We hopped out of the mini taxi at the corner before it rushed off into the afternoon traffic on Boom Street. I jumped over the gutter full of rubbish and dirty water and tried to avoid landing in the middle of a stack of tomatoes and cabbage set out nicely for all the passers by to see and buy. "3 rand a bag!!" Glancing down to see where my foot was going to catch the sidewalk, I saw a little baby sitting contentedly in a cardboard box. He was busy playing with some toys then, looking up at the 5 of us stumbling to get our footing, smiled. Such a bright beautiful face with a contagious gaze. So strange the normalcy of the little one sitting in the box while mom stays busy selling veggies or snacks. This was one of the final sights before getting back to the Lerato house after day outreach to the "bad buildings."
A "bad building" is an abandoned building that still houses shops and businesses in the front part but behind it, through a wrecked field, through a makeshift gate, there are rooms separated by cardboard boxes; a functional brothel. These outreaches are a good chance to inform the ladies of the night that there is another option for their life, We give out fliers with Lerato house information on it and encourage them to stop by our drop in center to learn about jewelry making or weaving, or just to get a contact that can help them get out of prostitution.
Last week I really felt like things were coming together as far as the internship goes. My role at Lerato house is becoming more clear and I have some projects to be working on (definitely realizing the effect of the 'Protestant work ethic' in America). I actually enjoy staying busy and doing projects. Anyway, there are a few girls at the house who are still smoking (cigarettes, and sometimes marijuana). This is against the rules at the house and so I got put in charge of developing an anti-smoking program. It will be a great chance to get to know these girls and maybe teach them a little too. Also, there are two men, Xolani and Berend who have started up a Policy and Advocacy Unit with TLF. They will be doing a lot of work with the "rebranding Homelessness," campaign before the games in 2010 and lobbying for changes in governmental policies dealing with housing, employment, and human trafficking. I will be joining them part time and helping where I can. It's exciting to see all the different areas that I really care about are all being tied together and I'm praying both that doors open for me to be of service here and that what is learned here will really sink in and be brought back to the US.
Still loving the walk across town. It is so sensory. Everyday, I learn and experience something new during that time. Now that it's getting warmer outside, I would like to start spending some time at in the Square in the mornings. One of these days I will record bits of the walk so that you can all see and understand what I see, hear and smell every morning and evening. About 8am, the ladies are on the corners and set up alongside the high-rises. They are tucked behind the cardboard boxes, deep frying dough to sell to us suckers who can't say no ten tempting times. ( I believe I've mentioned these ladies before!) Vegetable stands are just getting set up along Vander Valt street and the little tents that sell; hats, towels, sunglasses, earings, snacks, candies, bananas, hair creme, clips, and all sorts of other trinkets. The air is crisp but dusty. Newspaper men are shouting headlines and the flier flippers are trying to get me to go to the African herb shops where I can have alost love returned to me, increase my memory, and even have HIV/AIDS cured. The other night, talking with Stephens, Brian, and Priscilla, I learned that about 75% of black South Africans still believe in the sort of superstitious practices of herbal medicine or the spiritual healing of _________, traditional which doctors. There's even a "church" here in the city that practices many of these more traditional ceremonies. You can go there and pray for people to get hurt or killed (very similar to voodoo), there are ceremonies where people will throw brown coins at another's feet as a form of prayer. Its members wear a green badge with a green star on it and once you join this "church" you can never leave it. I am thankful to have found a church for now that seems solid theologically and the teaching is very encouraging. It's only a short walk from our place and you can hear the singing from a block away!
I really like the feel of Central (our part of town). It's great to be able to walk almost anywhere we would really need to go. Visiting Hatfield the other night was quite a different experience though. It was suburbia. Nicely dressed people filled the malls, sat down at restaurants, were white, and bought Cokes at the movie theatre. Alexa and I got coffee at Wimpy's and she went shopping for a gift. Part of me felt very comfortable there and I'm sure there are some great shops and cafes on the main street. Hatfield is where the main university is, so it's a college town primarily. People were dressed up to go to the club on Saturday night buying drinks, and dancing until dawn. Alexa, I, Rebecca, Musa, and Marvin joined the crowd at ZanZu, a new club that has a room for hip hop and a room for "house music," It was a great time, but not something I'd like to do every weekend. I am so thankful that Hatfield is not where Siri and I are living. Although we do have to sacrifice some freedoms, like walking outside after dark to go anywhere, it is worth it to be in the middle of the city, outside of people's expectations. I'm praying that God continues to show me how to break down barriers where I can and where it needs to happen.
A few other fun things that happened this week:
-A workshop on being Wounded Healers, by Alexander Ventner
-Zulu and dance lessons from our friend Sandile (at one point, when Siri and I were trying to copy his moves...he started cracking up laughing and said, "that is soooo whiiite!". Yes, Sandile : )
-saw a new film, Izulu Lami ( My Heaven), last night. Try to find it, it's a great picture of life in S.A
-TLF's monthly celebration was tonight, the Lerato house girls did a great great job hosting it. We cooked all day and they prepared a drama, some songs, a talk about being a HERO, and read some poems. They are so talented.
So yes, life has gotten busy but very fun! I'm starting to miss hearing people's voices and just seeing familiar faces around town. The gorgeous Bellingham fall will also be missed. But the Jacarandas will start turning purple soon.