Monday, September 29, 2008

Chapter one, coming up... and a new president for South Africa!

Today I will submit Chapter 1 of my thesis - eeeek! I have some MAJOR writing to do before this afternoon.

Oh, and we have a new president of South Africa. I really don't know anything about him - other than he sacked the health minister, which leads me to the next news....

The last one was - and I'm not a bit ashamed to feel this way - one of the worst things to ever happen to South Africa. I personally believe that her prevarication has directly led to the deaths of hundreds if not thousands of HIV positive people. That said, I wish her well in her new career and thank God that there is someone else in her position.

What a year to be in South Africa!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Goodbye, Trevor.

Today 11 Cabinet members resigned along with Mbeki. This includes Trevor Manuel, who has been the Minister of Finance since 1996 - respected throughout the world for his work. The news rocked South Africa's economy today, and the rand fell against the dollar - it is now over 8 rand for every dollar.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Goodbye, Mbeki.

I just watched the president of South Africa formally resign. One of my roommates started crying (which in turn of course made me tear up as well - can't let anyone cry alone). Though I have been here for 9 months, I can only begin to understand what it would feel like to have to sit and watch the president of your country step down for reasons that are not fully understood. It is a tense and trying time for the nation. However, it is also a point where this young democracy could truly mature, if it is handled correctly. Keep it and all South Africans in your prayers as they face the future.

Saturday, September 20, 2008


The ANC, which is the ruling political party of South Africa, just announced that it decided to recall Thabo Mbeki before the end of his term next year, a move that could collapse the government. Mbeki has been accused of interfering in the judicial process that was taking place around the incoming president, Jacob Zuma. Mbeki is only the 2nd president of the democratic South Africa - he is the successor of Nelson Mandela.

In other words, they are ousting the president of the country. My roommates are just saying that this is more or less an organized or civilized coup.
This is a huge move -- pray for political stability.

Is the World Falling Apart?

That's what I wondered from Malawi as I read U.S. news headlines. Fannie May and Freddie Mac, Lehman, A.I.G.... Hurricane Ike. I get the hurricane, but the rest? I'm clueless as to what caused this 'financial crisis' or what the repercussions are. HOWEVER, I read this article from the New York Times this morning, and it helped me understand.... at least a little bit. I recommend it!

Diamond and Kashyap on the Recent Financial Upheavals

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Helping Houston After Ike

While I was in Malawi, I received news that Houston had been hit by a serious hurricane. The results were fortunately not as bad as it could have been, but yet for many, were still devastating. Many of my friends and former students are still without power, and many, many have sustained serious damage to their homes. Even the school where I used to teach has received serious damage. My heart goes out to everyone there as they pick up the pieces after the storm. I wish I was there to do the same.

Below is a letter from Chris Seay, the pastor of the church I attended in Houston (Eccelsia). The people of Ecclesia are a phenomenal bunch - the members there are much more than just a group that gets together on Sundays - as a church body, they are a relief organization, community mobilizers, social justice pursuers, and much more. Being part of that church body truly changed my life and taught me what it means to live my faith. I have seen first hand how they mobilize the community and provide for all of those in need without condition. If you, your organization or church is looking for a way to help, anything sent toward Ecclesia would quickly reach those who need it most.
(pictures taken from and

Chris’ Letter:

My Brothers and Sisters,

I am not sure how clearly the national media is telling the story of the devastation in Houston and Galveston, but I can tell you that the rare combination of a massive storm that filled the Gulf of Mexico and the fact that it struck Houston and Galveston ( a combined population of close to 5 million people) has created a disaster of immense proportions. The majority of the city is still without power and clean water and almost everyone has some kind of damage to their residence or business. Houston, which became known as a city of generosity and hospitality after Katrina, is now experiencing what it is like to be on the other end of that kind of generosity.

Ecclesia is thrilled to be able to represent the broader church as a source for light and love to so many hurting in the devastation of this storm. We will continue to need teams skilled in debris removal, demolition, and construction for much of the coming year. If you are willing to send a team, we will work to provide lodging and logistical support for your teams. We are longing to have brothers and sisters that will demonstrate the love of the Liberating King as they help families in a time of dire need. In addition to those that will come and labor alongside of us, there are some immediate financial needs that would help us to serve the region and share the hope of the gospel. There are three areas of immediate needs:

1)Relief Support - any donations to relief support will go to purchase chainsaws, tools, food, van rentals, water, generators, temporary employment for relief coordinators, and necessary items to support relief teams. We are estimating the immediate need for relief support to be more than 25,000 dollars. If you are able to purchase any of these items in your area and have them delivered to Houston, this would be preferred over local purchasing. However both can be accommodated.

