A lesson on presence over presents. :)
There are some things that I will never forget. Like the day I witnessed my mom meet the Indian Ocean for the first time. The Indian Ocean is the Grandmother to us. She is ancient and soft yet she is fierce. She is mystical and enchanting.
Mom and I were completely blissed out. Walking along the shoreline felt like we were floating. No drugs, just the present moment. Plus, all the moments that brought us to this moment right now. I called out to mom that we need to take a selfie. As I press the shutter on the camera, I drop it and as it goes tumbling down towards the water, my cat-like reflexes kick in and I caught the GoPro mid air, as it was taking a ten second "burst" of pictures. These were the two gems of that series. We were more excited that I actually caught the camera before it fell into the ocean.
A lesson on presence over presents. :)
Indian Ocean sunsets are pretty spectacular. This sunset will forever be etched into my memory. I already wish I could go back in time and re-live it again.
My mom and her husband Chris had to leave for the airport the following morning, so we knew we had to go back to see the Grandmother, the Indian Ocean, one last time.
What an amazing trip. Katie and I would have never guessed that our families would come all the way out to Africa to come meet our daughter Rayah. The whole experience has been a highlight of my life.
Katie and I started traveling/working/living in Africa back in 2010. It took us a while to justify going to the game parks. We used to travel on a such a shoe string budget that going to a game park wasn't something we could afford - and, in all honesty, we didn't want to acknowledge our privilege back then.
In 2014 we went to Kruger National Park in South Africa. Kruger is one of the gems of this world. Seeing these magnificent animals and the conservation corps that keep the African animals alive totally changed our minds. Going on safari is a must. .
We were bummed that Kruger was such a long way away from where our parents were. It took some research to find which game parks are (the most) ethical. We settled on Botlierskop Private Game Reserve on the Garden Route. Which was AWESOME.
Check out this wild animal getting a diaper change in the middle of safari. 3 weeks old. No big deal.
Since Rayah was so young, we had to rent a private tour. Which was even better in my opinion. Our guide was very knowledgeable and passionate. It's always nice to be in the company of someone who is passionate about their work.
It's not a bad day at the office.
It is such a privilege to experience a safari. A privilege to experience life, so rare, it has to be protected. Our way of life is encroaching on others, both human and non human relatives.
When I was invited to Sweat at Standing Rock, the Elder who lead the Prayerful Ceremony taught us as he beat the drum. "When you pray, you pray for all of Creation. Everything Creator Created. From the Ant to the Elephant. All is Sacred."
I feel their Spirit. It's the same One inside me. We were Created by the same Creator and it is up to me to be a good steward and live in Harmony with Creation. Learn from them. Study and meditate and pray for them. For we are all one.
Katie and I are basically moving in and out of AirBnb's in whatever country we're in. Off the top of my head, I think we have stayed in an AirBnb in at least 10 different countries around the world.
South Africa has some of the best AirBnb's. Not only are they in some of the most beautiful places we've seen, but we are also very privileged to have US Dollars - which makes a place like this AirBnb farmhouse for $34/night a very good value.
$34/night and the inside was very nice. It was decorated in the Midwestern suburb motif. You know - grays on grays on pastels mixed with some recycled wood, and, like 30 pillows. I felt like I was back home. It was nice. Very comfortable and the family was super friendly.
Just think about the kind of motel you would get for $34/night back in the USA... It certainly wouldn't have a view like this every morning.
To the east you have the big beautiful mountains and the south and west you have the Indian Ocean. 360 views. Plus this AirBnb came with a farm dog. Her name is Lola. And she is the sweetest. Any time she would hear Rayah cry she would come running over from the next house over and stick her head in the back door to check on her. It was crazy. If Rayah would cry for an extended time, the dog Lola would walk inside the house and lick me or Katie or Rayah. We could tell she was genuinely concerned if Rayah was upset. Eventually Lola just slept on the back porch.
All these pictures were taken at 6am. I've been getting up everyday at sunrise. This one day in particular I had to get Katie and Rayah out of bed.
The sun just started peaking out from the distant mountain cloud cover. The green rolling hills showed the dramatic depth between the mountains and the sea. Rising up from the second rolling green pasture was a blanket of fog coming up from the Groot Brak River. Afrikaans for "Great Brackish (salty-ish) River.
All the pictures above are sunrise. All the pictures below are sunset.
Which, sunsets are usually accompanied with a walkabout. We have to get a lay of the land. Helping us understand where we are by observing the four directions and how they connect us to our relations.
My mom, her husband Chris and Katie's parents traveled all the way from USA to come meet their Granddaughter. I think they each traveled over 30 hours each way to make it happen. It's not a small feat by any means. I know my mom would have traveled to the moon to meet her first granddaughter.
