A Passion for Peace

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

Zebras Neigh, and Zulu Love to say, “Okay!”

I thought driving through a second coming of Noah’s ark-style flood-inducing rains in a U-Haul through the armpit of Texas (aka Amarilla) was difficult. Today I drove a small manual Nissan pick-up to meet with another NGO, LETCEE, who’s working with us in a town an hour and a half away. It might’ve taken me a smidge longer than that to get there, due to: avoiding avoid potholes in fog I could only see five meters ahead in, shaking my head at and passing both an overloaded taxi van and an eighteen-wheeler who passed me and promptly slowed to half my previous speed as they huffed up the Drackenbergs, all the while battling with my newly-acquired poor manual driving skills on my way back trying hard not to stall or stop because before I left the car’s battery went dead, had to be jumped twice and a friendly LETCEE employee drove me around town to pump the battery back up, and another employee followed us.

Sunday morning after hours of translating Zulu (which makes about as much sense to me as typing random letters), I drove my self-educated Zulu translator/interpreter to a Catholic church in one of the communities the Trust serves in an effort to build community, do outreach, get feedback, etc., while he told me which gear to shift into and when to use the clutch or accelerator (I’d had a slow start because I hadn’t been introduced to the choke), I asked what he’d done the day before, because when I called it sounded like he was at a party.

“Oh, no, no party. I was gambling. There were horse races in Cape Town.”
“Horse races? Do you have a TV?”
“Oh, no, no. I have two wives and eleven children. When you’re young you think you know so much, and you don’t listen. If I could go back and do it over, I would plan and do it all different. We’re so many, and that’s why we barely get by, so I was at this place where we get tapes of old races and we watch them and bet on them. I think I lost 200 Rand ($25). I’m bad, I don’t usually go to church. I have to go into town after church today and gamble more.”
“Races in Cape Town—have you been to Cape Town? Have you been outside Zulu-Natal (the state we’re in)?”“Yes, of course outside, I have been to Johannesburg (four hours northeast). Not Cape Town (six hours southwest).”
“Did you like Jo’burg?”
“No, I’m not used to cities. Maybe then I would like it. The boss took us to Durban last year and we went to the ocean. That was good.”

Actually, the boss took some senior management on their first trip to the sea (two hours south) and forgot to tell them to bring bathing suits, so the men ended up splashing in the waves in their underwear. Someday I’ll ask my interpreter why he’s missing three fingers and so many teeth.
Conversations with Zulu usually end with some sentiment about “this crazy world” as they are continually full of amazement that I “came from so far to help.” It seems to be a good selling point. I came from US/UK (often they say UK, because UK or US don’t really have much meaning except as faraway two-letter lands full of white people), so surely they can get a committee together to find a place for a new crèche, go with me to have their handicapped children evaluated to try to get them into school, or come together on a weekend to build a playground and food garden at the Resource Centre where the NGO PEISA and the local women they’re teaching (and we’re employing) do weekly psychomotor training with the children.

As a side note, I think the Catholic church is genius with its rising and swaying, sitting and listening, kneeling and praying (keep moving = staying awake), calm candles, beautiful melodies, comforting tunes, and the whole song and dance of a typical service—even with an assistant priest in a church too poor to afford to build a toilet or fencing with chipped paint and so musty and dusty inside I almost passed out until I moved near an open window. And wow, can these Zulu women sing. (Will try to upload when I get better internet sometime) (Photos: the reserve on the left, one of the communities we serve on the right, Ezindikini)

Meanwhile, life on the reserve is fantastic. I’m working my butt off (besides long days and weekend work here, I’m still working for Childline India via email) and loving every minute of it (the work is great, the volume could decrease...). I’ve gotten into a routine where I wake with the sun by six to do yoga, ride my bike or hitch a ride to the office to start the workday at seven, break at one for a management lunch (last Friday was our first brie, and this week we had bobotie minus the bread), and head home around six to do a little more yoga/exercise (my shoulders are more thankful by the day), cook, watch Friends (stolen from a friend in India) and crash. The zebras, eland and antelope are getting less finicky when I bike by, I saw a one-week-old water buffalo babe enter the herd, and one morning there was a rhino traffic jam as three of the fattest bums waddled on and off the road, with a jiggle even Atlanta and LA KFC-over-eaters couldn’t rival. (By the way, KFC seems to be gaining on McDonald’s in worldwide popularity. That man’s white beard and red and white stripes are everywhere from South Africa to Dubai to Cambodia.) (Photo: Water buffalo classic pose that makes me think 'whatchoo lookin at?')

Speaking of exercise, buying a bicycle was such a good decision. I don’t think I’m ever as happy as when I am on a bicycle in nature taking a break from (hopefully!) positively impactful community building and conflict resolution work with families and children.

And speaking of happy, I had not one but six bottles of champagne and flowers brought over for my housewarming dinner party last weekend. The theme was Greek: salad, fresh from our garden (lettuce, tomato, cucumber, chives, feta, lemon, pepper and olive oil), roasted potatoes (onion, garlic, salt, pepper, oregano and lemon), my version of moussaka (eggplant, our own venison, onion, coriander, cinnamon, anise, parsley and melted mozzerella), and grilled bananas (cinnamon, ginger and carob) with walnuts and yogurt for dessert.

People here keep asking how I’m doing with such a big change, going from eighteen million neighbors to six (plus a few cats and horses); from sharing a room plus another five flatmates to my own apartment with a veranda overlooking the mountains; from eating out daily due to minimal cooking capabilities and eagerness to escape the apartment to a happily home-cooked fresh-from-our-farm dinner alone (or occasionally with a kind coworker); from Maruti Suzuki taxis and playing Frogger with my life crossing a street to slaloming, slipping, skidding and sliding down an unpaved muddy mountain road in a pick-up I am surely slowly winning over. That battery dying thing was just payback for my rough shifting. I think we’re even now. I figure it’s like a friend said: you gotta be a turtle and carry your home with you wherever you are. I wouldn’t trade one (possibly permanently deafening) traffic-ful night or one moths-that-sound-like-helicopters and toad-ful night for anything.

I love my life. And I’m so glad you’re in it, and care enough to read this.

Posted byValerie at 10:49 AM  


Ekaterina said... February 8, 2010 at 8:17 AM  
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Valerie said... February 8, 2010 at 5:53 PM  
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