I've spent this week in Pretoria, meeting and interviewing a group of people who are really doing everything they can to make things happen in South Africa and I have been humbled by the commitment and dedication I have seen.
More than that, I feel that I have a new belief and hope in South Africa. A conviction that the ideals that took us to our miraculous new democracy have not been entirely drowned out in the greed and wabenzi mentality of so many of our new priviledged class.
Not to say that the challenges aren't there. There is still a huge gap between what turns out to be some pretty good, state of the art laws that create a framework for real excellence and the realities on the ground in our municipalities.
The number of people who are toyi toying to protest the lack of service delivery is a clear indication of this gap. But what I discovered this week is that the gap is being recognised on the highest levels, and bridges are being built across it. And those bridges are designed for two way traffic: bottom up as well as top down.
I would be dancing to the new rhythm I have found if I wasn't so exhausted after meeting and interviewing 18 people in four days and filling a notebook full of notes that is so precious to me now that I contemplated getting it plastic wrapped at the airport for extra protection.
And then, the cherry on the top was meeting a fellow blogger in real life, and discovering that she was just as real and interesting as I thought she would be. I expected a Harry Potter scar on her forehead, but even without one she was magical.
It was a meeting that seemed doomed to failure at the entrance gate of the ultra high security complex she calls home (because her husband's company puts a high premium on their safety...). I refused to give the guard at the gate my ID number so he refused to let me in. I offered my address, phone number, photo... but no, only an ID number would do. So Extranjera had to walk down to fetch me (greyish green hair and all) and then let me in.
I spoke to my son while I was waiting and he was pretty freaked out by me arguing with men in uniform and planning to meet someone whose name I wasn't sure of and who I had met on the internet as through someone else in Denmark who I actually haven't met yet either. (Thanks Julie!)
I had to promise to phone him immediately after I left so he would know I was safe and that she wasn't an axe murderer. (She wasn't, but I did have one of those "hmmm" moments when the first thing I saw in her home was her skull and crossbones tablecloth.)
Actually its pretty cool to have your son worrying about you, rather than the other way around.
(And I do worry about him, in spite of the fact that he is perfectly capable of looking after himself. As is my other son, Ben who is on a huge adventure here and quite obviously life life to the fullest.)
One of the real bonuses of meeting Extranjera was finding out that she was exactly as she appears to be in her blog. She's real, she's interesting, she's fun (and I suspect could be more fun but was maybe a bit on her best behaviour?). And for me, most importantly, she is not living in her security village, hankering for home and remaining cut off from the reality that is South Africa. She's teaching English to children in Diepsloot, a tin shack township which has more than its fair share of problems.
She is contributing to the solution in ways that many South Africans do not.
So... the end to a good, inspiring week. I'm feeling so positive that I don't even care that my 1Time flight to Cape Town has been delayed an hour (just like the one coming up to Joburg). At least it has given me time to finish this post.
For those that may need explanations of some of the words in this post:
Wabenzi are the newly rich who indulge in the bling lifestyle and drive expensive cars (like Mercedes Benz)
The closest definition I can think of for Toyi Toyi is protest dancing
The Harry Potter reference to Extranjera is explained in her blog. Go and read it.