October 15, 2007

Home Sweet Home

Last Thursday, I took a moderately epic journey around Mthatha with our after-school program coordinator, Mkuseli (UM-coo-sell-i), dropping a few people off and mostly searching for various items for his programs and my library. I really like Mkuseli (he has a great smile but gets deadly serious when you ask to take his picture) and towards the end of the trip, I asked him to show me the Anglican church he goes to because someday we plan on going together.

After we saw the church, he insisted on taking me to his home, which was nearby. I wish I had my camera with me, both to show you what it was like but also to capture what my face looked like when I saw it. He and his wife live in a mud-brick house that is probably 10 feet by 10 feet. In that space, they cook, clean, sleep, and do everything else people normally do in their homes. I could barely move anywhere as it was so cramped.

I was first struck by how proud Mkuseli was of his home. A man’s home truly is, I guess, his castle and he showed me the various features of the house and the mementoes crammed here and there (it didn’t take long).

I was then struck by the fact that I probably have six times as much floor space as Mkuseli does, running water and electricity (most of the time), and a bathroom I don’t have to leave the house to get to. And I live all alone and Mkuseli’s daughter right now lives with a relative because there isn’t enough space for her. And Mkuseli has a full-time job, though his wife hasn’t been able to find work.

My stipend is rather small by American standards but it’s still more than twice what Mkuseli makes and I don’t even have to pay rent. Next year, when his daughter gets old enough, Mkuseli is going to have come up with the money for her school fees, books, uniform, and so on, which amounts to about 15-percent of his monthly salary.