Wednesday, September 5, 2007

White Poverty in Grahamstown, South Africa

It's warm in Grahamstown today. I dared to leave my hotel without a cardigan and haven't sneezed even once - quite an achievement for cold-weather allergic me for once.
I joined the students on the bus to the Journalism and Media Studies Centre. As usual, Mpume and Ayanda, two South African students from Durban also attending the Highway Africa workshop, greeted me in jest, "Do we leave them?"
Hahaha! They were alluding to my usual call in the morning on whether we should ask the bus driver to zoom off without lazybones staying at the oak Lodge. Lazybones is a bad word, admittedly. They are simply late sorting their stuff out; laundry here, passpot in the bag, class notes in order etc, before we leave for the university campus.
My mind keeps flashing back to yesterday. I was shocked beyond belief when in the evening walk to the shopping centre to buy toiletries I found a white man and his wife in the street corner.
They seemed to be quarreling over something, and they had gunny bags. My first impression was that they were husband and wife, and they would sort it out and return home. Then it hit me; they were at home, right there in the street! Black beggars are common in almost all major African cities, but white ones? This is different.
I slowed down and heard them speak (rather, curse) in broken English. Shuffling around and trying to make themselves comfortable, they moved around a bit.
then they were joined by an old couple probably in their 60s. maybe they looked older as a result of the harsh weather in Grahamstown. The rain was approaching and I had to run back to the hotel. I promised myself to return and talk to them today. maybe they will make a good story for my newspaper back in Nairobi.


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