taking a pilgrimage into South Africa
December 7, 2009
I remember riding on the train in Cape Town at the age of nine. We were on holiday, visiting my grandparents, and used public transport to travel to wherever we wanted to go. It was years later, when at university, that I got the call one spring day from a few friends, who said they were taking the train to Jo’burg for the day. I guess that must have been what got some of us planning a holiday trip to Cape Town last December, using only public transport!
We got onto the train at Hatfield station, this train somewhat different from the one I remember from my childhood days. The Pretoria train doesn’t have enough place for everyone to stand even. At Pretoria station we boarded the train to Cape Town, which was, luckily enough, quote empty. I think it was 32 hours later when we arrived in Cape Town, had to take the taxi to the backpackers lodge we were staying in. For the next 10 days we got to know the taxi’s and trains around certain areas in Cape Town. Got comfortable with it.
When I went down to Cape Town a few weeks ago for a conversation in reading Acts today, I decided to stay a day longer, and meet up with some Amahoro friends. Our conversation was at the university of Stellenbosch, and I decided to continue the habit of using public transport in Cape Town on this trip. I had a meeting at a certain time with the René August from the Warehouse on this day, but I missed my train in Stellenbosch. And suddenly… I was on African time. I hate being late, and would usually do anything possible to rush to a meeting when I notice that I might be late. But standing at that station, I knew that nothing could be done. So I just found the closest place where I could read, got something to drink, and waited.
Over the past two days I again committed to using public transport in Cape Town, even though the people who got me down to do some training offered a car. This is becoming a spiritual discipline for me. Getting into contact with the local people. I heard the conversations about the soccer going on the Cape Town streets, as I was walking around waiting for some trains. Sometimes I just had to sit and wait.
This is becoming a sort of pilgrimage into South Africa. Intentionally taking myself out of my comfort-zone, and traveling the way that the majority of South Africans travel. Slowly, if compared to my driving along the N1 highway to work. Dependent on the system, on others. Without the privacy of a car.
Few white and rich South Africans will make the journey of living like the majority of South Africans live. But maybe more of us should sometimes take on the pilgrimage of public transport. So that we can more and more come home with the people of South Africa.