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Showing posts from March, 2011

World T-Shirt day

"The T-shirts are here!"

I am in the clinic room with a patient but hear the cry go up from next door. The floor of the flimsy prefab building creaks and gives with the sudden influx of nurse and counsellors to the room beyond.

Today is World TB day, and everyone who is anyone has a special T-shirt. Swing a cat in the clinic waiting room and you would hit half a dozen different NGOs: feeding groups, research groups, patient support groups, medical charities. And today each has their special T shirt and we are no different. I sign off my patients paperwork and they wander off. I slip next door and join the throng looking for a shirt. "Here, these are mens. Try medium," says Thandi. I do. It hangs rather loosely below my waist. Sister Manke eyes me critically.

"Ah, Ed. You are but a small man." I glare at her but she does not notice.


T-shirted up, we load into the cars and head off in convoy through Khayelitsha to the soccer stadium for the World TB fayre, host…

Disclosure

The waiting area is full. Children are running up and down between the benches, their mothers (and some fathers) watching them as they wait to be called into a consulting room to see a nurse or counsellor. A woman stands in front of them talking loudly in Xhosa. She bangs her palm with the edge of the other hand, as if emphasising her point. She appears to be delivering a lecture. As I get closer I recognise her as the sister in charge of the HIV clinic.I slip into one of the consulting rooms used by one of the clinic Sisters. “Molo Sister Sibisi”“Molo Doctor. Ninjani?” She has just given a vaccination to one of the anti-retroviral patients – a flu jab. She applies a dressing, and the man thanks her and slips out.“Sikhona,” I exhaust my meagre Xhosa. “What is Matron talking about out there Sister?”“She is giving them a talk on disclosure.”“Disclosure to their friends?”“No doctor, to their children. This is parent-child clinic day so the HIV positive parent comes with their positive ch…

The race

The city is quiet. The sun, just up, bathes the mountain side warm orange. I pull the bike out of the car and pull on my borrowed cycling shoes. A large 4 wheel drive pulls up behind me. The man leaps out and lifts his racing bike off the back. "Good luck," he grunts at me in Afrikaans accented English as he cycles off.

I climb on the bike and wobble precariously down the street as I try to figure out how to lock the cycling shoes into the pedals - and then promptly over balance as I try to work out how to remove them at the traffic lights. "Guess the whole idea of the race is not to stop," I mutter, embarressed.

Wobbling through town I head towards the Civic centre. I join a stream of professional looking cyclists - all in the full kit, with expensive racing bikes. There will be 44000 bikes on the route today - am I the only idiot on a mountain bike?

As I turn the corner the starting area comes into view, the atmosphere electric. The dawn light is grey here, but the …

Yes Man

I am at the head of the pack, with three other blokes. We have been running for over an hour now. I feel a warm glow of achievement – I am keeping pace with real trail runners! They are chatting animatedly. One of them turns to me, “So do you run often?”“No...” I gasp.“Well...”“In...”“Summer...”“Maybe...”“Twice...”“A...”“Week.”I think I am about to die. “And is this your first time with CRAG? How did you hear about it?” Crag – Cape Runners Against Gravity – is a trail running group that meets each Wednesday at different parts of the mountain for a 90 minute run.“My...”“Old...”“Boss.”We are nearing the end now – we can see the car park. My three companions reveal their extra gear and storm ahead. I slow to a stagger.10 minutes later the entire group has re-gathered and – you have to love this about South Africans – chilled beer is produced from the cars. Conversation turns to other outdoor Cape Town activities. This weekend is the big bike race, the Argus, a 110km circuit around the Ca…

Single malt

The coffee has been served and people are making their excuses and heading off. We shuffle around the restaurant table, closing the gaps. I am sitting next to Sister Nene.
"How are you doing? Did you enjoy the food?" I ask.
"Oh yes - and all the better for it was free." The evening has been a work social gathering. A waiter comes up with a glass which he hands her.
"What are you drinking?"
"Whiskey," she replies, a little indistinctly.
"What kind?"
"Normally I like Jamesons. I don't know what this is like. It is something called 'Glenfiddich'."
"That's very good."
"I know. It is a single malt." She reaches for the water jug and eyes me conspiratorially. "I like a little water with it," she whispers and pours half a pint of water into the glass. I watch in horror. "It takes the edge off it and brings out the flavour." As she lifts to drink the light catches the drink - not even a…

I'm not in Kansas

I am driving back along the beach front towards the city centre. It is late and dark but the air is warm, the window down and I hold my arm out relishing the 70km salty breeze that rushes over it. I am returning from dinner with new friends from work. Dinner in a Mexican restaurant on the African coast - or the "Atlantic seaboard" as locals call this area of the city which makes it sound like Florida. And it could be, superficially. The BMWs, the beautiful people jogging along the promenade, the high end restaurants.
The elevated roadway curves around, brushing the city centre. I glide down to a six lane junction. There is a queue. I cannot see quite why - the lights are green. The car in front of me moves slowly forward. Then, illuminated by its headlights I see a withered figure in a crumbling, bent wheelchair. The chair is in the middle of our lane. On either side cars hurtle past to join the Freeway up ahead. Unperturbed the figure reaches up to the window of the car in …