Saturday, February 15, 2014


Curious about how I get around Soweto without a car? Here is a play-by-play of my typical taxi* ride to the local mall:

--Walk about four blocks to the main road where the taxis drive.

--Cross to the other side of the street, dodging cars as if I were in the game “Frogger.”

--When a taxi is in sight, hold out one hand and point one finger down towards the ground (that is the “signal” to get a local taxi heading towards the mall).

--Get in the taxi and find a place to sit. Sometimes this is harder than others – some taxis are empty, while others already have about 13 people inside.

--Dig in my pocket for my money. From my street to the mall, the fare is R7.50 (about $0.75).

--Look to the people next to me and make change with them before we all pass our money to the driver. It is an unwritten rule that the passengers make change amongst themselves before handing the money to the front.

--When passing money forward, say how many and how much is being paid. For example, if two people are paying R7.50 and one is paying R8 (because they are traveling a greater distance), pass all the money together and say, “Two seven-fifty, one eight rand.”

--If necessary, wait for my change to be passed back. If not, sit back and enjoy the approx. 2 km ride.

--About one block before the mall, yell “Garage!” loud enough for the driver to hear. This tells the driver that I want to get dropped off at the garage (gas station) outside of the mall.

--When stopped, squeeze through the other passengers in order to exit the taxi.

--Make sure the door is shut behind me and head to the mall.

--Do my shopping, eating, etc. at the mall.

--When it is time to leave, walk to the end of the parking lot where the taxis are parked.

--Find the correct taxi by saying I need to go to “Old age” (the Soweto Home for the Aged is very close to where I stay).

--Walk to the taxi that was pointed out.

--Find a place to sit and wait for the taxi to fill with people. Taxis never leave the rank until they are full (or overly full sometimes, in my opinion). Sometimes this takes two minutes, sometimes it takes 20.

--Once full, the taxi pulls out of the lot and heads for the road. Find my money (R7.50 again) and make change before passing it forward.

--About one block before my street, yell “Short left!” This tells the driver that I want to be dropped off at the next street on the left.

--Exit the taxi, close the door behind me, and walk the four blocks home.

*When I say “taxi,” I don’t mean a yellow car with one of your close friends sharing the back seat with you. I mean a “kombi,” a 15 passenger van used as shared transport. 

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

The Anti-YAGM

Yep, I bet that title caught your attention. No, I’m not suddenly turning against YAGM. I actually feel more confident in the fact that I am in the right place. Let me explain…

For those of you familiar with the Myers-Briggs personality test, I recently found out that I am a pretty solid ESTJ.

For those of you not familiar, this means that I tend to be logical, realistic, and organized. I tend to make decisions based on my head, not my heart. I am horrible at small talk, but great at accounting.

Sounds super “YAGM-y”, right?

Umm... If you ask me, the answer would probably be NO.

First of all, it’s not like I didn't know this about myself. I was always the one girl in the group who didn't cry while watching Marley & Me and the one who would rather do accounting homework than go to a party.

For a long time, I struggled with certain aspects of my personality. This struggle was heightened when I began my journey with YAGM. To me, a “perfect YAGM” should be deep, thoughtful, great at small talk, and definitely cry at least twice a week.

The struggle between my personality (logical, realistic, “thinking” instead of “feeling”, etc.) and my perception of what a YAGM “should” be (personable, emotional, and of course a major crier) was something that nearly consumed me for quite some time.

Why don’t I cry very often?
Why don’t I sit and write deep thoughts in my journal every night?
Why can’t I easily make meaningful conversation with others?
Why don’t I write deep, inspirational blog posts that bring people to tears?
Why can’t I be like what a YAGM “should” be?

These are questions that were floating through my head all the time. I was convinced that I was the “anti-YAGM.” Pretty dramatic, I know.

However, I think it took me hitting that low point (as well as some awesome conversations with our great country coordinators) to realize that I’m not actually the “anti-YAGM.” I’m just another human being trying to live in the world. I’m just another unique person called to live in a different country for a year. I’m just me.

I have finally learned that there is no “perfect YAGM” and that YAGM is not just for the future pastors and the deep and emotional criers. It is for anyone who feels the need to discover the world and its citizens in a new way. It is for anyone who knows God is working around the world, but wants to see it for themselves. It is for anyone God calls to take a leap of faith.

And apparently it is for me, in all of my logical, awkward, realistic, and dry-eyed glory.