A Passion for Peace

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

I both am & will never be Zulu

Last weekend the community was amazed that I went to Bonisiwe's funeral. "You are different," they kept telling me, shaking their heads, impressed I thought to wear a long skirt and black top. "Valer, you are the only white to come to our funeral. And your dress is right." It was a long (9-2) and very lovely ritual. First we paid respects in the house. I'm rarely invited inside houses, as mostly people are embarassed to show me how they live. Usually they bring chairs (or if they're really poor, sagging wooden benches), and no one sits until I do. I'm not sure how much is my being white or in a position of authority. When I do go inside like on Saturday, while everyone else kneeled on mats on the floor (a richer home, instead of a mud floor it was covered with patches of three different kinds of linoleum), I was instructed to sit on one green plastic chair. I felt like I was on a throne above everyone, but when I protest such special treatment, they insist and I don't want to be rude. Then all of us women sat on plastic chairs under a tent. The coffin was brought out and people took turns speaking and leading songs. The pastors interrupted with prayers, while outside the men all dug a huge hole in the yard and piled the rocky soil neatly with planks of wood on top. Once one of our volunteers spoke, we rose and laid a newly bought blanket over the coffin, then folded and handed it to Bonisiwe's mother. We then carried the coffin to the burial site, and the men took over. They lowered the coffin in and covered it with perfectly-cut wood, then ripped a mat and put the mat in, and poured a bag of what I presume were some small things from Bonisiwe's four-year-old daughter inside. While men shoveled, the children Bonisiwe taught in the pre-school symbolically buried her by throwing small fistfuls of soil into the grave. All the while the women sang spirituals, and when we finished we all washed our hands and sat down for a delicious feast of chicken curry, pumpkin mash, yellow rice, baked desserts, roasted beetroot, cole slaw and a host of other food that had been carefully cooking all morning to feed about a hundred people. We paid the family Bonisiwe's salary and each donated some money on top, which may have just covered that food. Funerals cost families small fortunes they don't have. We presented a quote for a group funeral plan, and the ladies opted for the most expensive package, nearly 1/6 of their salary. Sadly, it makes sense: death is damn expensive and way too common. (Photo: you can't see the mountains for the fog)

Sunday I was invited to another Zulu church service. I have mixed feelings about the churches: they are a morally positive force, and they also bleed the community of more money they don't have. I present what we're doing, that I'm a volunteer, and then open for questions, and they always ask me to do X, Y, and Z, when (1) I'm not Christian, (2) I'm here for the kids, not the churches, (3) white ≠ money, and (4) I'm overworked as is and giving up a Sunday to be with them without taking up even more causes. Also, religious services in an unintelligible language despite lovely singing, are rather wearing. Which is why we are all SO looking forward to tomorrow. A lovely friend who runs a soccer league offered to pay for petrol for me to drive the ladies down to the Fan Zone in Durban for the Brazil-Portugal match. "Unbelievable!" and cheers of excitement were among the sentiment. In the afternoon, one of the ladies ran down the road to tell a reserve employee how thrilled she is, even to be bumping along in the back of the buggy for the 2.5+ hour drive down. Crossing fingers we aren't deafened by vuvuzelas. (Photo: cheap Coca-Cola vuvuzelas for sale)

Have I mentioned recently how much I love my job? Today I taught the ladies bingo, as a potential fundraiser to go along with our new popcorn machine. They loved it. "That game is right! Number one!" So we're doing our first community bingo afternoon on Sunday, without even a bingo game set, just printed pieces of paper in a bag. If I've learned anything living outside the US, it doesn't have to look nice or even make much sense so long as it functions.

In closing as a homage to the stupidity of McChrystal, I bring you some South African political humor, including the popular quote, "Don't Touch me on my Studio!" And the most hilarious gift against the cold I've ever received. (Photo: even the spiders are frozen!)

Posted byValerie at 7:34 PM  


Malina said... July 1, 2010 at 9:54 AM  
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