Jonathan Field - Maker of Random Stuff

Sophie and I drive out to Ncome pretty early with Zenzo. We have a few classes to do there; we’ll be taking some of the kids and teachers beyond just KidPix today, which is cool.

We arrive and meet up with the teachers, and they bring in the kids. We take them through several exercises in a game called “match-it” that is good for learning English words. Sophie and I assist individuals, as Zenzo, Mr. Mbatha, and Mrs. Kubheka lead things.

Sophie also ducks outside to get some quick pictures of the kids. The youngsters get bowls of rice and squash today. They seem to like it. The older kids do some traditional dancing. They seem to like being photographed.

Right before we leave, Zenzo attempts to join in the traditional dancing, but the kids all laugh at him. This leads to me questioning his Zulu street cred.

There is an assembly in the afternoon, so we leave during lunch. We head over to a school where Donna has brought Simangaliso to help with their spreadsheet needs, and maybe make some connections that could result in further work.

After wrapping up there, Sophie and I drive back to town with Zenzo and Simangaliso. As we cross the one lane bridge on the way back, Simangaliso warns us not to come out this way at night. Once he was in a car going across the bridge, and a group of people blocked them and started throwing rocks at the car. Luckily they were able to back out and flee.

We drop off Simangaliso up town, the rest of us buy some last minute supplies for tonight’s big dinner. Then we drop off Zenzo, and return to the backpackers with Sophie. But Zenzo calls a moment later to ask if I can give him a ride to the hospital so he can pick up some food for his sister. We had bumped into his sister when i dropped him off, her having just walked back from the hospital carrying one of the babies of the house, a nearly two year old boy. I head over to get him, and we pick up a substantial box full of food supplies from the hospital.

As we drive back, I ask him how the food program works. He tells me that they get free food for the child his sister was carrying earlier, because he has HIV. He is the son of Zenzo’s sister that died last year. He is on ARV’s, so he’ll be okay for some time, though he’ll have to take the pills religiously until there is a cure.

After a short bit of relaxation, we head over to have dinner at Zenzo’s place. This is a big night; I’ve never had dinner at Zenzo’s, or even in Sibongile. And it’s Sophie’s last night in town too.

Zenzo’s sister has prepared some lovely smelling curried chicken, and Zenzo and I set to work preparing some stiff pap. It goes pretty well, and his mother stops by to check, impressed that we’ll be treating her. She starts giving some cooking advice and Zenzo rushes her out of the kitchen.

As usual the children are toddling around. I’ve never seen anyone discipline their kids here, they seem to raise them with a very laid back attitude. And the kids seem to be very well behaved — they are quiet and they just walk around and check things out most of the time.

Now that I know one of the little boys had HIV, it’s hard not to look at him with a bit of tragic empathy. He’s such a serious little fellow, and it’s hard not to think he is somehow made serious by his condition.

Dinner comes out very well. In addition to the curry chicken and stiff pap, Donna has brought some tangy chakalaka. Zenzo and I set the plates up, we gather round the table, say grace, and Alan takes a picture. Something goes weird with the camera, though. I had to crank all the levels to get it to look even that clear. But I still like seeing us all together there.

After dinner, Zenzo, Sophie, and I do the dishes while Alan and Donna talk with his mom. She says she is honored that we have come to her place. Her neighbors will be impressed that she has white guests. But mostly I think she just takes it as a sign of hope.

It makes me wonder, because I don’t know how much hope we really offer. I mean, it’s nice and all for us to pay for dinner, provide short term employment for one of her sons, and perhaps most importantly the friendship and respect of white people. But don’t see how it will change their fortunes.

We wrap things up shortly after and head out to the car. As we’re about to leave a cool encounter takes place: I hear what sounds like a ping pong ball hit the brick side of the house and then fall to the ground without bouncing. We are all a bit startled and we look down to see a dung beetle. It is dark out, but it’s a neat looking creature from what I can tell: it is about the size and shape of a half ping pong ball, but sports a shiny black shell with a midnight blue tint. Alan picks it up, but it squirms and he drops it. It lands on its back and is apparently unable to turn itself back over. So Alan helps; it takes a couple tries because it won’t stop struggling, but eventually he rights it, and a moment later it flies off.

We hug and say goodbye — to Zenzo’s family, not the dung beetle — and head back to our respective places sleep.

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