Wednesday, January 24, 2007

The sky is on fire and the donkeys are dieing

December was a very trying month for me. Unlike any sane volunteer, I chose to stay at site, in Aranos, and work to prepare for the next year and to run a few programs. The main plan that I had in mind was to run the soup kitchen around Christmas for the orphans and to distribute gifts that were donated by Conemaugh School of Nursing in Pennsylvania (You guys rock by the way, I’m sending you a DVD of the distribution, it went super well). I was also involved in helping with the newly established youth forum, a group that was brought about to better communication and relations among youth groups, in running their Christmas programs; most of which were centered on raising funds for the forum. The forums program for the holidays included: helping in the opening of the new playground -- which had been under construction since like march or so and still isn’t actually finished -- helping with a sports day, which didn’t happen, and also in the organization of and running of a bazaar, which was a disaster. It was also my intention to sit down and write some proposals and get ideas for the next year on paper, and to try to get a phone line put into my house so that I might be able to gain access the internet; the writing part worked out, the internet however was deemed impossible due to my location in the bush, there are no phone lines anywhere close to my house, this was sad news.
The first part of my plan, the soup kitchen and gift distribution, went great and kept me from losing my mind. I teamed up with several groups to pull off the soup kitchen, and in doing so it exceeded my expectations. I ended up working with a group of German volunteers who had something like 130 individually-wrapped, which I thought was classy, gifts to give out at the Christmas dinner that we held for the kids. Also, using money that was donated from KRI as well as additional food that a local church group organized, we were able to feed a tremendous number of kids, probably around 140 or so, a tremendously good meal. They also had extra to take home to their families, which made me happy. On Christmas Day I distributed large gift boxes to family groups, these were the gifts from the nursing school. It took almost all day because they were large and the amount of walking required to and from the squatter camp and my house, but it was for sure worth it. I got out 20 boxes, to families that ranged between 3 and 7 children, most had 5 or so, so to about 100 kids. This was the good part of the break.

The thing that made the break bad was the atmosphere of the village and the youth groups. Never in my life have I seen a community transform the way it did over the holiday, which here is called the festive season. At every hour of the day people were drinking, and not the kind of knock back a few cold ones and enjoy Christmas kind of drinking, but the kind of beat your wife with a rock drinking. People became very aggressive and demanding, to a degree which I had never seen. Also, its a common thing to be asked owe me two rand, or owe me food or water; but something about the festive season made people think that things were owed to them. This made the questions less of questions, and more direct, and at times, aggressive demands, amplified even more when alcohol was involved. The community in Aranos has suffered from a very oppressive past, and it is in my opinion that many of the dependency issues present here are spawned from a paternalistic relationship linked with the remnants of apartheid, something very similar to the bonds which remained during the late 1860s 1870s, after the abolition of slavery, in the south between oppressor and oppressed. The culture here is struggling to find itself, after years of being told what it was not to be, and with little or no knowledge of what it was before. Even with this in mind, it was very difficult to watch some of the things that occurred. I watched several husbands stone their wives while their children and neighbors just watched. I too just watched – its difficult describe how it feels to watch something like this happen, knowing there is no one to call, that the police will not come for this, and knowing the physical harm that would come to me if I were to step in, even when you know the person has taken enough, that the injuries are becoming severe. The men spent a night in jail, to sober up, then were released. I watched as youth drank for days and destroyed their own programs. I watched a youth assault another youth with a metal baseball bat, cracking the kids face open – this happened during the bazzar and was perpetrated by the kids I was working with, which were drunk. I thought the kid was dead. I eventually got him to the hospital, and he ended up making it through. The kid that did the hitting is still around, and nothing was done to him. These were just some of the things that I saw, though much more happened that I was glad not to see, just to hear about. I spent a lot of time at my flat. No other volunteers were around.
To top things off, the donkeys hit their mating season the males went into a frenzy, fighting and biting each other. Several bleed to death from bite wounds. It also rained on Christmas eve, turning the sunset sky into fire, which was beautiful. However, the storm knocked out our cell service for days. Luckily I spoke with Kev on Christmas Eve, but all wasn’t able to hear from anyone until a week after.
The sky was on fire the donkies were dying.


At 1:56 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm soooo glad you moved to Opuwo! S.L


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