December 12, Day 499
I didn’t sleep well because I was so stressed about today’s trip to Hereford and was paranoid that I would oversleep.
Awake at 5:30 am and toss and turn for a while and don’t fall back to sleep.
Fine, I’ll get up and make coffee and breakfast.
As I walk towards the kitchen I can smell an awful smell coming from it.
What IS that??
I stop and look at my fridge and see that there is chicken blood leaking from the meat they stored in my fridge last night. It has leaked outside of my fridge, onto all of my food in the fridge and through the door onto the floor.
There is a puddle of chicken blood all over the floor.
That. Is. So. Gross.
I find some bleach and mop it up. I suppose it’s time I buy new rags for my kitchen anyways, so I use them to mop up the blood while I dry heave in my mouth from the smell.
I suppose this is what happens when you store frozen chicken in someone’s refrigerator and there is no electricity; it thaws out and leaks everywhere.
Finish with the blood situation and I feel super gross.
Make breakfast and coffee and sit down to eat. Just as I sit down, Bontle texts and says she’s with Mabe already and they’re preparing for our trip today.
Crap, I still haven’t packed! Mabe is the kind of guy who will just roll up at your house any time and expect you to be packed and ready to go.
Take a cold shower and get dressed.
Pack my bags and take the mattress off of my spare bedroom bed to use for sleeping on the floor tonight.
Walk to the office and just as I arrive Catherine calls from the office and asks where I am. I tell her I’m here and walk in. The office is full of all of the food we are bringing for the village of Hereford to cook on World AIDS Day. It’s bustling! Plenty of people running around and there are so many people inside that there’s no chair to sit down in. I don’t mind standing.
Catherine and I work on finishing the program for World AIDS Day to make sure to mention the keynote speaker for the event. We both work separately for a bit.
I decide to walk to the restaurant nearby and grab some lunch to go. When I return to the office, everyone is also there with their lunch and we all sit around the desk eating as a family.
Baitshepi comes by to bring her HIV testing equipment and asks us to transport it for her since her truck is an open bed and it won’t be safe on the bumpy roads.
Catherine chats with everyone about who will be riding with who to Hereford: Banda doesn’t like speaking English so he doesn’t want me to ride in the truck with him, so he agrees to transport Bontle. But Bontle wants to ride with Mabe because his truck is more comfortable. Eventually we decide I will ride with Mabe and Bontle will ride with Banda.
I quickly run over to the Admin office and talk to Patience and Wantata. Have they organized a collection of money for Catherine’s mother who passed away or are doing anything for her baby? Usually when a family member passes away the office requires everyone to contribute money to give to the person. I find out nothing has been done and agree that I will do a collection on Monday for Catherine.
Run over to the RMU and ask Mr. Wasetso to make photocopies of the program for World AIDS Day.
Hop in the truck with Mabe and he tells me we have to stop at the veggie store nearby to find bananas to bring to Hereford. However, we discover that they have none. So, we go to Shoppers nearby and also find they don’t have any. We check Choppies next, and yes, they do have bananas. I get a pie for myself to eat for dinner later.
“Eish, you know my village does not have transport and people know I drive here every day and ask me to do favors for them all the time. I must go buy yogurt for a woman in my village before we go,” Mabe says.
“No problem, Mabe,” I reply.
I stand outside and wait while he gets the yogurt.
Drive to my house and collect my things.
Drive to Catherine’s house to pick up the trophies to award to the football players of the tournament last weekend. But, Catherine isn’t there. We decide to wait.
I sit on the ground and give Dawgie belly rubs. He knows how to give me his paw when I ask for it, but he seems to be afraid of Mabe and won’t listen to him when Mabe asks.
Where is Olive? I haven’t seen him in so long and I miss my friend!
Catherine arrives and we grab the trophies. Next, we drive to the Police to drop off a copy of the speech for our keynote speaker, who is a policeman.
Drive to Mabe’s house to pick up his stuff. Drop off the bananas and yogurt for his neighbor.
Finally, we hit the road!
I of course am exhausted and fall asleep immediately. I can’t keep my eyes open!
Suddenly, Mabe yells “Abbie! Did you get the money to give to the football players who won the tournament?” he says. It jolts me awake.
“Mabe it’s fine, we agreed to process it and give to them later,” I reply.
He’s happy with that answer. I fall back asleep.
We arrive in Werda a few hours later and stop to refuel, but discover that the fueling station is out of diesel.
Arrive in Hereford around 5:30 pm and drive to the kgotla. There is a group of people waiting for us to unload the truck.
I help to unload the truck and as my back is turned to everyone to grab something from the truck, I suddenly feel hot breath on the back of my neck and smell liquor. I feel someone fumbling with my purse and pulling my hair.
I turn around quickly and discover that a woman in the village, who is clearly drunk, has cornered me and is staring at me intently. She is yelling at me in Setswana.
I grab my purse and slowly back away from her and smile.
“Sorry, Mma,” I say and walk away.
The woman follows me and will not back down. Everyone just stares at me and doesn’t help. Mabe takes a phone call at that moment and walks away. I walk around the edge of the truck and the woman continues to pull my hair and follow me and yell at me.
“Mma, please do not touch me,” I tell her.
Why is no one helping me?
I ask the social worker to please step in and help explain to her to please not touch me. The social worker just laughs and does nothing.
“She thinks you are a rich farmer because you are white,” Bontle explains.
No one has welcomed us to their community. No one has greeted us. No one seems happy that we are here to help the community and bring attention to it with World AIDS Day. They are all sitting and staring. I feel unwelcome and I do not feel safe.
The woman continues to follow me and grab me. Men start to also approach me and ask me for jobs working on farms.
