Welcome!   …  and  what’s  your  name?  You  see,  my  name  is  Welcome.

 My  parents  thought  this  name   would  help  me  in  further  life.  Did  it  help  me?  I  don’t  know,  I  really  don’t  know…   I  would  like  to  tell  you  about  a  special  encounter  I  had  last  Monday,  while  I  was  working   as  gatekeeper  and  security  guard  at  the  Small  Business  Centre  in  Philippi.  Philippi  is  also   the  place  where  I  live  with  my  wife  and  our  four  children;  we  have  three  boys  and  a  girl.     I  must  tell  you:  I  have  a  lovely  family  and  I  am  proud  of  it.  My  ultimate  goal  in  life  is  to  be   a  good  father.  I  try  to  be  one  and  sometimes  I  succeed,  I  believe.  It’s  hard  to  be  a  good   father  in  Philippi  in  these  days,  you  know…     My  normal  work  during  the  day  consists  of  checking  the  identity  of  the  visitors  and   opening  the  gate  for  their  cars.  ‘Don’t  forget  to  close  it  again  after  each  car’  told  my  boss   on  hiring  me.  During  the  day,  this  is  a  rather  trivial  procedure,  unless  there  is  some  up-­‐ heaval  in  Philippi;  then  I  have  to  be  very  watchful,  but  fortunately  almost  no  visitors  try   to  reach  us  then.  I  can  keep  the  gate  locked.    Every  other  week,  however,  I  am  supposed   to  work  during  the  night  when  gangs  and  other  riff-­‐raff  are  taking  over  the  streets…  This   year  alone,  they  killed  two  of  my  colleagues.  Honestly,  my  boss  didn’t  tell  me  that  on  hir-­‐ ing  me…  I  am  terrified  of  that  perspective,  not  so  much  for  myself  but  for  my  family.  In   spite  of  all  this,  I  have  no  other  choice  if  I  want  to  remain  a  good  father…     I  see  I  am  straying  from  the  subject  I  wanted  to  share  with  you.  Last  Monday,  a  delegation   from  the  Netherlands  came  to  visit  our  Centre.  One  of  the  guys  had  to  wait  for  another  bus   to  arrive  and  he  started  talking  to  me.  He  was  white;  whites  never  talk  to  a  gatekeeper   except  ‘hello’  and  ‘goodbye’.    Sometimes  Dutch  people  start  talking  in  their  language,  as   they  believe  I  naturally  speak  Afrikaans.  They  forget  gatekeepers  mostly  come  from  far   away  in  the  Eastern  Cape  where  people  speak  no  more  than  Xhosa.    I  learned  English  for   the  most  part  while  I  was  with  the  Military  Police;  people  who  know  say  I  am  speaking   ‘Military  English’.    I  don’t  know…     That  guy  who  came  to  me  didn’t  speak  Military  English.  In  fact,  he  was  interested  in  me   and  I  became  interested  in  him.  Fortunately,  the  bus  he  was  waiting  for  didn’t  show  up.   The  guy  said  these  people  always  get  lost  and  he  gave  the  impression  not  to  bother  about   that;  he  seemed  to  be  a  good  guy  with  a  great  sense  of  humour.    Sometimes  I  couldn’t  fol-­‐ low  his  humour,  but  he  said  that  was  also  the  case  with  other  whites.  We  both  couldn’t   help  laughing.     He  asked  me  about  my  youth.  I  told  him  of  my  life  in  a  small  village  between  George  and   Umtata.  I  was  the  oldest  of  6  children.  My  father  left  us  and  just  came  back  from  time  to   time  to  make  more  children  and  cause  more  problems.  Despite  all  this,  we  were  happy.   We  were  all  one  extended  family;  we  shared  what  we  had  as  well  as  what  we  didn’t  have.     I  went  to  primary  school,  my  teacher  told  me  I  was  a  good  pupil  and  I  had  to  study  fur-­‐ ther.  However,  I  stayed  in  the  village,  out  of  solidarity  with  my  mother  and  my  brothers   and  sisters.  This  was  obvious  for  me.    The  white  man  told  me  about  his  youth  and  the  re-­‐ lationship  he  had  with  his  family.  He  told  me  that  studying  was  self-­‐evident,  his  parents   could  easily  afford.  He  was  a  good  student  but  also  a  steady  member  of  a  football  team;  in   fact  his  biggest  problem  was  choosing  between  study  and  football.  ‘Don’t  forget  the  girls’,   he  added.    This  was  the  only  similarity  we  apparently  shared  about  our  youth.    I  told  him   that  he  must  have  been  very  thankful  to  his  parents  for  all  this;  very  much  to  my  surprise   he  told  me  he  wasn’t  in  those  days.  He  then  even  had  the  conviction  that  whatever  he  

