Archive for July, 2010

It’s all connected

July 18th, 2010 No comments

We are about halfway through our “fact finding” trip to Swaziland and things are going exceptional.  We really have had no problems to speak of.  There have been a few surprises, but most of them have been pleasant (like realizing most of the places we are going are closer together than we expected).  The coolest thing so far is our discovery of just how interconnected everything is:

  • One the way in from Jo-burg we met a gentleman at the petrol station we had been trying for weeks to set a meeting up with.
  • We met with Bulembu Ministries first, and then it turns out three other groups we are meeting with also have ties there.  In fact, the guy we we stayed with last night, stayed in Bulembu the night after we did.
  • We met a girl at a brai (BBQ) on Friday and then ran into her on Saturday at a restaurant and again on Sunday church.
  • The people we stayed with last night go to church with one of the guys we were trying to schedule a meeting with later in the week.
  • On Saturday we visited an AIDS clinic and I met a random Peace Corp volunteer whose blog I had been following.
  • At the same clinic we also met the gentleman whom we had scheduled a Monday meeting with (he then took us to a game park and to lunch – very cool).  He also introduced us to a person at the US embassy.
  • While driving through town we pulled up next to one of the missionaries we had already met with.
  • One of the ladies we met at the schools went to the church we attended this morning.
  • One of the schools we visited previously employed a pastor we are scheduled to meet with later in the week.

The list goes on… and, we haven’t even gotten into the bulk of the meetings.  For the most part, we made connections with each of these groups independently, but it is obvious there is a whole lot of coordination between all these people.  It has allowed us to feel very connected even in a short period of time.

Now… just for fun…. here are a few pictures:

Africa 023

[Banking for the airport over South Africa]

Africa 029

[Sunrise over Bulembu]

Africa 037

[Eucalyptus trees line the road from Bulembu to Piggs Peak]

Africa 074

[My view this morning in Hawane]

Africa 080 

[The sunset tonight overlooking Mbabane]

Quick Swaziland Update

July 16th, 2010 No comments

Hey folks, things are rolling down here in Southern Africa. 

We spent two days in Bulembu and that was a great experience.  I know of nowhere else where people are being so intentionally about truly holistic development.  Their work encompasses infrastructure, enterprise, community care, social, political, etc.  It also helps that the area is absolutely unbelievable.  I kept being reminded of my days in northern Idaho.  We will post pictures soon.

Today we left the most mountainous region of the country and headed down to the lower hills and the capital city of Mbabane.  We visited two schools and an orphanage for abandoned babies.  Every meeting so far has been encouraging, yet completely different.  There are so many options and in some ways, we each could see how they could play out to be something amazing in the next few years.  We are trying to stay focused though knowing that our primary task must be getting a feel for things here rather than looking for that one specific option, because while things are not as fast paced as in the west, things change very quickly.

We were also able to touch base with Peter, our friend that we met while he was teaching in the States.  It was great to see a familiar face in an unfamiliar country.  We then checked in to our lodging for the night and were a bit worried when the owner had us follow her out to the “apartment” and kept driving further and further away from the city.  We finally ended up on the outskirts of town on a hill overlooking the city.  The nightlights were incredible.

We then ended the day by revisiting the orphanage from early in the day as they were hosting a going away party for two of their volunteers and invited us to join them.  We ate impala steaks and warthog roasted over the fire.  The impala in particular was out of this world.  Perhaps some of the best game I have ever eaten.

This evening we were able to video chat with Mikayla and Beth’s parents for a very short time.  Our internet is pretty flaky, but it was great for the few minutes it worked.  It has been hard being away from her – some times more than others.

Tomorrow we are visiting an AIDS clinic and a teen club for HIV-positive youth.  Then we might do a bit of the touristy things and will end our day in Hwane.  We are staying with a couple who used to work at Bulembu.  In fact, they were the first people in Swaziland we ever connected with.  It should be a great time.  Sunday should be a bit more relaxed (and the next time we will probably have internet) and then Monday begins 3 crazy days packed with meetings.

