Be the Cause

Seventeen Travelers will visit the HIV/AIDS rampant country of South Africa to engage in a “Service Vacation”.

December 11th, 2004 Saturday

Today we begin with an airy breakfast out near a flea market. Some of us venture out into the market for some quick browsing., Only to find, that we are going to need to sharpen our bargaining skills.

Sister Beverly meets up to have breakfast with us. She runs Camp Joy, an orphanage for boys. After a stop to buy mops and cleaning supplies, we head off to Camp Joy. Greeted by many happy young boys, we gather around a large table for our “intro” meeting. But the meeting is postponed! The boys start playing music on the table, as if it was a drum. They sing and play, and we try to keep up with them. They surprise us with the lyrics, not to mention the staggering talent pouring from them. Finally, we all calm down. After a tour, we begin. Teams break up to clean the kitchen, make do library, toilets, bedrooms, and the large hall that is extremly multi purposeful. The boys are all very eager to help. In all the hard work and play, we manage to create a slip and slide in the main hall. Large amounts of water everywhere. Once the laughter stops, we realize that we have to clean it all up!

The water is finally out, and clean up is over. After some refreshing water and juice, we say bye to the boys and pack up. Next we head to the beach to greet another group of street kids that Sister Beverly works with.

We meet the street kids, hear their stories. Some have AIDS, it is apparent by their body structure. The stories you hear make you stop and think. But the child is able to get up and go jump in the water with laughter. After some good indian food, we go for a swim in the tidal pool withthe kids. Then the drums come out, and dancing does not end till sunset. Noone wants to leave. Each child recieves a toothbrush, toothpaste, and a pair of clothes. The rest of the clothes are given to Sister Beverly to disperse. Our hearts sink, as all the kids leave to go “home”…. the street.

South Africa – Reflections

South Africa holds beautiful landscapes and wonderful people, as well as economic hardships and remnants of aparthaid. A bitter sweet picture is painted as greenery extends for miles into townships, informal shanty-town settlements where tin roofs and dirt floors are the status quo.

So much was seen and experienced it’s hard to take in all the extremes but at the end of the day, it comes down to people and the human experience. The knowledge that one in every four people passed has HIV and that the child I am playing with and wrestling with has AIDS is a sobering and self reflecting experience. Despite all the seemingly sour conditions people are warm and friendly exuting a soft spirit of life that is hard to describe because the mother’s smile is mixed with warmth, stress and strength. I’ve never received so many smiles and waives from children, men and women in my life, its contagious. This caused interesting ripples here in California as I smiled at a women here on my second day home when eye contact was made and was suprised to find nothing sent in return, it was then I realized we were no longer in South Africa.

For a moment, I was sad and missed the place that burned such a strong impression of the triumphant human spirit in my mind and heart. Though comfort came, as I remembered that place and my fortunate position to of even been there to witness it and recalled my duty to smile and tell all those interested of my wonderful journey and the very real paradigm shift that it sparked.

People there live life so fully with what seems to Western eyes to be so little, and that lesson will bring me through the trying and stressful times that my 1st world perspectiv e argues I should be bummed out about. I’ll just remember my brothers and sisters in Africa and pick up and carry on. For as one man said to me with fire in his eyes and joy in his voice, “to live like a king you must work like a slave.” Simple and profound were these words, and that is typical of South Africa, from the people to the food.

My wish is for all to visit not just this particular place but all the places in the world like it from South America to the Russian and Chinese borders, for there exist a reality that is so benificial to our own that can only be experienced and lived. It serves as a measurment and comparison for appreciation and gratitude and the opporunity for self exploration and awareness. It is far too easy to nestle in a comfortable defensive stance and numb ourselves from the truth and reality of life for other humans on the planet. It is this life ingredient that expands worldviews and shifts paradigms, which in turn combats closed-mindedness and bestows care and fullfillment of the void of a selfish life.

I am not even truly sure how much and to what extent I’ve been impacted other than to say I am still processing the many wonderful people, places and things we saw and did from playing congos on the beach with street kids overlooking the Atlantic Ocean to eating with my bear hands maze and cabbage with the Zulu people. In the end, I took so much more than I gave from South Africa. The people, hills and smiles will remain with me always….along with the hope for a better tomorrow for all people in the world and the desire to want to play a part in the solution. The poverty, disease and misfortunes are bigger than me, than any one human or group and it will take a global community made up of you and me to fix. And it is on this truth that I rest. Be the cause.

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