2)Financial Relief – for those suffering financially because of loss of property and income, we would like to offer a short term assistance package. For countless families and individuals struggling to make it financially before the storm (hourly wage employees, immigrants, and single mothers), the last week has often been devastating. We hope that the federal government will improve in their response time, but the church is able and willing to fill this gap. If you would like to give specifically to this package we will distribute the following on your behalf. In the case of single mothers we intend to double the assistance.
$150 Mortgage/Rental Assistance
$100 Grocery Card
$50 Gas Card
$20 Basic Toiletries
Gospel of John (VOX)
We will attempt to continue or begin a long-term relationship with all assisted families and will offer this assistance to as many as possible.

3) Taft Street Coffee as a House of Hospitality - You may know that Taft Street Coffee (the coffee shop owned and run by Ecclesia) is rated each year as one of the top 3 coffee shops in the entire city. This morning we had our power restored and would like to re-open the shop as a site for those still without power. We estimate that over the next three weeks many would benefit from a centrally located house of hospitality that offers air conditioning, a free lunch, coffee drinks, Wi-Fi, phone service, children’s play space, and spiritual support. If you would like to sponsor the food and operational costs to run Taft Street Coffee as a gift to the community, we estimate that cost to be $850 per day.

If you have any questions you can contact me ( / cell 713 539-9201) or our Mission Pastor John Starr ( / cell 832 630-4267). I am grateful for the love and support of the entire church to my beloved City.

In Service to The Liberating King and His Kingdom,

Chris Seay
Pastor – Ecclesia Houston
2115 Taft
Houston, Tx 77006


When some people come back from poor countries, they sit at home in their living rooms and wonder what they can get rid of and how they can better serve the poor.

I read People magazines.

I don't know what the deal is, but whenever I get back from a really intense experience in a developing area, I go into this hyper-consumer mode and want to buy everything that I see.

Traveling back from Malawi, I went through this process in the Joburg airport. The first thing I saw when I got off the plane back in Johannesburg was a huge, shining, shimmering, sugary-smelling candy store. You know, one of those with hundreds of bins of every kind of candy you have ever seen - licorice, chocolates, gum drops, hard candy, soft candy - - pretty much anything that could possibly rot out your teeth was in that store. They had imported candy from Europe, the US, and even parts of Asia. Oh, the glory of the colors, the extravagance, the stickiness.... after the dirt, poverty and heart-wrenching reality of Malawi, this candy store stood as the beacon of all that was excessive, consumeristic and luxurious. I was in awe. I wandered into the store in a daze, and the sticky surgary smell enveloped me with open arms. I walked from candy bin to candy bin, staring in to each one for an inappropriately long amount of time. I was a pretty sight, I'm sure. I was dirty, covered in paint from the previous days of painting classrooms, and wearing dirty clothes (we hadn't had water the last couple of days I was in Malawi), and hugging two backpacks - one on my front and one on my back. And I could not get enough of the candy store. I didn't know what to pick out - there were so many choices! I wandered around so long that the store manager came and asked me politely if I needed help with anything. This snapped me out of my daze, and I quickly grabbed three bags (yes, bags), paid and left. I then found the entertainment section of a newspaper that had been tossed aside on a table, sat in a corner by myself near my boarding gate, and greedily ate candy until my stomach hurt and my teeth were fuzzy.

And that I how I dealt with reverse culture shock. I have no idea what this says about my character, but it can't be good.

Preview of Malawi

Pictures from Pretoria

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Malawi bound!

I had a wonderful, wonderful time in Pretoria with Estelle and her family. Estelle took me for a taste of Afrikaner culture around Pretoria (including a meal at Boer'giousie and a visit to the Voertrekker monument! - pictures coming shortly) . I also had the chance to *relax* in their beautiful home, get some reading done, and take long naps. :) Yesterday we headed into Johannesburg to the American consulate and I was able to get long awaited pages added to my ridiculously full passport - yay! I will finally not have to stress out every time I cross a border.

And now - I am sitting in the airport awaiting my flight to Malawi. Tracy and her daughter McKallie are most likely on my same flight, so I am keeping my eye out for them. I am extremely excited.

A special thank you to Estelle and her wonderful family for taking me in and making me feel at home the last several days!!!!

Friday, September 5, 2008

Off to Joburg and Pretoria!

In just a few hours I am heading out to the airport in Port Elizabeth to fly to Johannesburg. I am going to stay with Estelle (one of my roomies) and her family for a few days - I am so excited! I am excited to see all of the places she has told me about and in general, get to know a different part of the country. Then on Wednesday I'll fly from Johannesburg to Malawi for a week!

PS - I am having trouble uploading pictures lately, but I have a bunch that I will send as soon as I can.

Hello, procrastination.

