16 July 2005
South Africa's Little Ones
South Africa's children—white, Indian, coloured, black—are my fondest memory of the country. They are beautiful children offering large smiles to capture on film. They are hopeful, playful, laughing, dreaming. They have wealthy parents, impoverished parents. They love South Africa, are proud of who they are and their culture. They hate South Africa and idolize the USA; they see spousal abuse, are asked to take drugs, cannot afford school lunch, have older brothers and sisters who never finish high school. They are crying children, dying children. They are hospitalized, playing in parks, picked on by other children, checking out books from the library, watching parents die of AIDS, shopping at the mall, playing soccer in the dirt, spinning a top on the red dusty ground.
I visited schools with soccer fields and swimming pools, computers and internet, 20 children in the classes. I visited schools with no sports teams, no electricity, 40 students with one teacher. I talked to children in the suburbs, in the townships. They whispered happiness and despair in at least two of the 11 official languages of South Africa. I saw children sitting on their fathers' shoulders at the Live8 concert in Johannesburg. I held sweet Lisa--the three-year-old I wanted to smuggle into the USA. I fed Princie at Baragawanath Hospital in Soweto; her mom was nowhere to be found. I talked poetry one evening with Stephanie as she prepared for the next day’s lesson at her school in the northern suburbs.
South Africa's children are diverse and beautiful! I will think of them daily.
It's been an incredible journey for the past month. I don't know how I'll ever catch up on the blog; there's so much to tell! But I'll toss some SA stories and photographs occasionally unto the blog in the next few weeks so that you can be a part of this journey, too.