last week we went and visited a township that I will be volunteering with while i'm here, Kayamandi. It holds roughly 3,000 people in a very small encampment. I dont know how to begin to describe the poverty that meets my eyes here or the peace. the people of Kayamandi have a calm about them, a source of strength that shakes you to the core.
the first sight that meets my eyes is a group of toddlers wrapped top to bottom in layers shyly rotating between waving and hiding behind a tree. and then im attacked by image after image of unfamiliar sights. an ocean of shacks stacked up next to each other. a woman washing next to a pile of rubbish. goat heads roasting on an open fire. The resonant laughter of a group of men echos back to me. the click of the women as they talk. a baby is crying somewhere...a million scents attack my nose. smoke, rubbish, barbeque, smog, urine all of it. i breathing all of it. i'm a mess. i don't know how to react i dont know what to do so i do the only thing that comes to mind i smile at the first person i see. Songo. who happens to be our "guide". he smiles back and after a short speech to the group, i fall into step with him and the questions seem to spill from within me. he answers as well as he knows how and i find myself wishing i had a video camera to catch the soft lilt of his voice as he describes to me a Kayamandi that i would never have seen by myself. There is pride in his eyes as he gives us details of Kayamandi, as he speaks of the volunteer program he helps lead. occasionally he calls out a greeting in Xhosa to people we pass on the road.
somehow i find myself at the back of the group. i lag behind soaking in everything around me. i look back to see an elderly man watching us we pass through a small opening between the houses. Molotata"greetings grandfather". he smiles and nods. Ewe "and to you" we come through to a street. a group of school children run up and run away pushing each other to see who will come the closest. growing bolder a small boy latches on to the hand of a girl besides me and all of a sudden we are in sea of giggling bright faces. i look out and the beauty around me is to heavy to hold. its heavier than the brokeness. its heavier than my guilt. my pity. its heavier than the poverty. its heavier than the circumstances and its what the people here are holding on to.
we are at the top of Kayamundi and as i look out around me i think of what Songo said. about being privileged to help his community to grow. i think of all the i've seen. all that i will see here. and all i will never see. I am privileged.
peace. love. grace.