Monday, 23 January 2012

A grain of rice in the mouth is worth two on the floor

I realized the other day while I was sitting on someone's floor eating spaghetti with my hand out of a bowl shared with five other men that Mom would have a heart attack if she saw me. If I had started this blog in 2010 I suppose I could have written about this as a novel situation, but at the time it just struck me as comical that it has become an everyday occurrence. At first it was a challenge to roll the spaghetti into a ball with one hand (you don't touch food with your left - ask a Muslim about it) but now people here laugh at me because I've become Somali at it. Eating rice with your hands is a little messier, but still surprisingly doable. My friend Blacky claims to have never used a fork or spoon in his life. Okay, I'll admit it... when I eat rice I do leave a few grains on the floor. But that's why I eat over a towel or a mat.

I would really like the object of this blog to be other peoples' stories, but I am sifting through which stories are appropriate and which might put those involved in danger. As a disclaimer, most of my research has been among Somalis, and most of my close friends are Somalis, so the initial stories will probably focus on them. I'm working on making other friends and building connections between the different communities here. I'll tell you one thing: I have never met so many people who have been shot or stabbed. I met a Somali man the other day who was shot six times during a robbery. They dug his grave while he was in a coma in the hospital three years ago. Two of his neighbors at the shop on the next block weren't so lucky... 11 bullets each put them two meters underground, just because they are Somalis. Sometimes I'm amazed that people keep saying, "it's the same everywhere: some people are good, some are bad, it's like that."

Mayfair is full of people who have been shot or stabbed and now are too scared to go back and work in the locations. I saw a guy the other day who I had met two years ago, at which point he had told me the story of how some thieves poured gasoline on him and burned him alive. I'll tell you right now that I don't know how to even begin to tackle these issues, so if you have any ideas, maybe you can help me. It's not just the Somalis either... many people here are suffering. Apartheid and the lack of even economic development that leaves about 40% of Gauteng Province unemployed have created incredible social tensions. Many of the youths here have taken up drugs and gang involvement as an escape from the harsh realities of street life.

Global Venture Community Development Association is kicking off with our first computer skills training class this Saturday, at an internet cafe in Mayfair. We will be teaching typing and basic Microsoft Office. We hope to build the classes over the next year to the point where we can branch into database management, programming, and GIS applications, since we have expertise in those types of skills and since they can help people get jobs. GVCDA is planning to run classes every Saturday, and to branch from Mayfair to Yeoville or somewhere else in the city in the next couple months. As for me, I'm heading back to Miami next week, right on time to be three weeks late for class (my parents have encouraged this type of pattern since middle school; I'm not the one to blame). While I'm gone, we're hoping to also begin a small business development project in which we'll be purchasing equipment for small-scale street vendors that helps them do their job more effectively. If you would like to contribute or know somebody who would (funds, volunteer time, equipment, whatever), please let me know. Don't sweat it if you can't or if you just don't want to... I won't think any less of you.

Pictures and sound clips of our work here will hopefully follow soon, whenever I am able to access the internet from my own computer. As for now, I am off to read and sleep.

Blessings to all,

No comments:

Post a Comment