by Sonja Kruse

Finding the cracks

The Ubuntu Girl shares her story

Spirit of ubuntu
Sonja Kruse is the Ubuntu Girl

This past month I‘ve come face to face with my ugly side. It has been about finding the cracks.

“There is a crack in everything. That is how the light gets in” ~ Leonard Cohen. So, do I write this story that has reached boiling point inside of me? Or do I play Spider Solitaire until it passes?

It is going to be a gentle day: A walk to town from Woodstock, with some people appreciation along the way. Woodstock is one of those places that just lets it all hang out. The window dressing tells you exactly what you’ll find in store, not what you wish to find there.

As I near Greenmarket Square in town, I stop to listen to my favourite musician. His voice is not the best. What he lacks in vocal strength, he makes up for in his strength of character and his faith in God. When I hear and see him, I am reminded of just how petty I can be. 

I am always mesmerised by his self-taught style. The guitar is held in front of him, with the strings facing him, as he strums away. He is blind

When the song stops, I approach him. I’ve been really broke lately. Today I have money. Today I will buy a CD. His name is Goodman. Lunga Goodman Mono. His first question, hardly surprising, is: “What is your name?” I answer with a simple “Sonja”

We chat some more. He enquires about where I am from. He loves the idea of KwaZulu-Natal. He asks if it takes long to get there. He would like to go by train, perhaps.  I say that I have a R100. “How do you know that I am giving you a R100?” For all he knows I may as well give him R10. He does not understand the question. Trust.  By this stage I am kneeling next to him. We are conversing in a broken kind of way. But, understanding is overrated. He says that he likes the name: Thandeka. This is my new name.

“Please come back 4 December. I will have a new CD. In English”

My heart and mind is still in his song, when I am approached by a beggar. I am a little annoyed at being pulled back into another reality paradigm so quickly. I put my hands up and simply shake my head in a no. She follows me. She is persistant. “Please, I have not eaten today” I know how that feels. 

I feel helpless. I can’t help everybody.  How will this help her tomorrow?  Her voice gnaws at my stomach. Her hunger should be my hunger. Frustration! All of a sudden, in a flash, I feel an ancient anger rise up in me. I turn to this lady. I take the CD and show her the picture of Goodman. I’m not sure what my voice conveys: “I just bought this from a blind man. Do you see him? Yes, you see him? A long pause from us both. “You see him, because you can see”

The language of her body, moves slightly away from me. I turn facing her full-on: “This man is doing something for himself. He is making a business for himself. You are young. You are beautiful. Is there something that you can do?”

And now we make eye-contact for the first time. She is also angry. “Yes, I do things” Deflated. We just look at one another. I know that I don’t want to know what she has to do to survive. I walk away. I’m shaking. I’m angry to my core: With her; with me; with society; with poverty; with desperation! And I think that my sunhat and pure white shirt feels so out of place.

Trying to compose myself, I make my way to go and see Leila. She is everybody’s favourite Bo-Kaap Car Guard! I get there only to find that she has reverted to living back on the street with her son again. And he has been doing so well at school lately – with the help from a local business owner who assists with his homework.

That angry feeling is only covered with a thin layer of veneer. We talk about the council and her ‘pampiere’ [papers] for an RDP home. “How can I help you, Leila” She sounds so wise when she says: “You do. You always visit me. You are my angel. We must keep putting one foot in front of the other. We will get better”

I must eat something because my appetite has been packing up and threatening to move out . How can I eat when there are so many hungry people? Food turns sour. I arrive at the queue in the Eastern Food Bazaar at the same time as a group of people. I offer that they can go first. “Are you sure?” Smiling, I say: “Yes. I am not in a hurry” I see from their access tags that they work for SARS. South African Revenue Services. My stomach twists. Perhaps I’ll go home and play Spider Solitaire…

Thank you for reading.

Sonja Kruse

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