Jeffrey’s Bay and the Sunshine Coast

By Emlyn Lee, Founder

I feel like each day in South Africa gets better and better. We are continuing our drive along Highway N2, as I’m typing offline in the Sunshine Coast. I don’t know enough adjectives to describe this drive….aesthetically, the faultless skies match the crystal blue waters of the Indian Ocean, and in between each coastal town, is filled with green rolling hills and nature’s beautiful valleys. We are listening to Dex’s iPod compilation of African and Reggae music now….truly a picturesque drive.

But let me back up one night, where we spent the night in Jeffrey’s Bay of the Eastern Cape. Although the Eastern Cape is probably the poorest of South Africa’s nine provinces, I would have never known from the lush topography and climate; and the beautiful homes, lodges, and hotels along the beaches. Jeffrey’s Bay, known as ‘J-Bay,’ is now one of the world’s top surfing destinations. Surfers from all around the world flock here to ride the waves.

I’m not a surfer, but the tides were pretty mellow this morning due to the cold front and offshore winds, so Liz and I just took a nice walk along the beach. We were admiring the beautiful homes along the coast, and discovered these weird looking jellyfish washed up on shore. They were these large blobs of goo and jelly, without tentacles, and looked like something out of Ghostbuster. When we returned back to our accommodations, I asked our receptionist if there was a local church service, and there was one not far from where we were located.

One of the lodge staff escorted Liz and I over to the local church. It was in the backyard shed of a home, and there were two local ladies with a baby waiting at the shed door. A few minutes later, an older man, wearing a white and blue robe, came out with a bowl of water and red rope. He dipped the end of the rope in the bowl, and splashed water on our hands and body, and asked us to turn around and repeated the splatter to our backs. We entered in to this small, rusty, shed turned church, and it was filled with energy, spirit, drumming, singing, and dancing.

I am a member of Greater Mt. Zion church in Austin, a predominantly African-American church, so I am very familiar with the ‘call and response’ service and “raising the roof” choir, but this Sunday service was beyond words. There were about 25-30 locals, singing, praising, and dancing in circles. Even though I couldn’t understand what anyone was saying, the energy and devotion to God was evident and palpable. There was a constant flow of African drum beat and chanting, blended in with periodic praises from the Reverend. The shed was small and windowless, which made the temperature and odor less than pleasant, but no one really seemed to care. Sweat was dripping from the church goers, children were laughing and being passed around between congregators and the lodge guests, and even with our language barriers, we understood and shared the common bond of God’s love…through a smile.

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Flashback to our Fall API student's first days in Spain. Madrid orientation with our friends from api_granada, Salamanca guided tour, and lunch tapas (+first days of classes!)

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