May 15, 2008

glimpse into life: cape town, south africa

Litobile, Luthando & Lonwabo
a normal morning: wake at 6am, morning wash and prayer, prepare lunches and breakfast, leave by 7:35. the kids run out of our 4th floor flat (apt.) which leads to the outside courtyard and race down the stairs to the garage. we drive to school in our used golf polo and park on the high level street entrance (an exciting occurrence now that mama has overcome her fear of the steep road while driving a stick-shift!). we walk domani to his class area first; dyami and ayana feel proud of him and make sure he puts his diary (calendar book) where it belongs and his backpack away. children run up to us with loving greetings and ayana is ready to go meet her friends. domani runs away to play in the sandy jungle gym so i take dyami to his class area for line-up. dyami has a way of being naturally sweet - after the first bell rings, he asks me if i can leave when the second bell rings, as if to say, 'mama, it's not cool for you to stay with me when my teacher arrives.' so i leave and wave goodbye like a good mama should. :-)

...for 9 years i have either been pregnant, nursing or raising a toddler. i now live in a new land and have 4 solid hours without the children during school days. i try to balance that time between service to the home/family, community, and to myself. by 12:15 i'm back at the school (unless volunteering there in domani's class already) to pick up domani. we usually hang out with his friends, eating some lunch that i've brought with me. i almost always take one of his friends home. sometimes we stay so long at school that dyami is finished (2nd and 4th graders end school at different times, and then each student has their own schedule depending on whether or not they have an extra-curricular activity afterward). between 1-3:30 i'm picking the children up from school, running errands, or visiting the family of the boy i take home. monday through thursday we aim to focus on homework and studying until dinnertime, but school closes at 1pm on fridays, so we always look forward to doing something fun that afternoon. below are some slices of life experiences here in cape town....

...one morning i had planned to visit 2 different homes, in 2 different townships, the first time i'm venturing out on my own for the whole morning. the first home was near the airport so i thought i'd be able to remember where they lived, but as i was completely distracted by the dilapidated shacks, and horses pulling people on carts in the middle of a busy automobile intersection, i ended up calling my friend 2 times before i arrived at her house. this is the beginning of the day and i was already inundated with emotion and thoughts racing through my mind -- yet i arrived and was welcomed with such an appreciation and joy that tears came to our eyes as the mother of the home expressed her gratitude for the visit. i felt pain for the 1000's of homes, with 100's of 1000's of people in them who wished someone would come visit them (and not just because of the cookies i had with me)
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...i meet many people who are outside working. most of them are Xhosa people who are trying to make a living. one of the workers for the hotel next door is named Lothando. i had met him back in January when we first moved here. he is a hard-working young man who sweeps the street and sidewalk. yesterday i was walking back to the flat with Ayana and we came over to say hello to him. his name tag now read, 'David'. i asked him why it was changed. he said something about management and i could feel my heart begin to race with anger about this kind of injustice perpetuated by white owners and managers who continue to keep psychologically demoralizing the people upon which this entire nation's material development has been built! Lothando is his name, not David! all i could think about was how hard the black and colored populations have worked; how much they have suffered and how so many continue to bear the burden of apartheid's oppressive system of injustice. i expressed to him my feelings in a calm manner and offered what i could to express a sense of respect and honor for his name which means 'love'. he expressed his gratitude and we went home. later in the morning i was walking home from errands and couldn't stop thinking about this issue, so i went into the hotel and asked if i could submit a complaint. the person behind the counter said the manager wasn't in, so i shared the complaint with him -- he is Xhosa himself and though a worker of the hotel, his soft smile about the complaint made me think he's ready for a social revolution. this changing of names happens too much in the business world! he said he'd pass on the complaint and i said i'll follow up on it. today i went and explained to management that Lothando does not know i am making this complaint, nor did he express any complaint himself [it would be the worst result if he lost his job because of me trying to stand up for justice]. south africa is a country that is in a healing process of racism, and i feel compelled to arise however possible to address each and every situation that presents itself throughout the day. the manager was sympathetic and said it was important for me to report this, then explained to me that the hotel hires a company which employs workers like Lothando...i can only hope that he'll look into the matter as he said he would, but i feel peaceful knowing that at least Lothando felt a sense of respect from a stranger who cared...

...sometimes Domani and i return early back to school before picking up Dyami. we walk to the lower gate hoping to find Litobile and Yothando who are usually still around waiting for their transport to come and pick them up. Litobile (pronounced Leetobeelay) is 6 and Yothando is 8. they are always enjoying some kind of creative play (digging for marbles; playing hide and seek; throwing objects to get stuck up in the trees). one afternoon we were all hanging out together and Yothando says, "Will you please play 'On' with us, please?" 'On' is tag here, and when you touch the person you say, 'You're on!' what else could i say but 'OK!' :-) there were a couple other children playing as well, but these 2 boys always tried to get me. i felt like such a kid! we had so much fun running around until my side ached so badly i had to take a time out. i took out the camera for which they love to pose. it was one of those moments here that are eternal, where time stands still and the experience is true joy. i seem to cross paths with these boys so much that it feels like we're family. they lighten up and show affection as so many of the children here do. being at this school is experiencing real community....

...Delft is the name of the township out by the airport where we go each sunday morning for children's spiritual education classes. going into this township is one of my favorite things to do. i love how the children see the car and run up to greet us. i love how they come and sit down with full attention and participation to whatever they are learning and experiencing; i love how they use the drum and start doing some Xhosa dances to the beats... one afternoon the kids and i were there visiting our friends. I helped Phamela (coincidentally we have the same name; the 'h' in Xhosa is silent) do some of the work in the home and then went outside to play soccer (football). the streets are very narrow and the homes close to the road. it's almost inevitable that kicking the ball will lead you into someone's yard. well, thankfully, the ball led us around the block and we met some youth who were just hanging out - the ball rolled their way and they kicked it back at us -- it enabled the boys and i to meet them. at first they didn't want to play, but i was like, 'c'mon, there's nothin' else goin' on...you can teach these small boys how to play some soccer.' so one of them got up and had a blast playin' ball with dyami and domani. the significance for me was how we don't know anyone but we were able to hang out with the neighbors. it was the best! the boys gave the youth a pound, fist to fist, and then they put their fist to their heart, where the love is felt...the afternoon ended by hanging out with the Zimbabwean fellows across the street: the children sat with them, picking up 100's of beads on the ground that the men couldn't use anymore for their artwork, putting the beads in plastic bags to reuse at home for their own artwork...

there are hundreds of experiences like these where my heart leaps with loving gratitude for being able to connect soul to soul with so many of our brothers and sisters here in the cape town region of the world...