“The kids started to ask me about what it was like in America. I told them a story or two and they then began to open up, telling me about their day, where they were from, leading to them teaching me bits of the Zulu language…”
– DIG DEEPER by Billy Raftery (ANGELS IN EXILE)
I moved to Durban, South Africa directly after graduating from college in 2003. On my daily walks to the beach for a morning or evening surf I would inevitably come across the city’s abundant population of street kids. It wasn’t long before I began to befriend many of them. Some of the kids, particularly the North Beach kids, would at first wait until I finished my surf and then ask me to buy food and then we would hang out for a while.
On one of my first days with the North Beach kids, after a surf, I recall sitting on a park bench overlooking the vast blue Indian Ocean on Durban’s breathtaking white sand beachfront.
The kids started to ask me about what it was like in America. I told them a story or two and they then began to open up, telling me about their day, where they were from, leading to them teaching me bits of the Zulu language.
The first Zulu line they taught me was: “Gizo gueza oh Mama wosikie. Sopha hlahlani.”
I memorized this line, but had no idea what it meant.
A group of attractive Zulu women walked by and they prompted me to say it to them. Thinking I had perfected my first Zulu phrase, how could I refuse? I turned to the women and confidently delivered (what turns out to mean): “Hey Mama, I want to make you my house wife. You and I will die together.”
The women froze in shock!
Picture me… a long haired, gangly white boy with an awful New Jersey accent speaking Zulu and with such a blunt profession of love.
I share this story for one particular reason. The street kids that I have had the pleasure to get to know share a common trait… no matter how difficult their life, they almost always outshine circumstance with laughter. Seldom, did I hear complaints about a clearly tough existence. More likely than not, what you would hear is the cracking of jokes and see them making the absolute most of what little they have. They are a daily inspiration (especially when you think you have it tough).
DIG DEEPER by Billy Raftery, Edited by Adam Paul Smith, Images by Billy Raftery via ANGELS IN EXILE
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