Mma Tshabalala's Story July 01 2013

As shared with The Story Company.
Mma Tshabalala

Recently Beaded Hope was asked to share a story (or two) about our artists with The Story Company. We chose to share Mma Tshabalala's story (below).

Mma Tshabalala (pronounced Cha ba la la) is a sweet granny who lives in a typical poor neighborhood in Mamelodi, South Africa. She has worked her entire life to provide for herself and her family by making and selling beadwork at an open air market at the Pretoria Zoo. Traveling from her home to her booth, selling her work at her booth and creating new beadwork makes for long, tedious days.

Now that Mma Tshabalala’s children are grown and raising their own children, she could quietly retire from her beadwork. However, instead of focusing on her own struggles, she sees other’s needs. She began to notice young children roaming the streets; children orphaned by HIV and Aids, and she took action. Mma Tshabalala opened her home to children who had nowhere to go. She gave them food, and even began to teach them bead working skills so that one day they might have the ability to care for themselves.

Mma Tshabalala would never tell you that she gives so generously to these orphaned children. Instead she humbly continues doing her beadwork so that she can support the children in her community. Mma Tshabalala has worked with Beaded Hope faithfully since its inception, and generously models sacrificial giving to all those around her.

You can learn more about The Story Company at

Betty's Story June 02 2013

As shared with The Story Company.

When asked to share inspiring stories of the women of Beaded Hope with The Story Company we immediately thought of Betty.

When initially hired by Beaded Hope and given her first payment Betty Modisi danced and shouted and sang with excitement. “Now we will have bread on the table,” she said in Zulu.

According to Jennifer Davis, who founded Beaded Hope in 2005, “Betty is hard NOT to love! The picture of her with her hand on her hip is just classic Betty…you just want to be around her because she fills the room with joy.” It is obvious that Betty, (pictured below) is full of spunk and fun! As a single woman in her 40’s with no family, she is sometimes able to find temporary work in highway construction; a dangerous place for a woman. But now with the help of Beaded Hope, Betty can most often be found beading and singing with her best friend, and fellow Beaded Hope artist, Nelly. With an infectious laugh Betty will tell you that she hopes to help others in her community who are less fortunate.

Betty, Beaded Hope ArtistBeaded Hope began with a trip to South Africa. Jennifer, who always had dreamed of going to Africa, was invited to go on a group trip to find ways to develop life-long relationships between the two communities of Cincinnati, Ohio and Mamelodi, South Africa. Mamelodi (Mam-eh-load-e) is where, during the 1960s, black citizens were forcibly placed after being removed from their homes during what was known as apartheid. Today, over 20 years after the end of apartheid, the township of nearly 1.5 million people is ravaged by the impacts of HIV/AIDS. With nearly 35% of the township infected, the community struggles with the triple threat of hunger, poverty and disease that is common in areas suffering under the effects of HIV.

Beaded Hope is a non-profit organization dedicated to creating a sustainable income from the beautiful hand-crafted beadwork made by women in South Africa who have been impacted by the triple threat of hunger, poverty and disease. In addition, Beaded Hope also works with the women to help them understand how to be good employees and what it takes to run their own business. This prepares them for future opportunities in beginning their own start-up business or modeling their new skills for others in their community.

Betty, during one of Beaded Hope’s annual beading workshops, designed the bracelet that is being brought to you by the Story Company. With your purchase of a Beaded Hope bracelet, you are providing the equivalent of nearly 3 ½ days of food to an artist so that she may care for herself and her family.

You can learn more about The Story Company at

Ordinary Women, Extraordinary Friendships August 05 2012

Sometimes friendship happens when you least expect it. 
The story of two women, as shared with

"Such is the story of Jennifer Davis, founder of the Beaded Hope non-profit, and Cathy Liggett, author of the Beaded Hope novel released on March 1st. In September of 2005 these two future friends happened to cross paths – Jennifer, with a broken foot, and Cathy, a part-time hospital registrar and spare-time romance author. They quickly and easily struck up a conversation when Cathy complimented Jennifer on the beautiful red beaded pin adorning the lapel of her jacket. It was no ordinary pin, Cathy found out as Jennifer went on to explain its origrovide for their families by selling their beaded jewelry in the United States. The sparkling pin had been handcrafted by one of the artistic bead workers there.

