the barking dogs

As well as posting sections of my research based on my experiences in South Africa I will also begin posting old journal entries from my time there to give some context with pictures included.
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(photo: Zonkizizwe at sunset.)

15 May 2008
It is never quiet here. There is always noise during the day; children going to school, women cooking and cleaning, traffic outside, chickens, men arguing, whistling, people gambling, anything – and especially Zonke lights up after school and work; loud music, flying kites, children running around everywhere at the center, adults trying to relax with friends and relatives – and then there are the dogs. . . Oh the dogs, how they incessantly bark at night, a constant. If there are no other constants in South Africa, here it is: the dogs, searching and fighting for food scraps among the rubbish.

Today we went to Pretoria, administrative [Executive] capital of SA (South Africa) to take care of errands and pick up the long awaited NPO certificate for VVOCF. There have been many setback and long waits, but now it is here! Now officially an NPO, growing community connections, this center will be ready for the future!

In Pretoria we went to five different banks before finding one since arriving at the airport that does foreign exchange, however we forgot our passports! Is that really needed to change money? At any rate we are going to Alberton tomorrow where we can change money. So we were able to see much of Pretoria by walking from bank to bank. We stopped to have some pizza at a shady looking shop run by a white Afrikaner, but it was terrible (not even comparable to the delicious pizza of Ghana prepared by the Lebanese businesses) – better luck next time I hope.

Yesterday, one of the VVOCF staff members was able to tell us about growing up during apartheid, the political violence, and the divide of peoples in Zonkizizwe. We asked if he knew the toyi-toyi dance march from a song on the computer. He knew it well and remembered from there the divisiveness of the ANC, which was majority Xhosa people and the IFP, dominated by Zulu people. The violence between the groups was very intense in Zonke until just after 1996. He had to be dressed as a girl so that he would not be killed. Boys were expected to fight or be killed. He guessed that most of his family would be dead if the violence had not stopped when it did.

A few days ago ‘China’ (nickname of a volunteer at the center) was able to give me a near complete rundown of South African history in brief, he loves history and historic name dropping, but we have heard little of his own experiences. It is crazy to think about how those living now in Zonke around my age lived through apartheid and witnessed such terrible acts of violence.

I also learned more about the extent of HIV/AIDS in Zonke. The intern coordinator reminded us that the statistic of students at MSU that have an STD is 1 in 4. We are only lucky that HIV/AIDS did not enter the mainstream population. Here in Zonke 1 in 4 people is HIV positive. The family at the center is more so affected by HIV/AIDS and now they work to care for children who come the center affected by the virus. There is still a very high stigma and a terribly ineffective ARV program. Many people refuse to get tested or even consider the idea. Each child at the center either has HIV (we went to the Natal-Spruit Hospital to get ARVs for one), has lost parents from AIDS or related illnesses or has not yet been tested to know. There are many who should be tested, but are not. My pen pal’s family has stopped coming to the center because they are so sick – I can only assume related to HIV/AIDS. We discovered the “2006-2008 Response Plan for HIV/AIDS” of the South African government. It has come to my attention that much of what the government does here looks good on paper and on banners, but there is a huge, massive disconnect in implementation.

I have learned so much Zulu tonight. Again, I have been able to naturally pick up a language. I think this stems from my childhood of sound/ noise making. I can make a loud clicking sound from the roof of my mouth that no one I know can replicate. It turns out to be how you make one of the clicking syllables of Zulu.

First entry in this series:
what are we to do when our children are dying?

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