It is very interesting as i really “sink” into street life; it is interesting to view a life that i have known “so well” (for the past eight years) from another angle. I mean, i know about street life, in my first three years here in South Africa i spent more time on the streets than i did in my flat, but that was still an “outsiders” perspective. Even though the kids invited me into their lives and showed me all about street life, told me stories, and i walked with them through so much, it was still not a full taste of “street life”.
I am only three days into this journey but i know i don’t smell so hot! The poor guy sitting next to me in the Internet cafe keeps looking this way out of the corner of his eyes. I don’t look quite as “kept” as i did on the first day. I am more sunburned. My eyes are a little bloodshot from who knows what; maybe it’s my allergies acting up from sleeping next to the flowers. I did get given some new shoes. They are pretty funny and are attracting quite a bit of attention. They are white, but one is painted neon orange and the other is painted neon yellow. “Beggars can’ be choosers!”. Those words have never rang so true!
Anyways, i was walking back to town from the Waterfront today, with a BIG sack of rolls someone gave me. I am sure i was quite a sight, but people couldn’t help but look at me with in different judgments; some thought it was funny, others held their purses tighter, others just looked in unbelief. I probably would have laughed at myself if i would have been them! Wise Guy was walking with me, and he keeps much more clean than i ever will be able to on the streets! We passed by a traffic light where we had tried to hand out 365 Days of Activism flyers on the first day. We were about five minutes into it that day and a security came to us and told us we had to have a permit. Today when we passed by there were two different groups of people handing out flyers. I asked them if they had a permit and sure enough, they did not. Wise and i walked on and low and behold who was standing there but the security that had chased us away, and he was merely standing their watching the group hand out their flyers.
Wise and i questioned him about it and he actually lied and said that it was not him. But it was. Wise reckons he looked at our tattoos and decided we were a danger to hand out flyers. Anyways. Yesterday morning i got to the soup kitchen early and ran into an old friend who lives on the streets. We had allot to catch up on because the last time i saw him was maybe a year ago, in Manenberg and there was a drive by shooting one block away and i had to leave quickly. Anyways. We sat on the steps right in front of St. Georges Cathedral and spoke. After a few minutes a CCID security came up and told us we had to move. I was not planning on arguing.
Just as i was standing up Melvin, my friend, began arguing with him. He had pain and anger in his voice. “How many times a day do i see foreigners sitting in this same spot looking at maps and books?! They sit here for hours and you don’t ask them to move and i am here for a few minutes and i have to move!? I am a South African citizen!”. This is true. It happens to be a spot where a tour bus drops tourists and i see them sit there on a daily basis. As a matter of fact, later that day i saw a group of business people sitting there eating lunch with the same security guard nearby. But that makes no difference. Melvin’s argument was not heard. We moved. Melvin mumbled threats under his breath as we walked away.
You know, i of all people know the trouble that the “youth” living on the streets can cause. But it is also sad when we forget to treat people like humans. I do want to come to a day when there is not one single child living on the streets. But at the same time, if there are people living on the streets, young or old, they deserve to be treated with respect and dignity, or we cannot expect that back from them. Even initiatives, present and future, we come up with to eradicate homelessness amongst youth should be done in a respectful way, with the youth’s best interests in mind! It is insightful to experience street life from the “other side”. I don’t just hear about the problems the kids, encounter i experience them. I don’t just “see” the looks and judgements from people, i feel them!