June 9, 2009


It’s obvious that if you spend even a little time in a place like Itipini, you learn a lot about what you’ve taken for granted - running water, insulation, a roof that doesn’t leak, electricity, etc., etc., etc. But the more time I’ve spent getting to know the people here, the more I realize how many intangible things I’ve taken for granted.

I’ve already written about what I’ve noted about the capacity for leadership. Here’s a short list of a few more:

An environmental consciousness - It is appalling how people here treat the environment. Mthatha is a city full of litter. It never ceases to amaze how people casually throw away their trash with no thought of where it ends up. They throw it out the window of cars or taxis, they drop it wherever on the ground. I can’t stand it. The rivers and drainage ditches are clogged with trash.

Privacy - People here have so little private space. Going to the bathroom, bathing, changing, even sex are not private acts here. Personal details about a person - particularly concerning their health - are a lot less private here than I am used to.

Sabbath time - When your existence demands a huge amount of daily physical labour, the idea of taking a break is almost laughable. You simply can’t. It certainly puts new light on the fourth commandment as I imagine the Israelites were a lot closer to the people of Itipini than to us.

Planning ahead - When you don’t have a savings account or a steady job, planning any farther than the end of the day is difficult. The question is, how will I make it to tomorrow? Then the next day? Then the next? I’ve realized that planning my life one year at a time, as I have for the past several years, is a luxury.

I’m sure there are lots more but that’s a few for now.