Cathy bought a piece of jewelry that day from Jennifer, never expecting to see her again. But, as fate would have it, when Jennifer arrived at the clinic for future checkups, she was greeted by Cathy each time. Recognizing that this was more than mere coincidence, the two women decided to meet for tea.

The tea grew cold in their cups as Jennifer shared her photos and journal stories from her earlier trips to South Africa. Though the faces in the photo album were completely foreign to Cathy, she was notably touched. She instinctively wanted to write about the strangers in the photos, initially envisioning an international romance.Beaded Hope Beaders

As she began to write, however, Cathy quickly discovered that the story needed to be more than romance, it had to be about women like those in Jennifer’s photos. Even more, it needed to be about women bonding with one another through their struggles, dreams, hopes and faith.

Cathy began writing again, confident her idea was a winner. But sometimes you have to wait for the world to catch up with you. After Cathy received a number of rejections, Jennifer called her, quite out-of-the-blue, inviting her to go on the next trip to Mamelodi, South Africa. While the idea seemed far-fetched to Cathy, Jennifer encouraged her to take the idea seriously, knowing that once Cathy experienced the women of Beaded Hope she’d be able to write with even more passion and depth.

 Knees shaking, Cathy joined Jennifer on the 20 hour flight to South Africa. While her fears and discomfort threatened to engulf her, Cathy was warmly welcomed by the women of South Africa. Amid the unimaginable tragedies they face each day – the poverty, the disease, the horrific living conditions, the grief of losing loved ones – the women have a pervasive joy and graciousness about them that’s irresistible. The women hug hugely, smile widely, and pray boldly for you.

Cathy was hooked by the joy of the women Jennifer introduced her to. By the time she returned home, she discovered that she had developed a completely new set of friends who just happened to live half-way around the world. Despite their different surroundings, Cathy, Jennifer and the ladies of Beaded Hope are united by the common struggles, desires, and hopes of all women. Out of this love and bonding came Beaded Hope, a novel that shows how extraordinary things can happen when ordinary women reach out in faith and friendship."

To read more of Girfriendology's interview with Cathy Liggett and Jennifer Davis visit

Bless this Home May 08 2011

Wisdom from AfricaWhile in South Africa last month I stumbled across a book entitled Wisdom from Africa, A collection of proverbs by Dianne Stewart. Right up my alley. I grabbed the book with barely a second look and packed it safely in my suitcase to bring home and savor later.

Last night, feeling a little melancholy and missing South Africa, I opened the book. Words of wisdom from all over Africa poured out, bringing a smile to my face, and made me feel like I was dipping my toes back in the sea of the continent of my soul. Periodically, I’m certain, I will pull this book out and share a new bit of wisdom with you. Some from South Africa, some from neighboring countries, all worth sharing.

Today, with “home” on my mind, I share this proverb from the Zulu tribe of South Africa.

Umuzi ngumuzi ngokuphanjukelwa.

Translation: A home is a home if it is visited.

Meaning (according to the author): People will not visit a home where hospitality is not offered. This proverb encourages kindness even to strangers, so that one’s home will be visited often.

My interpretation: Open the doors of your home and welcome everyone. Offer them tea, offer them wine, offer them love.

My wish for you; may your heart and home always be welcoming to all who visit. p.s. Have a love for African fables too? You can get your own copy of Dianne Stewart's book on Amazon.

"I have white parents" April 28 2011

Thoughts from Connor. Mamelodi, South Africa. April 21, 2011. 

 Connor, Guest Blogger

Today we did a 3rd workshop. While the ladies did beadwork I walked around the VCT (Voluntary Counseling and Testing Centre) with Paul, one of the orphans, and while we were walking he told me his story about his life.

It started when I asked if he was mad/sad. He answered that he gets teased at school.

I asked why. Paul said “it’s because I have white parents.” (Paul is adopted). 

After that we walked in silence for about 10 minutes.

Then Paul gave me a tour of all of the VCT and told me a story about wood working and welding at his high school. He is 14 years old and smaller than me. He is also (HIV) positive.


Best Part of the Day:

listening to Paul's story

Food Parcel Delivery April 23 2011 2 Comments

Thoughts from Connor. Mamelodi, South Africa. April 20, 2011.

Connor, guest bloggerToday we did home visits to 5 people. We gave them food parcels with maize, tea, powdered milk, soap bars, clothes cleaning soap, peanut butter, sugar, vegetable oil and toilet paper. We also prayed over them.

