1. One of the women at the clinic who wouldn't look at me during my first week actually said my name this week. And she wasn't yelling at me when she did it. I think it may have been partially due to the fact I bought Ntombikayise (our technician) a stuffed dog for her son's first birthday (May 21st). She was showing it around to everyone, so I must have made some points. Interestingly, first birthdays are a big thing here like in the U.S. There was no party, no cake, not big presents. I don't think it's about money, I think it's just that they don't celebrate kids like Americans do.
2. On Monday Tami (our pharmacist) was about three hours late coming to work. So, I had to be the pharmacist for the morning. I gave out medications to about 20 people. I didn't get their names exactly right, which was a cause for laughter with Ntombikayise. The patients were friendly and I only had one get a little frustrated when I couldn't understand her question. Ntombikayise came to my rescue and everything was fine.
3. While packing the monthly food parcels yesterday a couple women in the HIV support group started a conversation with me. They were actually telling me what to do like I was just a regular guy and part of the group. That made me feel very good, because I don't want to be seen as anything other than a friend.
Last week I was told by an American working in Botswana that it takes a couple months before people open up and trust you. I guess he was right. It will be fun to see what the next two months brings.
Well, the third try really is the charm. Yvonne managed to get a third group of men with hopes of getting the bungalow moved. And, wouldn't you know, it's working. She asked one of the cleaners at the Centre to round up some guys. This woman found a guy who found three others. They took the bungalow down on Tuesday in only 90 minutes. Yvonne's waiting for another guy she knows to bring his truck around so the panels can be moved, at which point the four new guys will reassemble it. I'm not holding my breath but it's possible it will all be sorted out by this weekend. And just in time, too. Nomasomi's daughter has been beaten up twice in the past month because other kids know she has money to travel back and forth to school. She needs to get settled and in a school closer to home. Stay tuned.
The President Comes to Zwane! (Sort of)
We got word late yesterday that the Deputy President, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, was coming to the Centre today as part of a day-long tour around Cape Town. She's currently the Acting President because the real President, Thabo Mbeki, is out of the country and the constitution calls for the Deputy to take over when the President is away. Ms. Mlambo-Ngcuka has spent a lot of time in Guguletu in her lifetime, and she is very well liked and well respected there. Many people would like to see her become the next president when elections are held in 2009. Because of the way the political process works here, she is considered the front-runner right now because she is the second-in-charge in the ruling party.
As you can imagine, it was a beehive of activity this morning. Rev. Spiwo is gone for a few days in the Eastern Cape, so it fell to Edwin and Zethu (Rev. Spiwo's wife, the head person at Brown's Farm clinic (my boss) and head of the Zwane HIV support group) to make sure everything was in order. (I think Spiwo called Zethu about 5 times this morning to make sure everything was okay, so he really was in charge.) She stayed at the Centre for about 45 minutes. Edwin did a great job of explaining what we do and how every program is designed to meet a community need. Because the Deputy President has a special interest in HIV/AIDS, Edwin and Zethu spent more time on the AIDS hospice programme, even bringing some of the patients and caregivers to the meeting. Siyaya, JL Zwane's music and drama group, did two songs that were well received. After a few words of encouragement and congratulations, she left in her bullet-proof BMW.
Because it was “Take Your Girl-child to Work Day” Ms. Mlambo-Ngcuka had five girls shadowing her for her visit. Each was in her mid-teens and came from a different high school in Cape Town. She took the girls to Parliament for cabinet meeting to let them see the political process at work before coming to Zwane. I was impressed that she really engaged the girls, even making one of them speak at the Centre to show that impromptu speaking skills are important.
It was interesting to watch the process and compare it to U.S Presidential visits. They didn't block off any roads, although the police made sure no cars were hanging around. There were only 6 or 8 “secret service” officers, basically one for every door. People were walking around freely, with no restricted areas. Indeed, people were coming in off the street and sitting down to watch the show. The motorcade was 6 cars, with only one SUV and including a VW Golf. I cannot imagine a U.S. Presidential motorcade with a VW of any kind, let alone a little Golf. The laid-back atmosphere added to the personal sincerity that the Deputy President seemed to exude.
Here's a picture of me shaking her hand just to prove I was there. I didn't realize how pale I am, even after being out of the Minnesota winter for two months. I really need to get outside more. Here's also a picture of Edwin, Yvonne, and Zethu with the Deputy President, with the hospice director (Ed) and manager (Esther) standing behind them. The other guy is security.
More to come.