Bolivia but again, no South Africans allowed. 

We were feeling the effects of our injustice for the first time. 

I cried many tears when we sailed out of Recife to start our journey across the Atlantic.  I was going to miss the colourful, hot blooded, passionate Latin Americans. 

I met people from all over the world and made many lifetime friends.  There were times when I wondered which nation I would end up in. At that point, I was hoping it would be somewhere in South America. 

My heart was wide open.  I was prepared to go anywhere.

Post 36. Intense.

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After working in every department girls could work in, I signed up for four months of Intensive Training.  The ship was in Chile.

It was so intense.  We had daily, weekly and monthly goals.  We read through the Bible from cover to cover, memorised long portions of scripture, read through lots of required reading books and listened to many messages which were on cassette tapes in the library.  

We got up to jog at 5 am every day preparing for a 25 km run and a 20 km walk.   That was interesting when we were at sea; running along the deck with waves splashing all around us, stopping to throw up then off again.  It was a test of endurance. 

Wherever we went we were either reading or mumbling memory verses under our breath.  On top of that there were certain hours we had to work.  We didn’t sleep much. 

The three day fast was a challenge.  The ship was docked and we were put into teams. There was a small church building where we stayed and prayed for three days.  Now THAT was intense.  We were only allowed to have water.  There were many manifestations of bad character but we walked back onto the ship thinner and better people. 

There was also a three day “faith trip”.   We left the ship with as many books as we could carry, no money and a change of clothes. When we met people we could answer their questions but not solicit anything in anyway.  If we sold books, we could use that money to buy food; if we didn’t, too bad.    

I had NEVER had to ask God for food.  I struggled.  My pride really got in the way.  The other girls seemed to be fine with it but I just couldn’t do it.  We had no food for the first day and a half and we all came to the conclusion that I was the Jonah.  They urged and encouraged me to just humble myself and ask God.  I was so hungry that I did.  That afternoon while walking around the small town, we met a lady who asked us what we were doing.  There was no hinting or soliciting in our reply.  She invited us to her house for dinner.  It was a HUGE house and the table was groaning with food.  

We ate, drank and were VERY merry.