It was a different experience than what we would have at home, but it was a good experience.

The first and most memorable house was Bongani’s house. His mom died of AIDS and he is also positive. He has been getting strokes, so the doctors put him in a wheel chair. He is 14 years old, but because of AIDS and strokes he only looks like he is 9 years old.

We had a very long prayer over him. What we are hoping is that he gets back in school before May 1st, and that he gets out of the wheel chair very soon.

Bongani's Family

Best Part of the Day:

delivering food parcels

Tooth Beads and Safaris. April 23 2011

Thoughts from Connor. Mamelodi, South Africa. April 19, 2011.
Connor, Guest Blogger

Today we had a second workshop with the ladies of Beaded Hope. I think that we are going to have a Beaded Hope release called “The Tandkraal Release.” Tandkraal means “tooth bead” because babies used to chew on them when they were teething.

Once we got back to the hotel we went on another safari, but it was only 1 hour long. We saw: giraffes, Bengal tigers, springbok, impala, white tigers, lions, spotted hyenas, and striped hyenas. It was awesome.

Fact of the Day:

did you know that striped hyenas have a bite force of 2.5 tons?!?





The "Down" Side of South Africa April 23 2011 1 Comment

Thoughts from Jennifer. Mamelodi, South Africa. April 22, 2011. 

Being in South Africa has its ups & down.

Last night Connor was taken down.

Taken down (literally) while in South Africa


Tonight was Amanda's turn.

Amanda, taken down while in South Africa

Not so dry, my eyes. Not so dry. April 22 2011 4 Comments

Thoughts from Amanda. Mamelodi, South Africa. April 22, 2011.

Guest Blogger AmanadaA couple days ago, Jennifer went with Mama Peggy to pick up a bunch of food and supplies: mince, corn maize meal, tea, powdered milk, cooking oil, toilet paper and soap were some of the items. Yesterday, Connor and I sorted all of that stuff into ten bags: food in one bag, supplies in another.  Each food/supply pair made one parcel. Five parcels in all. This morning, we drove around the township to deliver those five parcel.

It all began with Bongani

<Bongani, just a few month's ago

This is Bongani a couple months ago. Quite the stud.

That picture dates late 2010-2011.

Bongani today

Bongani today.


Things change. Bongani's mum had HIV, and passed on, as they say in Africa. So he now lives with his grandmother--a strong-jawed, red-eyed little woman. Determined and beautiful. Bongani is the smiliest kid, sweet in every mannerism. And his favorite thing is playing football (soccer). He's 14 now. But as an HIV-positive kid, he looks barely 8.

We only got to see Bongani because he hasn't been able to go to school for a while. He has had strokes--the 14-year-old child has had strokes--because of the HIV. These strokes have left him in a wheelchair... for now. Patricia, who runs the hospice, was with us, daring him to be walking around next week. He just smiled and said ok. And before we left, we all circled up around the table of food and supplies. Patricia lead us in an African hymn and we began to pray. I held onto his tiny hand so tightly. and as his hand curled around mine, I just knew that I would never completely leave that grasp; that some bit of me paused, separated and wrapped itself around that moment.

It began with Bongani. But that was my Africa moment. 

Everything is different from here on out.

A day in the meals of South Africa April 22 2011

Thoughts from Amanda. Mamelodi, South Africa. April 19, 2011. 

We have had an interesting contrast in cultures here. On the one hand, we've been staying at the Farm Inn, a pretty classy place, and eating at some of the nicer restaurants. And on the other hand we've been spending most of our time at the VCT in the rather impoverished township. So here's the cultural contrast through food:


First morning at the Farm Inn. There's fruit, and omelettes, and breads, and BRIE CHEESE, and the most delicious mango juice you've ever had.


And then there's the South African donut: found randomly on the side of the road.

 Mighty says: "They're fat cakes. We call them babies. Because they are fat like babies." Yeahh, I don't know what these dough balls are cooked in... but I don't really care after trying one.


Roman's pizza. De-lic-ious. But seriously. Connor and I had five slices each.


Do I even need to say anything?


And Then There's Dinner

I had this at the Cape Town Fish Market.. a totally classy, and here, classic, place.

Or there's THIS.
These places are everywhere. Like McDonalds, but... with fresh fish. We had a place similar to this the first night, and it was a winner.

And Hey, Dessert!

