November 28, 2007

True Acceptance

I went to find one of our TB/HIV patients the other day to take him to an appointment. I wasn’t quite aware of this but he and his wife run a store and a shebeen, with their bedrooms in the back. A shebeen is an unlicensed bar; in a shantytown they are purveyors of beer that comes in milk carton-like containers and homebrew.

The man I was looking for wasn’t ready when I arrived but a woman sitting in front told me to have a seat (on a milk crate) and wait. (I think that’s what she said – it was all in Xhosa but she certainly was making welcoming hand motions. Or maybe they were the hand motions of someone who is three sheets to the wind at 10:30 in the morning, I don’t know.) I noticed she had a tin can in her hand and she noticed I noticed it so she kindly offered me some of the quite revolting brown liquid inside. It was a bit of a dilemma as I didn’t want to be insulting anyone’s hospitality but I also wasn’t about to drink homebrew. I turned her down but in as gracious a way as possible, given the language barrier and her inebriation.

Acceptance is often indicated by small gestures and remarks. I think being offered homebrew is one of them.