Feeling less fluey but woke in a bad temper. By nature I am, when sober, an optimist and easy-going much of the time. This morning I woke up with a clenched jaw and in a black thundercloud of a mood.
Noted as I brushed my teeth that I was whining to myself in my head in a very unpleasant manner, a host of complaints seething with resentment and self-pity.
When taken out of my head they amounted to nothing much at all. I looked at my miseries for a while, coldly, and then had some coffee and watched baby house martins being taught to fly off the low wall of the stope (porch). Each tiny bird an Orville or Wright, taking that first fledgling leap into naked space.
I feel miserable and angry and those are feelings which will pass. My immune system is down and I feel have limited resources with which to cope and that is something I must accept for now.
It could be worse and I just have to hold on until things get better.
All around me in this village are people, especially women and children, dying of HIV/Aids, cross-infected with resistant strains of tuberculosis. Most of them live in shacks of corrugated iron without clean water or electricity. The sewage runs down the alleys between the huts and from time to time there are outbreaks of cholera. Until I stayed overseas and experienced the ease and comfort of life in the First World, I didn’t realise how much it affects me to live with so much poverty and destitution, illness and death all around me. I do what I can, but I have few resources and the apathy of the homeless is exhausting to battle against. People just give up and seemingly refuse to do anything to help themselves or their children. The infant mortality figures go up and up. We have some of the highest statistics in the world for foetal alcohol syndrome. There may be no money for food but there is always, like an evil miracle, money for alcohol or drugs. Crack cocaine and crude crystal meths can be bought from the local police station. That is how underpaid constables earn enough money to keep their families.
This is what I came back to and I understand now why I wanted to escape this so badly. Just not have to deal with it every day. Sick children coughing blood in the supermarkets, the stream of people coming to the door looking for blankets, braed, money for cheap wine. The theft of blankets off the washing lines, the constant vigilance around intruders. Making soup for the church kitchens serving meals to people too sick to eat.
This is such a beautiful landscape, the mountains and valleys and the vineyards, the orchards of almond and apple trees. Everyone who lives here wants to have hope that things will get better. But it is a landscape ravaged by plague and scarred from the decades of apartheid. Sometimes I feel that I am living in a present that refuses to learn from the past. The corruption, the brutal violence, the suffering.
Another day, just letting the anger and despair out onto the page. Then I will go and make some lentil soup for the church social workers to collect, and get on with writing and editing. Learning to accept what cannot be changed, the reality of living here in South Africa.