I am getting more used to the driving, but it is starting to wear on it.  Overall the Swazis are courteous drivers and rarely honk, but I have earned a few blows as I am trying to get used to things.  Thank goodness for GPS.  If I was trying to read street signs, we would all be in trouble.

We will try to do our best to keep you updated and to post pictures soon.

Categories: Random Tags:

Arrival in Swaziland

July 14th, 2010 1 comment

After nearly 2 years in the planning and 27 hours of traveling, we have arrived in Swaziland.  Let me tell you: it is beautiful!!

Africa 060 [Technically just over the Swazi border in South Africa, but you get the picture]

Today’s 4.5 hour drive was much easier than yesterday’s short trip from Jo-burg to our hostel (thoughts on all our lodging accommodations will be shared when we return).  Mostly highway and I seemed to catch on to the rules of the road pretty quickly.  Early on I felt like I was in Western Kansas, then the terrain felt like South Dakota and then Eastern Oregon.  When we finally made the transition from South African into Swaziland, I kept thinking I was driving trough north central Idaho where I spent my summers 5 years ago.

Here the locals are all bundled up in scarves and wool hats, but I sported short-sleeves enjoying the crisp air.

Crazy coincidence happened today.  I would bet that of all the millions of people in Southern Africa, I could only actually identify and be able to start a conversation with 4-5 of them.  When we stopped at a rest area in South Africa, I pulled in and happened to look up and see Jumbo Gerber, a gentleman who works with Adventures in Missions and with whom I have been trying to solidify a meeting during our trip.  Totally crazy to be able to talk with him briefly and hopefully set something up.  Very cool.

At about 3:00 we were able to cross the border into Swaziland and into Bulembu.  It was kind of a surreal experience because I have been looking at ariel photos and snapshots for so long, it was weird to see things in real life.  We are very excited about our time here.  So far we have spent the evening enjoying the company of Jamie and Rose (Jamie is the Director of Operations and Rose is a manager working with Volunteers) as the graciously opened their home to us and prepared an amazing meal.  I personally have appreciated the candor of our conversations as we all have been honest about the joys and tribulations of ministry/development as well our own strengths and weaknesses. 

Tomorrow the whole day is dedicated to seeing what is going on in the community and meeting with a few of the key leaders in the operation.  It should be good to put some faces with  names (I have been helping with a few small grant projects over the last few months).  We are also excited about enjoying the incredible mountain scenery before we descend into lower elevations where it hotter and flatter.

So far no real issues to speak of.  We had to stop off at a branch location of the rental car company to pick up a letter of authorization, but that was pretty painless.  We also had to pick up an adaptor for our power converter since the one we had did not fit.  Here is our OSHA UN-approved electrical set up:

Africa 064

I am not sure our internet situation the next couple days so interaction may be sparse.  If you need me (or Beth, who by the way is posting her updates here.) you can always shoot us an email and we will get it eventually.  Looking forward to continuing to share this story as it unfolds.

Arriving in Africa

July 13th, 2010 4 comments

After nearly 24 hours of travel, we have arrived in Africa.  For the most part things went smoothly without incident, but we did have a few close calls.

Our flight from Nashville to DC was held on the tarmac for about 30 minutes for “weight and balance” issues.  Basically were told we could not depart until 4 people voluntarily removed themselves from the flight.  Eventually two people did so and that was enough to get us going.  Sitting in the cramped cabin that extra time didn’t help my claustrophobia, but I managed to make it without having to resort to taking Xanax.

The flight from DC to Jo-burg via Dakar, Senegal was long, but uneventful.  The crew was great, the food was decent, and even though 18 hours is a long time to sit on a plane, it wasn’t as difficult as I was expecting.

When we deboarded the airplane, we were quickly reminded that it is winter here in the southern hemisphere.  It wasn’t freezing, but definitely pretty chilly for a short-sleeved shirt.

