A Passion for Peace

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

Please Press 1 if this is an Emergency. Then Hold.

“Valerie, call the police! There’s a man with a knife outside the window!” I ran for my phone and dialed the emergency number. I had to listen to a recording and press 1 that This Was An Emergency, then I was put on hold, then had to explain to a switchboard operator, presumably in Jo’burg, where I was so she could connect me to the closest police station. She did not understand my accent, nor was she familiar with my location. As I repeated myself in frustration, my friend found her phone and called the local station directly.

To rewind just a bit: at about 2:30 AM my friend and I realized we’d been chatting by the fire, exchanging music and enjoying her delicious raw cuisine and spice tea with no regard to time, and that I had better stay the night. She lives in a small town about 40 minutes from the reserve. She walked over to shut the music and turned around to the lit guest room to make up my bed, where she saw a man with a knife standing outside the window, on the lit porch, peering at her. She screamed to me, then turned to scream at him: “Go away! Get out of here! We’re calling the police!” He waved his knife at her. My first thought as I dashed for the phone was her three kids asleep in the bedroom. I felt completely powerless. (Photo: another bathtub with a view from a tea spot in town.)

She got through to the local police before I made it through the switchboard. “Hi, there’s an intruder on my property with a knife. There’s just women and children here. Please send someone quickly.” Not sure which direction the man ran, we roused the kids in case he’d gone around the back. The eldest, a boy, was content to keep sleeping. The middle girl came in quite scared and sat next to me by the fire. She drank my tea, I stroked her hair, and she said, “I wish we didn’t have money. We should go back to swapping things.” Trying to distract her, I asked how many carrots one would swap for a haircut. We chatted and waited, and the youngest girl joined us. We were all a bit shaky. There’s something incredibly brazen, illogical and especially scary about a man--without even any facial covering--coming to a lit house with music playing, in which people are clearly awake, and trying to break in. After waiting over half an hour (the station is about an 8 minute drive away, tops), my friend phoned back to see if someone was coming. The officers were lost. She repeated her directions. Then, “No, I will NOT come outside to meet them—did you not hear me that there’s a man with a knife outside my house?!” The middle child cringed and lay her head on my lap.

A few minutes later the police arrived and did a perimeter search. They found nothing. I walked outside to check my vehicle. In that cold weather with a choke the robber would’ve made a faster getaway by foot than trying to steal my buggy. While my boss sorted out the strike and tension on the reserve, I met a friend and spent the morning playing with poo (rhino, zebra, and buffalo), working on our new product, biopots and cute manure-made instantly-plantable indigenous seed discs, so the back of the buggy was full of manure and a bag of kids’ shorts from our psychomotor training. He’d peered inside and passed on those. In the front I had some papers, a Tupperware, my black straw hat and a new white winter coat I’d treated myself to on my trip to Jo’burg. The passenger door was unlocked, and the coat was missing. I wondered if my hat should be offended. (Photo: malfunctioning fountain in the Jo'burg botanic gardens that seems appropriate here)

The police came in to take down a report for my stolen coat. There were two, one in training, who mimicked the constable he was working with, down to when he lifted his pen or sipped his tea. They worked through their forms, asking questions and filling boxes. “What is your date of birth?” I suddenly realized. “It’s today, actually.” They didn’t flinch. “Year?” The girls and my friend all chorused an oh shame, happy birthday, sorry about the coat! More so than the coat, even though I didn’t see him, I’ve got an image in my mind of a middle aged man brandishing a knife glinting in the light, and the cockiness of his attempted armed robbery. My friend has lived in that house for about 2 years, and this is her 4th break-in. The 2nd time, a year ago, she was home and at 3 am heard a noise. She and her dog walked into the kitchen and saw a man at the window. She screamed and ran for her phone, and he stayed there and kept banging as if to break the glass. She was alone. Then he went around to the front door and banged and rattled around as if to try and enter from there. She locked herself and her dog in the bathroom and talked on the phone to a friend until the police arrived, over 30 minutes later. Then the officer proceeded to hit on her and tried to force a kiss when he left.

The officers thanked my friend for the coffee (she'd made them tea). After a couple hours of sleep, we four women in one room, I head to toe on a twin mattress on the floor with the middle girl, I led my friend in a little yoga and we sipped smoothies. The kids’ dad arrived, and after hearing our encounter told us his friend’s girlfriend in Durban was in the ICU. She had just admitted to her husband whom she’s separated from that she’s been seeing someone else. He’d gotten mad, and then later apologized and asked her for a hug to make up. She went to hug him and with a knife in his hand he stabbed her chest. With their kid in the room. I do not envy the life of a single mom in South Africa. Hats off to you, ladies, truly. (Thankfully I still have my beautiful vintage black hat to take off!) (Photo: contemplating at home)

What I needed was some sleep and a long walk. I hadn’t been in a proper humid forest since camping with a friend in Tennessee in August. A long wintry walk amid trees was just what I needed: wet, crisp, and comforting. The forest was also full of blackjacks and bramble, burring all over my leggings and skirt. My skirt was also soaked about ten centimeters up as I sloshed in my socks and shoes. When I drove home the kids presented me with a basket of naartjie and hand-dipped candles they’d made. My parents phoned to say happy birthday, and my house smelled from the lovely roses a coworker left on my table with my mail. I opened cards and a few packages (hooray for my new Opex watch!) and was treated to a yummy farm-fresh dinner at my boss’s house, and had a long chat with a coworker friend. The next day I redecorated my walls with the cards & wrapping paper & a new lovely screen print, and another coworker brought over a present. I readied the next batch of cards & quills and watched Strictly Ballroom, missing dancing and mostly thankful I was safe on the reserve. I locked my doors for the first time in a long time. The cats will have to sleep with their owners for a while. (Photo: view from home)

Posted byValerie at 11:00 AM  


Recycled Art Girl said... May 18, 2010 at 1:10 AM  
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