I was once numb. I once thought I was desensitized to certain things I see in Metz, in South Africa. Now, I'm thinking I had to let those coping mechanisms kick in so I could protect myself when faced with all the little things that seem to present themselves in my everyday life.
Things I will never forget, that have affected me, but I didn't have quite the emotional reaction to them as I would have expected:
*Car accident on the way to Tzaneen. There's a body on the road, the face and torso are covered, the feet are sticking out from under a wrap of traditional fabric. Our taxi stopped and waited for traffic to clear. My eyes were fixed on the feet.
*Visiting a home based care patient. He's sleeping in the living room of his mother's house. He has a sponge (big piece of foam) as his mattress and a couple of thin blankets to cover his thin body. He is HIV positive, he has TB. I hold his hand.
*Another car accident. I'm in a taxi, as we pass the scene is a blur, I see feet sticking out from beneath a teal cloth.
*Kids at a church daycare. 20 of them, in the middle of winter, running around in a small, bare room, waiting for teatime. The daycare is waiting for funding for food... then maybe they can think about getting some toys.
*gates, gates, gates. locks, locks, locks. bars, bars, bars.
*The post office robbery. The next day a man tried breaking into a general dealer (store) and was shot and killed by the overnight security guard. This week a taxi driver carrying women to deposit money from their society in the bank, is shot and wounded... the cash is taken.
*Serious assaults, violations, thefts, beatings, rapes all experienced by other volunteers, my friends, in the group I came in.
*Homes made of tin, board, cardboard, and tarps.
*Sitting in a dark movie theater when all the sudden the exit door is opened and some jokesters yell something in Afrikaans and run off. My heart is beating 10 million times a minute, I was sure they were coming to rob us, and the rest of the movie is shot because I can't concentrate.
*Working with and for so many good people. People I've come to rely on and who have come to rely on me. Seeing their faces and their hearts affected by all that I've seen as well....and more.
*Another accident, 3 bodies this time. Our car has to pass into the other lane to get around. Feet are sticking out, feet just feet from my window. We all comment on how horrible it is, how horrific, but after that I am silent. I am ready to talk about something else.
*Walking to the backpackers in Pretoria after seeing a late movie. Nathan urges us as a group to move to the other side of the road because he has just noticed a guy that looks suspicious. I had no clue.
*Wheelbarrows used to carry water back to the house from the community tap.
*People standing up in the back of a bakkie, so many wedged in they don't move much when it hits bumps. Wind is in their hair.
*Woman standing outside of Pick 'n Pay in Tzaneen. I'm eating an ice cream cone and the cream starts to melt and run down my hand as I watch her, unable to tear my eyes away, beat her son in front of at least 30 people. Punching him in the head. Shaking him. He cries, but silently, and every time a tear starts to roll down his cheek, he wipes it away quickly.
*Walking to work I come across several policeman. They're standing around with BIG guns. We greet each other and talk about the morning. They tell me they are patrolling the area more. They want to catch a so called gang that has taken to robbing people at random. Guns make me uncomfortable. Those big guns don't have me batting an eye.