A Passion for Peace

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

A Bit of Buddha in South Africa

In need of a little zen, I went to the Buddhist retreat centre last weekend for a mini yoga and meditation vacation. As suspected it was a mostly-female retreat for the kickoff of the World Cup. But we knew South Africa didn’t lose with the vuvuzelas bellowing from the valley below. Which was easy to hear since the lodge where I stayed was 24/7 Noble Silence and the entire Centre was nobly silent from 9 pm to 9 am. One would think that would be calming, but I get plenty of silence every evening on my own, so when I go out I prefer some conversation. So I skipped evening meditation Saturday night to make some phone calls, and got sad news.

One of the ladies passed away on Saturday. She was thirty-three, had a four-year-old and was taking care of her elderly mother since her brother had been murdered last year. She didn’t take a day off from working with the kids. One of the ladies visited her just Thursday to finish putting together portfolios to complete pre-school teacher certification training and found her hunched over her binder in pain unable to walk. She went to clinic Friday, was transferred directly to hospital. Tomorrow morning we’re going together to visit the family. We decided to pay her entire month’s salary, pitch some more money in ourselves, and buy her family a warm blanket. Snow’s set into the mountains, and firewood is scarce (or if you’re me, firewood is useless with a half-built fireplace). I feel truly spoiled at twenty-seven that this is my first winter without climate control. When I was easing the buggy up the mountain on Sunday I was reminded of Red Velvet and how maybe someday I’ll drive a car that I doesn’t slow to 40 kilometers per hour huffing up an incline. Then I thought nah, I’m lucky to have a car to drive at all. Money can be better spent than on an fancier car. People live so day-to-day I’m loaning each the $4 (R 30) we’re donating. (Photo: evening retreat view)

This is why last week I decided to monetarily empower them. This is a community project, and the community should decide how to spend the money. There’s too much drama about money on the reserve, so to stop it from spilling into our work, my translator and I walked an hour from the office to meet the ladies at the Resource Centre and had a money meeting. I wrote on the chalkboard how much we started with, what we have now, and the expenses so far. After we talked about ways to cut costs and make money, they voted themselves a very reasonable raise. Information is so empowering. There’s so much potential waiting to be tapped. That’s really why people here are so excited about World Cup: the chance to Get Out. Out of poverty, out of the same small community and culture they’ve only and always known, out of Africa… (Photo: sunbird)

So many people I work with are so bright, talented, and eager for opportunity. They’ve been oppressed, first in the Zulu culture by following an induna much like an American Indian chief, then by the apartheid system, and now by the current corrupt government and some employers. We need to ease into increased responsibility. Do something once, walk someone through it once, and let go, remaining on stand by. Last Thursday when a government agency didn’t show to speak about how to get grants. I smsed to see how it went and was told they were all still waiting 1½ hours later. No one called the agency to confirm or find out what happened. The instinct was to blame, not take responsibility. Things like this make whites frustrated that blacks don’t take charge or seemingly appreciate opportunities. There’s also frustration people make decisions they’re not prepared for. If you don’t know what you don’t know (and are rather isolated), you don’t know that you need more information, much less how to get it.

I don’t know why Bonisiwe left us. I don’t know what I’ll say to the family tomorrow. I do know she worked harder and smiled through more than I’ll ever experience. (Photo: retreat dam view)


Posted byValerie at 9:07 PM  


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