Tuesday, May 31, 2011

A few things I love

Unfortunately things have gotten really busy around here and I haven’t been able to share stories as often as I would like to. So this will be another round of reader’s digest versions of different things going on.


The house I live in is named Blenheim, after the Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire. The original may have been the birthplace of Sir. Winston Churchill, but my Blenheim is a house of healing. Everyone who lives there or ever has lived there has grown in ways they never could have imagined.

The stories of the miracles that have taken place within those walls are astounding. Ask me some time and I’ll share some of them with you. For me it has been a place of friendship and understanding. I have grown to recognize certain talents and abilities I possess and how to put them to work. I have learned how to listen to the pains of another and offer help in practical ways. And most amusing, I have learned how to more honestly speak my mind.

Auntie Christine told me yesterday that she thinks I am a woman who has her head screwed on right. I was very flattered, but I cannot take all, or hardly any, of the credit. At each stage of my life I have been presented with opportunities to learn and grow. Blenheim has been one of the most treasured of those opportunities.


Guess what, it’s not dead. I am treated like a perfect princess by every guy around. The best part is that their manners are so natural, as if walking through a bush in order to open the car door for a girl was as easy and necessary as breathing.

Besides opening doors I have grown accustomed to people standing when I enter a room, boys walking on the down slope of stairs just in case I fall, and there is always a hand offered if I need help hopping down or stepping up a little height. My favorite is probably when someone holds a jacket open for me so I can put it on easier.

So now that I’m all used to these gentlemanly ways I’m going to be sorely disappointed when I get home and have to do everything for myself again. Drat.


When you ride the bus every day you start to see some regulars. I don’t know the actual names of any of mine, so here are the names I’ve given them.

Corn man

Scary Bus driver man

Mr. Helper

Too-old-for-pigtails (pigtails for short)

Steve Biko

Blind couple

Fish eyes

Man voice


I’m not really talented, at least not in an outward way. I can hold my own in soccer, I can play a couple notes on the flute, and I can sing in a choir; but the things I am actually good at don’t really have a good venue to be showcased in. Not a problem.

Being that I myself am not the performer type, I am completely enchanted by those who are. There have been quite a few nights since being here that the TV has been turned off and everyone in the group will stop to listen to one person sing, then another will play the piano, then another will do a monologue. It’s the most wonderful thing. I love these mini talent shows.

I have decided that I want to have a musical home. I want a home where the family gathers around each other rather than the television.

Good food, good music, open conversation, and love. I think that’s a pretty decent recipe for success.

I’m sorry that these have all been little half stories and the true detail of them is missing. All the more reason to hang out with me next time you get a chance. That way I can give you the full story in complete Jari fashion with hands in the air and volume a little louder than appreciated. I even promise to get sidetracked and end up telling you three or four stories instead of just one.

Monday, May 23, 2011

A trip to the zoo

I’ve been visiting different zoos here and there since I was a kid; I feel that’s pretty normal. I always wander around, spend more time talking to the people I’m with than looking at the animals, I end up pronouncing the word animal as “aminal,” and I go home saying I want my own zoo complete with a pet lion. This Saturday I paid a visit to the national zoo with my friends Brandon and Kyle and it was a pretty similar experience.

The plan was to ride the cable car up to the top then walk slowly the whole way down and see everything. I learned that riding in cable cars feels exactly how I would imagine flying in Willy Wonka’s glass elevator would be like. Floating in the air and looking down on all the animals and trees and buildings has a magical sentiment about it. I feel like cable cars should be used more often. When I open my Willy Wonka theme park (complete with psychedelic boat ride) I will definitely include cable cars...and fizzy lifting drinks.

Anyway, I also learned that I hate favorite questions. “What’s your favorite animal?” “What’s your favorite color?” “What’s your favorite food?” I have to stop myself from asking why the well-meaning questioner is trying to set limits on me. But that’s what I feel favorites are. If my favorite color is purple does that mean I don’t like orange? Too frustrating. I ended up telling every animal we visited that they were my favorite and invited them to live in my own personal zoo (except for an ugly warthog/anteater looking thing, he is not welcome in my zoo).

By the time we left I had seen a gorilla brawl, lions growling at each other, a giraffe had seriously considered eating the tasty leafs I was offering it, and somewhere in there I ran into some penguins. I feel like they don’t belong here, but they were happy enough.

