South Africa: Day 19 (Church and Meeting Gcobisa's Parents)

When Derrick left East London in 2005, there were only two LDS wards. Those two wards have since been spilt into three, so we had a hard time deciding which one to attend. We ended up going to the East London 1st Ward that meets at the new chapel in Amalinda. 

Rachel and Lucy were a little surprised to walk into the chapel and see Erin Flowerday sitting up on the stand. The three Young Women in their ward are in charge of music for sacrament meeting. They choose the songs, lead the music, and even "play" the automatic organ. If Erin wouldn't have looked up as many times during the songs, I might have believed she was actually playing. (She successfully fooled Rachel and Lucy, who were completely amazed by her skills.)

The sacrament meeting talks were especially good. I thought they were perfect for Gcobisa, who hadn't attended an LDS church meeting in eight or nine years. The youth speaker was the girl with blonde hair in the photo below. We also got to hear from Noli Canham, who is married to Derrick's cousin, Timothy. 

The ward is very small, and there aren't many older kids in Primary. So Rachel and Lucy got to go to Young Womens with these three girls. . . they were beyond thrilled about that: 

Derrick skipped Sunday School so he could stand out in the foyer and visit with old friends who were arriving for the East London 2nd Ward.

Our meetings were all good, but they felt especially long since I was sitting next to someone who was not accustomed to three hours of church. It was a good thing I had a bag of candy to get us through Relief Society.

After church, I took some photos outside.

Rachel, Erin, Lucy:

This is Derrick with his cousin, Timothy, and Timothy's older son, Ethan:

The Flowerdays: Erin, Jacqui, Callum, and Stephen. 

The Flowerday's oldest son, Ethan, is at university in England. And that's how you say it in South Africa. You aren't studying at a university, you are studying "at university". And you don't go on a mission, you go "on mission". 

The Van Niekerks: Sadie, Tyla, Tyde, Mandy, and Michael. 

(The Van Niekerks are the family who generously let us stay at their place in Jeffreys Bay.)

And I had to get a picture taken with Mandy because I have such great memories of serving in Young Womens with her. Mandy is a convert to the church and was a young mother when she was called as the YW President. I served as her first counselor. And the day we took this photo was her birthday!

Our visiting was cut short because it started to rain: 

We hurried and drove to the other chapel, to see if we could still catch anyone there from the East London 3rd Ward.

We saw Thobeka and Luntu Mpiyakhe:

This is Derrick with Dwayne van Heerden and Elsje Thornhill (who are siblings):

Not the best shot, but this is Elsje with her younger sister, Janeke. They were two of the five Young Women from the old East London 2nd Ward. (Elsje is now married with kids. . . which is why she is carrying so many things.)

Someone went and told Linda Smith that we were there, so she left her Ward Council meeting to come out and visit for a few minutes. Linda was our supervisor at Border Technikon:

I think this is Yondela's mother on the left, but I can't remember her name. I had this group pose for a picture together because they were so matchy matchy:

And then we said goodbye.

One of the things Derrick was in charge of, was setting up a dinner with Gcobisa's family. There were some difficulties with communication, and there were also quite a few limiting factors. Gcobisa's parents live in King William's Town, which is about 30-45 minutes outside of East London. Gcobisa's father has lung cancer, and was recovering from surgery. He wasn't up to traveling to East London, so the dinner needed to take place in King William's Town. Gcobisa's mother works Monday through Friday, and said that the best day to have dinner would be on Sunday. We didn't feel comfortable showing up with eight people for dinner at their house, so Steve and I decided we needed to go out to a restaurant. We made plans to eat dinner at the Spur in King William's Town on Sunday evening.

On Saturday, Gcobisa's mother told Gcobisa that her father wasn't up to going out to a restaurant and asked if we could have dinner at their house. Derrick went ahead and volunteered to make dinner for the whole family. So Steve took Derrick and Gcobisa to the grocery store. I don't know all of the details. . . just that they wandered up and down the aisles trying to figure out what they were going to make for dinner and how they were actually going to cook it. And that it turned into a bit of a fiasco. Steve eventually told them there was no way it was going to work out.

Gcobisa called her mother and told her we would just be bringing cake. Derrick and Gcobisa picked out two large cakes and some soda. Steve also got some snacks to get us through the day on Sunday.

