I have finally started volunteering! But not doing what I am supposed to be doing yet. I will not be working at all at the youth center that is far away. It was just too difficult; not only to get there but also finding time to go because my friend that I was going to do it with is playing soccer so with practices and games and never really knowing what time we would get back, it would have been cutting it close, and it’s not safe to go by myself. So I am volunteering with the other people I mentioned before, who my “tour guide” set me up with. The place is called The Human Dignity Center, a Christian organization. The center is right outside a nearby township. It’s a free daycare for the kids of the township. Because it’s free to attend, there has to be a selection process to choose who can go. So basically, the poorest of the poor are allowed. Employees or volunteers of HDC do home visits in order to see how poor the families of the kids are. This is something I will be doing. I know it will be extremely difficult to deal with. The other things I know I will be doing is just playing with the kids and help with homework. I’m not sure about what else. The reason I haven’t started at the center yet is because there has been a lot of burglary so they closed the center to try to get the community to do something about it. They want fathers of the kids to volunteer to keep watch of the place. I’m not sure how this will work out. The fathers should be willing to seeing as most of them don’t do anything anyway. Around here there are a lot of black men just standing/sitting/laying around the streets waiting/hoping for someone to pick them up and give them some work. But if they’re not given work, they’re just standing/sitting/laying around all day.
Also, keep in mind these are not your picture-perfect families seen on American TV. There isn’t a mommy and a daddy and a couple kids in one home. Most of these people don’t get married because the man has to pay lobola (a certain amount of cows or sheep, for example) to the woman’s family if he wants to marry her and the people can’t afford that. And women usually have many children from many different men because men who do have jobs really get around. If he has a job the women want to sleep with him because he will probably make sure she has food to eat if he’s sleeping with her. There definitely isn’t any form of birth contraceptives involved either. So this small percentage of men in the township with a job, approximately five percent, are sleeping with many women, making babies all over the place, and surely passing HIV to some of these women, who in turn pass it to others, possibly including their unborn children.
Anyway, they hope to reopen the center next week, but we’ll see. In the meantime, I have been sent into the township to other daycares that HDC looks after in addition to their own center. The children are supposed to be registered with names, birth date, and annual height and weight, but the height and weight has not been done in years so that was my job. It wasn’t easy with the language barrier. Just about everyone speaks Xhosa and only some of the teachers knew some English. Even with those teachers, I had to get all the children’s names down, which are Xhosa and completely foreign to me. On top of that, everything is so disorganized. The teacher would tell me the kid’s name, I would write it down (either with her writing it or spelling it out to me because I could not even guess at how to spell these names) and then I would weigh him or her and later she would give me the same name again for a different kid. So who knows how inaccurate my list of weights is. Other than getting the weights, I just hung out and played with the kids. They were all over me and the other volunteers. They loved us taking pictures of them and they wanted to see them after and they constantly wanted to be hugging us or holding our hands or just touched. I loved every second of it.
Just to give you an image of these daycares and schools… The kids are well behaved and listen very well. Now, only if they could be taught some valuable lessons that seem to be missing from their lives. Knowledge about health can really predict one’s future: happiness or not, life or death. And very simple things can keep you relatively healthy. So all of the kids finished their lunches and went outside to play. Before they came back in again, the teacher yelled something in Xhosa and all the boys went to one side of the yard and peed and all the girls went to the other side and took turns peeing in some buckets. Earlier, I had seen these buckets with at the time, unknown liquid inside, get knocked over and trampled in while the kids played. And the kids didn’t wash their hands after any of this! And there was this thing that looked like a fake plastic grape the kids were playing with; passing around to each other, dropping it on the ground, putting it in their mouths, etc. With pee-hands. And what am I supposed to do? First of all, they couldn’t understand me if I did say something, but they aren’t going to learn anything if one person one time tells them not to do that. Something as simple as the importance of washing one’s hands is not taught to these kids so just imagine what they don’t learn when they’re older when lessons about sex and the consequences should be taught. That’s why those women sleep around; they don’t know any better. They believe that if girls haven’t had sex by age sixteen, something’s wrong with her. And having sex is equivalent to having babies because protection isn’t used. So who’s going to teach them otherwise? Their own presidents tell them extreme falsities that ultimately destroy lives. The former president, Mbeki, would not admit AIDS was even an issue, and their current president, Zuma, tells the people having sex with a virgin gets rid of AIDS. Outrageous.
I’m already upset that I have to leave these people in four months. It’s terrible…A bunch of strangers come together, forced to meet each other, get close, basically be your best friends for six months, and then poof, they’re gone, probably never see them again. The South Africans who live at Annie’s Cove (which is for international students for the most part) and other people that hang around international students for whatever reason always talk about so-and-so from last semester. We will be those stories next semester. “Oh remember Emily from last semester? Remember that time?” That’s all we’ll be. And even that will probably only last a semester! And then what?! Facebook friends…Great. I guess there’s nothing to do about it though besides keep in touch and hope they visit…
South Africans do not say “zee” for the letter z; they say “zet.” X-y-z = “ex-why-zet” and Z-o-n-a = “zet-oh-en-ay.” They don’t really have delicious cookies like we have at home. You know, Mom’s homemade cookies. They do, however, have a large variety of cookies or “biscuits” that are good with coffee or tea. It’s just not the same. Traffic lights are called “robots.” Senior year of high school is called “matric.” Pick-up trucks are called “bakkies” and riding in the back of them is legal. Apparently letting babies and kids ride on your lap in cars is okay too. Another reason Britney Spears would like it here is that you don’t have to wear shoes in public buildings like at the university or in stores.
This is the public link for my first photo album (7/10/09-8/15/09). It’s a big mix of things: Beach, animals, parties, PE, townships, etc. Hopefully it works. http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=2189055&id=42418007&l=7e7a3bc738