Well, I really only have shots for the nicer restaurants. Turns out dessert isn't the most common thing otherwise.
Fried chocolate with nut ganesh. The cook gave me the recipe I was so unabashedly in love. The waiter told us each one was like a little present. Truth.

And Lastly, the Unifying Factor: Five Roses Tea

Everyone drinks it. With loads of sugar and cream and an out-of-this-world biscuit.

Aminals. April 22 2011 2 Comments

Thoughts from Amanda. Mamelodi, South Africa. April 18, 2011. 

And now a minute to introduce you to the animals we've encountered! Some are not so local, some are just here for the breeding program at the farm inn, and some are just totally everywhere.

This is just my best friend Anthony the Cheetah.

Anthony is at the Farm Inn, and here's what else they have.

Chickens are EVERYWHERE, here. and apparently, they sleep in trees.

Blue Wildebeeast ... all over Africa.

These giraffes are the smallest kind... but they really just look like they're on stilts when they walk. So awkwardly graceful.

Yeah check out the carnage. The tigers here are part of the breeding program, but this one is unfortunately infertile.

There's two of these tigers, and they're still growing. But they are completely playful.

Tiger Fact:

Tigers rely on stealth so they only go after prey that has turned its back. In some places, people have started wearing masks on the backs of their heads to confuse the tigers. Tiger-deaths dropped drastically in these places!

The white lion is basically the redhead of lions. It's a recessive gene. Mothers reject white lions.

Besides the Farm Inn, we also visited Pilanesberg, which is a huge natural setting for animals. We saw ostriches, rhinos, lions (mating!), and springbok... but my favorite is actually the impala:

You can tell the male from the female by the M on the male's butt...seriously!

And then around the township, you sometimes see this:

and then:
Yeah. My brother got me one of those hats from China. Viva la Africa!

Sun City Rhinos April 21 2011 2 Comments

Thoughts from Connor. Mamelodi, South Africa. April 18, 2011.
Connor, Guest Blogger

Today we went to Pilanesberg Game Park for a safari. It took 2 hours to get there, and it was like traveling through never ending farm land.

Once we got there, it reminded me Las Vegas. “Sun City”, the Las Vegas of South Africa because it has hotels, game drives, entertainment, restaurants, and attractions.

Did you know that rhinos can only move forward?

The safari that we took was 3 hours long. Our driver told us that if a composition book was all of the land for safari, we only covered about a 1 inch square, AND IT WAS BIG!

We saw: Lions, Blue Wildebeests, Gray Go-Away Birds, White Rhinos, Elephants, Springbok, Ostriches and Impala.

Once the safari was over, we took the 2 hour drive home. It was a pretty good day.


Best Part of the Day:

going on safari

Zip-Tied April 19 2011 1 Comment

Thoughts from Jennifer. Mamelodi, South Africa. April 16, 2011.  part 2/2

Saturday, April 16th part 2/2 After completing our shopping for the Sunday meal I made what I thought would be a quick stop at Clicks, a local drug store. Connor, at some point, had trimmed a toe nail too short and it was causing him trouble. Amanda who, among her many talents, is a licensed nail technician attended to Connor’s toe as best she could but clearly we needed some nippers and Neosporin to aid in the healing process.

So I ran into Clicks thinking that I had two easy items on my shopping list and that I would collect them quickly. Alas, not true. After searching the shelves and finding only the nippers I finally approached the pharmacists and asked for the South African equivalent to Neosporin. She assured me that she had something very similar and stepped away from the counter returning with Bactroban from behind the pharmacy counter.

Now at this point I have to stop you and remind you that in the state, Neosporin is one of those things that you just run into Kroger or Walgreens to grab, never having to bother a pharmacist. Well I asked the pharmacist if I could pay her for both items and she promptly told me that I had to pay up front. No problem, I thought. Then she got out this wire box, opened the lid, dropped the Bactroban into it and  zip-tied it shut. What the heck! When I arrived at the checkout station the cashier promptly cut the zip tie, dumped out the contents and rang up my purchase; all this for a little tube of South African Neosporin. Thanks to Connor’s big toe I learned a little something today.

Qhawe lamaqhawe April 17 2011

Thoughts from Amanda. Mamelodi, South Africa. April 17, 2011. 

We woke up at 630 today and left at 8 for church. And when we got to church around 9, everything was in full session.

Worship and prayer.

I even joined in on what I believe to be Zulu worship songs.. they had lines like "Qhawe Lamaqhawe" which essentially means warrior and "Makabongwe".. which I can't figure out just yet.

