Friday, June 13, 2008

Changing Perspectives

This morning I attended a funeral, or what I thought was going to be the funeral, for one of our homebased care patients. She was an elderly gogo who simply died of old age. There were ten of us from Aletuke who walked to the other side of my village for the service. The first thing I saw as we approached the home was a group of men gathered around what was left of a slaughtered cow and they were cutting the ribs apart. We went inside the old, canvas tent that had been rented for the services throughout the week. Two people from my group went into the house to announce our arrival, pay our condolences and give a small gift of money. One of the elderly family members joined us for a prayer and the singing of a couple songs. My group proceeded to sing for about a half hour when the family brought us all tea and biscuits. It’s South African culture for the family of the deceased to feed the people who come to mourn the death of their family member. The slaughtered cow is to feed all the people after the actual funeral on Saturday morning. When we were finished I helped carry all the dirty dishes from my group to the back of the house where many women were socializing with each other and tending fires for heating water and cooking. I was dressed up but didn’t hesitate to roll my sleeves back and help do the dishes. I took water from the fire and a cloth from the drying line and went to work. The women were looking at me from all over, smiling and pointing in awe. Margaret, who was about my age told me she had never seen a white person wash dishes. In fact, none of the women thought white people did anything with their own hands. I told them I cook, clean, wash my clothes and even eat, all with my hands. They could not believe it. As I walked home I had this great feeling of accomplishment. Not for doing the dishes but for being a Peace Corps volunteer here in South Africa and being that person who helped change their perspective of white people. These are the moments that are life changing for not only me but the women who witnessed something they never thought possible.