Customs and baggage claims were a breeze as was exchanging money and renting the car.  It was easier to navigate the international section of Jo-burg airport than it was Dulles.

Once we picked up the car, the real fun began.  In planning for this trip, I have not been nervous about the standard things.  I am not worried about the plane crashing, or our luggage getting lost, or carjackers, or lions (or tigers and bears), or black mambas.  But, I have fretted over learning to drive on the other side of the road.

I don’t know if it was self-fulfilling prophecy, or if it really is that big of a transition, but the 20 minutes from the airport to our lodging was by far the most stressful part of the trip so far:  Every time I tried to use my turn signal I turned on the windshield wipers; Beth has to remind me every time I turned to not go straight into the path of incoming traffic; I am constantly hugging the left side of the road, and; it still freaks me out to see cars coming at me on the right. 

It didn’t help that the highway we traveled on was under construction and had concrete rails on either side.  Nor did it help my confidence to witness the car next to be get rear-ended as a semi tried to merge into my lane.

I am hoping the worst of jt is over (knock on wood) and am looking forward to driving on the more open country roads instead of the city.

Tomorrow  (technically “today” since I am writing this at 3:00am due to jet lag keeping me awake) we will drive the 5-6 hours to Swaziland and enter in through the Bulembu border crossing.  We have a brief tour of Bulembu then we are staying with the Director of Operations at his home.  On Thursday is when the real fun begins with all of our meetings scheduled.

Can’t wait to get the traveling out of the way so we can get to the heart of our trip.

So far we have been lucky with internet, and hope to be able to post updates along the way, but there are no guarantees.  Even if we can’t post, we will keep some notes so we can update you on the details of our trip as it progresses. 


Categories: Swaziland Tags: , , ,

Swaziland Departure

July 10th, 2010 No comments

On Monday we fly out to Swaziland for two weeks.  Even though this trip has been nearly two years in the making, we are still rushing to get last minute details together.  I wanted to take a break from the packing and planning and printing and preparation to let you know that Beth and I will do our best to update our blogs during the trip so you can follow along.

In case you are wondering “What in the world, why are the Kickerts flying half way across the world?” then here’s the cliff notes answer:

  • Next summer we are planning on moving to Swaziland Africa to live for 5-10 years.
  • This trip is an exploratory one where we are meeting with various organizations to see where we might fit in best.

In many ways the direction of the decade of our lives will be tied into these two weeks.  Your thoughts and prayers would certainly be appreciated.

Categories: Swaziland Tags:

Rejecting Nationalism on July 4th

July 3rd, 2010 No comments

The following excepts are from an article written by Howard Zinn on the dangers of nationalism. (HT to Donna Aros for posting it on facebook).  You can read the whole article here: Put Away the Flags

On this July 4, we would do well to renounce nationalism and all its symbols: its flags, its pledges of allegiance, its anthems, its insistence in song that God must single out America to be blessed.

Is not nationalism — that devotion to a flag, an anthem, a boundary so fierce it engenders mass murder — one of the great evils of our time, along with racism, along with religious hatred?

These ways of thinking — cultivated, nurtured, indoctrinated from childhood on — have been useful to those in power, and deadly for those out of power.

Our citizenry has been brought up to see our nation as different from others, an exception in the world, uniquely moral, expanding into other lands in order to bring civilization, liberty, democracy.

We need to refute the idea that our nation is different from, morally superior to, the other imperial powers of world history.

We need to assert our allegiance to the human race, and not to any one nation.

Throughout the article, Zinn discusses the atrocities that have been committed in the name of Nationalism.  His argument for an allegiance to humanity is challenging.

For those of us who follow the teachings of Christ, we have another — much greater — reason to reject nationalism: Our citizenship is not here, but to the Kingdom of God.  This citizenship calls us not to dominance and defense, but to submission and to participation in the restoration and redemption of all things.

I could wax on about the dangers of nationalism and an americocentric understanding of the world, but instead, I will simply say that my identity as a participant in the Kingdom of God is exponentially more important than my place of residence or my county of origin.