Thursday, July 4, 2013

The Fourth of July. When I walk across the street to the reception area (and wifi hotspot) for the guest houses, Linda Otto, the proprietor, with a big smile, wishes me a happy Independence Day. Now that’s a good woman. It’s a gentle kindness to recognize that someone who’s far from home feels that distance and loves his homeland. Class act. Then she presents me with a milk tart, kind of a custard pie, with an American flag planted in the middle. It’s for the team, she says. She tells me she visited the States a few years ago, and on the 4th of July she was on the National Mall in Washington. Looks like she did it right.

Eric has told us about a hike above Hout Bay that would be a good half-day jaunt, and 7 of us—Jordan, Robert, Catherine, Angel, Joslyn, Joy, and me—decide to go for it. The others would rather sleep. So the Grahams—Eric and the 4 kids—come by at 8, and away we go, following the same route we took to the Cape last Saturday, as far as Muizenberg, where we head up into the hills toward Noordhoek, climbing along the mountains until we reach the Silvermine trailhead, where we park and prepare for the hike.

Initially it’s pretty flat, alongside a manmade lake (tailings from the old silver mine?) and across the dam that forms it. Then we start up into the foothills, and we begin to hike in earnest. It’s generally not strenuous, though there are few steeper spots, but brief ones. As we climb, we get a higher and higher view of the Strand to the east, and we notice that the wind is picking up. It’s a bright, sunny morning, but the wind makes it chilly.

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Finally we crest the ridge, and as we walk along it toward the peak, we can see both False Bay to the east and the Atlantic to the west. The wind is very strong, and the closer we get to the peak, the harder it blows. At the peak I can barely stay on my feet, but we manage to find a viewing spot slightly below the peak, where there’s good shelter from the wind, and we have an astonishing view of Hout Bay and its surrounding mountains. The overlook where we stopped the vans on the Chapman’s Peak Drive Saturday at sundown is far below us; it’s hard to believe that we had a high view of the bay from there.

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As we’re treasuring the whole experience, we notice a cloud layer moving quickly over us from the east, with the wind. The bottom of the cloud is about 50 feet above us; we feel as though we’re almost in it, and its proximity just emphasizes its speed. It’s beautiful.

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We take a team picture with Hout Bay in the background, and, seeing that we’ve been hiking for more than an hour and a half, we make a quick pace for the van. It’s faster downhill, but the walk back still takes us an hour.

It’s almost 1 when we get back to the house, and we have a 4th of July picnic with the missionaries at 2 at the Knipes’ house, so some of us grab a quick bite and review the scripts to the skits we’re doing.

I’ve told the team that this is one of the most important things we’re going to do on the trip. We’re the entertainment for several missionary families at the picnic. We gather to celebrate our unity as Americans and to laugh at our cultural foibles, and the team will help tie the celebration together, give them something to laugh at, and especially create a pleasant memory for the kids. This is ministry, as certainly as anything else we’ve done.

We have 7 or 8 skits lined up, as well as a couple of other miscellaneous acts. It’s a variety show, which Jon has organized into 3 sections to be presented throughout the afternoon.

We begin with an icebreaker, followed by a few skits to set the tone. Then some typically American stuff—the band from Tanzania (Catherine on fiddle, Jon on harmonica, Will on the ridiculous souvenir drum, and Katie on the maraca, with me sitting in on guitar) does “Old MacDonald” and “Turkey in the Straw,” and Keri and Catherine do the Statue of Liberty skit. Jon has renamed the band the Toasted Naartjies (naartjie is the Afrikaans word for clementines, which are sold on pretty much every major street corner), and I tell him I’m going to put on my resume that I sat in with the band in the Cape Town sessions.

Then dinner, of burgers—real hamburgers, with 80/20 fat content, not the impossibly lean stuff they usually sell in the grocery stores—and potato salad and cole slaw and JelloTM salad and Nick Nacks (basically a CheetosTM knockoff) and sodas. And several desserts, with no one feeling any obligation to limit themselves to just one.

Then some more skits, culminating in the longest rendition of “The King and I” that we’ve ever done. There’s a lot of laughter, among the missionaries and their kids and the team. This is a good thing.

We retire to the living room for some singing, beginning with “The Star-Spangled Banner,” continuing with other patriotic songs, and finishing with anthems to our eternal citizenship. It’s a good time of fellowship, followed by sparklers in the yard for the children.

To the Capetonians, of course, this day is called Thursday. But we have a good time.

Back at the house for devotions and planning for tomorrow, our last full day in Africa. We have something planned that will require our earliest start yet in South Africa, so be sure to tune in for the details.

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Dan Olinger

Chair, Division of Bible in the BJU School of Religion.

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