Saturday, July 08, 2006

One morning with half a dozen of S0uth Afric@n women

I’d have to admit that the African continent has been the continent I haven’t had the opportunity to visit and learn about. My curiosity about Africa was stirred few years ago after reading “The Poisonwood Bible” but I still haven’t had the chance to visit the continent.

Last week my friend J@ckie invited me over her place to do some beading. I’ve been over to her place before for a quilting session so I thought it was interesting that she decided to do some beading instead. How did I know J@ckie? Well she used to live in my compound and was good friends with J0y. They both did quilting with me and we sometimes hung out doing other stuff like bread etc. J@ckie and J0y decided to set up a business selling their handiwork and I was so excited for them.

Somehow hanging out with J@ckie and J0y makes me feel “normal.” You see because we are quilters, we love our handicraft and more importantly we are hoarders when it comes to handicraft supplies. We just love collecting fabrics, other craft supplies and books. People who don’t understand what we are about just don’t get it. They pass comments like, “Wow that’s a lot of fabrics you have.” Or the have this look on their face when they see our stuff. But hanging out with J and J, somehow its different because we all try to boost us stock, exchanging info on where to get more supplies etc. We try to eliminate “gaps” in our stash and we love all sorts of plastic boxes to store our treasures in.

Anyways I am digressing. Once I sat on the table with the five S0uth Afric@n, I had to retune my ears. I know I understand English and understood that they are speaking English but somehow the sounds came out all different and there were some words I could not recognize. And although there were six of them, all six of them had very different accents and through the course of the morning I realize that they came from different parts of S0uth Afric@ which also meant that they had very different experiences growing us. Names of places very alien to me came up like C@ape T0wn, Durb@n, Pret0ria, south versus North. I never realized this when I hung up with J@ckie all this time because her accent was rather well, normal. I guess that’s because she has an English mum and all. One of the ladies was born in Bell@russi@ so she had a very strong Russi@n accent. Another was of Indi@n Heritage.

I picked up new words like rednecks (which I think meant white people) and braai (meaning BBQ). And then there are lots of “Yaaa” all round. And “dolls” as well.

F/f/ our beading instructor for the day told us a story of how she was discriminated when growing up. Because she was the minority redneck in an Afrik@@n community, she said her school bus will drop her and her borthers off 20 km away from her home and she would need to walk the whole 20 km back home, compared to her Afrik@@n counterpart who was dropped off just outside their compound. She admits that she cannot speak Afrik@@ns and when she did try, they would laugh real hard hearing her speak.

Apartheid, Nelson Mandela and that sort of thing was just news in the TV for me but somehow hearing these ladies and their conversations brought some of that into flesh and blood for me.

But of course, my husband the cynic-realist would put things right immediately. When I told him that evening that I spent the morning with half a dozen S0uth Afric@n women he asked me,

“Just out of curiosity hon, out of the six women you met, were any of them black?”

“Errr nope of course, they were white except one of them who was of Indi@n heritage.”

But I think J@ckie mentioned something in passing to me before. That one of the reasons there are so many white S0uth Afric@ns here is that, aside from the fact that the money here is attractive, they are finding it hard to find jobs back home because they were white. Any available jobs would be offered to an Afrik@@n first.

Reverse racism I guess. But then again, surely there is no such thing as reverse racism. Racism is racism. It’s the prejudice of members of one race to members of another race.

And it seems no matter at which part of the world we are, racism and prejudice does exist. One way or another.

Along with poverty and hunger, I hope we are able to eradicate racism as well.

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