Wednesday, December 10, 2014


On November 22nd I traveled with the Institute to a place called Masipumelele. This place is on the opposite side of the mountain from me.  I went for a workshop; the topic of the workshop was democracy. Democracy in South Africa is 20 years old and most of the people are well over 20 years old so they were born under the Apartheid government.  We discussed what kinds of barriers do people experience in their own lives that stop them from participating and engaging their democracy. 

It was a point of reflection for me because democracy has always been a reality.  Was interesting to take a step back and to see how democracy is really put together, it doesn’t make much difference if the government says there is democracy if the people don’t believe there is and if they don’t participate. Because that’s how it works, democracy is about empowering people to make their own decisions.

I didn’t realize what was going to happen at this seminar, and I only started understanding days later after many of conversations. I was in the midst of a women’s empowerment movement.  The seminar was mostly women, all women from the area and they talked about democracy in their context.  What does democracy mean for a single mother with two kids? I couldn’t tell you an answer, but one of the defining moments of the seminar was a discussion on popular education.  This is education that is based on the knowledge that we already possess, the things that we inherit or are taught by our parents and grandparents.  The question was asked, so why aren’t we doing anything with this knowledge. Why aren’t we taking advantage of the skills that we already posses to make our lives better.  If we can sew, why aren’t we making clothes to sell, if we can make the best curry why aren’t we making that for other people? One of the guest speakers spoke on exactly that, she went around collecting items that other people threw away and began to make crafts with those and she turned what started out as a hobby into a lucrative business that is growing and her products are being exported and sold overseas.  

I was able to record what happened at this seminar and made it into a video. So take a look!


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Drawing a map

This last weekend I attended another healing of memories workshop.  A group of twenty-six of us went to a retreat center in Stellenbosh, which is about a half hour away from me.  Gorgeous scenery, and a peaceful atmosphere.

This workshop was very different from the last one I went to for me.  This wasn’t because the activities were different, but the people there made it different, I was of a different mindset. I’ve settled in a bit more and wasn’t so excited about going on my first healing of memories workshop.  Culture shock is starting to wear off; life here is becoming normal.

One of the activities we do during the workshop to help us describe our story is draw.  We are asked to create a drawing without using words to express whatever it is that we feel, and how those feelings link to our life stories, or whatever stories we want to share. 

This process for me is like drawing a map. It first begins with me closing my eyes so that I can remember and imagine the place that I’m drawing, well maybe not so much imagine because I am not imagining the directions. Rather I am getting in touch with my memory.  As I draw I am reminded more and more clearly of the layout, the shop on the corner, the busted light pole. Each time I look back at the map more and more I begin to see the place that Im drawing.  This is exactly what happens drawing to tell a story.  I am drawing directions for me to go down deeper into myself.  I am drawing myself a metaphor, a picture that is so multilayered that only I can decipher. Lets be honest, when the good Lord was handing out drawing gifts he skipped over me.  But the process isn’t about drawing a big beautiful picture, it is about using this blank page as emotional toilet paper, to capture what is on the inside.

Now I will describe my picture because that is a story in and of itself. Ill save my life story for another time.  But when I was drawing I was thinking of me, and the way that I interact with my emotions and events in my life.   In one hand I drew all of the life giving emotions that I experience, kinda looks like a bag. I drew it like that because I was thinking of traveling on a bus. And when I’m traveling on a bus I hold my bags tight to me because I don’t want anyone to play around and rob me of my bags.  In the same way, I hold my life giving emotions tight. In the other hand I used darker colours to represent my life taking emotions and experiences.  In that hand I am trying to throw them away from me, but they wont let me.  They are wrapping around my arm.

 I used all the colours from both hands to fill in my body.  What that represents is all of those experiences and emotions are apart of me, they are the substance that fills me.  The way they fill me is different from my head to my body.  The way that my head is coloured in is nice and neat and organized.  In my head I am able to rationalize and compartmentalize how I feel.  But in my body in my stomach I cannot, that is why the colours mix around and are messy.  In my body its no longer how I think about my feelings but how I feel my emotions out. In my body it’s a mess, in one moment I can feel the heat bubbling in my gut, from fear or anxiety and in the next moment I can experience the cooling sensation of peace or excitement. In my body is where I find the real, the real experiences, the real emotions, the real reactions.

 From this explanation of my picture I then can move into the specifics about my life, about the things that I try and compartmentalize in my head, or the sh-tuff that I try and throw away but still grasps onto me.

One thing that I realized this workshop is about the name of it and process. Its called the healing of memories, but what it really is about is, healing of identity.  Because it is these memories, events, circumstances and emotions that make us who we are, the process is then about not looking at the abstraction in our lives but really diving into ourselves.                                                                                                                        

A quote that I used during the weekend that expressed my journey, I found in a book that I’m reading called the Great Gatsby.  “ So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”  I used that because I find that as I travel forward in my life I am constantly going backwards to try to understand and bring clarity.

I am truly blessed to be able to keep going to these workshops. So until the next one, farewell!


