Saturday, August 31, 2013

A Perfectly Timed Power Outage

So it's time for a small update, but an important one!

Those closest to me know that this first week has been difficult for me. I've had a hard time adjusting not just to the time change, but to my life in a new place living without family and friends nearby. I've never traveled to a foreign country without a bunch of people traveling with me and I've never lived on my own without friends or family in the house with me! This experience is brand new in every way possible and my skills that would allow for an easier transition have never had to be developed until now.

With all the turmoil of missing home and being alone in a new country, I've been keeping to myself in the house I live in. Although there are 11 other students here and one house mom, I've generally only spoken to them when we happen to cross paths in the hallways at the beginning and end of the day. Although they all seem lovely, I haven't felt comfortable enough to embrace them as new friends because I'm still so new here.

As part of adjusting, I made a rule for myself that I absolutely was not allowed to Skype anyone within my first two weeks in Cape Town. I wanted to rule out the possibility that Skyping with home often would prevent me from meeting people here in Cape Town. I was told by a mentor that I should feel free to break that rule and Skype my parents if I was having an exceptionally hard time, and I finally decided that this Saturday when my parents were just waking up in the States, I would ask if they could Skype. And so we did!

Our tearful (on my end) conversation consisted of me updating them on life here and telling them exactly what had me so emotional and worried. I also cried a lot when I saw my beautiful dog, Lola! She is definitely one of the hardest creatures to leave behind this year, but I so look forward to her reaction when she sees me again, finally.

At one point during our conversation, there was a knock on my door. Now, I don't think anyone has ever knocked on my door before so I was so surprised, but answered it even though I was in the middle of crying to my parents. My neighbor, Sbo, was there and was looking to connect over some series that I might have that she didn't. Since I was in the middle of Skyping with my parents, I told her that I'd come to her room when I got off with them and that we should chat then! I was so excited to have the possibility of a friend that I didn't realize I'd done EXACTLY what I meant not to do when I made the rule. I had let Skyping my family back home get in the way of making a connection out here in Cape Town! What was I thinking??

But I missed my parents too much and so we kept talking. We talked about their visit out here during summer break (their winter break) and where they might stay and what they might do. And in the middle of all that, suddenly, the power went out. And there was another knock on my door.

Another housemate, Melvynne, said she was just stopping by so that we could hang out. Although I hadn't gotten to say goodbye to my parents, the power was already out and they were already gone so I quickly shut down my computer and invited her into my room. We were joined by two other girls and quickly, I had friends.

If that power outage was not an act of God, I don't know what is. So thank you, God, for giving me this opportunity to make friends. I'll see what I can do on my end now to ensure those friendships last.

And Mom and Dad? Sorry I never came back, but I have friends now! I love you guys! Skype soon!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Where in the World is Emily Barker??

I'm here! I've made it! I have a home and an office and a walk to the train station before work! I have a cabinet and fridge space! And a bed! And two desks, from one of which, I write to you now. Don't forget the comfy purple throw I bought for my bed today! Wanna see some pictures? Ask and you shall receive!!

Let's start with my trip!
That last flight, I didn't quite make and
had to rebook to one that left at 8:15 instead.
It stressed me out, but luckily it was at the end of the trip!

Welcome to my room!!

We have Husker paraphernalia!
(turns out that's the hardest word to spell
in the entire English language. The things
you learn while blogging!)  

This is the view from my desk! A lovely wardrobe and mantel that once had a working fireplace! 

The view from my wardrobe!
That's my desk and laundry and towels!
And yes, I was watching Legally Blonde
at the time this photo was taken. 

And from my door: here's the bed! With some shelving behind it. 

Although the room is a little cramped, I certainly cannot complain! It's warm under my covers (I added a soft purple throw last night that made all the difference) and it's cozy while I'm listening to music and writing! There seems to be plenty of room for the things I brought and I feel that as I go, it'll just get better and better and feel more and more homey! 

On my first official full day in Cape Town I visited the office where I'll be working this year! These are some of the lovely people I work with; I'll try to get everyone else's picture before the year is out! 


