Monday, June 12, 2006

Farewells I Hate


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.

13 comments:

TwoFlower said...

all i can say that you are really an amazing person to do what you do. i admire you, and after reading your post i admire those people you work with (the kids not your horrible boss).

reading your blog and the bits about how people will do anything to help their community makes me believe that SA has a future and quite possibly a very bright one.

i'm so 'proudly South African' its scary! ha ha!

Peas on Toast said...

What an experience babe!

I'm sure it must be heartbreaking to say goodbye - but rest assured, you've done more than most of us can say we've done, and you've obviously touched some lives along the way.

Big pat on the back. It can't be easy leaving.

PS: I'm headed off to Gaza to find one of my cars. ;)

fly said...

an incredible experience im sure.... leaves me quite speechless actually...

Champagne Heathen said...

Thank you 2Flower, that is too sweet!!

Keep the flag flying proudly, and claim part of this crazy change!!
I love that I get to tell my grandkids one day that I was intricately involved in everything from clashing swords with HIV to dancing it up with the nouveau riche up-and-rising black class of Jozi to seeing rural Mozam before Industry hits it in a few decades.

Champagne Heathen said...

Thanks for the reminding Peas! It helps in one way, makes me wanna take back my resignation in another way. I love the people in the field, unfortunately I got caught up in the politics of the development world...mainly against the guys in suits who wouldn't have the first clue what a African dirt road looks like.

Ooo if you go to Gaza, please load your boot up with kilos of cashew nuts!!

Revolving Credit said...

You've learnt a lot, grown as a person through this experience & probably given quite a bit back.

Take solace in the fact that this will help carry you through life and possibly create greater opportunities for you to make a difference.

Champagne Heathen said...

Thanks Fly!! I just reread it and am thinking FCK, how on earth will I ever be able to get back such an opportunity, what have I done, maybe I didn't give this company enough of a chance... Although then I can just read back on past posts, especially ones of me having to support Abstinence-Only training, and well, I remember what I am doing this for. (It is interesting to say that George Bush is a reason for resigning one's job in Africa!!...)

I am hoping my attempt as of next month into HIV social research will continue to allow me to keep meeting amazing people in this region, and travelling to the strangest places in Africa, where the people stare at you for a good few minutes cos they never ever see a whitey around those parts, and you have to shake their hands, no matter what their age, and then they just fall in love with you, and tell you so everytime you see them.

Man, I am getting soppy.

Champagne Heathen said...

Thanks Revolving! That's what I have to keep reminding myself - that all of this is taking me to the top gradually, where I get to have influential say in luxuriant GlenEagles-type places, and it will actually make a positive difference, as I have (had) somewhat of a clue of what is going on down there in the little ol' impoverished townships.

In the development world it is one of our biggest dilemmas; the higher you move up the ladder, the further you get from the reality, and the more entrenched you get into the rich first-world capitals. You want to get to the top of the ladder, but you don't want to do it while cocooned in Geneva.

TwoFlower said...

Gleneagle-type places? whats that...? sorry - bit slow on some of the lingo, been studying ALL day! my brain is ever so slightly moggy!

Champagne Heathen said...

No worries. I just had to google it to double check - as it's pre-coffee.

Glen Eagles is an extremely luxuriant hotel in Scotland where, last year, the G8 (leaders of the richest, most influential countries in the world) got together to discuss poverty in the world & debt alleviation. Very very ironic setting for the topic of discussion.

fly said...

I get very sad about the state of Africa, then I get very angry at the US international policy towards it...

The rich get richer and the poor get poorer and I would like to think that SA is at least trying to turn that around but driving on the highways and seeing fatcats in their B plate M-Class Mercedes makes me just wanna run them off the roads...

I sometimes feel like im bound at the wrists in this regard but you can make a difference if you put your mind to it...small things you do may seem insignificant to some but make a big difference to others and thats what counts at the end of the day ;o)and props to you for trying....

Champagne Heathen said...

I am at a complete loss over the state of Africa and SA. There are some changes that gets me so excited & hopeful, and then there are people I meet, policies I watch implemented, or situations I witness spiralling down that make me so cynical and think, what would be so bad about emigrating to France.

As you and others in the Development Industry keep telling me - just do your small bit, and don't look at the big picture too often, otherwise you will get overwhelmed.

To include an overdone example - back in the day people didn't think they could overcome Apartheid, they just fought their butts off in every way. I gotta somehow believe that the same will come with the eradication of the HIV epidemic and the upliftment of Africa.

Anonymous said...

Your job as a future mother is to learn the god's ways and to help your child understand despite the negative reinforcement and conditioning of today's society. Without consciousous parents the child will have no hope, and may even exaserbate their disfavor by becoming corrupted in today's environment.
Your ultimate goal is to fix your relationship wiith the gods and move on. You don't want to be comfortable here, and the changes in Western society in the last 100 years has achieved just that.
1000 years with Jesus is the consolation prize. Don't be deceived into thinking that is the goal.

The gods tempt people for which they are most weak. Artificial Intelligence will create desire in people's minds for the following sins:::
1. Alcohol
2. Drugs
3. Preditory "earning"
4. Homosexuality
5. Gambling
6. Something for nothing/irresponsibility (xtianity)
7. Polygamy/superiority over women/misogyny (Islam)
Much like the other prophets Mohhamed (polygamy/superiority over women/misogyny) and Jesus (forgiveness/savior), the gods use me for temptation as well. In today's modern society they feel people are most weak for popular culture/sensationalism, and the clues date back to WorldWarII and Unit731:TSUSHOGO.
It has been discussed that, similar to the Matrix concept, the gods will offer a REAL "Second Coming of Christ", while the "fake" Second Coming will come at the end and follow New Testiment scripture and their xtian positioning. I may be that real Second Coming.
What I teach is the god's true way. It is what is expected of people, and only those who follow this truth will be eligible to ascend into heaven as children in a future life. They offered this event because the masses have just enough time to work on and fix their relationship with the gods and ascend, to move and grow past Planet Earth, before the obligatory xtian "consolation prize" of "1000 years with Jesus on Earth" begins.

The Prince of Darkness, battling the gods over the souls of the Damned.
It is the gods who have created this environment and led people into Damnation with temptation. The god's positioning proves they work to prevent people's understanding.
How often is xtian dogma wrong? Expect it is about the Lucifer issue as well.
The fallen god, fighting for justice for the disfavored, banished to Earth as the fallen angel?
I believe much as the Noah's Flood event, the end of the world will be initiated by revelry among the people. Revelry will be positioned to be sanctioned by the gods and led for "1000 years with Jesus on Earth".
In light of modern developments this can entail many pleasures:::Medicine "cures" aging, the "manufacture" of incredible beauty via cloning as sex slaves, free (synthetic) cocaine, etc.
Somewhere during the 1000 years the party will start to "die off", literally. Only those who maintain chaste, pure lifestyles will survive the 1000 years. They will be the candidates used to (re)colonize (the next) Planet Earth, condemned to relive the misery experienced by the peasantry during Planet Earth's history.
If this concept of Lucifer is true another role of this individual may be to initiate disfavor and temptation among this new population, the proverbial "apple" of this Garden of Eden. A crucial element in the history of any planet, he begins the process of deterioration and decay that leads civilizations to where Planet Earth remains today.

Only children go to heaven. By the time you hit puberty it is too late. This is charecteristic of the gods:::Once you realize what you have lost it is too late.
Now you are faced with a lifetime to work to prepare for your next chance. Too many will waste this time, getting stoned, "Hiking!", working, etc.