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One Year in the Dakotas

A year ago we moved to our new home in Brookings, South Dakota: the temperature was a maximum of -2F and minimum -24F. One year later nothing has changed: I woke up this morning to -18f and for most of today the temperature warmed up to -6F.  Apart from that EVERYTHING HAS CHANGED.

We have lived through Covid-19, learning how to wear masks and be socially distant. We lived through a presidential election, learning how fragile the US democratic system is when assaulted by populist racism. We learned to drive on the other side of the road, to speak of gas for the tank, miles for distance, Fall for Autumn, and I-zay-yah for the Bible. We have seen extraordinary beauty in the Black Hills, awesome stark vistas in the Badlands, and fantastic sunsets over the wide-open prairie grasslands. We encountered beautiful art in the Redlands Art Gallery, fabulous fall leaves in the Oakwood Sate Park, and quilt shops everywhere.

When the Covid virus drove us into our home we had time to re-learn skills we had long neglected. Jenny has completed a quilt for our grandson Ben, and rediscovered her camera (and is now experimenting with aperture, shutter speed and depth of field).  I have rediscovered my guitar and find joy in playing music for nobody else but me.

We have both enjoyed our contributions to the life of First United Methodist Church here in Brookings: Jenny has been part of the team that planned how to sanitize the buildings and keep them clean in ways not needed before. I have learned how to preach virtually and to keep an eye on finances and leadership teams via Zoom.  We are now back worshipping in-person, but many people are opting to remain online until they have been vaccinated, or the virus subsides.

We have been honoured to meet these hospitable, kind and warmly generous mid-western people. These people are the “salt of the earth” type of people who would literally give away the shirt off their backs. They welcomed us along with our strange accents and new ways of saying things. And we are humbled by their generosity.

Of course we miss our family and friends. We are so aware of being ten thousand miles away from home, with airports that are closed to South Africans because of their mutant Covid variant. We miss the music of Africa, including the singing of the Black Methodist church. And we miss the gathering of people – something that is a worldwide phenomenon (except for New Zealand). It is tough having no past history. Nobody cares about the life we lived before arriving here, or our contribution to the history of South Africa – and neither should they. We live in a different culture, and offer our hard won skills to a world entirely different from our own.

But we have gained so much. Jenny and I have deepened our friendship with each other. We have had time to reflect on our inner spirituality, to face our fears and appreciate our joys. And we are content to be on this adventure.



“To comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable” Finley Peter Dunne (1867–1936)