Church got out at noon. Yes.

But let me give you the sermon notes, so you can see what a church around the world studies weekly:

Five different kinds of lies:

Cruel lie--motivation: anger, revenge.
Protective lie--motivation: fear: protect yourself, avoid consequences/punishment/embarrassment.
Covering up lie--motivation: insecurity: to impress people, boost self esteem, exaggeration.
Calculated lie--motivation: selfishness: get way through lies, people who love money, flatterers (the worst kind of traitors: praise you without meaning it, to gain your affection).
Convenient lie--motivation: laziness: avoiding involvement


Three ways to tell the truth:

Tell it completely. Someone who doesn't tell the truth causes trouble. Or you undermine your relationships. "Don't tell me what I think, tell me what you feel and completely." Prov 28:23 NLT --"In the end people appreciate frankness more than flattery." "So let's tell the truth, amen?" "Lift your hand up and say Lord, I will tell the truth!"
Tell the truth lovingly. Eph 4:29 (GN): "Speak only what is helpful for building others up, according to their needs, that it may benefit those who hear." Truth stinks. If you don't tell it lovingly, people will interpret it as an attack. Avoid saying" "You never do this!" "You always do that!" "Always you are like this!" "Always you useless!"
Tell the truth tactfully. Proverbs 12:18 "Sharp words cut like a sword, but words of wisdom heal." You have an option. How to tell the truth. "I can break, I can hurt, I can heal with words." "Plan your presentation. Contemplate, think it over, how am I-um-going to tell it." Think before your mouth says it. "Because sometimes our mouth goes before our thinking." "Timing is everything in solving any problem." "There is a right way and a right time for everything."  "And never say behind backs, go to your brother and sister and say it." "Let's be real friends. You can help make me a better person, a better pastor."

~~Pastor Titus spoke in English and Pastor Julius translated.

 Bonus pic of the day

Connor and Ameha arm-wrestling after church

Connor and Ameha (yeah coolest name ever) arm-wrestling after church


Cheetahs, Church, and Cake. April 17 2011 4 Comments

Thoughts from Connor. Mamelodi, South Africa. April 17, 2011.

 Connor, Guest Blogger

Today we did 3 things: church, cheetahs, and a party (with cake!) at Mama Peggy’s house. Church was 3 ½ hours long! It is nothing like at home. Church is only 45 minutes at home and way less vocal. The pastor was literally screaming into the microphone!

After church we took picture with Anthony the cheetah that stared in the movie “Duma”. It was really cool because I was taking pictures with a cheetah and he was almost laying on me at on time! 


After that we went to Mama Peggy’s house for a dinner party. I ate a chocolate cake from Cakes of Africa, and it was good.

We played football (soccer) with Jabulile’s son, Jabulane. It was fun.


Best Part of the Day:

taking pictures with the cheetah

Beautiful Red April 16 2011

Thoughts from Jennifer. Mamelodi, South Africa. April 16, 2011. 

On my first trip to South Africa it was winter (July/August). To keep my feet warm during church I packed my favorite pair of dress boots. Those boots went to church on Sunday but they also went to a traditional South African funeral where I stood in the red African dirt and listened to the rise and the fall of the beautiful South African voices and they sang songs of worship and praise. Returning home I found myself wistfully thinking of South Africa every time I put on those boots and found another speck of red dirt.

The red, red dirt of South Africa

 On Friday, after our trek to find the roaring lions, I showed Connor and Amanda the beauty of the South African dirt. They picked it up. They squeezed it. They rubbed it on their hands. And then they threw it into the air. Ahhh. Beautiful.

Connor and Amanda and the red, red dirt of South Africa



Too Much Rain April 16 2011

Evening Thoughts from Connor. Mamelodi, South Africa. April 16, 2011.

 Connor, Guest Blogger

Well, today I did not go to Makro and the lions have started again. Well our day was almost nothing as planned.

First, we didn’t go to Makro

Second, we did not go on the game drive because it has been raining for 24 hours and my mom did not think we would get good pictures. Instead of the game drive we went to the South Africa mall, called Menlyn, and we almost bought a tape recorder because we thought that it was $38 but it was a very good tape recorder and it was actually $380. I was sad. I wanted to do voice recordings with the tape recorder so that I could record stories that people tell us.

