My time in Cape Town came to an end on Monday, when I boarded a plane bound for Durban, a large city on the East Coast. From Durban I took a shuttle (it arrived an hour and a half late!) to the Emaphethelweni Dominican House of Pietermaritzburg. Arriving in Pietermaritzburg was a huge shift from Cape Town: the first thing I noticed was the temperature difference—it’s much warmer here (about 70 degrees)! It’s also much dryer: winter is the wet season on the west coast and the dry season on the east coast. But the biggest change is moving from a big city to a small town: there is no longer a “Western” feel here, which is in many ways a welcome change: I feel like I am getting a true South African experience. I’m also staying with the Dominican brothers, which means I am getting to interact with students, many of whom have grown up in South Africa. It’s been a bit of an adjustment, but I feel like I am definitely getting what I came here for.
And that extends to my project as well! Within thirty minutes of my arrival, Dr. Gerald West came by to welcome me, give me some general details, and walk me around the campus. “You’ve come at a great time,” he told me, “because everything is just starting back up after the break.” He told me that thee should be lots to do and that if I ever found myself bored to just prod him or other staff members. Then, he introduced me to Skhumbuzo Zuma, who works with the Ujamaa Centre for Contextual Bible Study and is a student/staff at UKZN (University of KwaZulu-Natal); the next day, when Dr. West would depart for a conference in Germany, I would be going out with Skhumbuzo to observe a Contextual Bible Study in action. Things seemed off to a great start! [More on this to come!]
Dr. West then gave me a tour of the campus, showing me the library and eventually arriving at the home of the Theology faculty. As we walked, we ran into several students and staff members to whom I was introduced. Dr. West also suggested several classes that I could sit in on while I am here so that I can see how the work of Contextual Bible Study also makes its way into the classroom. I must admit that when I left Cape Town, I was somewhat apprehensive about having enough to do in Pietermaritzburg, but I felt welcomed with open arms. It was clear that there was a lot going on and plenty of things for me to do while I am here. Perhaps my excitement can best be summed up by one of the faculty members I met: “You’re only here for a month? That’s no time at all!” It was a relieving comment to hear after having the thought going through my head: “I’m staying in one new place for a whole month.”
So, I’m excited about the month to come. I’m really enjoying getting to know the brothers at the house, and I am slowly adjusting to the new pace of life. Moving from one city to another is difficult—especially when going from somewhere big (with lots to do outside of research) to somewhere much quieter. I had a slight moment of homesickness the other day, after returning from a busy day of Contextual Bible Study. It mainly revolved around my food situation: we had hot dogs and fried chicken for lunch, hardly vegetarian fare. So, I came home hungry and tired with the realization that I had no idea if dinner would be any better: at Emaphethelweni, all of our meals are prepared. This is nice because I can eat with a community, but it’s difficult for someone who has grown accustomed to planning and preparing his own meals. But, I am getting vegetarian options prepared to accompany my meals here, and now that I am operating on a fuller stomach, I have a bright and excited outlook for the month to come!
But on that note, do keep in touch. My internet is slower here (probably meaning no photo uploads), but I love hearing from you all!