Ignatius (We call him Iggy)


Dali and Jenny!
Also on the first day, I went grocery shopping and set myself up for at least another week's worth of meals. Luckily, we have communal lunch at the office every day so I only have to worry about breakfast and dinner. 

The next day, I did the tourist thing and went to the V & A Waterfront downtown. It's still a great place even though it's in the dead of winter here. 

There are a few shopping malls, hotels, museums and craft centres. I went to a super touristy restaurant with absolutely no regrets. It was the best burger ever!! 

You can tell it's touristy because they painted our faces and had us wash our hands in an African bowl before we began eating. 

I've started a collection of fantastic elephants that I've found here, partly inspired by a great friend from Warwick, Haley Gray Plaisted, and a lovely friend from Skidmore, Mallie Buffum. Thanks to these ladies' obsession with all things pachyderm, I've noticed the abundance of elephant sculptures and figurines! I've started taking pictures of all the elephants I see and these are my two favorites so far! 

He's beaded!!


Outside the Nelson Mandela Gateway.

Had to hug this big guy!

I absolutely loved V&A Waterfront and I cannot wait to return when the weather outside is Spring or Summer! Expect some updated Waterfront pictures while you're sipping on hot cocoa and looking at all the fallen leaves in town. 

We left the Waterfront because it became a little bit too chilly to walk around, but we decided quickly that we weren't quite done with our day yet so we drove on up the mountain a small ways to the predominantly Muslim neighborhood of Bo-Kaap! The neighborhood is set right against the edge of downtown Cape Town and next to De Waterkant, a queer friendly neighborhood. I had to jump out of the car to snap a picture of the houses in Bo-Kaap. They're fantastic! 

On this same downtown day, we stopped by Company's Garden, an arboretum in the middle of downtown Cape Town that starts at St. George's Anglican Cathedral. Although I took a few photos of that half hour stop, I'd like to go back when the weather is nicer so I'll save your first impressions of Company's Garden for when it's Spring or Summer!

So those are just some of the many pictures I've taken so far! I may have a running page with just pictures from the trip, we'll have to see if that's possible! Let me know what else you want to see here in Cape Town! It'll be a little tricky to see some things because we're in the middle of winter here, but I'll do my best! 

Miss you all! Keep praying! I'll certainly need prayers during this transition. 


PS: As always, continue to check the blog for updates and if you haven't already, please consider giving a small amount to fund the rest of my stay here. I'm only $1,800 away from my $10,000 goal and I couldn't have done it without the continuing support of so many people! You can donate Online (Click Here) or send a check by snail mail to the Diocese of Nebraska. Make sure to write "HOPE Africa" in the memo line and they'll send it to the right place! Their address is 109 N. 18th St. Omaha, NE 68102

PPS: Want to stay in contact while I'm away? Find me on Facebook, shoot me an email, or write to me in Cape Town! My mailing address is 13 Stanley Road, Rondebosch, Cape Town, South Africa: 7700

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Catch-up, Thank Yous, and Farewell... Oh My!

I know, I know! It's been a month!! And what a month it has been. Let me update you on all things prep for Cape Town!

Since my last post in July, I've finished my summer job of nannying my incredible cousins Katie and Trey. I had the same job last summer and am so blessed to be able to spend so much time with my family! I love them both so much and I'm going to miss them while I'm away! Katie made me some fancy bracelets with her Rainbow Loom and made me promise to take them with me to Cape Town. Not to worry, Katie! They're packed! I'll be sure to take a picture of them when I've unpacked next week!
Trey and Katie, last summer, ages 6 and 8!
Unfortunately, I don't have a picture from this summer of the both of them.
I'll miss these kids. 

WHAT? NEXT WEEK? You'll be in Cape Town next week?????

That's right, you heard it here folks. My official itinerary is as follows:

8/21/13 (But wait, that's tomorrow! Yes, I know, keep reading!)

