Can you read the signs?

I kept looking at the mosaic of interesting faces for signs, clues to help me categorize the people of this rich country.  I wanted to know which physical features differentiated Afrikaners from blacks, whites, or coloureds.  My untrained eye would pick out a face and my un-harnessed mouth would ask, “Is he a coloured?  Is she an Afrikaner?”  And, to my chagrin, I never once, got it right.

I saw a sign on a wall in a home which let me know that I was not the only one confused by this.  It delighted me during dinner conversation to learn that, “today, we are all South Africans.”


Later in the week I went hiking on Table Mountain.   I was busy packing selected images into memory storage, my visual file overloaded.  Nature was screaming, “Look at me, remember this,” when a sign on  a rock silenced me.  I thought of the people of South Africa and the great depth of their richness.  I recalled my brief and detached education of their history and struggle for equality.  I embraced a keener awareness of their ongoing challenges, not all that different from my own country’s.


Next, we hiked the trail at Cape Point.  We walked until we had to stop to catch our breath.  We walked close to the edge of steep cliffs.  I was grateful that it was not raining, the imagined slide down into the ocean or onto the rocks, nerve-wracking.  As one afraid of heights, I had to focus on the horizon to avoid becoming dizzy.  The path was bending and twisting around the most luscious vistas.  And suddenly we reached the end, the farthest point at the Cape of Good Hope.  Another sign.  Could this be the destiny of our journey as brothers?  In the end……………………


We won’t throw stones.

One face of Aids in Africa

I am a face on a calendar

because I have a disease.

A disease I was born with,

that killed my mother and father.

I am a lucky girl because

I get to take medicine.

Medicine, so that I can live.

Most of the people in Khayelitsha

are not so lucky.

Almost everybody I know has this disease,

except the people who work

at Baphumelele Children’s Home.

People who leave their comfortable houses in Cape Town

and come to where we live

to help us.

They give us medicine.

They bring us shoes and clothes.

They teach us how to read, write

and paint our portraits with bright colors.

Some people think our care givers are crazy.

There are too many of us, they think.

“You can’t empty an ocean with a bucket,” they say.

But I heard one of the nurses respond,

“We will try, one bucket at a time.”

I am glad that they gathered me

in one of those buckets.

I have hope.

I have a future.

I am more than the face of aids.

Look closely,

I am your neighbor.