I am so grateful that my mom gets to be a Grandmother. She is the strongest woman I know, wise beyond her years. She traveled all the way out here to The Motherland. It's a symbolic right of passage entering Grandparent-hood. The beginning of the end of the Cycle.
Watching my mother hold her my daughter for the first time is something I will never forget.
Katie's parents came out too. Which I am proud to admit that I feel like the luckiest man alive for marrying into Katie's family. Not only are her parents but all her sisters and aunts and uncles on both sides are some of the best people I know. Katie comes from a big beautiful family, just like my family. So naturally, everybody gets along very well and this trip has been an experience I will take with me for the rest of my life.
Our parents were super sweet. They all said that they were happy to just sit around and be with the baby. I told them that if they came all the way out to South Africa then I have to go show them a few things. Thankfully we come from families who are always down for an adventure.
You would never know that my mom had triple bypass, open heart surgery 12 months ago. We never, ever, could have dreamed we would all be walking these beaches a year after standing in that hospital in Clearwater, Florida.
Our parents rented an AirBnb just down the hill from our place in Scarborough. We spent the first few days just hanging out around this beautiful little mountain beach village. Scarborough is just a little south of Cape Town. There are (maybe) 250 full time residents. Scarborough is very beautiful. Once you leave the town, in either direction, the views get pretty epic. Here are a few pics of Katie's parents taking in the scenery.
It didn't take long for them to see why we came out here to have our baby.
Our parents spent two weeks with us out here. I wish it could have been longer. We did our best to balance between resting and adventuring. A lot of times Katie would stay back with the baby and rest/heal. Which is tough, because if there is anyone who is ready for an adventure it is Katie.
Thankfully there are a lot of quick day trips right down the road from us.
Below is a picture I took of Simons Town. It is the next town over from where we live (which is still part of Cape Town). Right next to the military base is Boulders Beach, that's where the penguins live.
I'm not sure about you, but I love penguins. They are one of my favorite animals. I mean, who doesn't love penguins? I know the South African Navy loves penguins because they built their base so close they're practically neighbors. Who wouldn't want penguins as neighbors?
The only other place I've ever seen wild penguins is New Zealand.
Penguins for the win.
More blogs coming soon!!
Check back often.
Katie and I are so grateful for the time we have taken to go through this process. We knew at the beginning of 2018 that we needed to take a minimum of three months off during the end of 2018 and beginning of 2019. The physical demands of touring full time (multiplied by 11 years makes your body feel at least 10 years older. When we found out that Katie was pregnant we immediately (and unanimously) decided that 3 months needed to actually be 5 months.
5 months seemed the most natural to us. It is what our collective mind and body have been saying for years. Our Spirit also let us know we need to take this time for ourselves, for our baby, for our family and our career(s). The culture from which we come from however says the opposite. The idea that a mom and dad would take anything more than a week or two away from the hampster wheel is ridiculous. Right? My job can feel like a hampser wheel too sometimes. I'm not calling anyone out in particular.
Where I'm from, the second question a lot of people ask a stranger (after what is your name) is "what do you do?"
What do you do... as in what do you do for work and/or how do you make money??
We are conditioned to work but are we Created to grind? Are we Created to make a corporation as much money as possible? Or in my case, am I Created to grind 175 shows a year... I could do 300 if I wanted... and make as much as possible for the family...
Am I created to do that?
At what cost?
How much of my today to I give up for (the hope of) tomorrow?
I have felt both ways.
Am I or am I not defined by what I do (or don't do) to make money...
And, is my worth or identity connected to it?
If so, how much.
These are things I think about.
Taking four and half months to learn how to be a family was the best thing we could have ever done. If there was one thing we could have done better - it would have been to take more time. Like 6, 7 or 8 months. Developing this bond between all three of us is priceless. No amount of money could be more important then all the time(s) we get to hold her in our arms. We get to build this trust with one another. When she cries (which isn't a lot) she self comforts or finds comfort in either Katie or myself. That is trust. And that trust is sacred to us.
5 months of maternity and paternity leave has been vital to the foundation of our family.
I can't believe (actually, I can) why our hyper consuming, money worshiping leaders (and talking heads) feel that new mothers and fathers are "lazy" and "entitled" for wanting (or believing) that anything more than a week away from making someone (else) money (after your birth) is a bad thing.
A few miles behind where we live (on the backside of the mountain and a few miles up hill) is a neighborhood called the Red Hill Township. Townships (in South Africa) are where the blacks live. The townships are metal shacks with stones weighing down the roofs. Many South Africans say it is dangerous to go in (or around) the townships...