  • Say goodbye to Mom and Dad! Say goodbye to Lola! 
    My beautiful Lola girl!  
  • Depart Omaha with Sam Barker in our Saturn SL2, Stella, at approx. 6:30 am.
  • Drive all day. 
  • Drive all night.

  • Keep driving, you're not there yet.
  • At some hour of the early morning, arrive in Warwick, NY!!!! 
  • Say tearful goodbye to the best brother ever as he heads off to his junior year in college. Also say goodbye to Stella. She was the best car for the past two years and she might die, so make it a heartfelt goodbye. 
  • Have fun in Warwick! See friends! See enemies! Eat at Cafe and Tuscan and all the good places!!! 

  • Keep enjoying Warwick! 
  • Don't stop!

  • Heartfelt goodbyes to all those who hosted/loved you in Warwick. 
  • Final meal at C and D's. 
  • Drive to Stewart International Airport and board some flight that leaves at 12:32 pm! 
  • Arrive in Detroit. Then leave Detroit at some point and.....

  • Arrive in Johannesburg!!! 
  • You're in South Africa!
  • Wait, this isn't your final destination. Board the plane to Cape Town.
  • Arrive in Cape Town!!!!!!!!!! YOU MADE IT!!!!!!!

Alright, now that the official itinerary is out of the way - let's talk about what I did this past week!

My job ended on Friday the 9th and I said a tearful goodbye to my cutie-pie cousins. On Saturday I started packing for a family vacation and also packed a bag of cold weather clothes for Cape Town! I already hated packing that day and had no idea what was still coming to me a week later.

Sunday the 11th was my final service at Church of the Resurrection in North Omaha. This church watched me grow up when I was in grade school and welcomed me back with open arms when we moved back to Omaha 10 years later. With all the support Resurrection has shown me over the past 12 years, I felt weird asking for more, but quickly arrangements were made that the loose offering at church on my last Sunday there would go towards my fundraising. I realized almost immediately that I did not want to be sitting in the pews and watching people decide how much money to put into the collection place, so I quickly asked if I could make my own offering during that part of the service. I asked fellow parishioner and lifetime family friend, Keith Winton, to sing with me at my final service and he and I belted out a rendition of The Prayer (made famous by Celine Dion and Andrea Bocelli). Check out our offertory music here! (And excuse the bootleg quality. I hadn't bought my new fancy camera yet when this needed to be filmed!)

Immediately following the Sunday service, my family drove out to our favorite spot in the Rocky Mountains and settled in for a weeklong vacation in Grand Lake, Colorado. I've attached a couple favorite pictures from that vacation. It was the first try with the new camera. How do you think I did?

The view from our cabin!
That's Shadow Mountain and Shadow Mountain Lake.

Scout Rock! Legend has it that this is where Native
American scouts used to watch over their tribe and
watch for approaching enemies. 

The first sighting of Bruce the Moose in a neighbor's yard.

The beginning of an intense scrabble game.
My mother and I tied for second!

Dad, Scott Barker and Mom, Annie Barker
on our annual Adams Falls hike.

A beautiful rock cairn. I love finding spirituality in nature.
Looks like someone else did too!

Mt. Craig aka Baldy, an iconic sight on the East Inlet hike.

A double rainbow over Grand Lake after a storm!

Got a close-up! But learned that it's pretty
tricky to photograph a rainbow, let alone two!

Found Brucey just off the road lounging in some cabin shade.
He had just crossed paths with a fantastic 80-something-
year-old woman who had stood her ground without peeing
herself. Definitely a Grand Lake veteran, confronting a
moose without any sort of discomfort! 

See how close to the road he was? And right in the middle
of someone's yard, without a care in the world!

Practicing my focusing during cocktail hour!

Daddy in his element and loving the vacation!

Sammy, also in his element and looking pretty adult with all his "wisdom".
(Sam has a theory that it takes maturity and wisdom to
get an ash that big, so he bragged about the size of
his wisdom for some time that evening.)

Mom in her element! Reading on the porch as always.
Sam's girlfriend, Francesca, came on vacation with us!
She's officially part of the family and so gets a spot
in this section of the farewell blog.

