I had a very South African Christmas with Glen and his family. They traditionally eat ham and eggs for breakfast with a shandy (beer mixed with carbonated lemonade). I passed on the animal products and opted for one of my personal favorites–beans on toast. I did not turn down the shandy.
On Tuesday Glen, Jenna (his colleague from work) and I visited Two Sisters, an orphanage run by Patrick Thibedi Chamusso. Some of you may have heard of Patrick through the 2006 film Catch a Fire. During the anti-Apartheid struggle, Patrick got involved in the fight and eventually was captured and jailed alongside of Nelson Mandela and others from the ANC.
Chamusso was arrested in 1980 by South African Special Branch for conspiring with the ANC to bomb the Secunda refinery, a crime he insisted he did not commit. He was later released without charges being laid. He claimed that he had been tortured whilst a prisoner. He fled to Mozambique where he joined Umkhonto we Sizwe, the militant arm of the ANC.
After military training, he returned to South Africa where he single-handedly carried out a second, partly successful, bombing at Secunda, which – as was intended – resulted in no casualties. After a massive manhunt, he was arrested and ultimately sentenced to 24 years in prison on Robben Island. In 1994, as the apartheid system began to be dismantled, having served 10 years, Chamusso, was released under the new government’s amnesty policy.
In Robben Island he and his fellow captives had years to talk about their futures and the future of South Africa. While some of them desired to become government officials or entrepreneur, Patrick decided that he wanted to help his people affected by HIV and AIDS. After his release, he raised money and eventually opened a home for children who lost their parents to HIV/AIDS.
I asked Patrick what he learned from his days in the struggle that he found useful today in his work in the orphanage. He said that when training for the military, they had to learn how to live for others and not for the individual. He learned community and sharing and looking out for each other.
You can contribute to Two Sisters here. It is a worthy cause. Dollars, Euros and Sterling go far in South Africa right now.
Tomorrow Glen, Jenna and I travel eight hours by car to the Drakensberg Mountains.This is the home to the second biggest water fall in the world and the highest point in Southern Africa. We will spend four days hiking and also go into Lesotho.
What a lovely time we are having all together. I love experiencing new foods, new customs, learning new words and engaging in conversation with people from diverse backgrounds. Tonight I will actually do a Christmas performance for Glen’s family and about eight of their friends. I think I will present Doin’ Time with Peterson Toscano, which gives me a chance to do bits from four different shows.
Most likely I will be off-line for a few days, so I hope everyone has a very nice week before the New Year. I know we head into 2009 with a mix of genuine fears and tentative hopes. The economy frightens the snot out of most of us right now and questions swirl as to how some of this is going to get sorted. 2009 will also offer us opportunities to better look after each other, to build community, to get back to basics.