Over where we live, in Scarborough, we pick up hichhikers from Red Hill (everyone in South Africa hitchhikes). People stand on the side of the road with money in their hand. A lot of the population does not have a car (let alone the means to save up and buy a car).
We pickup hitchhikers every single day when we drive past Red Hill. The people we meet are not dangerous. They are not poor. They dress nicer than Katie and me. They are rich in culture not to mention some of the nicest people we meet. We have picked up some South Africans but mostly refugees from Zimbabwe and other people from Malawi and Namibia.
Just some of the most beautiful people you would ever meet with amazing stories.
We talk to these people like we do anyone - with respect, dignity and sensitivity.
One of the men we picked up was a refugee from Zimbabwe. Katie expressed her sorrow about the violence that caused him to leave his home. He looked at her and said "the media makes it worse than it is and I just have to enjoy my life where I'm at today and make the most of it and I am happy."
That's what he said after we dropped him off at the Township.
Here I am living this life of privilege.
In my nice rental car coming back from my ocean front AirBnb that I rented for a few months.
Going to and from the grocery store at will, without having to climb, walk and/or hitchhike the 15 miles up and down a massive mountain because I will never make enough money in my lifetime to ever buy a car... This refugee from Zimbabwe whom we picked up hitchhiking told us (and showed us) that he is happy. So. Who is rich and who is poor?
If you want to be rich, want more or desire less.
I have to decide to see, listen, feel, receive, process and never forget the stories of so many people I have met across this continent and around the world.
Or, do I decide to not see, not listen, not feel and instead assume, pity and so on??
Or is it both. Am I rich and poor?
I'm grateful to perform at the ReForest Festival in the beautiful Platbos Forest. ReForest Festival is put on by Greenpop, which is one of South Africas greenest NGO's in the country. They're green because it is a tree planting festival. Just this year alone they planted over 2000 tree's.
I absolutely loved the child talent show. Huge thanks to the parents who are out there encouraging their children to explore their creativity. I am beyond grateful to bring my music to this festival. I am humbled that we have been given the gifts and the stories of so many, We remember.
Thank you Greenpop for bringing us back to this amazing festival and thank you to everyone who came out to see my set. It's amazing to see how every year the crowd gets a little bigger. It's a humble reminder when I find myself in the valley to simply trust the process.
Another highlight was that our daughter Rayah was 3 weeks old for the event.
She was definitely the youngest at the festival.
I love holding her. She melts my heart and brings me to center. To the present, and then your name gets called and it's go time...
This is a picture of me trying to tell her why I have to put her down to do sound check.
At 01:08 am on February 23, 2019 we welcomed our daughter Rayah Aurora Ernst into this world. She was born up in our tree house, just outside Cape Town, South Africa. Rayah and Katie are both doing great. Katie labored for a little over four hours. We were accompanied by two midwives, with whom I have the utmost respect for. This was the most unbelievable experience of our lives.
Thank you to everyone who sent us their love, prayer and solidarity. Thank you to the Women who hold space for all Life. We are blessed to witness the birth of our daughter - as well as the birth of a new mother and new father.
Brian, Katie and Rayah Ernst
We have spent almost 12 years traveling the USA and around the world. Living from van to tour bus to hotel and airbnb to camp ground, national park and more couches than we can count. What started as a distant dream slowly, slowly bloomed into a dream we never could have imagined.
There are plenty of pro's and con's. And social media (and the internet in general) skews our realities into romance. We walk between the peaks and valleys, trying to live as humble as possible. We spent the whole year living in our van and saving our money so that we could come out to South Africa, rent a few AirBnb's at some of our favorite places and, of course, pay for the pre and post natal for the birth of our child.
South Africa is a special place for many reasons.
The diversity - biological and cultural to name a few.
Her beautiful coastline is not only the edge of the African continent but rough and rigged coastline that connects two Oceans.
Another thing that makes South Africa so special is how she is misunderstood.
She bears the name of the magnificent African continent - which to some people in the western world, (Africa) carries a stigma of inferiority, or lack or poor when South Africa and the rest of this continent is far from that dogma.
It was interesting to hear the words that came out of some peoples mouth.
We heard the "it's a dangerous place."
We heard the "it's not safe for white people."
We heard all about the "white genocide" being pushed by certain news media.
All of this came from Americans who don't have a passport and also have never been to Africa or know (really) anything about South Africa.
They just assumed we were going to have our baby out in the bush.
Which millions of people still do to this day. And there is nothing wrong with that.
As I said earlier, we saved up our money all year to get a few really nice places (to us) so we could unwind after our tours and have a baby where we are comfortable and safe.
There were many people who don't understand that South Africa is, in a lot of ways, similar to USA, Europe and the rest of the western world. (Which is not why we travel here).
I hate saying this...
