Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Burdened hunters – Cultural encounter series (1 of 10)

On my way to work yesterday, (like the day before, a 2 hour drive each way), I looked out the window. I had tried reading during the drive and found myself little smarter and much sicker. (Something about the UNICEF truck, the vehicle we use for rural site visits, disagrees with my inner ear, stomach, and all of those other body parts that are afflicted when car sickness sets in.)

On my protracted commute, I saw crowd of people, mostly women, with wheelbarrows. They were awaiting the delivery of powdered maize to sustain their families. Children used the wheeled vehicles for cots, seats, or shade, depending on their size and age.

I saw a child laying across three empty twenty-some-odd liter water jugs in the morning sun at the minibus stop, likely awaiting pubic transport to the muddy river down the valley. Despite the magnitude and seeming impossibility of his errand, and despite the dirt devils that sprung to life in the wake of passing trucks and powdered his clothes and jugs, wore a relaxed, reflective expression.

I saw women with bundles of wood balanced carefully on their heads, each bundle longer and by all appearances heavier than the body shuffling beneath. They were for building or burning, I know not which.

I saw a semicircle of people bent at the waist around the newest deposit of municipal garbage at the landfill outside of Manzini, Swaziland’s largest city. They picked through colorful plastic bags for something worth more than trash, something that could be eaten or sold.

I saw a grazing wildebeest, one of the few respites my eyes found between these and other incessant high-speed snapshots of impoverished human beings.

Human beings sitting hungry, thirsty and dusty atop the food chain.



At 12:52 AM, Anonymous Thesis Girl said...

Some of these scenes you describe remind me of Brazil... which is absurd for a country with the 5th greatest economy globally. I'm not sure what's worse - abject poverty or massive disparity.


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