Africa Trip - Day #3, Part 2 - Nov 10, 2007

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A child's feet dangles from his school chair in Esiboniesweni
Photo: Bryan Johnson

I expected it to be a whole hell of a lot hotter here, but in the outskirts of Johannesburg (10 km N) in this sanitized area, it's a breezy, refreshingly picture-perfect summer day. No cloud has even attempted to creep into the frame. No discerning scent is in the air. The only sounds are the babbling waterfall of the pool, a dog barking in the distance, and the playful cackling of the helmuted guinea fowl. (Note to self: I'll have to chase after those big fat "chickens" later).

I was a bit annoyed in the airport yesterday. Taxi drivers hawking me, people taking up small talk just to make a buck. I don't care for it, especially when the person on the other end doesn't give a shit about what you are really saying.

"Where you come from," a taxi Driver asks.

"JFK. Flew in from New York," I say warily.

"Ah, NYC. Are you on holiday? Just out of college?" (translation: how young and stupid are you?)

"Not exactly. I'm here to spend time with friends in South Africa and Mozambique."

"You be here for a month?"

"Just about."

"What you do here?"

I hesitate. I know he doesn't give a damn. "I'm joining a friend who has a shoe company. We're visiting some towns to give children without shoes some shoes for their feet."

"Ah yes!" He perked up. "Do you have the shoes with you?" He asks scanning my backpack and small duffle. "I need a new pair myself," he retorted with a fierce sense of entitlement in his voice.

I glanced at his shoes. Smiling I said, "I'm sorry, I don't."

I've heard in some of the towns we will be visiting, parents make some money, but spend it on alcohol. Their children are the ones to suffer, running barefoot on the hot sand and streets. I don't understand it. I don't live here, but I don't need to though. Whether it is here, in America, or somewhere else, it's the same case, different story.

In every culture, we give lip service and say that "Children are our future," yet there is little investment in "our" future.
This past week I sat in the front row behind Billy and the other young adults before the Committee of Energy Independence and Global Warming. It was one of the proudest days of my life -- sitting there, supporting those in the room, and getting support in return. It seemed to take all the energy and courage of all of us to stand up, to rise up, and say what was needed to be said. We are here to take back our future....

I'm here in Africa -halfway across the world -- yet those thoughts are still with me. It is the same battle everywhere, just in a different context. We are all the same. Same hopes, same fears. Now we need to figure out how to empower people, especially young people, to rise up, find their voices, and lead those of us who are blind...

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