Author Archives: Kittie

Plain Living and High Thinking: Exploring Oxford

Plain Living and High Thinking: Exploring Oxford

“We should celebrate!”

My first day out of self-isolation, the gracious Audrey paraded me around Oxford for a tour and congratulatory tea (in classic British style, with scones and clotted cream). We last encountered each other while doing undergraduate studies in Michigan – small world!

She inaugurated my first ventures afield into the puzzle of walls, roofs, and doors that unwinds from my newly built accommodations, overlapping medieval, modern, and everything in-between.

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Mi Mosse: Quarantine in Oxford

Mi Mosse: Quarantine in Oxford

Never would I have guessed that my past six months would be spent on my family’s farm in the USA! When I concluded my Peace Corps service, I was making plans to return to South Africa as an independent volunteer in a couple of weeks… or a month or two… and then maybe for the summer… or even just for a quick visit?

Instead, South Africa’s borders have yet to reopen for international travel, and I grudgingly submitted to a time of restoration and fellowship, reconnecting with my loved ones while future opportunities unfolded.

Given the international travel climate today, I can only be thankful that I landed without incident last Wednesday in the United Kingdom: newly “enroled” for graduate studies at the University of Oxford.

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The Fruit of Good Living: Goodbye to South Africa

The Fruit of Good Living: Goodbye to South Africa

This was not the post I was expecting to write when I began outlining ideas for March 2020 — any more than these months seem to be what anyone was expecting.

The last weeks of my service in South Africa began like all the others: a kaleidoscope of culture, friendships, quiet, and difficult times. Then it started to get weird. A cascade of unrelated events contributed to a growing sense of chaos, which paradoxically prepared me for the end of my Peace Corps service in a way that I could never have anticipated.

In the end, as a friend pointed out to me, it was a mercy.

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In All Godly Quietness: USA Visit Via London

In All Godly Quietness: USA Visit Via London

If there’s anything Peace Corps service has taught me, it’s the necessity of waiting.

My nature rebels against the humility and simple surrender of acknowledging that further action will avail nothing; the outcome is beyond my power to influence; there’s nothing to do but place my trust in the Lord…and wait.

In some small areas, my expectations have made the adjustment: the taxis to my shopping town, the line at the grocery store, the printers at school. Although service providers here rarely hurry and sometimes acknowledge requests reluctantly, that doesn’t mean they aren’t responding. A patient smile does wonders for my health and theirs.

It’s the big questions – about career, family, and the future – that send me into the wrestling ring with God. As a Christian blogger pointed out, there’s a difference between waiting for something you know will happen (eventually) and waiting when you’re not sure whether it ever will. The Biblical images of sowing and reaping acquire new resonance for me as I wonder when the time invested in these critical areas will begin to bear fruit.

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Drawing Nearer to Thee: 2019 Christmas Weddings

Drawing Nearer to Thee: 2019 Christmas Weddings

Graduation, Christmas, weddings – December in South Africa has it all!

The end of this year – and the decade! – marked the conclusion of my first full year in South Africa. Twelve months ago, I never could have predicted that I would be flying to Cape Town for a wedding, or applying to a masters program in African studies, or joining a family reunion at the same farm where Judy and I reveled in fresh-made dairy last year.

All of these events and more impressed on me the greatest blessing of my Peace Corps service: becoming like family with the people here.

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All His Good Gifts: Mid-Service Training & Travels

All His Good Gifts: Mid-Service Training & Travels

Happy New Year – and happy eighteen months of service in South Africa!  Before I share the many treasures the Lord has granted me over the holidays, let me catch up with the memorable moments from my final school term of 2019.

Like the wire cars that the neighborhood kids construct from litter and soda cans, the months after Sarah’s visit comprised many familiar elements – but adapted into new shapes and patterns. If I had ever entertained the notion that a year in KwaZulu-Natal could suffice to acquaint me with all my site had to offer, this season convinced me of the contrary.

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Evermore Kindly Affectioned: My Friend’s Visit to Africa!

Evermore Kindly Affectioned: My Friend’s Visit to Africa!

When I gathered up the tangible memories from my happiest travels in South Africa, they matched each other like puzzle pieces. They all fit in a glass jar that once housed homemade honey – if I started by loading up on the biggest things first, just like the old proverb teaches.

My new paper weight — a treasure trove of artifacts from Tembe Elephant Park, Kosi Bay, Northern Cape, Swaziland, and the Smangaliso wetlands — crowned my efforts at a Peace Corps home makeover. The bare concrete walls had been crying out for something to delight the eye, and for the first time I had a deadline to motivate me: September 13th, the day my first friend from home would touch down on South African soil.