This is one of those things that I never fill out - until I am supposed to be packing.

What were you doing 5 Years ago?
I was studying in Guanajuato, Mexico,and about to move to Buenos Aires, Argentina - my first experience living out of the country

5 Months ago?

I was camping in Addo Elesphant park near Grahamstown South Africa - I had just returned from a road trip through Namibia.

5 Things on my to-do list:

1. Pack for Johannesburg and Malawi
2. Finish Chapter 1 of my thesis
3. Write my Development Sociology paper
4. Get extra pages in my passport
5. Buy a calling card to call my dad on his birthday next week

5 Favorite Snacks:

1. sparkling water (newfound love thanks to Jeannie)
2. fruit - especially tangerines, berries, or any dried fruit
3. popcorn - but the real kind, not the kind with fake butter
4. chai tea
5. rice crispy treats

6 things I'd do with a Billion Dollars:

1. buy a lifetime supply of plumpy nut for every orphanage I have ever visited and/or find a way for those orphanages to produce plumpy nut on their own.
2. start a fund for low-income kids to study abroad or do service work abroad
3. create a sustainable fund to pay preschool teachers in Grahamstown a descent salary (they literally make next to nothing and their job is SOOO important for setting kids up for success)
4. buy rain water tanks for every school in the Grahamstown township so they don't have to rely on the district for water - and begin building sanitation systems (i.e. get descent sewage systems put in and running water in every home/school/clinic - no more bucket toilets!)
5. ask my brother to invest it so that all of the above projects would be sustainable - he's brilliant about stuff like that.
6. go to medical school - for real. maybe do a m.d./ph.d

5 Places I've lived:
1. Burley, Idaho
2. Houston, Texas
3. Denver, Colorado
4. Nuevo Vallarta, Mexico
5. Grahamstown, South Africa

5 Things you might not know about me:
1. I have very bad hearing. Often people will be singing along to a song on the radio that I cannot hear at all. It also means I ask "what?" about 200 times a day.
2. I get woozy and/or faint every time I see my own blood, get a shot, or think that I may be hurt - anyone else, I'm fine, even fascinated. But if its me, not so much.
3. I HATE when my feet are dirty or sticky. I also hate wearing shoes. This is problematic.
4. Until 2003 I had only been to one country outside of the United States - but in the last 5 years I have traveled to 24 countries
5. Unless there is a miracle, I am out of commission by about 10:30pm. This infamously included my 21st birthday when my parents, who met me in New Orleans for the occasion, out-partied me. By a lot.


I surprised Victor on his birthday on August 2nd by driving with Kate Lindsay and Rach to Cape Town. We essentially crashed his birthday party dinner. It was so much fun to be the one surprising him for once! The pictures on the left are from his birthday dinner.

However, I didn't get to gloat long, because this week, Victor ONCE AGAIN surprised me by coming to Grahamstown! He arrived in the middle of the night, but I didn't hear my phone, so I didn't see him until Sunday morning (the poor guy had to sleep in the car!) --- it was such a wonderful, relaxing week with him! Since he drove, we also got be tourists and see some of the sites that I haven't ever seen around Grahamstown, like the local monastery and the Observatory museum, where you can see the entire city of Grahamstown projected on to a plate. It was actually really, really cool. We also volunteered together at the preschool I work at each week.

Pictures: Top row - Victor playing his guitar in my room, Victor figuring out a way to get a bird out of my house (it flew in the window), Volunteering at the preschool. Middle row - Victor and I at the Monastery, monastery view, and Vic and I overlooking Grahamstown. Bottom Row - Vic climbing down from the observatory, the monastery sign, and Vic and I again at the monastery.


One of the hardest things about leaving Cape Town in January was to leave behind the project that Wezi (pictured) was working on. Her dream was to open a program for kids in grade 1 who are not ready to be there - working with the kids who would otherwise get left behind. Wezi was Jeannie and my Xhosa teacher, and we spent hours talking over her plans and dreams with her, and figured out how to make them into a reality. I was so, so excited to be involved, and going to Grahamstown was so hard for the fact that I knew I wouldn't be able to be as involved. A few weeks ago I was in Cape Town, and I got the chance to meet up with Wezi and catch up - and - her news was amazing. With Jeannie's help, Wezi has got her program up and going in two schools, with plans to move into a third. She is working with the kids with the most needs. Even more amazingly, because the schools she is working in have seen the progress she has made with the kids, they have agreed to start up an entire school-based program for remediation, to better set up kids for success. Beautiful. Go get 'em, Wezi!!!

Cape Town views

Several weeks ago, I went to Cape Town with Kate, Pears and Rachael, who had visited from the US. After saying goodbye, I was super sad, so Victor took me on a little drive to see beautiful Cape Town views.