achieved  in  life  was  solely  his  own  merit,  he  considered  his  parents  primarily  as  a  mere   obstacle.  He  explained  to  me  that  this  was  a  very  common  opinion  among  youngsters  in   Europe.  I  really  was  stupefied  when  he  told  me  that  despite  this  he  was  convinced  he  had   a  happy  youth:  how  can  you  be  happy  when  you  neglect  your  father  and  mother?  How  can   you  be  happy  when  you  live  largely  apart  from  your  only  brother?  How  can  you  be  happy   when  you  only  meet  your  extended  family  at  funeral  ceremonies?  How  can  you  be  happy   when  you  never  sing  for  the  people  you  love?  Fortunately,  he  added  that  he  changed  his   mind  about  his  parents  in  the  meantime  and  that  he  was  very  concerned  about  the  health   of  his  father  who  was  now  in  the  intensive  care  unit  in  hospital.  Very  spontaneously,  we   hugged  each  other;  I  never  did  that  with  a  white  man.  I  told  him  that  I  highly  doubted  he   was  happier  than  me  in  his  youth.  He  didn’t  disagree…   I  told  him  I  finally  decided  to  join  the  Military  Police  Force,  because  my  family  needed  in-­‐ come  and  this  appeared  to  be  the  only  possibility.  This  was  not  a  good  time;  it  was  the   very  last  period  of  Apartheid.  Above  all  that,  I  served  in  Gauteng,  far  away  from  my  family.   The  whole  atmosphere  was  negative,  I  couldn’t  sustain  any  longer  after  my  training.  I  was   obliged  to  stay  for  another  two  years,  I  was  deeply  unhappy.  I  had  to  fight  against  fellow   black  people  I  didn’t  know  but  I  understood  quite  well.    The  white  man  told  me  about  his   further  career  as  a  student,  he  even  went  to  university.  He  told  me  studying  engineering   was  only  a  part-­‐time  activity  he  was  hardly  interested  in.  He  spent  most  of  that  period   with  friends,  making  love  and  drinking  beer.  I  don’t  understand  how  you  can  get  the   enormous  opportunity  to  study  and  you  stay  away  from  course  sessions;  why  you  only   open  your  study  books  in  order  to  pass  the  exams.  How  can  you  not  be  interested  in  what   you  can  learn?  How  can  you  only  learn  to  forget?  How  can  you  not  fight  for  a  better  life?     After  my  period  as  a  military  police  officer,  I  came  to  Philippi,  I  told  my  white  friend.  I   started  in  a  shack,  met  my  wife  and  we  married.  We  lived  in  that  shack  for  a  number  of   years,  as  initially  I  only  earned  200  Rand  a  month.  I  now  earn  much  more,  3000  Rand,  but   as  I  told  already  this  is  a  very  dangerous  job.  I  don’t  know  whether  it  is  wise  to  stay,  but  I   have  no  choice  I  am  afraid.  I  followed  an  elementary  computer  course  in  the  meantime,   but  couldn’t  find  another  job  in  Philippi.  I  want  to  stay  here,  as  this  is  where  my  little   house  is  now.  The  white  man  told  me  he  eventually  became  a  professor.  I  was  talking  to  a   university  professor!  Getting  that  job  was  straightforward,  he  told  me.  I  don’t  understand   how  you  can  get  such  a  job  right  after  completing  your  studies,  I  even  don’t  succeed  in   finding  an  elementary  job  in  the  computer  industry.  Maybe  I  followed  the  wrong  course,  I   don’t  know,  despite  the  price  of  the  course  was  very  high.  I  had  to  save  money  over  a  long   period  to  be  able  to  pay  the  3.000  Rand.  The  white  man  didn’t  tell  me  exactly  how  much   he  earned;  maybe  he  was  too  ashamed  for  that?  How  can  you  be  reluctant  to  tell  a  person   how  much  you  earn  if  you  earn  it  in  the  proper  way?  Did  the  white  man  think  I  wouldn’t   grant  him  his  income?  How  much  does  a  white  man  earn  in  Europe?    How  much  of  that   amount  does  he  share  with  people  outside  his  proper  family?  How  thankful  is  he  for  his   job?  Too  many  questions  for  a  simple  gatekeeper…     We  started  talking  about  our  dreams,  as  the  bus  still  didn’t  arrive.  Actually,  this  was  the   first  time  I  shared  dreams  with  a  white  man.  I  told  him  about  my  basic  dream  in  life:  to  be   a  good  father  for  my  children  and  to  prepare  them  for  a  proper,  thoughtful  life.  I  told  him   how  I  try  to  instruct  my  boys  that  they  respect  girls  and  how  difficult  it  is  to  keep  them   away  from  gangs  of  youths.  I  told  him  about  my  difficult  relationship  with  my  wife,  as  we   try  to  save  money  such  that  I  can  start  my  own  security  firm  and  she  so  desperately  needs   the  same  money  for  the  kids.  The  white  man  told  about  his  dream,  to  be  inspiring  in  life  

and  sincerely,  I  didn’t  understand.    I  asked  him  for  some  explanation  and  he  started  refer-­‐ ring  to  a  philosopher.  Could  it  be  that  white  men  have  lost  contact  with  real  life,  I  asked   myself.    Finally,  we  spent  some  time  in  silence,  listening  to  our  inner  voices.  Then  I  knew   for  sure:  the  white  friend  meant  he  aspires  to  talk  with  an  open  heart  to  everybody,  in-­‐ cluding  simple  people  like  me.  I  was  happy  I  could  share  this  just  as  simple  insight  with   him.  We  looked  each  other  in  the  eyes  and  we  knew  it  was  OK.            

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