Here I’m back blogging. For someone as virgin in such doings as I am, I guess I’m not doing too badly, am I? Anyhow, here’s what has happened for the past couple days.
After checking out from the hotel on Saturday morning, The A Team got picked up by Neville and his awesome 4WD Toyota Fortuner, and left Johannesburg for destination Magaliesburg. A few hours later we arrived at Jackson’s Ridge where we spent the weekend. Before explaining what Jackson’s Ridge is, I’d like to take a moment and share with you my impressions on the South African landscape.
First of all, it’s the first time for me when I see such red soil. Apparently it’s specific to the South, fact which I was unaware of. It looks so different to me, that it makes me think I’m on Mars (not that I have performed there quite yet). Although the fall has started to kick in, the landscape is mainly very bright and green, and given the beautiful weather we’ve been fortunate to have, everything is crisp and bright. The sky is perfectly blue and although hot during the day, it’s a dry climate (I actually just noticed my right nostril has been bleeding a little from over-dryness).
So what is Jackson’s Ridge? Founded in 1984 by two Americans, this wonderful place is a Christian Ministry for children that is now run by Neville and Gail Fannin, our great hosts. From the main road, you make a right and start driving for a bit over half hour on a dirt, Marsian-like road, full of bumps and holes – we were indeed fortunate to have a Fortuner! Pastor Fannin and his wife, together with a team of 7 other people, organize and host camps on the Ministry’s land for children at risk. There are enough camps throughout the year for over 2,000 kids in need for love, care, and 3 meals a day.
After a tour of the property, we were the special guests for a great traditional BBQ – what a great treat.
The next morning found us awake at 6:00am for a 7:00am departure to Rostenburg, where a local Christian Ministry was to inaugurate their new permanent home (a spacious chapel built in less than 3 months). Arrived there, we had enough time to familiarize ourselves with the premises: a very large two-pillar tent, able to seat a few hundred people. The service started (in the tent) promptly at 9:00am with some very energetic (aka loud – we were right next to the speakers in the front row) gospel singing style.
Although I lived next to Harlem (NYC) for 3 years, I had never been to a black church service. As such, today was my very first experience. And what an experience that was! Apart from its length (4.5 hours), I could witness people’s joy for being there. Several pastors preached in an unforgettable style and I certainly lost count of the “Halleluiah”s and “Thank You, Jesus”. Lindsay, Nani, and I were introduced as special guests to perform at the inauguration of their new chapel. The audience went crazy at Lindsay’s and Nani’s amazing vocal bravura, to the point of bursting to applause and shouts of excitement in various points of the songs we performed. People were so excited, for a second I thought my skills of coping with a Kurzweil (!) keyboard (yes, the one with a wire pedal attached) were the reason.
After quickly grabbing some healthy stuff from Whole McDonald’s Food, Neville and Gail’s son, Devon drove us to the Lion’s Park. Fantastic place: we got to see wild animals while being driven in one of those National Geographic style cage trucks. This was a nice way to open our appetite, for we are going to have a real safari later in the month at the Kruger National Park.
We are about to leave for Botswana in just a couple hours, not before picking up our videographer from the airport. More details about that coming up.
So far it has been a very motivating experience. I’m happy to see that although I have started the Malarone pills for a few days, they neither upset my stomach, nor did they give me nightmares or hallucinations (all these being listed as possible side effects).
The last thing I want to mention here before I sign off is my amazement with the sky at night. In my blissful ignorance, I had never made the connection that the stars visible in the southern hemisphere are different than those in the northern one (yes, for someone who’s doing a doctorate degree, I am rather ashamed of myself) – thanks Lindsay for illuminating my walnut-like brain. The view is beyond spectacular and the experience unforgettable.
And now, off to Gaborone, Botswana where our Festival begins. Stay tuned!
PS: I have taken tons of pictures and even recorded some clips from the congregation singing (something not to be missed). Because of the very slow connection, I am unable to upload any of these – it would have been so much nicer for you all to also see what I am talking about here.