Wednesday, October 27, 2010

World AIDS Days in a Shared Taxi

Culinary delights, both familiar and foreign, were revealed this week in East London.  For example, Sarah and I have discovered an outlet for our sushi cravings that is actually decent compared with the other attempts I’ve subjected myself to.  Another highlight are the mind-blowing Cadbury displays-not just your usual flavours of Dairy Milk, but novel ones such as “cashew and coconut”, “pecan maple syrup”, and “butter shortbread”.  While on our inaugural shared taxi ride into town on Tuesday (details below), Mandisa exposed us to Pie City, a local meat pie chain and Sarah forced me to try the unique flavour of fluorescent “dairy juice mix”.  Our chosen flavour was orange which tasted like melted candy—couldn’t down a whole bottle, but a few sips to wash down a steaming hot chicken pie tasted great!

Walter Sisulu University, the Centre for HIV/AIDS, and all of the volunteers and students involved in planning the World AIDS day events did an outstanding job (perhaps our flyers and posters helped too...).  The program featured guest speakers, singing and dancing, health testing (I passed with flying colours!), lots of free condoms, and dramatic performances.  The theatrical highlight came courtesy of inmates from Mdantsane Prison who are involved in community outreach programs, such as HIV/AIDS peer education.  Although the play was in Xhosa, we pieced together the plot of a man’s experience of being HIV positive and the accompanying stigma and discrimination, both in prison and the rest of the country. 

Quantum Shared Taxi
Our day began with a trip into town on a shared taxi with our hands lovingly held by Mandisa from the Centre for HIV/AIDS.  At designated taxi ranks, there are groups of men who yell out popular destinations and then herd you into large vans until they are full.  Once full, you are on your way with much yelling and honking!  As the smallest member of our party, I was ushered into the back of the car where I had the pleasure of trying to squeeze my bum in between two passengers while wearing a dress, maintaining my gracefulness, and trying not to look like the rookie.  My attempts at being polite and taking up as little room as possible disappeared by the end of the trip when I decided that I would just let my body expand where it wanted and get to know my fellow seatmates a little better.  No matter your destination, the fare is R6 (about CDN$1).  You nudge the person in front of you with your money and they pass it up to whoever is in the passenger seat, who is then responsible for ensuring that everyone has paid.  When Sarah and I took a shared taxi on Saturday (by ourselves to the workshop we designed about peer pressure for 1st year university students), she became the official fare collector and change dispenser, while I apparently looked like I knew what I was doing as I was asked intricate questions about taxi routes and transfers.  As someone who grew up in the wide open spaces of the Prairies or surrounded by the Pacific Ocean, I am still getting used to the busyness of downtown East London and the “coziness” of the shared taxis!

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