• 25Jan


    Last weekend we attended our first Mount Frere funeral. The funeral was for the sister of our project manager at Hlomelikusasa. We knew Boniswa’s sister, Pretty, had been sick with diabetes for some time, and had been staying in hospital in Mount Frere. Unfortunately, on January 10th she died, and the funeral was the following weekend. Since we’d never met Pretty, we were surprised to be invited, but happy that Boniswa wanted our moral support.

    (sorry for no pics in this post, but we thought it would be rude to shoot at a funeral)

    We were nervous to go: what should we wear? What should we bring? How long would it last? Where would it be? etc. What to wear: dresses for girls, anything (even jeans) for boys. What to bring: money–but we didn’t have any! Crap! How long would it be, well, read on…

    Themba picked us up in the backie at 9AM and we got out to Mama Ngule’s family’s house at 9:45. Immediately we were ushered into a room where women from the Methodist church were standing together and singing prayers. The music was beautiful. As each song ended, someone would stand up to give a short prayer in Xhosa and then another song would begin. After a while, the ladies dispersed, and Andy and I were a little shocked to see that the coffin was right behind them. Pretty’s Methodist outfit and cane were laid out on top of the coffin, along with some small floral arrangements– less than 10 feet away!

    They were running behind schedule, so Andy and I were given an assignment: folding programs and making addendums to it. It was a good way to pass the time and for us to feel a little more useful. Then we passed out the programs to all the mourners that were gathering underneath the tents. All funerals in Mount Frere are held under large tents. Sometimes the tents are white (like the one we had at our wedding) but often they are red, blue, and yellow, like circus tents.

    We were told to sit in the second row–right behind the family members and primary mourners–so that a friend of Boniswa’s could translate the ceremony for us. We felt awkward being placed so near the family, surely someone else would’ve preferred the proximity, but we were guests, and guests get a lot of preferential treatment around here.

    The ceremony was … intense. The singing was beautiful (if not a little lackluster–apparently they had been singing and praying and dancing the entire night before, without any sleep, and were now doing it again). There were about 5 preachers there, each slightly different. There was the young, attractive preacher who looked bored and like he didn’t want to be there; the fat bald preacher who screamed his sermon into the microphone at an ungodly decibel; another tall, gruff preacher who almost seemed to be hurling prayers like he was in a kung fu movie; and a few others who just seemed to be there for support. The ceremony–interchanging between sermons and anecdotes told by family members and friends–lasted 4 hours (five if you count the time we spent in the small room with the coffin). Then they collected the programs to be buried in the ground with Pretty–apparently that is a tradition, but we don’t know why–and then with a bit more praying and song, they put Pretty in the family plot behind Mama Ngule’s house.

    After the ceremony it was time to eat. Reluctantly we sat at the 2nd head table (reluctantly because we didn’t want the special treatment while mostly everyone else had to eat off their laps in chairs scattered around the tent). It was a buffet of mutton, rice, semp, chacalaca, mashed butternut, potatoes, and salad. The food was pretty good (minus the mutton, which we didn’t eat). And Iron Brew, a soda I hadn’t had before. It tasted like cough medicine, and I didn’t like it.

    That was it. All in all, a funeral is a funeral. No matter where you are it is full of people celebrating the life, and mourning the death of a loved one. I’d say the biggest difference was those crazy preachers! They were screaming their heads off, but the odd thing was, they were screaming stuff like, “Pretty was a wonderful woman. She had a good life, and never did anything wrong, and so she will be accepted in heaven.” It sounded more like they were telling her to rot in hell!

    *Update: It turns out that the kung fu preacher was the husband of another of Boniswa’s sisters. On his way home from the funeral, driving to Port Elizabeth, he was in a terrible car accident–run off the road by another driver, we think. As of now, he has severe spinal chord damage, and cannot talk or move his legs. It is still unclear what will happen.

    **Update part II: Unfortunately, Boniswa’s brother-in-law died last night. How sad and aweful for the Ngule’s to have another tragedy so close to the last.

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  • 19Jan

    Holiday round up

    Happy New Year!!!

