As I walk to the QuickSPAR, I pass many other pedestrians and am unsure whether to smile or to avoid eye contact; I do a little of both. The pharmacy is in the block before the main intersection and the street that holds the SPAR. All over-the-counter and prescription medications are sold at pharmacies, even vitamins. The main street is a divided road, and its broad sidewalks are always bustling with both pedestrians and cars. Next to SPAR is an internet place that also sells some technology and a liquor store, where one can buy wine, beer & liquors. SPAR sells wine, but only very sweet varieties, which seem to be favored by the locals. Across the street from SPAR is a vegetable market, a clothing store and others locally-run outlets; a constant braai is in process in front of these shops, which sends smoke and the scents of burning meat throughout the neighborhood. Cars move very quickly on and off the sidewalk to access precious parking spaces, so one needs to stay alert and be prepared to jump out of the way. Sometimes a couple white bums drunkenly call out to us as we walk by. Tonight, as I left the SPAR, one of the numerous guards gave me a friendly nod of his head--an acknowledgment that was as unusual as his gesture: he moved his head upwards and to the side after making eye contact. I felt a flush of satisfaction; the unexpected joy of being 'OK'.
The sun was low in the sky, but things were hopping on the street in front of SPAR, and I could hear music down the street at the corner. I walked to the end of the block, and crossed to a small crowd in front an auto parts store on the corner where they were listening to music blasting from speakers and watching three men dance and sing along. Their dance moves were synchronized and their steps reminded me of some Zulu dancing I’ve seen—but I really have no idea where the style comes from, except that it’s decidedly South African. That said, it also reminded me of the Four Tops and the Temptations...which only confuses my attempts to ascertain the form's etiology. Many of the songs sounded like some of the SA gospel I’ve been hearing from the kids’ apartment downstairs (Anna has the TV on with gospel singing on Sundays). I felt self-conscious that I was the only white person, probably within miles, but I was determined to enjoy the experience—listening to the music and watching how the locals participated. Many women stepped and swayed along with the rhythm, some singing along with what must be well-known songs. Not for the first time, I wondered which of the nine Bantu languages was the shared vernacular. A couple young women eyed me curiously and, perhaps, somewhat warily. I can't blame them for wondering what I was doing there. An old man danced eccentrically and with enthusiasm off to the side, and a few young women (who tried not to stare at me) looked tempted to join the three men dancing. One of the trio was selling CDs and, of course, I felt compelled to purchase one. Six bucks. I'm listening to the distinctive, warming South African sounds as I write.
The extravagance of the CD meant that I didn’t have enough cash with me to buy the double electric outlet extension I’ve been wanting all week. (I never carry a purse with me to the SPAR, as robbery is so common here). There are two electrical outlets in the apartment; Louise and politely share the use of the one next to our chairs in the 'living room' area of the apartment (she needs the electric heater to stave off an asthma attack & I need it for either my laptop or the reading light). The ceiling light is glaring and hurts my eyes, but a torchiere, which relieves my eyes, flickers out all the time so I’ve given up on it and am writing in the dark now. In addition to frustrations with inadequate or eccentric lighting, electricity is a major problem now in Gauteng; every night there are notices on the TV announcing that supplies are too low & asking residents to cut back on their use. Not a problem in my place tonight...
Yesterday, Saturday, I joined the Sanctuary kids on a trip to Wendy’s with Louise and local volunteers. Wendy’s is someone’s home (Wendy’s!), who donates it for use by a group of Occupational Therapists; every two weeks, the kids from Sanctuary are brought there in volunteers’ cars. I drove with Claire, sitting in the back with "Lerato" and "Thandi" (not their real names). Thandi is a little girl I met last Friday, who perpetually asked me, “What’s your name?” She seems to be about four, though she’s very small, and yesterday had a sore above her lip. I remember her from photos I took at Educare last year. Lerato was in the hospice until fairly recently; she was very quiet on the ride and paid little attention to things outside the car. Instead, she concentrated on removing the hairs from the sticky bonbon (“sweetie”) she gripped in her left hand. Thandi also had a sweetie in her hand, but was curious about things we passed, from painted walls, to passing cars. On the way home from Wendy’s, I encouraged her to wave to people as we passed them, and she would make a high squeak whenever she saw a car with people in it. "Thandi" is evidently further developed than Lerato, though the same size, either due to age or abilities (Lerato's sluggishness also be what some of the volunteers referred to as “hospice syndrome”). I gather this is a kind of shock or numbing that comes from the transition from all the stimulation of hospice to the competitive dangers of sanctuary and educare.
I tried to pay attention to "Nkomi" (not his real name) who seemed at sea during the OT exercises (introductions, singing, dancing etc.). I held him in my lap for an exercise that involved choosing a musical instrument from two boxes, and using it during a song. He did nothing for a while, so I picked a shaking cymbal for him. He did nothing during the song, and when it came time to turn in your instrument & pick another, he also was passive. I had to ask the OT to bring the box over to him, and then he chose another cymbal, which he did play during the song.