Life in and around Port Elizabeth, South Africa

Devon Grasley

There is a lot we can learn from other cultures around the world. There is a great amount of diversity that we can often overlook living in our own personal lives, stuck in our own cultural habits. I had the opportunity to sit down with some dear friends of mine, Jake Kornick and Tom Grasley, and talk about their  trip to Port Elizabeth, South Africa in August 2019. 

Jake and Tom are members of the International Church of Christ and traveled outside of Port Elizabeth to one of the townships that was struggling financially. The township was made up of mainly Black South Africans.

Tom described the township as “very poor with little income,” explaining that the family of eight lived in a one room house that had a single wash bin and hotplate where they would cook the food they had. 

He described their everyday life as simple. “The mom would go to work as a maid somewhere while the kids went to a small schoolhouse where everyone in the township went. Then after school the oldest would go to sports practice and come home to wash his uniform. Water was scarce due to droughts so they often used the same wash bin of water for everything.”

I asked him more about the family culture he noticed while working there and he explains that, “Family was everything.” He went on to explain that every night, the family would sit down, all eight of them around a bowl of rice, and that was their time together, not unlike here in the states. After a long day of working, the whole family enjoyed a meal together, with the small home providing an intimatea setting full of warmth and love. With it not being  a very safe township,  people would rob their neighbors if there were any signs of wealth, so they really had to look out of each other. The older brothers had a deep sense of responsibility for their younger siblings further deepening the unity as a family. 

I asked Jake about the cultural differences that he saw compared to our standard living in America, and the first thing he described is the hospitality there was much greater then some of his experiences here. “Without even knowing us they welcomed us into their home with open arms.” he said. Though that is still common in in America to be shown great hospitality he said this “was unlike anything he’s experienced” 

“Even though I was thousands of miles away from my home, it didn’t feel like it,” Jake said 

However, not far from the township, was the neighboring city of Port Elizabeth, which was deemed a more wealthy community. There were a mix of black South Africans and white South Africans, and their lifestyle was more similar to ours. 

Tom said that most of the time they were interacting with other disciples from the sister church down in Port Elizabeth. “They were always very open and very welcoming; they invited us in their homes for Bible studies, and they dined with us. It was the same feeling we got from our church family back at home,” he states.

One thing that Jake noticed was a common practice was inviting someone over for tea. “It was a sense of delicacy. They grew their own tea and took pride in serving it to their guests, no matter where you were at. You just couldn’t say no! It was often then that you bonded with members of the township and the church, all over a cup of tea.” 

Of all the things the two described the overarching idea was that of family. “Every family had their own unique sense of devotion.  I gave one brother of the family we worked with a candy bar expecting him to just enjoy it for himself but he was more excited to share with his siblings than actually having the candy itself,” Tom states. 

“Overall,” Jake describes, “There was a great sense of hospitality, that goes deeper then things I’ve experienced here at home”

Thats the beautiful part of traveling. You see a whole new part of the world and many different people, yet can find connection anywhere.