May 13, 2009

service...with a soapy basin

Nthombekhaya, one of the mothers of the students in children's classes, had suggested she wash our car a few weeks ago. It's something we rarely get around to doing, and it was a mess. She must have wanted to wash it for months! When she proposed the idea, she explained that she does a very good job washing cars, and that all she wanted was a 2 litre bottle of Sprite. A 2 litre bottle of Sprite costs R14.95 which is about $2.00. We knew it was worth more to us, so we had planned that in addition to the bottle of Sprite, we would also offer some cash if she accepted.

We parked outside of Siboleke's home where we meet to hold children's classes every Saturday morning (the photo shows the front tip of our white Golf polo). The big blue basin was full of soapy water and cloths as the children helped Nthombekhaya prepare to wash our car. It was the coolest production line I've ever seen! Some were soaping up the car; others were using newspaper to clean our filthy hubcaps; 2 were inside the car brushing out the sand and crumbs; while others were scrubbing our floor mats and hanging them on the line to dry. Then many dry cloths were used to dry and polish the car in every possible spot they could reach. It brought me so much joy to see how eager the children were to help wash our car -- they were doing it purely for joy and excitement, not for any material compensation. :)
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May 05, 2009

a vignette..Delft Baha'i School ~ 2nd year

i will try to describe a picture of a typical Saturday morning in Delft, the township in Cape Town of Xhosa and colored populations where we hold Baha'i children's classes, Devotions and now 2 study circles on a weekly basis...
one of the classes praying to begin class
celebrating a Baha'i holy day in a vacant lot
we come off the highway and enter the main road which is always full of people walking, riding bicycles, standing and waiting for 'taxis' (vans that smoosh people in tightly), playing and pushing homemade go-carts, and carrying groceries. on every corner a little vegetable stand has bags of oranges, potatoes and onions while selling a variety of other produce. barber shops, car washes and cell phone shops are abundant as well. we drive about 2 miles until we turn into the neighborhood area of south Delft, passing one large shopping and market area of vendors selling products for the home and hygiene. we wind around until coming close to the area where we know most of the people now, and the children, jr. youth and adults wave, give us thumbs up, and sometimes run after the car until we park. it's always a joyful welcome and the heart leaps with love amongst all of us. we open up the hatch and the children are eager to assist us, taking the drums, bags and crate full of learning materials. if we arrive early enough, we'll give them the soccer and football as well before classes begin.

writing notes in booklets about virtues
joyful after Devotions in the evening time
the narrow roads are always obstructed by people walking slowly, dogs barking loudly, cement pieces sitting just enough in the way that you must turn your wheel to avoid them (sometimes they are used as goals for soccer), and lots of sand piled thickly in some areas where the wind has blown it. we park on a sandy lot next to a container that is full of gardening supplies for the proposed community garden that i can't wait to be involved with. we meet in the home of Siboleke and Noxolo Ngqathane who have graciously allowed the Baha'is to use their space for children's classes each Saturday morning. their home is spacious compared to many. white laminated cabinets are situated in such a way as to create a little kitchen area with hot plates, a sink and refrigerator. before we had clip boards to press on, children would use the kitchen area counter space to write and draw, standing up to do their work. one futon style couch lines the cement block walls, covered with a sheet that is tucked around to cover the old mattress. an old crate serves as a seat against the back of one of the kitchen cabinets. wood planks and wires adorn the ceiling with a bare lightbulb that is used only when necessary to bring light into the home, as well as a chain of paper people holding hands, one of the art projects done recently. two desks, an office chair and a bookshelf are lined up in the opposite corner of the couch to hold all of Siboleke's business materials and supplies [he is the community leader who serves voluntarily in many capacities, including on the Board of Directors for the local primary school; he is also a local pastor]. the last piece of furniture is a stereo unit where the dvd player, speaker and television are arranged. on that shelf is a photo of their son, Mphatiswa, from Bahá'í School classes last year.

special class teaching martial arts
American football: Dashiel taught them how to play & created tournaments
the room quickly fills up with children and jr. youth (the latter being often late to arrive) for group prayers, singing and announcements before classes begin. the children begin singing the Bahá'í prayers and songs on their own and always enjoy learning a new song. we have been able to share with them a handful of Baha'i songs in the Xhosa language, but we don't yet know any songs in the Afrikaans language which is spoken by the colored population. we now have 4 separate classes for 4 age groups: 3-5, 6-8, 9-10, and 11-14. we meet in 4 different homes, all of which have children in the classes. the spaces are small and inadequate by U.S. standards of comfort but no one cares or comments. it's just reality and it doesn't matter or hinder the experience. the jr. youth use an empty cement block garage which encourages groups sitting in a big oval on the ground and then provides ample space to practice dance workshop moves. what i always experience is this innermost sense of bliss when seeing the children's radiant faces and enthusiasm about these classes. we face so many obstacles, not just physical limitations but also cultural ones like mistrust and tension between the two populations, but there is a momentum of unity growing there, a release of spirit because of the Creative Word, and it is truly taking root in the hearts of that neighborhood.
Xhosa dancing during Baha'i celebration

Karin Abedian, artist, offering a special class to teach art