Friday, October 20, 2006

late breaking news

Hi everyone out there!

I usually write after an experience, and try to make some sort of
sense of it...and right now I'm writing fully in the experience
itself- where my wallet got stolen last night. Thankfully I wasn't
mugged or anything, it was just taken out of my bag (which is done
here pretty regularly), but the consequence of this means that I'm
left without my atm cards or any when shit hits the fan and
I'm not sure what's going to happen, and I'm stressing out about it,
then I figured- hey, why not make this an "experience" and write home
about it!

And so, here I am, using my laptop at the internet cafe which I
negotiated to give me 200 free internet minutes because I have been
coming here so often for four months. In my pocket is all the money I
have right now- about $9, on loan from my friend because she needs the
money and is, unlike me, actually poor rather than temporarily poor
and inconvenienced. I've cancelled all my cards and nothing was taken
out, and I'm going to check and re-check 100 times, but I'm pretty
sure it was stolen. I now have to figure out how to get my parents to
transfer money from the US to someone's account here in South Africa.
There aren't any Western Unions here, so if anyone out there knows of
a good way to transfer money abroad, please please let me know!

In some ways, though this is a huge inconvenience and I am really
bummed out because I was supposed to leave for Knsyna today to do more
filming and photography, and so now that will be postponed until I can
figure out how to get money in my pocket. But, as with many
experiences in life- both good and bad- this has already been a
learning experience.

For one, maybe it's good to see how most South Africans live, with
little or no money around, safely in a bank account to be withdrawn at
my leisure. I have never here had to stress about funding when I see
and hear my friends stress about it very regularly, so much so that
they can't go out for meals or one is considering teaching in Korea
for a few years to make enough money for her parents to retire. Maybe
this will open my eyes to a more genuine reality for so many people
here, and all of this still with the knowledge and security in the
back of my mind that this will all work out in the end, and hey maybe
I'll lose a few pounds in the process bc I don't have enough money for
food!! (joking about this, I'll be able to eat plenty- there's a
beautiful term here, ubuntu, which translates to like people, unity,
people giving and sharing with each other, that I know I'll be fine)

I also learned a very very valuable lesson last night, one that I
can't say how important it was for me, to realize that, despite trying
to be an aware and conscious white woman here as far as race goes,
that I- as with everyone- don't always understand how race plays into
a situation, and how my actions can offend deeply. Let me explain:

I was out with my friends, Jazz and her sister. Though their last
name, Levenberg, sounds Jewish, they are two coloured sisters who I
have become very close to here (and who knows, being of mixed descent
there probably was some Jewish in them). I realized pretty quickly
that my wallet was missing from my bag, and we returned to the car.
Frantically I searched the car, under the seats, between the cushions,
in my bag, in my pants, and then felt Jazz's pockets to see if her
wallet was there. To me, checking her pockets was just double
checking, as I'd want her to do for me or for my bag, that somehow she
didn't overlook the wallet in her pocket. Obviously, she hadn't and
it wasn't there.

But for her, my actions meant something totally different. There we
were, friends going out together and all of a sudden, in front of all
these other people waiting to get into the club, I was what looked
like frisking my friend, a white woman searching a coloured woman in
front of all these other people. She thought that I thought maybe she
had stolen it - can you imagine accusing a friend of stealing a wallet
and then searching them for it? And I can say I've never seen the
look she gave me as she said "Can we do this somewhere else, you are
embarrassing me."

To me, I never would have though she took money or I wouldn't even
have thought about if she had checked my pockets. And that is my
ignorance, that is what it means I suppose to be white and not to
always be a suspect, to be suspect, even of and from your own friends,
because that is how it is in this country. Later, after she helped me
get to an internet cafe to stop the cards, we had one of the most
honest conversations I've had here in South Africa. I just hadn't
realized how deeply I had hurt her, how strong my actions were, how
they were beyond me and her as friends, but that they are loaded,
colored by the color of our skin. She told me that if we hadn't been
such close friends, if it were any other person, she would have left,
she would never have talked to me because of the way I treated her.
She told me of how her wallet, her computer, her poems, her phone,
even her only copy of her honors thesis- have all been stolen in this
country. That what she does when something happens is to remember she
has her life and her health, that many people around here are losing
those on a daily basis. That at the end of the day we need to keep
things in perspective, and that the person who took her and my stuff,
"his day will come." She told me of how being a coloured person here,
it made sense that the first thing she thought was that I concluded
that she had stolen it. And she told me that, this is what we do when
we grow up and when we have friends- I learn from her and she learns
from me, so that in the future, when a situation like that comes up
again, that I think about my actions, and their intended or
unintended, intentionally or unintentional consequences.

It's important, especially being white when I don't have to deal with
always been suspected, to remember the many privileges that the color
of my skin affords me. Even when my wallet is stolen and I have $9 in
my pocket, I know it will work out.

And I hope from this email that you see I dont want anyone to worry
because I'm safe and okay, but I did want to share with you how I'm
feeling in the moment (and I do feel better when I email everyone). I
will keep you updated about what happens, and I love everyone out

The "Ho Bo" (kidding),



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