Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Hot and Cold

craig holley

We took time in the middle of of the tournament to visit one of the townships in District 6.

The first stop was a community center not unlike the Urban Ministry Center. The director was a playwright. Posters of her productions graced the walls of her office. She answered emails at her computer while counseling two people reclined on her couch. Downstairs local craftsmen exhibited their wares in the center as well. While one man who fashions trashcans, fan blades, cigarette containers, model airplanes, and sundry other items out of red aluminum coca cola cans gave us an enthusiastic presentation, you could hear the clicking of keyboards in the adjacent room where a resume-writing and job-searching class was taking place. On the corkboard in the hallway announcements and pamphlets about an anti-gun and anti-gang program were pinned up. What was most salient about the place was its immaculate cleanliness and the detailed craftmanship employed in the contruction and the decoration--relief murals and paint jobs, etc.

In a small courtyard we joined an impromptu dance with youth who were choreagraphing their own group performance. We left the center and our conversations with the people there reluctantly.

We followed our guide to his blacksmith shop, a non profit venture where they train blacksmiths while also selling their work. Craig said, "I feel like I am home." Our guide handed Craig and piece of iron and showed him how to hold it in the fire till it glowed. He beat it across the anvil, stretching it, and curling it as he pleased. Craig took the hammer and the iron and moved it back and forth from the fire, weaving around of the other young men in the progam, each holding iron glowing orange with fire. I realized absractly how incredibly dangerous the situation was, but the sure movement and fearless understanding of the workers in front of me had an air of infallibilty. I had to admit, the workroom was completely safe.

I sat back and watched Craig hammer away at the maleable orange iron. I looked at the slight smile coupled with the concentration on his face. I looked at C-white who was talking with Michael from DC. This is what all this intervention is like, all the hours and after hours, the conversations, the frustrations, the high fives, the driving, the running, the cleaning together. We do it everyday, warm each other to the point that we can change our forms as human beings. Then there is the difficult part. The part I experienced after the trip, after the two days additional shelter we provided in Charlotte, when those who had moved into places had gone back into those places, and when those who had nowhere to go had to go back out on their own into the evening. I see it everyday, the cooling that takes place at night, the hardenning. You develop a relationship, you get to an understanding and everyone involved draws conclusions. Then the night comes, the rain, the cold . . . the community ends for several hours. You see the same people in the morning and they look at you like strangers. They haven't eaten, they are cranky until the day heats up (if it does at all) and the blacksmithing begins, and always ends too early. You think how much could be resolved if these folks just weren't homeless.

We were due back at our game but it was hard dragging Craig out of the blacksmith shop. He took time to shake every person's hand and ask their name. Jeff bought Craig a momento from the shop--you would have thought he bought him a new car. When we got to the van, half the players were missing. We searched up the alley, back in the building. They were nowhere to be found. Finally a local said he had seen them. We caught sight of Abussey in the distance. Our players were wandering the through the laberynth of quiet tin shantis, divided by narrow dirt footpaths, happhazardly dividing the makeshift abodes into a sort of grid pattern. C-white was squatting in a woman's hut with his camera. Michael was rounding a corner with the cautious reverence of someone in the most holy of precincts. The extent of these homes was vast, seemingly as vast as the open sky above us. You could see how vast because not a single one was even six feet hight. It was so quiet you could here the light breeze brush across the dirt and loose fabric. There our team was, in South Africa.

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