But it turns out that he didn't get enough food. By the time we got back from church, Steve was hungry. He said if I wanted him to be pleasant with Gcobisa's parents, he was going to need to eat a real dinner. (It was such a shame because we had turned down an invitation to eat dinner with the Van Niekerks, and Jacqui Flowerday had even offered to let us stop by and pick up some crepes.)

We decided to go to Hemingways, a modern mall that opened in 2009. Going to Hemingways had been on Derrick's list of things he wanted to do in East London anyway, so it worked out.

We picked Panarotti's because we thought the kids would like it.

The food was extremely slow, the kids didn't actually like any of it, and Steve didn't look at the bill before he paid it. Which meant we paid for four kids meals that were supposed to be free.

While Steve was paying the bill, I was outside with the kids, watching them play on this whale:

It was fun and all, but we really should have taken Jacqui up on her offer for crepes. 

This is how I did Mykaeleigh's hair that morning before church. It takes about 40 minutes to do like this, in case you were wondering:

Even though Panorotti's was slow, we were still going to make it out to Gcobisa's parents' house on time. . . well, until this happened: 

We will label this picture Flat Tire #1: 

Luckily, it happened right by a petrol station, so we drove right in and Steve asked the pump attendant if he could change our tire. (Funny because you would never do that in the U.S.) I hurried and snagged a pack of adhesive mustaches before we all had to get out of the van: 

Because posing for mustache pictures is the perfect way to pass time while you are waiting for your tire to be changed: 

The man told Steve the cost was 100 Rand. Steve paid him 300. We later found out that the going rate was actually more like 50. (We know that because there was also a Flat Tire #2. . . and a Flat Tire #3.)

Gcobisa's parents live in a very rural area. Their house is actually out past King William's Town, so it took over an hour to get there. Some of the roads were washed out, and lots of livestock could be seen roaming about. It was quiet and felt safe. 

We met Gcobisa's parents, her sister, and her niece. Derrick and Gcobisa went to the kitchen to dish up the cake, and the kids ran off to play. So Steve and I had a nice, quiet conversation with Dennis and Felicity Mini. They were very pleasant, even though her father was clearly not feeling very well.

At some point, Dennis got up and Derrick followed after him. To formally ask if he could marry Gcobisa. We had no idea this conversation was going to take place, nor did we have any idea how it would proceed. . .

Steve was later invited in on the conversation. But not me because I am not a man. Dennis taught Derrick and Steve all of the Xhosa rules and traditions regarding marriage and outlined what needed to happen next. First, they came into the living room and Dennis formally presented the news to the women in the family and asked if there were any objections. (There weren't.) And then he briefly (and very seriously) told all of us about lobola and said we needed to schedule lobola negotiations. That is a council of sorts, where representatives from each family come together to discuss how much cattle/cash the man needs to pay the woman's parents to be able to marry her.

Lobola is very important to Xhosa people. The negotiations are very complex and very secretive. The woman never knows how much money was paid for her. The negotiations require multiple meetings and are meant to somehow bring the families closer together. Here is an article about the value of lobola, written by a Xhosa man.

Derrick told Dennis that we would schedule the first meeting for later in the month before we went back home. Which was interesting because we were leaving for the Transkei in the morning and had absolutely no plans of returning to the East London area on our trip.

It turns out that I have a few thoughts and opinions about lobola. I understand that it is a cultural tradition which makes it a bit of a sensitive subject. But I do not feel like paying money for a bride brings families together. I can actually see some value in proving commitment to a woman and her family. But that can be shown in other ways. One very real danger of lobola has to do with AIDS. Because so many young men cannot afford the thousands of dollars it costs to pay for a bride, most do not get married. Instead, they are less committed to their relationships and have multiple sexual partners. Which is not good in a country plagued with AIDS. Lobola also contributes to domestic violence and abuse of women. And infidelity too. . . Men feel like they have "paid" for their wives and can do with them as they please. They oftenend up with mistresses. Many women are not allowed to get divorced from their husbands because their families cannot pay back their lobola.

I prefer relationships founded upon respect, equality, trust, and love.

Now back to Day 19. .  .

Here are the kids with Gcobisa's niece, Sine, after our extremely awkward conversation:

This is Gcobisa's mother, Felicity Mini: 

Derrick bought a special pair of All-Star shoes for Sine and gave them to her, just before we left: 

I gave Gcobisa's cousin a pack of adhesive mustaches. He was equally excited: 

Needless to say, our drive back to East London was very quiet.

When Steve and I finally got to bed, we could hardly believe what we had just gone through. So much for a quick little visit for some cake. 

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