Today we went out to Khayelitsha

Posted by Carrie on Thursday, March 30th, 2006
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Wow, the week is almost over! I’ll be coming home on Sunday- my flight leaves on Sat night, but I won’t be back in MN until Sunday. It’s all gone by too fast!

Today we went out to Khayelitsha. We were up by 5:45 - ugh! But, we wanted to met up with Mavis before she took her morning meds so she could teach us about that. She lives like most everyone else in Khayelitsha- in a very small, makeshift house- it does have electricity- but has three rooms- there is no running water and some of the kids must sleep on the floor- she has a stove but it is not working at this time. Mavis has been separated from her husband and does not work- she really wants to work, but cannot find a job. Right now she is a volunteer at the TAC office and she spends the days off at her support group and her kids. She has two sons - both of which are in school. She has an 11 year old and a 19 year-old. Her 19 year-old son has finished high school and wants to go on to college - his goal is to be a doctor. Mavis does not have the money to send him to college - but is hoping to put the money together for - what I understood to be- a community college of some sort. She is very insistent that her kids get an education. She too wants to finish her education. She had to stop after 8th grade because her mother became sick and she had to care for the family. Mavis is an amazing woman - she has the most energetic and infectious personality- she is so happy, has a beautiful smile. She knows that she is facing some hard problems. She readily admits that life in Khayelitsha is hard. But, she is proud of where she is from- as are most in khayelitsha. She would love to own a house in Khayelitsha- she loves the people - her friends, her relatives, this is her home. Most do not want to leave - they would like better living conditions, but they want them in Khayelitsha- not somewhere else.

Today when we arrived, there was no food in the house and she had no money- she had taken a cab to meet us in different area of khayelitsha. She attends her support group every Thursday and it is also there that she is able to get food for herself and her family. All in her family know she is HIV positive and are very supportive. She is not like many who do not want people to know - she talks about it and is very open. She talks about it with her kids and it is now simply part of her daily life. She has not stopped making plans for herself or her boys. She has dreams and goals- dreams and goals she plans to meet - even though she is not sure how it will all come together. Mavis really made me think - there have been many time when I’ve said-oh I can’t do that I’m broke. I have no money to buy this or that - I need to save. Thinking about that now - makes me feel not only silly, but ashamed. I am wealthy compared to most that I’ve met. Mavis is someone who literally has no money - there are times she’s had to send her children to bed without any food. I’ve never gone hungry and probably never will. I can go on vacations. I have money to remodel my kitchen. I can afford to have pets. I have a car, I can buy clothes that I don’t need. I can go out to eat whenever I want- I am never really broke. And, Mavis is not alone.

Around 10- we drove Mavis to her support group meeting in another area of Khayelitsha. Before we drove off, she checked to see if it might be okay for us to observe the meeting and possibly film. I was very concerned about this- this is a private, anonymous meeting-I wasn’t sure it was the place for us to be- or our place to be there. However, the members talked and agreed to let us come in. This was an amazing experience! There were 30 plus people at the meeting- all women except for two men. The meeting begins with song - beautiful uplifting songs- sung with enthusiasm and energy! The women clap, dance, and sing loud! What a beautiful site! At this meeting-we were allowed to listen- Mavis translated for us - the women stood up and shared whatever they were feeling- later we were able to ask some questions- which I did. At the end of the meeting - after thanking them for opening up their meeting and lives to us - I asked for another song - we got two! And the women came and brought Carrie and I into the dancing! It was fantastic! Something I’ll never forget!

On a side note- so you understand how much people want to work- both Carrie and I were pulled aside- the women who spoke to me said- I want to come to America and work for you - I’ll wash your clothes, clean your house, etc. The same happened to Carrie - the women want to work and there is no work to be found where they are. I told the woman, if she were ever to come to America, I’d help her find work, not cleaning for me. We exchanged addresses - if only it could be that easy!

Another side note, which I don’t think I’ve mentioned and does not relate to this journal, in America I’m considered African American or Black, in Tanzania I was called white, and here in South Africa, I am considered colored! I just think that’s really interesting!

Tomorrow we’ll be visiting a clinic, talking to doctors, and meeting with the Ikhwezi group in the afternoon! It’s a full day!

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