So going back to this favorite business, I was craving a hamburger all day, so I said that was my favorite food. The only trouble is that nobody does hamburgers right once you leave the US. I think it has something to do with the ketchup. Somewhere during the time that I was I was explaining all this in vivid detail, hands flailing through the air and everything, we decided to take me to a place called “Steers.” They’re apparently the best burgers around, but I’m not completely convinced yet. Good, yes. Worthy of idol worship, not quite.

Anyway, it was an incredibly happy day. I can’t get over how nice people are to me. I can’t get over how beautiful every place I visit is. I can’t get over how much at home I feel here. Every day has felt like a dream; even when all I do is sit around the house. I have fallen completely head over heels in love with Pretoria and it breaks my heart a little that my time here is more than half way over.

Monday, May 16, 2011

We’re all in this together

Remember a couple years ago when you couldn’t turn on the Disney channel without hearing about High School Musical? Well I just met the girl who played Taylor McKessie. That’s right, call all the 12 year olds and tell them the news, because they’re the only ones who will care or be jealous.

In all seriousness though Monique Coleman (Taylor’s real name) is an amazing woman, she’s also the first ever UN Youth Champion. If you didn’t know August 2010 – August 2011 is the International Year of Youth, and to celebrate that Monique is travelling the world to inspire youth and encourage dialogue and mutual understanding.

Last week she started her tour of South Africa. I happened to play a major role in planning all of her events, high school visits, and media exposure so I was invited to one of her tour days. Of course I was invited as an intern which meant I spent my time trying to juggle a still camera, video camera, take notes on all of her speeches, and answer any and all questions without skipping a beat. Not to mention, I was expected to write a full report afterwards that will be sent to headquarters boasting of the good work that UNIC Pretoria did. Don’t worry; I will be given no credit when it is dished out. :)

Anyway the day I was assigned to accompany Monique was being hosted by the US consulate. We started at a high school in Johannesburg where she met with a group of 8th graders. She talked about the importance of being confident and facing challenges in our lives. The 8th graders were probably more interested in her alleged relationship with Corbin Bleu (which is false by the way), but she spoke to my soul. I was going through a hard time that day and looking back on what she said it turned out to be advice that I desperately needed.

From the high school we went to the consulate building where I was asked to endure US security measures. People should probably feel uncomfortable when they’re asked to spread their legs and are promptly searched head to toe, but I was too excited about the American accents and the promise of being introduced to important people to care.

Sure enough, before lunch was over I had met the public affairs officer and the consul general. They both told me how impressed they were with my internship and other things I have done at such a young age. It was a good and timely ego booster. They also gave me all kinds of advice on how to get in with the State Dept. and other profitable employment focused on international politics and development, and more importantly how to get stationed outside the US. The consul general even gave me a hug and a wink before I left. Moral of the story: I may have a future after all, let’s just wait and see. (Please no jokes about old men hitting on me)

After that we went to visit more high school kids and talk about how “our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” (Marianne Williamson, one of my favourite quotes)

All in all it was a good day. I got to hang out with someone who is almost famous, her talent manager showered me with compliments, I got tons and tons of business cards from uppity up people, and I realized that I don’t need to be half as hard on myself as I usually am.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Keeping busy

So I found out recently that my mom was reading my same blog posts over and over. So these are stories that I didn’t really intend to blog about, but for the sake of her having something new to read here they are.

Story #1: When I acted like a college student

So I should probably mention that the girls upstairs, whose flat I almost broke into, do have names (Helga, Heather, and Amy). I go out with them every once in a while. Actually they took me to my first real college event. You see, I go to BYU-Idaho. It is one of the driest campuses in the US. They do not have sororities or fraternities, people don’t drink, or even swear and I was completely ignorant to the “traditional” college lifestyle until a couple weeks ago.

Apparently if you want a place to live that isn’t with your parents you have to join a “rez” (this is why I had such a hard time finding a flat) which is the South African equivalent of a sorority or fraternity. So the other night each of these rez’s was required to do a song and dance show thing-a-majig. To me it seemed like cheerleading with different costumes, black lights, and pop songs instead of cheers; but it was entertaining. One group definitely incorporated Flogging Molly which I appreciated.

