I woke up early today with the expectation of interviewing 4 women at the Learn to Earn organization in Khayelitsha. Due to the rain and cold weather, many women could not make it. I completed one interview and it went really well. I was a bit upset that I had only done 1/4 interviews, but it was out of my hands and knew that I would just reschedule for a day with a nice forecast, given that it is Winter here.
After the interview finished, I waited a bit longer just to make sure no one else came. Moments later I received a text from my ride stating that she just got called into another spontaneous meeting and that I could try to take an Uber home, or wait another 2 hours for her to pick me up. I told her that I would wait and I packed my belongings, and started walking around Khayelitsha. My first stop was at the lovely grand opening of K&L catering and the food was absolutely delicious. Thank you Ntombie! Although the wind was blowing abruptly, I ate my food outside, staring at the cows just a few yards away.
I got up and started to walk around again, as I was greeted with hellos and smiles from both adults and adorable children. I turned one corner and saw a group of boys playing (football/soccer) and of course it was inevitable that I joined them. We played for over an hour and what I found so delightful was that every time someone walked by us, they involved themselves in the game, whether it was for 10 seconds or 10 minutes. In America, based on personal experience, most people would get mad at the “interruption” of the game but the sense of inclusiveness and the community vibe that I experienced today in Khayelitsha was truly awe-inspiring.
I checked the time on my phone and figured it was almost time for me to head back to the Learn to Earn organization where I would be picked up at. I slowly made my way there. I sat down on the ground to wait for my ride, and lifted my head to a group of beautiful children coming towards me. They asked if I had any games on my phone and I explained that unfortunately I don’t because I have way too many pictures. They clicked on the camera, and the pictures attached are some of the amazing results.
I have continuously been told (by South Africans) how dangerous Khayelitsha is and to not go there alone, and definitely not to walk around by myself. I clearly did the opposite and I must say, I am so grateful that I listened to my intuition. I did keep their advice in the back of my mind and was aware of my surroundings but truthfully, the types of things that I was warned about could happen absolutely anywhere in the world at any time, and I just could not let that preconceived sense of fear overpower my desire to freely engage with the wonderful people that I had the true honor and privilege of meeting today in the township of Khayelitsha.
Had I not wandered about the streets, I would have missed the opportunity to meet these beautiful faces and smiles.
I also want to thank Titania Fernandez for always being there and supporting my research without hesitation. From setting up meetings, to making phone calls, to driving me to and from several different locations that are quite far away, I really appreciate all you are doing to ensure a prosperous research journey, and more importantly, a fruitful life-changing experience.
Note: This post was originally on Facebook and the woman who I thanked above (Titania Fernandez) responded and below is her comment that brought tears to my eyes. I am so grateful and humbled by this experience here in South Africa. Stars, I thank you for aligning.
Thank you for enriching our lives with an open heart and an open mind Lauren Ashley. You are a gift to humanity. I treasure the times we’ve shared and embrace your thoughtfulness on diversity and inclusivity and the magic of social change that happens through the light of of your ubuntu spirit. You are a gift to humanity, it’s a treasure and blessing to work alongside you… “I have seen and met angels wearing the disguise of ordinary people living ordinary lives” …thank you for being extraordinarily beautiful in your humanity…
Warmest, Lauren K.