Went to Mtshabezi Mission today. It was interesting and kind of a strange day. Good, tho.
Got to the area in the morning and then took a long [bumpy**] ride to a high school a ways away, where it was parent-teacher day (Consultation Day). We got there just before 11am, just in time for tea, which didn’t actually involve tea but did involve bread and butter. Silly me, I only took one piece - I didn’t realize that it was our lunch ;>P Lesson learned: got ahead and take two pieces of bread. After tea, we split up and followed students around from room to room, teacher to teacher, learning about their progress.
I got to meet Peterson on the way home, and there was this moment when Ryan had his arm around him, and raised his eyebrows at me, “pretty great, right?” and I teared up a little and had to look away for a second so I didn’t start weeping in the road. Here is the boy whose family started it all. My broken bleeding heart went out to a little girl and her mother, HIV killing them hour by hour, many years ago, and here I stood with the boy who was left behind when they were gone. Here I stood with Peterson, the future of the Mpofu family. I look at the poverty he is living in, with his grandfather and cousin and neighbors. I look at how small he is for 14 and how destroyed his teeth are. I think of how he lived mostly alone for a year after his mom and Prudence passed away. And I am amazed.
I am amazed that this boy is still here. He is fighting for his life, but living his life. He, too, has HIV but the clinic nearby supplies his medicine and he is healthy for now. He walks 6 miles to school on probably the worst road I’ve ever ridden over (worse than the road to and from Morning Star - it took 45 minutes to traverse one-way in the van from the main road, a distance of only 12 miles or so). He plays soccer and rides his mountain bike. He lights up at the sight of Ryan. He plays with his cousin and neighbors and friends. He takes in all the adult talk and the child play around him, arms full of supplies, until finally we say he should put the things away so he can play, and then he jumps into soccer with Ryan.
We only stay 20 minutes and that is tough. The other little boys are hilarious, one in particular is a major clown - his name is Shepherd. After I take a video of Denis K and Denzel (the cousin) kicking the new soccer ball DK brought around, I show the boys the video and they think this is the funniest thing they’ve ever seen. Denzel, tho very small, has an enormous barking HA HA HA HA HA!!! laugh that I love. I couldn’t get it on video, tho, because it only came out when I was showing them the video on the camera! I got a little snippet of it when DK took a silly picture and then let them see. I hope to meet them all again, those boys. The other boy present was named Noel (pronounced more like Noelle) and seemed to also b having a blast but was a bit more quiet and shy. Hard to tell how old they all are, because you don’t know who has been sick and who is young. I’d say Shepherd and Noel were around 8 and Denzel maybe 6. I could be way off. I’ll put pictures on facebook when I can so you can see them all. There are a few pretty great ones of the group from today.
I got to meet Neatness that day as well, before we had left Mtshabezi, which was a much bigger pleasure than I could’ve anticipated. Most of the kids (and by that I mean, all of the kids) we meet who are of high school age are pretty shy. They generally won’t engage in much of a conversation, just smile or giggle and avert their eyes and walk away when they can. But Neatness was all about talking to us and having a good time. She is incredibly confident and spunky, has gumption and spark to spare, and I love her. She is my new African sister. She took my camera to look at a picture of the 2 of us, and then clicked thru ALL my other pictures! “Who is this? Who is this?” Meanwhile Obert is saying, “Okay we have to go!” for the third time from the far side of the van. I told N that my parents know who she is and pray for her, and then she saw pictures of them on the camera; when I got in the van, she said, “Say hi to your parents and your nieces and nephews, send them my love” or something like that. !!!
(More on Neatness here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jd3Jnw5cDsU)
This girl is amazing. She gave me this hug when someone started to take a picture and I didn’t want to let her go. The sweetness of Neatness! :>) It’s magic. I know a lot of people love her from the video she did and hearing her story, but now that I know her, I want to actually hang out with her and have her meet my family and friends. She’s THAT great. When we were talking to her about these crazy study days she’d had recently to get ready for exams (huge deal here, basically determines whether you graduate and go on to university or not), she said, “yeah, when I got sick, I was so tired, I thought about quitting, but then I didn’t. Winners don’t quit!” ?! I told ya - amazing. She’d been studying for these exams 7am-9pm for awhile. UGH. Anyway, she said she still had a bit of a sore throat but she was alright. Again, it’s hard to go, especially after such a brief visit. But I’ll see her again. She wants to come visit the States sometime, and I’m pretty sure she’ll manage it somehow - I sense that she knows how to put her mind to things and get it done, which is pretty extraordinary.
**If a ride is NOT bumpy, I will tell you :>) I may or may not say “hurray black top!” whenever we hit a real road - even if that real road is one lane with crumbling sides, which it often is, and the driver has to veer to the left, half off the road, to let the occasional other cars go in the other direction. As far a driving on the left is concerned, I don’t drive here, but after 2 weeks as a passenger, I’m pretty well adjusted to it. To the point that when we watched “Dan in Real Life” (one of my faves) the other night at the Kings and there was sky-high shot of Dan’s family driving in their station wagon on the highway, I thought for a split second, “Why are they driving on the wrong side of the road?” :>)