To all the cool cats out there, I’d just like to announce that the double hand wave is alive and well. Yep, that’s right. Don’t be shy. Dust off those mittens and inhibitions and unleash your inner child.
You might well be asking what the hell I’m ranting on about. If you are, then you might be guilty of greeting passers by with a curt nod of the head or a weak smile. And if the suns out and you’re feeling generous, you might even throw in a nod/smile combination. Yes, this is probably about as creative as it gets. I know, we’re all busy people with busy lives. We don’t have time for pleasantries anymore, right? Wrong.
While I clearly can’t talk on behalf of all of South Africa, the local people living in the northeastern province of KwaZulu-Natal are very gregarious indeed. Driving through a local community is likened to doing a victory lap after a grand final. People literally stop what they’re doing and raise their hands to wave you by. In fact, so keen are they to celebrate the act of saying hello that I have seen them drop whatever they were holding just to free their hands so they could wave. I’ve seen people stretch out of open windows, their arms flapping about as they attempt to greet passers by. I’ve witnessed a woman carrying a large pitcher of water on her head raise her arms in a friendly double-handed salute. I’ve seen school kids run along the street double hand waving until the dust settles and we’re no more than a spec in the distance. Indeed, this is a community that loves nothing better than to say g’day.
Truth be told though, there is actually a very dark side to this sunny exterior. The province of KwaZulu-Natal has the highest rate of people living with HIV in South Africa, with black Africans making up the majority of those affected. In fact, in 2009 there was an estimated 5.6 million people living with HIV and AIDS in South Africa, more than any other country in the world. To put it into perspective, almost 1 in 3 women aged 25-29, and 1 in 4 men aged 30-34 are living with the virus. This staggering figure is made worse by the fact that the stigma of having HIV prevents many of these people from seeking the proper medical treatment. A grim situation indeed. I can’t help but to think about this when we drive through the local communities and watch their faces light up as we pass by. It’s humbling to see that with all the hardship they face, they still greet a perfect stranger with a million dollar smile.
Disappointingly I don’t have any double hand wave photos to share with you other than the shot of the kids in the Land Rover taken by the very talented Kailey Schwerman, a fellow volunteer. BUT – I can give you a taster of what the local community was like with some other shots I took on one of our drives. This is my second last post on Thanda before I take you on a little road trip down the Garden Route to Cape Town, a journey I did before I headed back to Oz.
Note: Photo of kids waving in the Land Rover was taken by Kailey Schwerman.