First day at work – A lesson on africa time… and pb and j sandwiches

After months of emailing back and forth, Seipati and I set a meeting time. I was to come to her office for 1:30 on Friday to discuss the employment program that I am here to help establish. I was really excited to get things going and I arrived at the office at around 1:15.

When I went to the receptionist’s desk, I was told that Seipati was out in the country doing an assessment and wouldn’t be back until around 3. I talked to her on the phone and she asked if I could wait a bit. She said she would be back before 2.

Betsy the receptionist showed me around and introduced me to some of the characters in the office. In the parking lot behind the building there were about ten volunteers who were preparing food for the 4000 Khayelitsha residents who were displaced from their homes due to of a New Year’s Day fire. I recognized some of the women because they had volunteered at the centers in Nyanga and Khayelitsha that we visited in July. So while I waited for Seipati to get back I decided to hop in and help them make pb an j sandwiches for the fire victims. As we made sandwiches they asked me questions about where I am from and about my family, and I did the same to them. They told me how none of their husbands were still around, only their children. None of the ladies were employed but they volunteered to fill their time when they weren’t busy being mothers and grandmothers.

2 o’clock passed and Seipati was nowhere to be found, 3 o’clock and she still wasn’t back. When we ran out of bread after making well over a thousand pb and js it was almost 4:30. At that point I went to go ask Betsy if Seipati had been back and she said that she was stuck out in De Doorns, a rural town where thousands of farmers have been protesting for higher wages. I had heard about the protests but figured that even given her location, being 3 hours late for our meeting was a prime example of “Africa time”, then the next day I saw this picture on the front of the Cape Times.

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Seipati told me that her car was actually trying to drive through these mobs.

So, while I wasn’t planning on coming here to sharpen my sandwich making skills, I had a blast making pb and js with the volunteers, and then on Monday I ended up having a great meeting with Seipati. She is really excited to start the sewing project and told me that now that I am here it is her  first priority. I could not have heard more encouraging news! I can’t wait to get this thing rolling and see these women start earning some income for their families. Today we are going shopping for sewing tables and some chairs and tomorrow I am going to work with Christopher (a worker at the Red Cross in Wynberg) to clean out the future sewing venue (pictured below). We are aiming to hold our first meeting with the women during the first week of February and to have them sewing clothes and blankets by the middle of the month!

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First day at work – A lesson on africa time… and pb and j sandwiches

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