So on Friday, between all the blog banter, I had to finally face up to one of my last tasks at this job. I have been avoiding it for a good month now, but with less than a week left it had to be done. I had to say goodbye to the darling children and teachers in Orange Farm. It was my most difficult task, and they're the complete fault I have stuck in this painful job for so long. It was difficult to vess up to the teachers and to myself that this means I won't be keeping some of my promises to them (mainly HIV awareness training, as they are desperate for it & need it so to be confident in in turn teaching the kids), but they have my number and if they are clever enough they will realise that my guilt from this means that I will do almost anything for them, just at the drop of one "Please Call Me".
On Friday I also realised that, after months of attempts, the crazy children remember my name. Although, granted, I still get a couple of "Mrs Mulungu" calls. (How is it that you spell that 'whitey' word?). At the one school about 50 of them, who had managed to get me to sit down with them piled on top of me, found it very necessary to each give me a kiss on the cheek goodbye. Too sweet. I am such a sucker.
Orange Farm, and some of my other crazy ventures during the last year have taught me:
-there are some incredible people in this country who have fck all hope or opportunity but will work their butts off to help their community get somewhere;
-there are some people who will do anything for money or prestige, and this has nothing to do with how rich or poor, intelligent or stupid, principled or otherwise they appear - they are everywhere;
-there are women out there having children simply to get the R180/ month child grant from the government, which they then use on their hair, not their babies;
-the government officials at local & district level are to be admired for how much effort they put in, from there on up something seems to happen to some of their work ethics;
-Orange Farm is the largest informal settlement in SA. It is just off from the Grasmere tollgate. It has an indeterminable population but last I heard in passing was 1.2 million people. 70% of these people are unemployed, but will give anything to be do anything, preferably legal. The government is meant to be setting up RDP houses soon instead of the shacks & they are fixing and tarring the many terrible dirt "roads". I do not know HIV stats;
-The Gauteng Dept. of Health is meant to be building a hospital in Ennerdale to relieve Bara Hospital from the people who are not yet dying but still need medical assistance – this is great news and so badly needed;
-We're building a Gautrain for people to get from Sandton to the airport, but it would help a helluva lot for better safe transport systems from Orange Farm to Jo'burg, so people could head up there for little cost to seek employment;
-Within the past 18 months there has been an incredible amount of change in Orange Farm;
-A young white girl can travel all over Orange Farm & Sharpeville on her own, feeling safe, and have a smash-and-grab later that evening in Greenside;
-People are still in denial in Orange Farm that HIV exists and is easily transmitted. They also are too scared to admit to having a disease that they are not to blame for contracting - anyone of us could have it;
-No matter if you are an AIDS orphan in Orange Farm (of which there are far too many!) or a rich kid in Bryanston, you think that adults in the other setting are talking to the kids there about sex and HIV & they know more. Adults in neither setting seem to be talking or confident enough to broach the subject;
-These AIDS orphans are so gorgeous and sweet and I hope they prove the theories wrong and become kick-ass individuals who rule this country;
-People still do not have the necessary knowledge about how one contracts HIV, how to protect oneself and one's family, that you cannot get it from casual contact & that you should not have your child taken away from you just because you are positive;
-If you have had your car stolen, head to Chokwe in Mozambique (the Gaza province), where they do not even take of the GP license plates of the cars they drive around that small town;
-How can you expect people in the Transkei to use condoms to protect themselves when the closest clinic is 20 km away over hectic mountains, and it costs R40 one way just to get to the closest, poorly stocked shops;
-It would be nice for our government officials to spend their budgets in a proper consistent manner over the full year, and not a mad dash at the end;
-It would be nice for them to spend this money as people in the Eastern Cape are desperate and there are some fairly simple needs that can be met - like improving infrastructure, especially just tarring the roads so that these top government officials can drive their new big black mercs inland to see that schools are missing roofs, that clinics are non-existent etc.
-Each South African should learn at least two official languages, as it is embarrassing asking my American colleague to translate Zulu for me;
-There is a great Shisa Nyama (Buy & Braai) spot in Orange Farm, where you buy your meat & pap & they braai it by the side of the road, and that is gonna be my lunch on my last day at this job, and say my final goodbye to working in Orange Farm.