Tuesday, April 12, 2011


Last week many of the kiddos were on a school holiday, and in an effort to keep them interested and occupied we had a couple of game days. Mostly it was slightly organized chaos, but in the end, I think everyone had a good time. The trusty egg-n-spoon race was a crowd favorite. Suspense, the thrill of victory, the agony of defeat/having egg splatter on your feet--this game really has it all. Limbo, water relay games, and a new twist on bobbing for apples that involved tangerines were also part of the festivities.

Such concentration...

I also wanted to elaborate a little more on Sabelani Home, which I referenced in an earlier post. Sabelani has become one of my favorite places to spend time here in Mthatha. It is home to eleven young men and Father Guy, a Catholic priest and all around wonderful man who started the project over a decade ago. Sabelani, a name which implies a response to being called or spoken to, provides resources for low income boys and young men who want to further their education. Some live in the house and others receive monetary support, but all must be committed to further learning. Getting to know the guys, laughing with them, hearing pieces of their individual stories, and seeing how they live together in community to support one another has been great.

Father Guy and Boyi-Boyi hang some laundry in the backyard, while Megan and I provide moral support.

Annnd finally, I have to share a story from this past weekend that involves an unexpected visitor. Megan and I were enjoying a quiet and laid back Saturday morning, when all of the sudden we discovered a cobra had found its way into our hallway. Megan heard the snake slither and then saw it do its eerie cobra-head-raised thing, and ran back into my side of the house. We isolated the snake to the hallway and then enlisted the help of our neighbors Georgio and Sabra (aka Cobra Dundee and Sabra the Snake Scooper). Having had their fair share of snake encounters, they grabbed a hoe, pitchfork, and giant bucket to ward off the unwelcome guest.

Sadly, the cobra had to meet its end, but really it could have at least knocked before coming inside. Ah, just another Saturday in Mthatha...

Sunday, April 3, 2011

On Monday evening our friend Sipho passed away. Sipho was a father, a husband, and a man with a gentle spirit. His name means “gift,” and he was just that for me and others who knew him. Sipho was living with HIV (and, in his case, TB, oral thrush, wasting disease, dehydration, and probably esophageal cancer). His wife Pamela is also HIV positive and has Multi Drug Resistant TB.

Megan and I spent most of the day Monday with Sipho at Ngangelizwe Clinic pleading with nurses and doctors to help rehydrate him and make a plan for further treatment. We ended up seeing a kind doctor who gave Sipho a liter of fluid and us instructions to run further tests in the coming days. Jenny picked Sipho up from the clinic and drove him home. He insisted on walking up to his tin house, painted a pale pink, that sits on the edge of a hill beside the clinic. Jenny received a call from his oldest child at around six in the evening, in the middle of a torrential rainstorm, to say that he was gone.

Sipho’s partner Pamela, and his three children have also come to mean a great deal to me as I’ve gotten to know them through the clinic and tutoring after school. They have lost a significant piece of their family, and the larger community feels that loss as well. I am struggling to reconcile my feelings surrounding this loss and the awful pain and hunger Sipho felt in the days and weeks before his death.

A new friend, Mary-Ann Carpenter, shared this prayer with Megan and me Saturday evening while we were in Durban last weekend. The Carpenter family is a living example of how reconciliation and beauty can come out of brokenness and despair. It has come to mind many times this week.

Dear God,

We struggle, we grow weary, we grow tired. We are exhausted, we are distressed, we despair. We give up, we fall down, we let go.

We cry.

We are empty, we grow calm, we are ready.

We wait quietly.

A small, shy truth arrives. Arrives from without and within. Arrives and is born. Simple, steady, clear. Like a mirror, like a bell, like a flame. Like rain in summer. A precious truth arrives and is born within us. Within our emptiness.

We accept it, we observe it, we absorb it. We surrender to our bare truth. We are nourished, we are changed, we are blessed. We rise up.

For this we give thanks.


-Michael Leunig