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Cheer with Hope: Celebrations, St. Lucia, the Reed Dance

Cheer with Hope: Celebrations, St. Lucia, the Reed Dance

Whenever someone surprises me with that infamous question – “How’s it going in Africa?” or “What’s it like doing Peace Corps?” – I resort to my emergency reply: “Mountains and valleys!”

Peace Corps has given me some of the happiest times of my life – and some of the most difficult. The past month unfolded along the same lines, running from birthday celebrations to a memorial service for a Grade 6 learner at my school. In the good times, in the difficult times, we need not fear…for the Lord walks with us.

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So Peaceably Ordered: Peace Corps Jargon Decoded

So Peaceably Ordered: Peace Corps Jargon Decoded

While away in Western Cape, I was marveling about the blooming aloes at Talitha’s wedding venue, lamenting their beauty compared to the plain janes lining my host family’s property…only to discover, on my return, that the aloes at home are blooming, too!

After a cascade of often unexpected opportunities for travel this past year, it’s been my joy to discover the tiny treasures of spending time closer to home.

When a Peace Corps Volunteer isn’t soaking in the sights and sounds of her adopted country, how does she occupy her time? What are you supposed to do at site, anyway?

For decoding the nitty gritty of the volunteer experience, please consult this cheat sheet of five daily doings in Peace Corps South Africa:
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Singleness of Heart: Holidays in Western Cape

Singleness of Heart: Holidays in Western Cape

Three weeks of holiday delivered a treasure trove of fellowship opportunities in June and July.

The weekend after schools closed, I joined a local Christian ministry for hosting a short-term mission, or “outreach” team. Our guests, fifteen young men from Pretoria, made even the typical Peace Corps accommodations look glamorous: They pitched tents on the hillside in front of the Youth Center, with nothing but the spigots on jojos (massive rain water barrels) for showers.

Introducing them to the wonderful world of my local community brought back memories of my early days here, when I was still puzzling out and goggling at the mind-blowing ministry and development work unfolding around every corner.

It felt strange to be a veteran in comparison.

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The Shadow into Morning: Re-Evaluating My Service

The Shadow into Morning: Re-Evaluating My Service

Someone asked me last weekend why I joined Peace Corps: to change the world? or just to make a difference?

When I pondered the question, a single word bubbled up: experience. “Experience” spans the range of my motives, from personal delight in experiencing a new continent for the sixth time, to professional goals of gaining experience in working overseas.

Above either of those aims, I also desired “experience” in the sense of gaining maturity and wisdom.

“Though it cost all you have, get wisdom…”

So far, Peace Corps South Africa has delivered on all three aspirations. This past month, my lesson in wisdom has taught me to hope during dark and doubtful times.

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The World Which Thou Hast Redeemed: April Holidays & Swaziland

The World Which Thou Hast Redeemed: April Holidays & Swaziland

A friend told me that sleeping cleans and heals our brains, like brushing the plaque from our teeth. That’s how church felt my first Sunday back from visiting the USA: brushing the plaque from my soul.

Peace and a sense of belonging enveloped me like a perfume; I greeted every friend with joy, conscious of how blessed I am to know them. Every week, it seems that a new connection unfolds, weaving me more and more into the fabric of community life in KZN.

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The Solitary in Families: Visiting the USA

The Solitary in Families: Visiting the USA

The weather has turned. When I left mid-March for my first visit home in nine months, the sun blazed more often than not. Now cool breezes, clouds, and a freak hailstorm enliven our days.

The first term of school has ended; the second began three weeks ago. It is almost autumn in South Africa. Another mile-marker: As of April 5th, one third of my Peace Corps commitment has elapsed.

March blurred by with my first end-of-term exams bearing down.  Meanwhile my head was muddled with packing for back-to-back trips: first, training in Durban, then two weeks at home in the USA.

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In Returning and Rest: Furlough in Pretoria

In Returning and Rest: Furlough in Pretoria

Last month the Lord blessed me with a mini-furlough: I traveled to Pretoria for a Resource Committee meeting and stayed with Christian friends!

The time away gave me a much-needed chance to reconnect with God and reflect on my reasons for service.

It persuaded me that, no matter the troubles and challenges I face here, I am committed to finding a way to glorify God through my service in South Africa.

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Ever Rejoice in Thy Goodness: First Days of Teaching

Ever Rejoice in Thy Goodness: First Days of Teaching

School has started, and I’m teaching English and Creative Arts to 140 students! It is an overwhelming task–the first two weeks, I don’t think I would have made it out the door without praying for God’s strength and support.

As I struggled to create a classroom environment of discipline and positive reinforcement, the Lord blessed me with an outpouring and kindness and hospitality from the surrounding community. Their generosity gave me the strength to push through the hard days until my efforts at teaching with a counterpart began to bear fruit.

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