We also went to the Baobab restaurant. The baobab tree looks like the roots are in the air instead of the ground. At the restaurant we ordered dishes that sounded small but they were actually very large.


When we were driving home from the mall I saw two giraffes. Even though the day didn’t go as planned it was still pretty awesome.

Sight of the Day:

I've never seen giraffes before, but when we were coming back to our hotel I miraculously saw them

Good Morning Ohio April 16 2011 2 Comments

Early Morning Thoughts from Connor. Mamelodi, South Africa. April 16, 2011.

 Connor, Guest Blogger

Hey guys. Right now it is 3:00 am in Ohio and I have already had breakfast, gotten dressed and have almost finished my first bottle of Coke of the day.

And you’re still sleeping.

Coke is actually very sugary in South Africa and it is nothing like American Coke. If I had to choose to have only one kind of Coke I would choose South African Coke.

It rained all night last night and there was thunder. It’s still raining now.

My plan for the day is that we are going to veg out from 9:00 until noon and then we will go to Makro (the Costco of South Africa) to get food to make parcels that we will deliver to people in need in the township later on this week. It will be awesome.

After that our plan is to go on a game drive if it stops raining. Check back tomorrow to see what actually happened because you never know when or what will change in South Africa.

Transport April 16 2011

Thoughts from Amanda. Mamelodi, South Africa. April 16, 2011. 

Back home in America, you say, “Can I get a ride?” or “I don’t have a way to get there.” But in South Africa it’s all about transport.

“We have no transport.”

And for most of today, we had no transport. Jennifer left early in the morning to go shopping for our Sunday dinner for the ladies. It was a process for which Connor and I would have been useless. So we stayed home and, yes, slept in.

Well, I slept in. Connor was up at 8. He went to breakfast and did things, and got completely fed up with my sleeping. I’m not sure how many times he tried to wake me, but I know he blew his vuvuzela at one point. And when I opened my eyes, he was just standing there, staring at me. Freaky.

But he brought me breakfast and tea in bed. A+ Connor.

After breakfast, he spazzed around the place while I uploaded pictures onto Facebook. It rained all day, so with no transport, there was, therefore, nothing to do. Except that Connor did go outside for a bit and get attacked by the same goose who attacked me. Yes, it was a goose. I mistook it for a duck.

At four, though, Jennifer got back and discovered some limited transport. There was a shuttle, essentially a taxi, going from the Farm Inn to Menlyn—a ginormous mall with four levels. Our driver was named Solly, for Solomon, and he opened doors for us and everything. It was a bit of a change from riding in the boot (trunk) of Mighty’s car, which is the South African way to ride apparently. But here, transport is transport. 

Transport, South African Style

Unicorns and Lions! April 15 2011 1 Comment

Thoughts from Connor. Mamelodi, South Africa. April 15, 2011.

 Connor, Guest Blogger

Today we made beadwork with the ladies of Beaded Hope. I also made some beadwork.

I also went to the orphanage to play soccer with the orphans. Apparently I am a good goal keeper (goalie).

We also saw an African unicorn (they are real)…see Amanda's post for a pic of the African unicorn.

We also went to hear the tigers and lions. They were loud and awesome.

 Running with Lions

Four Best Things of the Day:

1) Beadwork 2) Football (soccer) 3) African unicorn 4) Lions/tigers

A multimedia presentation... April 15 2011 1 Comment

Thoughts from Amanda. Mamelodi, South Africa. April 15, 2011. 
Seed beads. Today was all about seed beads. Betty, one of the Beaded Hope ladies, taught Connor how to bead a necklace. Well that necklace turned into a bracelet that he gave me for my tiny hands, but it was beautiful. And then Connor turned around and taught me! And I even picked out the color pattern for a Beaded Hope line. If you see the yellow, purple, blue set, then know that was my doing!
Mmatshabalala's work with the karakatana beads

Mma Tshabalala beading

Mmatshabalala is another Beaded Hope lady, and she's super talented. She speaks Zulu I believe, so we have to have a translator with us. But anyway, today's workshop was all about karakatana beads. They are these tiny little nuts, and the word "karakatana" means something like tooth nut. Mums would put strands of these nuts around their babies' necks while they were teething. They're basically ancient teething rings... and they make beautiful jewelry.


A pile of Karakatana beads

After I finished my own bead work (that's right, I got artsy), I caught up with Connor as he played football (soccer) with the kids from the orphanage on site. And I took pictures of everything. 

