Since moving from my paradise island with its memories of beach walks, sunset get-togethers on my balcony, BBQ lunches and Potjiekos dinners with friends, music, laughter, and coffee with oh so much condensed milk, that it became contraband, I have been freezing my skinny little arse off. As most of you know by now, this year has been another of those catalytic years for me. I have prattled on about being an altered me, having shed my skin and found a different version prowling beneath, and I how I have been relishing every moment of my newly busy life.
Each day I bundle myself up in so many layers of clothes that I don’t even think the Michelin Tyre Man compares with me. Warm and toasty? More like one step away from hyperthermia. I actually feel the blood in my fingers refusing to flow. My icey toes are deathly white and my ears feel like they could belong to someone else. I scurry from my flat to my car (a cute little Suzuki Jimny, named Tokoloshe) to the office in a flash that Roger Bannister would be proud of. Shoving any slow moving being out of the way, my first salutation of the day is usually, “It’s cold,” which I always say with exasperation. As if it is someone’s fault. I know that I am going to regret this, but I long for the hot flushes that will soon plague my body. Where is the bloody global warming I have been promised?
To me, my temperature challenges are so very important, but as I drive home again in the darkness of the day, I see the entrepreneurs at the side of the road peddling their wares in T-shirts. I notice women next to the fires they have built, selling warm food to the passers-by, and I look at the beggars who are only wearing a thin layer of clothing. Some of them are in need of medical supplies and some of them simply in need of a jacket, a toothbrush or a hot meal.
I pass countless people looking for work. “I am a plumber, a painter, a carpenter …” the signs all say. “I build, I tile, I repair” the boards announce. As they stand there with hope and fear for their families, the world keeps passing. I keep passing. I drive on, huddling into my steering wheel. I know that I would not survive if I had to live that way.
Here, on the side of the road, you can find the best and the worst of human nature. I realise that it is up to us to decide which way we want to lean towards. To know who we can help and who we ourselves can rely on. The next Ada Lovelace, Albert Einstein or Rosalind Franklin could be struggling to survive and we will never know what the world has lost, all because they didn’t get enough education or enough food. Advances in medicine, science, and humanities might have missed the one person on the side of the street who could have helped us. Instead, they are selling us hangers.
Returning to Africa reminds me of my place in the world. I don’t have enough spare change to buy that black sports car I thought I would own when I was a child, but I have everything I need. I know that I can’t save the world. I am not even going to try to save one person. But I am hoping that I can try to make it easier for people who don’t have access to the things that I do. I am working on a project called enabled.WORLD and if it succeeds, it may help connect the world to some of the people who don’t have access to things I take for granted. Internet connections or banking or even the fact that I can prove I am who I say I am. Over the next few months, I will be working my freezing bony bum off to see if we can make a small difference in the world.
Wish me luck. I’ll keep you posted.