While I've been doing the glamorous movie thing, Xtina has been on the other side of the world on another mission for her NGO, this time in South Africa. She's been back and forth between JoBurg, Port Elizabeth, Pretoria and beyond, usually in the most desperately poor neighborhoods.
She sent me this email update that I thought I'd share with you:
You have to imagine the poorest place you have ever been to, a desert dotted with little laminate shacks, no outdoor illumination, nothing. You drive along the main road in total darkness and suddenly you see this huge construction, temple-like, a piece of Vegas in the middle of nowhere. Lights, guards, 5 stars hotel, lounges, a vast green park (outside there is a very dry land), and slot machines, hundreds. The Sisters told me that the whites that come here look only for one thing. Guess what. I think this was the most outrageous contrast I have ever seen in my life. Probably people here are used to it.
This morning (wake up at 6) we went to another mission in the poorest village...they have a clinic, well organised with many girls that study and volunteer as home care assistants, especially for AIDS patients. Very nice girls, they walk for kms to get to their patients. Then they have nursery and pre-school. Tons of kids screaming my ears off. They don't have enough brick classrooms, the youngest (2-4) stay in containers...so hot...
They took me to visit a couple of patients, one woman with polio in a wheel chair...she was so happy that we brought her a new one...and the family with AIDS. The woman was very proud to show me her wedding dress...she did it herself...they have nothing else, four walls and nothing inside, bare rooms with some linens but at least they have gardens in the back where they grow vegs. They live off the government grant, 80 euros a month.
The thing that shocks me the most is that there are no men around. The women do all the work, in the gardens that the sisters give to the women to grow vegs I saw 2 pregnant women carrying water, ploughing the land...no men. They don't feel responsible at all, they wander around, play football and many of them steal as much as they can during the night. Thieves broke in here several times and stole all the computers...
I don't feel too sad, I explained to the girls today that even if they don't see it they have a lot. They have a community, a network of people, they have their land, they have the opportunity to study..I wouldn't exchange this with a struggling life in the city...I don't know if I was very convincing.