    We had a great Xmas and New Years holiday in Cape Town with our families. I can hardly believe it’s over already! The seven of us (Andy’s parents, my parents & my sis) rented a slightly-generic-but-fabulous house in a suburb of Cape Town called Bloubergstrand. We spent most of the time lounging around our swimming pool, shooting pool, and cooking in the fabulous, huge kitchen. It was relaxing and fun.

    xmas AM

    Christmas morning in the pool!

    We also managed to keep ourselves busy with various sightseeing adventures. The biggest feat, by far, being our rigorous climb up to the highest point of Table Mountain. It was grueling, but really fun, and quite beautiful.


    Less thank 1/2 way through, and we're already pooped! (not pictured: Jon)

    Early on we went to the highly recommended District 6 Museum, which is an impressive dedication to a sub-section of Cape Town best known for the forced removal of over 60,000 of its inhabitants during the 1970s by the apartheid regime. It was full of personal accounts of life and culture before apartheid,¬†what happened when District Six was deemed a whites-only area and demolished, and where the residents (mostly coloureds, but also Africans, whites, and Indians) were relocated to Cape Flats area. There was a great area w/ recipes written on dish towels that I especially liked–mostly cakes, and a few less delectable recipes, like smilies (sheep heads) and other things I’d be less inclined to reproduce.


    Recipe for Apricot Chutney

    A couple days later we went back to the Kirstenbosch gardens for their Sunday summer concert series, which was … interesting, to say the least. The featured act that evening was Shaun Morgan, of the band Seether. I don’t know much about Seether other than they fit into a general ‘alt-rock’ catagory, which is not really my thing, but we all thought it would be fun. The garden was filled with grunge addicts from 15-50 with bleached, dyed-purple, shaved, or all-of-the-above heads; macabre-ly ironic T-shirts (like, “I Could Fucking Care Less”); and lots of black and safety pins. We felt odd to be there with our parents, but our minds were set to rest when South African native, Shaun Morgan took the stage to great applause and began singing one of his apparent hit songs, “Gasoline,” which opens with the charming line, “I wanna waste her monthly blood; Wanna get some on my love; Wanna get some gasoline; And burn the house down.” Charming, no? It was a strange show, but we had a blast.

    art shot

    Artsy shot of Shaun Morgan through binoculars.

    Another highlight was Robben Island. Unfortunately, Mom and India had to stay home to do flu (which my dad and I both got a few days later). We took a 1/2 hr boat ride out to the island, and were put on a tour bus. It could easily have been lame and touristy, but our tour guide for the first 1/2 was really fantastic. Very enthusiastic and full of titillating anecdotes (like: Robben Island became a leper colony in the 1800’s). He asked where everyone was from and had a story that pertained to everyone’s country of origin (British and Dutch traders began using Robben Island as a prison in the 1400’s). We then took a tour of the actual grounds and cells led by a former political prisoner, which was interesting, but made much more so by the fact that one of the tourists on our tour was himself a former political prisoner of Robben Island. He was one of the prisoners in the famous picture of the final boatload of political prisoners making its way into Cape Town harbour. He had not been to Robben Island since his release, and it was heartbreakingly powerful to see his deep and emotional reaction to the place and his memories there.

    Robben Island

    The last political prisoners to be released from the island.

    Other highlights: our trip to Khalelitsha to show our families Baphumelele:

    andy at Bap

    Babies at Bap

    wine tour

    Obligatory trip to the winelands!

    Bday lunch

    Mom's birthday lunch in CT

    And last, but not least, we finally managed to BRAAI HARD!!! The house we rented had an uber fancy braai pit, and we had Alex H. + family over on Xmas eve for a braai (topped off with Kristen’s killer cheesecake), and then a few more braais w/ various meats, shish-kabobs, and even marshmallows. Thank god we finally braaid, or we might have had to change the name of our blog! (Which, incidentally, makes less sense here since the worldwide release of “Live Free or Die Hard” was called “Die Hard 4.0″. I guess that whole American revolutionary speak doesn’t sell in Europe or something.


    Xmas eve braai. Yum.

    We’re back in Mount Frere now. More updates to come!

    ps-Update on our friend Oscar aka Santa Claus: He got into Wits University in Joburg. Congrats Oscar!

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