Victor’s homestead is simple – a couple huts (one for cooking and one for sleeping) surrounded by dust. A single tree stands to the side of one of the huts and at its base there are different types of cacti, some in groups and some sitting singly. They are beautiful, their tiny, bright flowers adding color to this barren plot of land. It shows that someone who lives here cares and that they like beauty. It shows attention to detail.
An empty water pail sits on the right of me as we look for Victor, smelling the unmistakable smell of a fire that burned recently, but which is now going out. We don’t see him anywhere, but I notice little things – a door closed tightly so nothing will get into his hut, a bit of water at the bottom of the pail, swept ground, a spot where corn grew during the growing season, a donkey far back, almost unseen. Everything is still other than the smell of a dying fire and a bell that must come from the neck of the donkey. The air is quiet and the sky is the most beautiful, cloudless blue. There is no need to wear a jacket and I am grateful for my sunglasses and wide-brimmed hat.
We walk towards a well-built goat house, and even though we can’t find a door, we easily see the goats. But, yet, no Victor. And, no water for the goats.
We walk back across his property and head off down the dusty road in search of him. Inside, I am actually praying that he is at the well, fetching water for his goats as I know they need it, but most importantly, because he can lose his goats if he doesn’t care for them properly and I know Norma is as strict as we need her to be with these issues.
We look up and yes! Victor is coming towards us, pushing a barrel which carries jugs of water for his goats. Three female goats and three kids, just born in the past couple of weeks. One other kid died at birth, the twin to one who is making mewing sounds as he looks for the water his owner brings towards him. Victor works slowly but steadily as he fills the water bucket, lowering it down the side of the wall for the animals and smiles quietly when they lap it up.
We ask about the door and he says he built the goat house in such a way that robbers wouldn’t be able to easily get in. The door is hidden and he shows us how it works.
Norma reviews some items with Victor, looking over his record book, making corrections as they go through the figures. Thando translates for Norma, as Victor doesn’t understand or speak English. I listen here and there, thinking about a million other things until I suddenly realize what exactly is going on. Victor has been sent to his hut to find some elastic. I say out loud, “Is one of the kids getting castrated now?” and when it is confirmed, Gina, one of our team members, lets out a whoop of joy because today she will see something she’s never seen. She is overjoyed to learn something new and her joy is contagious. Poor little kid ends up with three staring visitors as Thando and Norma teach Victor how to castrate a goat. This little fellow is the only one of the kids who is to be castrated as the other male born is remarkable and will be kept as a stud. When the job is finished, he goes off to find his mother and in a couple of minutes, he is nursing his woes away.
As we leave his home, I offer Victor a small blessing, that his herd will grow healthy and large and he shyly looks down. We shake hands and when I thank him in N’debele, he does laugh out loud, a good sound to hear.
The sky is still clear and bright. Bits of dry corn husks float down from above making everything look magical suddenly. I have never seen this sight and we marvel at it – wondering what it is that is floating and it is only when it hits the ground that we understand that the wind has brought us this gift.
Everyone here at the American Foundation for Children with AIDS, and our partners in Africa. thank you for your continued support of this important project. If you would like to learn even more about this project and others, please contact Tanya Weaver at tweaver@AFCAids.org.