Day 17: 11 December – 365 Days of Activism

Yes, day 17. The 16 days of activism have come and gone; my 16 days on the streets joining them on their coming and going. From here on out is where it becomes more and more important to continue to carry the torch and continue to speak out against violence towards women and children, and other injustices in society. We are not bound to speak out about HIV/AIDs awareness on “AIDs Day”, we should not only be concerned about our youth on “Youth Day”, and 16 Days of Activism is not enough to speak out about violence towards women and children, most especially when it is so prevalent in our society, and the world at large! Let us not get stuck in the emotion, excitement and trend of a “holiday” or a set of days like 16 Days of Activism, in that we jump on the bandwagon on speaking out against these atrocities for that time and that time only. Let us speak out against these things every day of the year!

Last night I had the privilege of speaking at a “discussion” group that meets in a very nice restaurant called Doppio Zero. Wise Guy and I were pretty much the first people to arrive and we both sat down and basked in the contrast of street life and that fancy restaurant environment that we found ourselves in. Wise said he had just passed by it with a friend the other day and as they looked in the window from outside he made a comment about the “rich people” in there. He laughed about the fact that he was now sitting there, and wondered what the people passing by thought of him. The venue was an ironic and harsh contrast to my 16 Days, and my filthiness made that statement loud and clear, but it was also amazing that Danny, the owner of the restaurant, had made his business open and available for an event like that.

People began to show up, both familiar and unfamiliar faces. I was thrilled to see the diversity of people that came; Joe Seremane (Federal Chairman of the DA political party), some of my brothers and sisters from the streets, some “business people”, friends, and strangers. It was an honour to get to spend time with Mr. Seremane! As people were still arriving he sat beside me and said he would not “spoil what is to come” by asking me questions though he was curious. I asked him if i could ask him questions. He said i could for only 10 dollars per question. I offered him all that was left in my pocket: 50 cents and he said that would do and he would put it in a bond with 12 % interest. He spent six years on Robbyn Island with other political prisoners during the Apartheid, and then another 28 months in solitary confinement in another prison. He said that the 6 years were nothing compared to the 28 months that he spent all by himself, alone with nothing but his own thoughts and conversations to entertain him. He said he had to become “insane” to stay sane; he spoke to flies that visited him, took long walks around his cell envisioning he was walking from Cape Town to other far off cities, and came up with a range of poems and songs. It was amazing to be in his company! He has incredible wisdom, insight and humility. I wish he was our president (he was the DA’s candidate against Kgalema Motlanthe)!

When it was time for me to speak i felt a lump in my throat. I stood up and before i could even open my mouth i felt tears coming on. I guess i had been holding them back over the past 16 days and they were dead set on getting out. I think i spoke for about 15 or 20 minutes, but really have no concept of the time. I do know that majority of what i said was through a quivery voice. I had to stop at times to try and gain composure so people could even understand what i was saying. I felt like a little girl! But i also realised that my experience over the 16 days was moving for me, but also broke my heart all over again, for the people that i care the most about in Cape Town! I also noticed that my eyes were not the only wet eyes in the room, and i felt comforted by that. After i finished i sat back down beside Wise Guy and he pulled me over and hugged me and showed his overwhelming approval for what i had said. He had tears in his eyes but was trying to push them back.

We all hung out and ate together, and eventually the streets were calling Wise’s name and he was curious as to what was going on at the flower stand. He snuck out without telling anyone but me, and i walked with him to the door. It was strange knowing that he was going back to the flower stand and i was going back to my flat in Muizenberg. It felt strangely wrong but i knew that it was the way it had to be, for now. I hugged him and thanked him for everything he had done; his role in the 16 days was incredibly huge! I told him i would miss him. He expressed the same sentiments with his eyes welling up with tears and then said, “I can’t talk about this right now! I don’t want to…” he made gestures pointing to his eyes, saying he did not want to cry. With a quivery voice he told me that i should go back in because people really wanted to talk to me in there. We hugged again and i watched him walk away; both of us pushing back tears, but Wise doing a better job.

Last night was very emotional for me. It is really strange because i don’t cry much. There are sometimes when i want to cry but i can’t! Last night was not one of those times! As the night came to an end and we said our goodbyes, i felt tears coming on again as i walked to our car with my wife Ashley. I think i cried the entire drive home. It is hard to explain. Even now i am sitting here typing like a little baby, with snot running out my nose and tears rolling down my face! When we got to our flat i took off my shoes, peeled off my socks that had not come off for the past 16 days, shed the rest of my clothes, shaved my face and head, and then took a warm shower. My feet were covered in dirt and what seemed to be mildew! I had to scrub three times over to remove all the dirt from my body. I dried off and put on my clean “pajamas” and got into my soft, warm bed not long after that. I think i fell asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow!

This morning i woke up at about 9:00. I didn’t have to worry about getting up before flower sellers came into my room. I was able to immediately get up and give relief to my full bladder, and didn’t have to wait until the public toilet opened, or walk to Long street. I walked over to the coffee pot and poured coffee, and didn’t have to walk to the Parade and give Anwar 3 of my hard earned rand from the night before. I sat down in from of my own computer and began checking all my various sites, without having to walk all the way to Long Street to the Internet cafe where i wrote my blogs. And though i had told myself that i would take today off and take it easy, my mind is already racing as to what i am going to do today…but mostly racing with curiosity about what is going on with my family that live on the streets that i called home for 16 days!

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8 Responses to Day 17: 11 December – 365 Days of Activism

  1. Jo says:

    i SALUTE you, really i do! you are one hell of a ROLE MODEL! god bless you

  2. Beth says:

    I’m crying too, and I am so proud of you.
    Love you to the moon and back!

  3. Anonymous says:

    VERY touching! Thank you Ryan! Anneke

  4. Anonymous says:

    I’m crying to mom!! How we are humbled by our children! DAD

  5. John says:

    I am proud of you Ryan! Really proud!

  6. Kimberly says:

    The day after the fancy dinner, I walked with one of your sisters from the street through the Gardens. She told me “Ah, Ryan is very strong” because you are the only American who knows “the white lice in your clothes.” She’s right. It takes someone strong to do what you did, then show your emotion about it in a public forum to get more people involved. No wonder everyone, even the cooks, stopped to listen to your speech.

  7. Anonymous says:

    You are bringing light into the darkest corners. Thank you and thank you for sharing with us. God is using you Ryan, to bless so many lives.
    Dawn Reaves

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