This is Lindiwe... and she's gorgeous. (that's also Connor's bracelet he made me!) she always tells me "You are beautiful" and I tell her "Nono, YOU are beautiful!"

Lindiwe, wearing one of Connor's creations!

And after being chased around for my camera by picture-loving kids, we drove back to the Farm Inn. And found this creature:

Afriunicorn...Yeah. What?

We decided that he is an Afriunicorn. And then... we went to investigate the lions. This is the soundtrack to nights here: Lions and tigers, oh my!

Grasshopper April 15 2011

Thoughts from Jennifer. Mamelodi, South Africa. April 15, 2011. 
The first time I traveled to South Africa I remember sitting on the edge of my seat every moment. I was so hungry to drink up the landscape, the people, the language and the history that I constantly asked question after question. I was a front row student; anxious to sit just a bit closer to the teacher in hopes of absorbing a tiny bit more knowledge. I even took is so far that on my first safari I strategically positioned myself, in my opinion, in the very best seat; right behind the driver. With each animal we passed I would ask him to tell me the animal’s African name. Then spell it for me, please. Then say it again so that I can hear the beautiful roll of the African word. Each animal-word was then placed in my journal with proper spelling, phonetics and, hopefully, with a little bit of folklore or history included. Connor photographing kids 

This trip to South Africa, my sixth or seventh, I’ve actually lost count, I have found myself again a student sitting on the edge of my seat. But this time I am watching the awe and wonder in Connor and Amanda as they ask questions, try to speak the language, wonder about the history of South Africa and marvel at the lion that keep us up at night. As truly excited as I was on my first trip to South Africa I can honestly say that I am more excited on this trip. To see the curiosity and wonder in these two new students far is far better than my own.

Tonight, returning from a full day at a beading workshop we arrived home to find the lions making so much noise that they could not be ignored. Finishing dinner it was time for each of us to be working on our daily blog entries but in a moment of impulse I said “Who wants to go see what the lions are making so much noise about?” Without hesitation I receive two yeses and we raced off; two new students anxiously seeking a new experience and new material to write in their journals.

As BIG as my Head! April 14 2011

Thoughts from Connor. Mamelodi, South Africa. April 14, 2011.

 Connor, Guest Blogger

Today we went to two markets, an open air market and a traditional South African market. It was a very weird experience because I have never been to a market, let alone a foreign market.

Vendor at Marabastadt market

After that we went to the orphanage for 20 minutes. It was a fast day. South African sweet potatoes are as big as my head. They were found in the traditional SouAfrican market called Marabastad. 

Sweet Potatoes at the Marabastadt Market


Processing, processing... April 14 2011 2 Comments

Thoughts from Amanda. Mamelodi, South Africa. April 14, 2011. 

The lions are noisy tonight. Well, it's 12:22am South African time, and I'm still up. Every moment I curl up in bed and close my eyes, the world buzzes. And I don't mean just because I can hear chickens and pigs outside of my hotel window. My eyelids flutter as my eyes jet back and forth collecting images and thoughts from the day. Information, overload. And as happens in South Africa, plans change.

I wanted to write about the orphans we visited today, and about playing soccer with them, and about how Paul wants to be a rugby player and they say "Cut my photo!" to ask for their picture. But after dinner, I've got some entirely other material.

Tonight, our little trio went to Karoo Cafe with two Americans: Jason and Amanda (everyone here laughs because they think now that everyone in America is named Amanda. I can't say it's not true, too.). Let me just tell you, this couple is awesome. Jason is 39 and had is own medical practice back in Cincinnati. But one day, he basically decided to pack up, sell it all, and move to Mamelodi with Crossroads. And during that process, he met Amanda, 36. She had also been on a trip to Mamelodi, and realized that for whatever reason, God was telling her this was the man for her. So they married, and she joined him in South Africa. Crazy right?

They're heading back to the States soon as the Crossroads/Mamelodi relationship is changing. But they're just waiting for the next stepping stone as Jason calls it. And when they see it, they'll jump. Wherever that takes them.

I only say all of this, because I'm in awe the same way I'm in awe of Jennifer. These are totally normal people, who made huge jumps and life-changing investments. I know that's not the life for some people, and that some are at-home supporters--which is beautiful.

But as a nomad who feels trapped in one place, and terrified of being still--the thought that I can make crazy jumps and not be the cookie-cutter American is, well, comforting.