10 Years

The longer I live in Johannesburg, the more difficult it becomes to write about what I’m experiencing. Sometime in the last two and a half years, I ceased to be an anthropologist/observer and became something else. I have now lived here for longer than I did in San Francisco, my chosen location after four enforced years in Boston’s tundra. There was a slow process of yuppification after college, like being stuck in a gooey bowl of gelatinous credit card debt, car payments, and the sweet girlie-drinks that came after work and before the latest fondue dinner craze. I was waiting for the whole mess to solidify around me when I finally got out.

Read More

The Land of Plenty

Pam, who has let me adopt her as a surrogate mother, runs a school for about 120 children, from babies to 6 or 7 years old. The children's families live in the shacks bordering the train tracks that divide the slums from the place where a memorial is being built to commemorate the Freedom Charter signing in 1955. She has been taking care of the community's children for over 13 years, for virtually no pay, because most of the children's parents are either dead, single with multiple mouths to feed, or part of the 43 percent unemployment rate. The department of Social Welfare donates R6 (just under a dollar) per child per day for food, and that is the only funding these children benefit from. The meals they get at Pam's crèche are often the only food they'll eat during the day.

Read More

A Passport at War

The teller looked down at my passport, looked up at me, and said loudly, “Well, well, well, we have an American in the bank!” She went on to inform her fellow tellers, and in the process ended up announcing to everyone there that I held an American passport. Waving it around from behind her bullet-proof glass, she yelled, “Why are you bombing Iraq?”

Read More