Jealous, aren't you? The company was fabulous and the accommodations were perfection, as always. I found myself drifting toward Rocky Mountain Repertory Theater, the local summer musical theater company. I saw all three shows (mostly as tradition. I've started seeing all three every year. It takes quite a lot of energy!) and loved every single one of them! I left Grand Lake missing my theater days and wishing I could still be a part of that theater community that I miss so much. It reminded me that theater and music are such a huge part of my life, so I'm hoping I can find an outlet for either while I'm in Cape Town!

Our vacation ended with a long drive home on Monday the 19th. We got home late, ate our delivered pizza, went through the missed mail, and headed to bed.

Which brings me to today! Today was a lot of unpacking and repacking and packing and every variation of that word you can imagine. I'm currently in a state of dis-packing or anti-packing with my fantastic use of procrastination skills that I developed in my years at college. However, I am almost done! I have a few dirty clothes that need to be cleaned and sorted and then I'll be basically done with my preparation! So far it looks as if I can fit my belongings into a checked bag and two carry-ons. Fingers crossed that that's still true by the end of the night!

I cannot thank everyone enough for getting me to this point. I can't believe tomorrow is the day I leave Omaha, not to return for an entire year! I've been continuously receiving donations and funds and have another list of thank-yous to dish out before the day is through! Settle in, this list is a long one!

Linda and Natalie Watson are two women who were a part of the Barkers in Omaha the first time around! Natalie and I shared a great love for all things equine and were in the same Girl Scout troop. Their continued support even after we've all grown up is fantastic!! Thanks ladies!

John Andrews is a Nebraska Episcopalian who has been consistently supporting me! Thanks, stranger! I hope to some day meet you and thank you in person!

Cy and Colleen Mulready were babysitters of mine when I was a young tot, not much younger than their two little ones are now! Cy and Coll followed the Barkers out to the East Coast shortly after we moved away from Omaha, but unfortunately we left them there when we moved back and it's been quite some time since we've seen them. I completely appreciate their support even though our families rarely see one another any more! Thanks Mulreadys! (The Mulreadys left an incredible poem as a comment on their donation. I encourage you to look up For Love Of The World by Charlotte Tall Mountain).

John Andrews, again! I know you think I made a mistake, but it almost seems like he just donates every time he comes across the link. Thanks so much, John! Your generosity is a wonderful example!

Jeff and Sue Kirk are old New York friends whom I babysat for years ago! It's been so long that my wise father had to remind me how I knew your name and I'm so grateful he did. I hope your family is well in CO. Stop by Omaha for a visit some time! Preferably next year when I'm there and can say hi!

2 Anonymouses (Anonymice? I still can't decide!) I don't want to reveal too much but both of you are endlessly generous and I cannot thank you enough!!!

Amy Patino is an old parishioner from Warwick whose support has continued from 1,000 miles away! Thanks so much Amy! I can't wait to keep seeing pictures of your little one growing up!

And last but not least, John Long! John Long is a Nebraska Episcopalian whose support comes without an sort of personal introduction. Your generosity inspires me!

Ok, this post is getting way too long, but it's all necessary! I'd like to end with a sort of farewell. Since I'm not sure when I'll next be able to update, it may be that I come to you from Cape Town when I write next! Please pray for my safe travels and the safe travels of the other YASCers who are beginning their placements or will be leaving soon. I'm so grateful to all who have made this trip a possibility and I cannot begin to thank you! I hope I will not disappoint those who expect me and those who hope to hear from me. I will see you all on the other side!


PS: Don't forget! There's still time to finish the fundraising before I leave the states! With about $1,500 to go and 4 days before departure, there's no better time than now to get in those last minute donations! Feel free to donate through the website, Emily's Go Fund Me, or to send your tax-deductible donation to the Diocese of Nebraska, 109 N. 18th St. Omaha, NE, 68102. Make that check out to Diocese of Nebraska with "HOPE Africa" in the memo/note line. They will take it from there! Thanks again! Keep those prayers coming!