Monday, October 27, 2014

Healing of Memories Wokshop

This past weekend I went on my first healing of memories retreat. I was accompanied by 26 others people from all over capetown and there was even two young ladies from Damascus, Syria.
 This workshop is about story telling.  We broke up into small groups and do exactly that, share our stories.  I was a bit intimidated before going because I was very self-conscious of my story, and in my head compared it to this imaginary story of someone who was worse off than me, a 25 year old guy from the states.  But through the process I just gave into it and said well I’m just going to own my story where I come from the things that I have gone through, I will share the pain that I have, the loneliness, my ambition, my hope. 
And, wowe it really is amazing the power of sharing with others has.  And that is what the workshop goal is, a sense of healing through sharing.  Others share and even though they come from a completely different world than I, it was very moving to see how relatable we all are.  Because the stories are different, but the feelings and emotions are the same.  We all experience love and pain because we all are human.  The workshop was quite successful for me. It left me extremely exhausted, but in a good way, at least I know I worked hard.
The workshop wasn’t just all heavy stuff we also sang and danced and ate and laughed together and we all bonded.  We all were genuinely sad to see each other go on Sunday.  But overall it was absolutely positively amazing!


Last Wednesday attended a workshop put on in the community of Delft.  50 people from the community, everyday people gathered to discuss stereotypes.  What they are, how we create them on a daily basis and how stereotyping or prejudice can lead us to discriminate against people.  I was absolutely amazed at the dedication these people had for education, and I stress, these were everyday people, non-academic, just people who cared about their community and realized the only way to put an end to this is to first begin to talk about it.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Lost in Atlantis

When I was asked if id like to go to a place called Atlantis to help facilitate a youth seminar. I jumped at the opportunity.  I pictured an ocean paradise with waterfalls and sailboats and good looking people in swimwear.  So when they told me that id have to take a 30 minute train to catch a bus for a 2 hour I didn’t mind. As I was on the bus  I began to realize that I was heading further and further away from the coast and  further and further inland. It was only about a hour and a half into the bus ride I realized I was not going to the beach.  So I put my swim trunks and my life jacket and arm floaties back into my bag and awaited for what the true Atlantis had in stored for me.  

I got off the bus and caught a taxi with my coworker to the venue, I walked inside and there was thirty bright eyes and cheerful 13 and 14 year olds from all over the greater capetown area.  I sat down in the circle and then the fun began….

After some fun ice breakers we dove right into it breaking up into small groups to discuss the theme of the workshop, what is culture and what good can come from being able to develop a personal cultural identity living in diverse and multicultural communities. They live in places where you might find two or three different languages spoken regularly. 

These teens together came upon some wonderful realizations of how they must know themselves, and know where they come from and their family and cultural histories in order to be able to cherish the differences between the many cultural groups that share the same spaces as they do. 

We sang together we danced together we shared lunch. The workshop lasted all morning into later in the afternoon.  And when it was time to go, the teens that lived in Atlantis all left.  But there still was a large group of kids who were going to a place called Langa, which was about 45 mins away. Because the facilitators are responsible adult we had to make sure that these teens got home all right.  So we organized to have a taxicab bus take these kids home.  Well that taxi driver must have been really unorganized because we had to wait around for him for an hour.  We all pile into this cab that really shouldn’t have let us all in and with the dance music blearing we take these kids home.  From there my two coworkers and I needed to take another taxi to the train station, we do, and then get on the train when I realize that I didn’t get a return ticket home so I jump off the train to get one to find that there was no ticket window at that stop and then the train takes off without me.  So there I am all alone forced to navigate my way back home.  Some how some way by the grace of God I managed to find my way home after another hour walk and a final cab ride. 

Definitely not the original idea I had when I was asked if I wanted to go to Atlantis J but all’s well that ends well and it really was an amazing workshop, where a lot of good work was done.  Anywho here are some photos! Enjoy!    

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Office

Ive spent the last couple days meeting with the staff around the office meeting and reading workbooks and old reports trying to get an understanding of exactly what the institute does.  So far I’ve spent all my time in the office, but most of the interactive work is done outside of the office.  

I arrived here in between workshops, and im grateful that I have, because this is allowing me to better build a context of what the heck is getting ready to happen.  I will spend plenty of time out the office in the community in the coming days and weeks. Next weekend I will be traveling to a near by area called Constantia all weekend, with other staff to participate in my first healing of memories workshop that they will be leading and facilitating 

I thought itd be a good idea to have a pre workshop blog post to get out all of my, um, thoughts.  I just got finished watching a dvd that the institute has put together on what happens at these workshops.  And was quite moving and emotional, which is perfect cuz I’m an emotional kinda guy J  But it is a two day intensive process, filled with meetings, small groups and other activities.  Everyone who participates sleeps, eats and immerses themselves in the process.  I am very much looking forward to what is in stored.  Until then here are some photos from around the office J  

 Oh and also I tried my hand at cooking in my apartment last night.  Just some sausage or as it is called here Vors, and bread.  Not much, but seeing as it was the first time  I cooked here I thought it was worth mentioning J