I also learned that when people say picnic in South Africa they mean meatballs and boiled eggs and marshmallows and other completely random things.

Story#2: A rugby match

Rugby is a big deal among the Afrikaners. So, because I’m all about getting a feel for the local life I went to a match. It was the Blue Bulls (the Pretoria team) vs. The Chiefs (a lower team from New Zealand). It turns out that I love rugby. It’s really fast paced, and strategic, and the players pull off some incredible stunts. I ended up being a flag waving, seat jumping fan by the end of the first half. One of the things I liked best was that because they can only pass the ball backwards the teams would from these downwards sloping lines so they could pass while they ran, they looked like a flock of birds charging at the opposing team. I love it. Oh, and we won, 47-23.

Story #3: Portuguese accents are funny

There is a pretty decent Portuguese community here, who would have thought? Every year around this time they have a festival called Lusitoland. I went with Helga (a girl from upstairs), and her friend Talisa who is Portuguese. Basically there were tons of tents and people were selling things from used books to polish sausage to cheese graders. It was definitely interesting. We rode a Ferris wheel that over looked the entire festival, I ate South African fudge for the first time, I was able to try some traditional Portuguese foods, and listen to a South African band all in one night. We spent the night in Johannesburg with Talisa’s parents. Their house was absolutely beautiful, and they were so nice to me. I was told that I need to come back for lunch some day and give them my entire life story.

So there you have it, a couple stories about things I do when I’m not at work or playing with baby lions. Which reminds me, I meant to include something else in my post about animals yesterday. Did you know that cheetahs don’t have round tails like other cats? They have flat, oval shaped tails that work as a rudder so that they can make sharp turns when they are running at those high speeds. Nifty, huh?

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Somewhere in my childhood I must have done something good

Sometimes I have absolutely no idea what I possibly could have done to deserve all the amazing things that happen in my life. I am a truly blessed girl and am tremendously grateful for all the wonderful experiences I have had during my first month here in South Africa.

Yesterday was another one of those times when I had to sit back and wonder why I am so lucky. I woke up, got ready, and was out the door with Christine before the sun was up. We were heading out on my first ever game drive. I was specially invited to join a group of older people from the church for this activity. This may seem a little bit lame to some people, but I adore older people. They’re cute, kind, and always have the best stories. This group was no exception.

As we got to the park we were promptly greeted by a scavenging warthog. Then we boarded a huge safari truck and were off. Now don’t get too excited, this wasn’t the true wild, it was a game park. The animals all had their specific areas, and though each area and the park itself was vast we could still see the electric fences. But that doesn’t change the fact that it was exciting.

We saw ostriches, wild dogs, lions, cheetahs, white rhino, buffalo (which are nothing like bison), and then some zebra were in the backgrounds in some of the areas we drove through.


- Female ostriches are grey and male black, this serves as camouflage for their shifts to guard the eggs (females during the day and males during the night).

- Wild dogs are led by a bitch (not my word, the safari man’s), the alpha female. She is the only female of the pack who is allowed to mate and her pups are the primary concern of the entire pack. Everything they do is to cater to the pups.

- White lions are the result of a recessive gene, they are not albino. They only differ from brown lions in their fur and eye color; and because of the different eye coloring they do not have night vision. There are also no white lions in the wild. Brown lions kill them almost immediately after birth because their distinct white fur gives away the location of the pride and makes hunting difficult. That’s right ladies and gentleman, lions are racist.

- Cheetahs can run fast, shocker. The fastest recorded time is 117 km/h. However they can only maintain their high speeds for a very short time. Cheetahs are also kind of weak. Apparently you can wrestle one to the ground no problem.

See how fun that was? Now don’t you want to endorse “Jari’s Safari” as a children’s TV show? I would.

Anyway, other highlights of the day included playing in a “den” with lion cubs and watching a cheetah run at top speed. These animals are all so gorgeous it’s a little overwhelming. When you see them up close their eyes are so big it feels like they’re looking into your soul. Their fur is so thick and so matted, but for some reason it feels soft. They’re just majestic, no way around it. So there you have it. I think I can officially say I’ve visited Africa.

(Stay tuned, I may find a way to put my pictures on facebook. This is an exciting day!)