A Passion for Peace

Responsibility, respect and a loving connection with all beings and for this Earth we share.

Yaebo, Life is Lekker

Fueled on an egg and a banana, I spent 12 hours getting that family in crisis medical care, food and an emergency grant sorted out. It was quite a bureaucratic push (thank goodness for the nice director at the social security agency), and there were a lot of stumbling blocks (like hospital chains of referral after hours of waiting so no one would have to actually serve these families). It’s tough to be a teenage mom anywhere. It’s astronomically harder to be in rural RSA with no income and no education, and when you finally get your positive children to the hospital, instead of trying to treat them, after a day of pushing (me) and waiting (all of us), the doctor says, “She’s positive and pregnant again. And these other kids’ growth has been stunted by not getting TB or AIDS treatment. What’s the point?” I wanted to hit that Indian doctor in the face. Is it race? Class? Education? The general rule is: whites are upper and middle class, they hire black nannies and workers, and Indians are middle class and generally in the service professions or own small shops, and they hire black workers. Blacks who work hard shake their heads and say to me, “I shouldn’t say this, but it’s the Blacks. Theft, laziness, selfishness, jealousy—it’s a big problem to get people to work together. We say the right things in church and forget it outside.” The typical analogy I hear is whenever someone lifts himself up and sticks out his head (be it better job, school, responsibility), everyone tries to chop it off and bring him back down. (Photo: one of our kids playing)

One theory is starting in 1994 with all the talk of people’s people gained a feeling of entitlement without responsibility behind it. Another is that getting through high school is seen as such a prize, people don’t see the point when so many get through school and can’t find jobs. Still, in India or the US instead of not working or constantly griping about low pay, I think people would be more inclined to go back for more school or professional training than sitting around in desperation begging neighbors for food (granted the system here is hard to navigate and usually costs money to get yourself to the right office and may take a couple days of waiting once there, there IS a system of free medical care and need-based grants!).

Still, I find many Zulu do work very hard, are quite strong community leaders and very inspiring. My translator (who has officially dubbed me “a reliable driver”) went off to help his sister last week when she was robbed. They suspect it was an inside job, and since the police aren’t investigating, he gathered a group to collect muthi (traditional medicine) and meet with a medicine man so that the muthi would essentially act like a truth serum: you smuggle it into the suspect’s house and its presence makes him want to confess.However, when they went to gather the muthi the first time, a group of five men all saw a big green car perched atop an impossible-to-reach cliff. They did a double-take and it was gone. Then they thought, maybe it was a snake, because one of the men in their group is a twin and the son of a twin, and snakes are scared of twins (because two can overpower them), which is actually considered good luck. Plus, they smoke and grow a lot of weed. Maybe I should've started with that. (Photo: sunset view from the reserve, the mesa on the right is Giant's Castle)

This weekend I went to the beach, which was beautiful and massively hot, and with families who oriented their day around feeding an army of children. A bike ride netted me not one but two flat tires, and so an upper body workout instead pushing the bike back along the beach and lifting it up over rocky outcroppings. A couple hours in a bookstore (a bookstore! you have no idea how exciting this was! and how poor I am so I mostly browsed and didn't buy), an evening theater comedy (thanks to a friend of a friend's sister), and then home. For 5 hours. Then picked up our volunteer pre-school teachers and drove them to another town to training, where they trained me for half a day and I spent the night at one of their houses in the countryside where I followed a terrier named Chester through fields and flowers and around a river feeling like I was in a Jane Austen novel. Although oddly they never mention picking off ticks when you get home.

The next day I ran a conflict resolution workshop with the management staff there, which was so rewarding ("I can't believe I've gotten to this age and never thought about preparing not just my side of an argument, but from the other person's side!"). I want to do more of that! Because I need more work to do! Ruminating on being a professor and establishing an NGO-like program from the uni where I teach, research and train students to be free labor to help run it...which could mean getting a PhD in... education? NGO management? conflict resolution? child development? Clearly, I need to ruminate more. And to look for a job that pays something in a few months so my wonderfully supportive parents don't have heart attacks.

Posted byValerie at 6:41 PM  


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