Every morning, a sea of thirty pre-school voices greet me as I go past the playground. I never knew what they were saying, so I’d smile or give a little wave and half-ignore them, not knowing what they were saying. I learned yesterday that malume means uncle but is often used as a term of respect. So, oops.
By my coworker’s count, 29 people are employed at Zesize. Yesterday (and many days) there were four cars. And Ingwavuma, by many accounts, has gotten a lot more wealthy over the past few years. So that gives you a bit of an idea what gainfully employed individuals in a rural town such as this, even one that’s getting wealthier, can afford.
During yesterday’s school meeting with the radio project kids, they were asked to come up with themes for next week’s broadcast, which occurs shortly before the Heritage Day holiday and will be somewhat related to the idea of heritage. One kid suggested the theme of “Thank God I’m a black man”. After a beat, everyone looked at me to see if I was offended. I wasn’t but I enjoyed the awkwardness of the situation.
Tonight I had my first full conversation in Zulu; granted, it was merely the simplest of exchanges, but I was quite proud of knowing what to say.
I learned today that all the land around here is owned by the king of the Zulus and people have a ‘Permit to Occupy’ (PTO, as they’re known) at best. This, apparently, has its upsides (prices are low and even the poor can afford land) and downsides (can’t be used as collateral at a bank; impedes business development).
Today was quite nice. I went to watch the SA rugby test match at a local lodge with the family friend’s fiance. It was a good time. And it was my first beer in two weeks. After we had a simple lunch on his stoep and dozed for a little bit before hiking out to the edge of the mountains, where they drop down into Swaziland. On one side one can see Mozambique as well and the Ingwavuma river winds through some small hills. On the other, it faces the west and the plains of Swaziland on a shear drop of 600m or 700m. We watched a beautiful sunset from there.
It’s been nice living this little slice of African life; for me it has been a simple and calming time. But I’m not worrying about money, food, clothing, shelter or really much at all right now. I don’t want to misrepresent this area, though. For all the of the romantic ideals of African life, life here is difficult for the average person. For its increased wealth, Ingwavuma still has issues of high unemployment. HIV/ AIDs effects nearly every family and the taboo of the subject hurts the situation even more. Carrying water from the pumps, which run intermittently, a job often left to children, is time-consuming and takes up time when they could be studying or playing. There are water-borne illnesses. Mosquitoes carry malaria. I could continue on, but I think you get the idea.
Just a couple more days here. I’ll be sad to go.