But she can write too! She e-mailed me this today.
Wow, what a day.
It started off with (my significant other) dropping me off at the main tent where all the corporate volunteers would meet in the center of the township – Orange Farm… horses and Donkeys all wondering around where I stood and enjoyed a cup of coffee and a sandwich in the chilly morning air. While my breath was turning into condensed moisture, I watched as the kids as they made their way in the freezing cold to their schools… on foot, some with no shoes and a very long distance to their destinations. And there I was, thinking that I would have preferred my coffee with milk and not creamer.
The bus with the rest of the (company name removed) volunteers arrived late, so I had some time (luckily in the company of about 20 policemen) to sit and survey the surroundings. A worker on horse and cart rushing off to wherever he needed to be, chickens running around, youngsters in tatty clothes running around playing with a football, others waiting for a taxi, to take them to where they would be working for the day, knowing they will only return in the dark hours of the evening. With all the hustle and bustle in the poorest place I have ever been, there were still so many people smiling greeting as they made their way to where they needed to be.
The elderly ladies serving coffee and tea, were only too grateful for the plight of these big companies, and thanked everyone who came and was served by them. These ladies giving their all to make sure everyone was warm, while all the people they were serving, busy on their expensive cell phones, and wearing brand name sneakers were enjoying the coffee provided. People arriving in merc’s and 4x4s – while these ladies standing there with hardly anything, humbly thanking us for our hard work.
We arrived on site even deeper in the heart of orange farm, after meeting Sylvia and Portia, the ladies who were registered with the NHBRC (building officials in SA) and who were heading the project. We met the old goggo we were building the house for, Oumatjie. We were immediately set to work, mixing cement, carrying bricks, throwing bricks, shoveling sand, jointing (which we learned was scratching out the concrete from between the bricks), cleaning the site, and just plain and simple working physically in tough conditions.
Us yuppies would not drink too much water or juice for fear of having to use the ablutions, never mind these people live with worse than what was offered to us. We were so busy that I never got a chance to actually LOOK at where we were.
Lunch time came, and I sat outside the house on the pile of sand, eating the pap and stew the old ladies had provided for us, and I saw. Dusty feet of kids after school running around in the street. Houses put together with scrap, bricks, wheels and tires piled on the roofs to keep them down in windy conditions, roads that cannot be driven by normal vehicles, trenches of mud, out-houses. And yet, the dogs were all so well kept, the chickens running around the yards were fat and healthy, kittens that were clearly happy and fed jumping around in the rubble.. Smiles on children’s faces.
BACK to work someone shouted, and off we went, brushing cement with a broom on to the bricked up walls, cement in my eyes, cement in my mouth, and whilst struggling away, I turned and noticed I had an audience. The neighbours were all sitting comfy in their outside chairs, watching my every move, two little ones still in their school uniform, sitting on crates up front watching as I struggled with sun in my eyes to get the cement to the highest brick on the wall..
Finally all we could do had been done, and the brick layers had to continue with their work, and we sat and admired our hard work… covered in cement from head to toe, and aching all over from the hard physical work, we were ready to go home. My audience yelled greetings, as we left, the builders posing for photographs, and the whole neighborhood sounded a great GOOD-BYE as we left.
(my significant other) picked me up and could only give a chuckle at my overall which was no longer red but grey with dust and cement, and the freckles of cement on my face – “Hard day’s work” he commented with a grin. I pulled my cap over my eyes and slept all the way home, jumped in a hot bath to relax my muscles and passed out by 8:30…
Hard day’s work, hard life for so many, and a hard nights rest. It will take me days to get over the muscle aches and pains, but the things I saw in that township, how these people live every day, will never leave my memory.
What an experience.