A Golden Saturday

I woke up and went to the gym, ever so briefly and then went home to prep for a blind date of sorts.  I was looking to make a new friend, but I gathered too late that he wanted a date.  Met him on myspace.  eish.  His site says he is “Andrew the DJ” so I thought he might spin at some cool bars I don’t know about and I might actually get some decent dancing in.  I turns out he neither reads nor writes music.  He can’t spin, and he doesn’t know any real DJs.  He’s the guy who presses play on the CD player at teacher reunions and weddings. 

He doesn’t like Jo’burg and doesn’t like Cape Town and doesn’t like small towns (grew up in one in KwaZulu Natal).  He doesn’t like his job or, as far as I could gather, life.  He is interested in the fact that I snowboard and like the outdoors, but from the looks and sound of things, doesn’t actually do anything active himself.  At all. 

So after some brief references to old relationships (always good on a first date) he asked the religion question.  Right.  I tried to explain where I am in my spiritual journey, but this guy clearly knows next to nothing about real religions or theology and looked sort of glazed over as I gave a half-baked answer.  Apparently he was just waiting to answer his own question.  Classy.

The answer: I believe in extra terrestrials.

Now this alone wouldn’t necessarily phase me.  I’m of the opinion it’s rather narrow-minded of humanity to suppose we are–in the multitude of galaxies–alone.  That’s not really what he meant.

Andrew the DJ thinks Jesus was an alien.  Seriously.  He also supposes the Greek Gods didn’t only only actually walk the earth, but they too were aliens.  Zeus and the thunderbolt? A ET with a taser gun.  (NB: he didn’t actually know the name of the god with the thunderbolt; I filled that in.)  Oh, and his bosses are Free Masons.  That’s how they get all the pharmaceutical contracts. 

That’s what I get for meeting someone online. 

Then I had to go home to get ready for my second date of the day.  This was with a married man.  Abdi is a great friend from OLSET, the NGO I’m working with.  We talk for hours about theology and politics.  He’s one of the coolest people I have ever met, and my personal professor on all things Muslim.  When he asks a favour, I say yes. 
Abdi asked that for his birthday I help him take some friends of his out for the day.  It turns out he has had a refugee family staying with him and his roommate in their tiny flat in Fordsberg (rather dodgy area in town) since February.  He met the dad at mosque and found out he, his wife, and baby had been living outside on someone’s porch.  He simply took them in, rent-free.  Abdi is a volunteer who has left his wife and two small children back in Kenya so he can gain these new skills and help in SA’s fight against HIV.  So not a rich man.  

The dad, Osman, watched his parents get macheted to death in Burundi (beside Rwanda – there has been ongoing conflict there since the ’94 genocide, but in the reverse). So he picked up his very young bride and baby and worked his way south.  There is apparently a perception around Africa that South Africa is the land of milk and honey, so millions swim across the Limpopo or walk down. 

It has not been as easy as he had dreamed.  Osman works hard labour seven days a week; he loads and unloads trucks at construction sites.  He gets paid R35 a day. (God this sounds like a World Vision ad.)  That’s about five bucks.  Abdi is paying his wife to do his laundry; she gets R50 a week to keep things tidy.  It’s generous considering Abdi’s fortunes.   

At any rate, Abdi thought it might be fun to take them somewhere.  So we reasoned, watch your family get hacked to death – go to an amusement park.  The five of us, along with my great French friend Romain, drove to Goldreef City, a smaller mock-up of the gold mining town that founded Jo’burg (I think).  It’s this city’s answer to the PNE and Playland. 

This may sound condescending, but it was SO much fun seeing it through the eyes of people who had never seen such a place. We stumbled onto a cheesy magic show, and you would think the old guy had raised someone from the dead.  Classic.  Abdi offered his finger to be amputated and by coincidence, Osman was chosen to be the chopper.  He was terrified. 

Then we went to the kids area and to the smaller roller coaster.  There is a camera set up that takes photos of people as they go past.  The one of Abdi and I was, as expected, funny.  I look like I’m trying to stop the thing by pushing against the air, and Abdi has both hands reaching for Allah.  The photo of Osman was something else.  He went alone, and his photo showed his back as he lay face-down hugging the seat! His eyes were firmly shut the whole time. 

Abdi wrote this morning thanking me for the photos: “Osman believes he is lucky to be alive after taking the ride . . . ha ha ha! He made us laugh the whole night relating how he clutched on and asked for God’s forgiveness – it was more sincere than when he prayed in the Mosque!!”  He sincerely thought he was going to die and took consolation in the fact that his family had not come along for the ride, as it were.

The daughter’s name is Aishi, which means hope.  It’s a very common thing in Africa to name your child after the circumstances in which they were born.  The helper (cleaner) at work is named Happy.  Anyway, Aishi was wearing a new red dress Abdi’s roommate brought back from India the night before  She was so amazed by the colour and treats in the place, but most of all by the number of little people.  She spends her days in the flat with her mom.  We’ve given her pencil crayons and there are some Indian children in the next flat, but they are older and boys and tell her to go away.  She has learned to say “shoes,” “go away,” and “no.”  She walked around dazed at first and then really got into it.  I bought her a new teddy bear and Romain gave her a huge balloon-type ball with beads in it, so it made a noise when she bounced it. Very cute.

Osman speaks french, so he and Romain chatted.  Abdi speaks Swahili, so he translated the English for the women (the wife is now 19).  We didn’t really need to talk very much as we were laughing most of the time. 

We dropped them off and I went back to my awesome cottage, had dinner with my landlords and read some of the mindless Grisham I’m currently devouring.

That was my Saturday.

On Sunday I went to work. 

(pictures are on ringo.com – search Suzannah Kelly)