6/1: So when I asked my host brother why our newly acquired puppy is chained to a post which is of particular importance to me because since his banishment to the corner of the compound he has not stopped barking, he replied that he keeps eating our chickens. Ah yes. That would be frustrating. Ever thought about feeding it then?!
This is now my third girls club meeting in as many weeks. I have yet to formally ask the principal’s permission to have these afterschool meetings because she is always too busy to see me. Oh and by after school I mean during school but since the afternoons typically consist of recess I thought it proactive to do something constructive with the girls’ time rather than wait until the time they usually use to do chores and cooking. Nobody has even noticed they were gone…from netball. Well I felt guilty for not following protocol so today when I was told the principal was busy I responded that I would wait until she was free. This seemed a bit disconcerting to the minion in charge of shooing away such nuisances. I stood my ground and forty-five minutes later I asked the principal for her blessing on our girls club. She did not approve. “You want to meet for one in a half to two hours on Wednesday s? No. You will meet for thirty minutes on Thursday s.” “But the girls voted on Wednesday s MaNdlovu and with all due respect I don’t think thirty minutes will be enough time,” I pleaded. Perhaps it was naïve of me to assume my request would be met with apathy or indifference. “Fine,” she said in what I imagine she was thinking was quite conciliatory. “You will come back tomorrow and tell the girls you will now be meeting on Thursday s. Then you will have a meeting with their parents on Friday to discuss how long the club meetings should be.” “So the lesson I have prepared for today on decision making?” I asked hopefully. “Wednesdays are not a good day.” End of meeting.
6/2: So I was attempting to hold my ground waiting for the next bush taxi and was getting elbowed and pushed from all sides. As I saw it approaching, I turned around as someone was calling me. I knew this slight hesitation meant I lost my place and would have to wait for the next one. As I searched the crowd for someone I recognized I saw a woman waving her hand. I didn’t remember ever meeting her. I wasn’t fazed. Random strangers running up to me like long lost friends is an almost daily occurrence. So I played along as we small talked but as I saw another taxi coming I gathered all my bags and got my elbows out. I was getting a seat this time. The woman I was talking with ran up to me just as I sat down to show me a wrinkled photo of me and two of her children at a ceremony I went to nine months ago. She said she carries it around with her wherever she goes. You honestly will never know how your words or actions will affect others. “This is what we are about. We plant the seeds that one day will grow. We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise. We cannot do everything and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that. This enables us to do something, and to do it very well. We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs. We are prophets of a future not our own.” Oscar Romero
6/3: My host sister was taken away by an ambulance a few days ago in the middle of the night and nobody could tell me why. Apparently, cross-cultural immersion coupled with vain attempts at development work warrant me dead to the world once the sun goes down because I totally missed the emergency. I finally discovered, after quite a bit of prodding, that my host sister fainted because she was cold and hungry (it gets freezing cold at night here).
She holds a special place in my heart mainly because the rest of the family pretends she doesn’t exist. She recently told them that she’s HIV positive and has been ostracized ever since. She rarely leaves her room (which is not in the main house but in a separate one attached to mine) and is often gone, sleeping over at one of her many ‘boyfriend’s’ houses.
Part of the reason why the AIDS rate here is so high is because since the unemployment rate is so high people, especially women, turn to other under-the-table means of earning money. Transactional sex, or having sex in exchange for food, clothing, cell phone minutes, a ride into town or money is a socially acceptable end justifying the means. My host sister does just that. Instead of being lauded for her sacrifice for the family and the likely way she contracted the virus she is admonished for her sin-filled HIV status. But everyone looks away as she leaves at night to another man’s bed.
None of this is ever spoken, it’s shown with turned backs and deafening silence. And my constant rousing from dogs barking as she leaves at night and an ear-splitting concoction of the TV and gospel music at dawn where I’ll find her sitting on the cement floor trying to drown out the demons the next morning.
6/4: So on Saturdays I meet with my other girls club. The girls really took the drama topics on decision making and ran with them. It was so great to see them having fun (and learning!) After every Saturday meeting I have a few girls over for an afternoon movie with popcorn. Aaahh the joy of fellowship : )
6/9: So after a three day long struggle to get permission for the girls to come to the Section 5 girls club, I was worried it might be in vain BUT I’m pretty sure every single girl in grades 8-9 showed up. It was definitely standing room only and the dramas brought the house down.