Monday, March 14, 2005

oh, to be reminded, that the Earth is not the private real-estate of humanity

On Friday, Pinky and I drove out to Mtubatuba to meet a youth organizer at the AIDS drop-in center. We were almost out of Umfolozi game reserve when he stepped onto the road and started walking toward us.
-Oh no. I am so scared.
I had never seen Pinky even perturbed in our 5 weeks working together.
-Ari, I am so scared, I have heard stories...I am so scared.

He was enormous. He walked toward us. We backed up. He kept walking toward us. We kept backing up. His ears flared, and he picked up his pace.

We kept backing up, until we found a taxi behind us. We stuck our hands out the window and waived frantically for the taxi to back up. Just then, Jess called. My cell phone had somehow a tiny bit of reception.

Jess, you’ve caught me at a bit of a strange moment. There is an elephant chasing us.

We kept backing up until the elephant decided to stop for lunch. As he chomped on big bushels of roadside grass, still blocking most of the road, the elephant appeared entirely unconcerned with the twenty-some cars, trucks, and even an ambulance waiting on either side of him. What were little hunks of wheeled metal to him? He was an elephant. This was his home. He called the shots. The little metal scraps would wait. And we did. For almost a half hour, while he ate his lunch, until he finished his lunch and strolled off the road.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Hineni || Meditation While Running at Sunset
Sawubona ubaba!||I see you father!
Unjani?||How are you?
Ngikhona!||I am here!
Unjani wena?||How are you?
Ngikhona nami!||I am also here!
Sanibona usisi!||I see you sister!
Unjani?||How are you?
I am here
The earth opened herself
Opened her vast green deep
I am here
Here, I am vulnerable
Here, I am beautiful
I am here
Little children rise from the dust before cinderblock mud houses
They run barefoot after me
and I turn and give chase to rapturous screams
Ashrei yoshvei beytecha
Happy praiseworthy the dwellers of your house
And the sun lay down behind a hill and lit it aflame to kiss the smoky clouds above
If the earth swallows all the works of my hands,
like so many handprints in the sand
This will be enough
To say
Sawubona umama
I see you, mother
I am here.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

I celebrated this Shabbat with my most mysterious brothers and sisters of the sixth day. Shabbat afternoon I prayed in the company of a troupe of baboons who had filled a fig tree near our lodge for a fruit feast. Below them, in the bed of a creek, an animal I had never encountered before approached me. An inyala, Mark told me. Imagine a large deer, with proud, gently spiraling horns. Dress him in a thick, tough leather coat, dark brown-grey. Paint a white stripe on its back, and white stroked beneath its eyes in the style of NFL linemen, add a Mohawk of bead-like fur hanging in a line down the middle of its belly and chin. And then put long yellow socks on each of its feet. This, in all the floating silent grace of a deer or an ibex, moved along the creek, with two young ones its shadow, underneath the fruifeasting acrobatics of the baboons.

Monday catapulted me into Hlabisa--I have been adopted! The Magagula family has taken me in, and I am so relieved to be living life out of a home in a community rather than in an isolated bed and breakfast. They are Seventh Day Adventists, the mother is a retired nurse, and the daughter works at the Medical Research Council on a microbicide trial, so we have been having wonderful conversations about spirituality, AIDS, and many other things. My mentors from America are here now, and with their guidance all my projects are gaining momentum--there is so much to do! Today alone, we spent 5 hours driving in an ill-equipped car through rocky roads winding about rolling green mountain meeting with teachers and community health workers at clinics and schools and other community centers. Tomorrow, after a forum on the local treatment rollout, I fling myself back to Durban, for shabbat, weekend adventures, research about communities we can work in around Durban, more project planning...and before I can even catch the drum circle lesson at the BAT center or meet with the folk at the Treatment Action Campaign, I am flinging myself back northward, to rural Hlabisa, to meet with students at a local high school.

So much has been happening, so, invisible visitors to my lonely planet might ask, WHY HAVEN'T YOU BEEN POSTING? I confess I have started, gasp, a private journal on my computer, which I have been writing in extensively while my blog mopes and makes faces at me, chastizing me for my neglect. Why a private journal? I have been wrestling with a lot of intensity here, most of which is wrapped up in other people and other communities. I have been wrestling with feelings of judgement, both external and internal, with suffering with frustration with confusion with clarity and love. Because of how intimately others are woven into these experiences and struggles and ecstacies, I have not felt comfortable exposing them to the open atmosphere of my lonely blog planet.
I will, I will, I will keep writing. And I will try to attend to my lonely planet more faithfully.

One month in Africa.