Bontle steps in front of me and physically puts her body between me and the people following me. I hear her explain to them in Setswana that I am not a rich farm owner, I am a volunteer and I don’t work in this village. I have no jobs to provide. I am here to help the DAC office with World AIDS Day.
The men following me understand, but the woman doesn’t seem to believe her and her rage increases.
Now, she is convinced I am the daughter of a farm owner who crashed a truck. I look over and see a truck that has been crushed in an accident nearby.
“Look what you did! Look at that truck!” she is yelling at me in Setswana.
Bontle defends me, and I feel extremely unsafe. This woman will not stop following me everywhere and we are walking a mere 200 yards over to the school and that is where we will be sleeping tonight. I don’t want this woman to know where I will be staying and I fear for my safety.
“Abbie, it is not safe for you here. Get in the truck with Mabe and he will drive around the village for a little bit and I will deal with this woman and send her away,” Bontle says.
I climb in the truck with Mabe and he drives us around for a little bit. We all meet up at the school and Bontle has indeed managed to send the woman away. God bless Bontle, she is the best.
At the school, we decide that Bontle and I will share one classroom to sleep in tonight, and Mabe will sleep in a separate classroom. I love Mabe, but he snores like a lion and it will keep me up, so he agrees to be quarantined.
The classrooms are very dirty and covered in bugs. School is out for summer break and there is dust everywhere. Large beetles and spiders crawl everywhere.
Bontle and I drop our things off and then walk to the Kgotla. We must help organize the events for tomorrow and assist the community.
We walk to the kgotla and there is a group of women there helping to set up. We ask if we can help, and they all stop and stare at me but don’t answer.
Bontle and I sit down. Everyone ignores us.
“Why are they ignoring us?” Bontle asks.
“I seem to make them all uncomfortable I think,” I say.
“Yes, I think so. I don’t think they have ever seen white people before really. I grew up in South Africa, so I’m used to it and I will always treat you with respect and won’t treat you differently. But I think they are uncomfortable that you are here and are not sure what you are here to do,” Bontle says.
“Maybe I should just introduce myself and tell them I am here to help?” I ask.
“Let’s just wait,” Bontle says.
Just then, Bontle’s phone rings and it’s Catherine. She hands the phone to me.
“Abbie, our keynote speaker just canceled for tomorrow,” Catherine says. “I need you to step in and be the keynote speaker and deliver the speech we wrote.”
“Uh, okay, no problem. I will take care of it,” I say. Yikes!
Bontle and I sit on a rock and wait while everyone talks around us.
Mabe arrives and we all organize ourselves to set up the giant event tent next to the kgotla. It requires about 20 people working together, but we get it done.
It is now dark. We sit under the full moon and have a meeting to prepare for tomorrow. The meeting is in Setswana, so I don’ t know fully what is happening, but I gather that many of the women are complaining to Mabe that we didn’t bring enough food for them. They wanted us to slaughter a cow for them, which would feed about 500 people and there are only 200 attending the event.
“This is a two hour event. You don’t need a huge meal for a two hour event!” I hear Mabe say.
They debate for a long time. Mabe asks Bontle and I to go with the social worker and put together snack packs for the VIP attendees tomorrow. We walk with the social worker to her office, and I have no idea why we are walking there but I go with it. I assumed Bontle knew and maybe they discussed it in Setswana at the meeting and I missed it.
Soon, we find ourselves standing in the dark outside of her office doing nothing while the social worker makes personal phone calls inside in her office.
What the heck are we doing here?
I ask Bontle and she says she also doesn’t know.
Okay, I’m tired. It’s late. I didn’t sleep. I have no idea what we are doing and we have to get up very early in the morning. I’m not going to stand here and waste our time. We must put our foot down.
“Mma, we are very tired. I think we will go to sleep now,” I tell the social worker.
“Oh! No, you must wait for me,” she says.
I’m SO over this. But we wait.
We walk to her house and mention to her that we have no place to bathe tomorrow. She doesn’t offer us to use her bathroom. Both Bontle and I are shocked that she doesn’t offer.
From what I’ve gathered, it is completely normal in the culture here to ask a random person in their house if you can use their bathroom to bathe. They usually will give you their bucket and some water. It is the right thing to do. Hence why we are shocked.
We arrive at the social worker’s house and Mabe is there. The social worker goes inside and I hear her shuffling pots and pans. Why are we here?
I realize that Mabe has asked this poor woman to cook dinner for him. It’s 10:30 at night! We sit outside and everyone is only speaking Setswana.
I feel excluded and unwelcome. I’ve now hit my wall and can’t do this. I love everyone and I know I will be better tomorrow, but must go to recuperate right now. I cannot sit here while she makes meat that I cannot eat for the next few hours while I listen to everyone speak a language I don’t understand. It’s time for Abbie self care.
“Guys, I must go to sleep. I will walk back to the school now now. Have a good night!” I tell everyone, and begin walking.
Bontle follows me and catches up. She says she didn’t want to stay, either, and is also tired.
We walk to the classroom and try to sweep out as many bugs as possible and move our belongings away from windows so no one can reach in and steal things. I notice there are several cards on the wall teaching the children about agriculture.
We set up our beds and lay in bed and talk for a while. There are bugs crawling all over our beds and all over me, but what can I do? I sweep them off and hope for the best.
There was a case of malaria last year in this village, so I go outside and spray myself with insect repellent.
We stay up late and talk and laugh while I cut AIDS Day ribbons. Bontle always manages to put a smile on my face. I am so grateful for my colleagues.
At midnight, we go to bed, ready to get up at 4 am.