July 2, 2009
“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.”
Our first stop of the journey is at the small coastal community of Victoria Bay. We are staying in safari tents in the middle of a mountainside, surrounded by trees, solitude, and monkeys.
I am awestruck, in every moment, simply by the vibrancy of being alive. There is magic in every breath of wind, every rustling branch, every bird’s whisper, every stroke of the Painter’s brush across the sky.
Life, in its rawest form.
That people go through their lives without fully awakening their senses to experience and engage and live is one of the greatest tragedies in the world.
Peace. I am enveloped in it, as the sun casts its final glow across the day. Life, for this brief moment, is perfect.
July 9, 2009
I was up before the sun to witness its awakening… it was surreal, casting brilliant hues of light across the sky, their reflections turning the sea into a glistening mirror of color. It was entrancing…
one of those moments when life stops and you forget to breathe.
I went on a safari today. It was a journey that cannot be adequately described with words.
July 10, 2009
We crossed over the Kei today, entering the Transkei area where we will spend the rest of the month.
The change is drastic…dry, arid landscape; mud huts; no white people anywhere; poverty; women in long skirts or colorful dresses carrying water on their heads; animals roaming free; barefooted children running alongside the road, waving as we pass…
…it is beautiful.
“A traveler without observation is a bird without wings.”
-Moslih Eddin Saadi
July 15, 2009
I think you cannot truly know that a world like this exists until you actually see it.
There are so many thoughts to think; sometimes my head is not big enough for them all.
July 16, 2009
The Peach Hut
I sit on the doorstep of a mud hut in Lubanzi watching the sunlight play tricks across the valley. It is a peach-colored hut. It smells of paint and must and cow dung. It is my home for the next eleven days.
The Peach Hut sits atop a mountain, overlooking the sea on one side and a valley on the other, with cows and donkeys and sheep wandering freely, littering the ground with future flooring material.
Lubanzi is a world removed from the world I left… It is a world where time is marked by the rising of the sun and the returning home of the sheep; a world where candles are a necessity rather than a festivity; a world where a “shower” consists of a small basin of water carried up from the river; a world where light switches and faucets and stoves and televisions do not exist.
We hiked 21K’s along the coast to get here; up mountains, down mountains, across long stretches of deserted sandy beaches, over rocks jutting up from the sea, alongside pods of dolphins…
It is an hour and a half walk to the village of Zithulele… a walk I will become very familiar with over the next week as I work in the village’s HIV/AIDS clinic and the pediatric ward at the Zithulele Hospital.
July 19, 2009
Today my friend and I taught a group of 70 Zithulele school children. They had no chairs to set on the dung floor, no brightly-lit classroom, no craft materials, no books, and no marker board, but they were the most enthusiastic sunday school group I have ever seen.
July 23, 2009
Winter has descended with fury… the wind howled around the peach hut all night; I feared it would be picked up and hurled into the ocean. Such a terrible clamor… our hut is unusual in that it has a tin rather
than a thatched roof, and it makes a dreadfully frightful racket in the wind. We made a painstakingly long drive to the clinic this morning, under the cover of a menacingly dark sky… so cold.
July 24, 2009
There is one little girl that has completely captured my heart… she is in the malnutrition room, but also has TB. She is nine, but looks to be about four, and is the most frail child I have ever seen… I don’t know how she could weigh more than 20 pounds. Every bone sticks out; her thighs are as tiny as my wrists; her wrists are no more than an inch wide… every part of her body looks elongated, because it is so narrow. She has long lashes and the most hauntingly beautiful eyes in the world, huge in her tiny face. She is shy, but will occasionally peer up at me with a little smile…
There is no spark in her, but she is so incredibly beautiful…
July 25, 2009
We cooked dinner for our hosts this evening… they have been very generous throughout our time here, feeding us four dinners of milli-pop and chicken. We invited them all into the hut after dinner to watch Spiderman on a laptop run off of the truck battery. They were mesmerized, despite not being able to understand a single word. It was a unique experience, all of us crowded into a mud hut in the middle of the Transkei, 20 English speakers, 15 Xhosa speakers, lots of body odor…
I am realizing how privileged my life has been, simply for having experienced flipping on a light switch… little things you never even think about until you live for two weeks without them… but I could not say “my life”–or the western world–is “better”… and I have developed a deep respect for these people and their way of life. A person’s level of happiness is not dependent on whether they live in a two-story house in Suburbia or a mud hut in the Transkei, which is made obvious by the number of both happy and terribly unhappy people living in both worlds.
July 26, 2009
With every step we take, we are writing our past…
We crossed back over the Kei today, in the same way that we entered, walking by foot across the bridge. It was a unique collision of two times, past and present, every step I took in the present mirroring the steps I took 16 days ago, except that the unknown that I was walking toward then is now in the past; fixed, unmovable, imprinted on the pages of my memory, but never to live again. Time is such a curious thing… so fleeting, and the only dimension we can live in is
the briefest thing in the world…the past and the future are huge expanses of time (or can seem so), but the present–what we live in–is ever escaping us to take its place in the past. We cannot slow, or stop it, but I think that for the most part we are unaware of it…