But too many times, the thing that made my fellow westerners pause their onslaught of intrusive you are a bad parent for going to (South) Africa to have your baby interrogation was when Katie or myself would say the words "there are white people in South Africa! There are roads, and infrastructure and hospital (nice) hospitals, and healthcare and billions of people who are having healthy babies just like in America!"
Then we watch (over and over) peoples faces say exactly what is registering in their brains.
"Oh, there are white people and white culture there?? Ohh Uuhhh... maybe they (might) be safe after all."
Why is it when my fellow privileged westerners learn that there are white people in (South) Africa that, all of a sudden, it's not as "bad" as we assumed it to be???
We never get to have that conversation though...
Africa is an extremely rich place.
It is more diverse than anywhere I've seen.
The people here and their faith in particular.
And I'm talking about all of their faiths.
Faith that comes from struggle.
Us privileged westerners can't fathom The Struggle here.
And the Rock Solid Faith that comes from that, in my opinion, is Richness that us privileged aren't privileged to feel unless we truly Struggle.
That is just my opinion though.
Katie and I don't measure a nation (or it's people) by it's GDP or how much money it has or doesn't have. Maybe that's just me though...
It was very important for Katie (and myself) to go where we were most comfortable. Being in a safe place was the first priority. Which is why we came to South Africa. :)
There are problems here in South Africa.
Just like a few other places I know.
There are some thieves you do have to keep a look out for.
Hide yo kids.
Hide yo wife.
The baboons are everywhere!!
We just finished playing an awesome festival and went back to the free room they gave us. We're about to crawl into bed when I happened to look up. (I wish I didn't). See that "little dot" in the upper left hand corner?
Oh. My. God. let me get the zoom lens...
So this guy was right above our bed... He was the bigger than the size of my whole hand... The problem was that the ceiling was about 10 feet off the ground, so a newspaper wouldn't work.
I thought about throwing a pillow at it, but then it dawned on me that it could probably catch the pillow and throw it back. And, I definitely didn't want to piss it off before I turned off the lights. (Plus, he had two somewhat smaller cousins on the other side of the room).
We sort of had a staring contest. We agreed that we wont mess with him if he doesn't mess with us.
There are a few things that would warrant a new hotel room here in Africa. Roided up tarantula's that make their homes above your head isn't necessarily one of them. Especially if it's midnight, when there are probably no other available rooms anyway.
Obviously there are more important struggles going on in Africa than this guy watching me while I sleep. So, we just check our privilege and thank God that we woke up alive the next morning.
We are extremely grateful to be in this magnificent country. It's our third time touring South Africa and yet, sometimes it still feels like it's our first. I get that feeling every time I come to Africa. We've only spent about 13 months in the Motherland. Mostly in Kenya and South Africa, but also Botswana, Uganda and Egypt. Africa is so big and so diverse it doesn't even feel like we scratched the surface.
The more time I spend here, the more I see how much I don't know.
This tour is more regional than the previous cross country tours we did in 2013 and 2017. Instead of living backpackers to backpackers, we are going to base ourselves between the Garden Route and Cape Town.
The Garden Route is a beautiful drive that reminds me of the Pacific Coast Highway in California or HWY 101 in Oregon Country. The Garden Route goes east to west starting in Cape Town all the way to Port Elizabeth.
Our first AirBnb is located in Wilderness, which is right in the middle of the Garden Route.
Katie and the baby are doing great. The pregnancy is normal and we are so happy to be here right now. We are both nesting pretty hard right now. It still doesn't feel real that we're going to live in a house for 5 months... Our bodies are still slowly winding down from the road.
Last month we had a midwife appointment at our house. I walked out to greet our midwife and immediately heard (not just her American accent) but a mid-western accent. An American accent is easily identifiable to a lot of people around the world (mostly because of pop culture). When she told me she was from Milwaukee, Wisconsin - living and working in South Africa, I knew there was a good chance we might have some things in common.
Our midwife told us about how her her best friend saved up some money, quit their jobs and flipped a coin to decide where they were going to spend the next year of their lives. Heads is Vietnam, tails in South Africa. Tails is was. It didn't even take the full year for them to realize that they wanted to live in (the Garden Route of) South Africa so they went home, saved more money, came back out here and bought a beautiful plot of land on top of a mountain. Her and her husband grow their own food and live in one of the many communities that are rooted in African village life.
Our midwife was one of the few people who totally understood why we came to South Africa to have our baby. She understood so much that she didn't even ask any questions. She laughed because she said she would do the same thing too.
It's been nice playing shows along this beautiful coast. I love the South African music scene. I'm blessed to feel welcomed here. The music and story lines go deep here. Those lines of communication run through the veins that travel the length of this vast continent.
We are blessed to be a witness.
To be continued...