Back and better for it

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He’s back!  Yep, I’m back… jet lag and all.

Wow, was Kent Nerburn right.  In the last blog entry I quoted Kent from his book Letters to a Son.

I wasn’t planning to repeat his quote but it’s to apropos for the topic at hand not to.  So here it is again.

“That is why we need to travel. If we don’t offer ourselves to the unknown, our senses dull. Our world becomes small and we lose our sense of wonder.

Our eyes don’t lift to the horizon; our ears don’t hear the sounds around us. The edge is off our experience, and we pass our days in a routine that is both comfortable and limiting.

We wake up one day and find that we have lost our dreams in order to protect our days.

Don’t let yourself become one of these people. The fear of the unknown and the lure of the comfortable will conspire to keep you from taking the chances the traveler has to take.

But if you take them, you will never regret your choice.”

I’ve had the privilege to travel a good bit.  But for the most part my travels have been what some might say are safe travels.

What I mean is, the countries I have visited have been fairly westernized with the modern niceties that suit our American tastes.

The visits to Europe have been great and I have been stretched by the differences in culture, language and politics.  All of these visits have left their mental stretch marks but nothing to the extent that I faced last week.

I mentioned that I was going to South Africa for a church mission trip.

First of all the flight to and from Johannesburg was about sixteen hours in duration.  It made the typical seven-hour flight to Europe a leisurely Sunday drive.

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Side Note: Wow, that last statement dates me.  Sunday Drive?  I can’t imagine anyone taking a Sunday drive anymore.

Yes, to all of you too young to remember, people would actually just get in the car and drive in the country as a leisurely family activity.

And by the way, I am not nearly as old as the picture illustrates.  Well… maybe.  But I don’t feel that old.

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South Africa is a very interesting mix of cultures and wealth.  There are pockets of extremely nice areas that are jammed packed full of niceties that we pampered American relish.  But all of these pockets were surrounded by extreme poverty.

The focus of our trip was to help clean up and repair an elementary school in a very poor area of Soweto.  It was a church’s version of “extreme makeover” for a school.

Soweto, if you remember your history, was the epicenter for the movement to banish Apartheid in South Africa.  Now don’t worry, this is not going to be a blog about the ills of racism and the overthrow of the white regime.  There are plenty of history books or web sites that dissect those events.

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Interesting factoids:

1.  I thought the name Soweto was derived from some sort of African word.  But in reality it is the abbreviation of Southwest Township.

2.  Soweto is the only place in the world where two Nobel Peace Prize winners lived on the same street – Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu.

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Over the next couple of entries I would like to share a few things that stirred my comfortable little world.

Surprisingly, it is different than what you may think.  It’s not the poverty, although it was horrid, nor was it the history of racial oppression, albeit extreme.

It has everything to do with what make people good.

See you Monday.

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