total immersion…

Woke up in Mawashe St, Dobsonville Township this morning. Mitta, who is 2nd in command at ChiFi kidnapped me last night when I got back from Pretoria; ‘Alison you are going to kill me, but tonight is the only evening I can take you to Soweto…and we have to go now- bring your toothbrush’. She took me to her home to meet her crazy family (her words!). I know Mitta from the London Base of ChiFi and we get on really well – I’ve since found out we both have a penchant for cheese puffs and Joan Armatrading and are both youngest children. We sang ‘the weakness in me’ word for word, ( without the help of alcohol ) coming up the hill back to the house this afternoon. She’s a real Thelma from Scooby Doo with a wicked sense of humour- sorry about the legs but it was the only way to get a picture of Mitta first thing this morning.

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Mitta is 26, mature beyond her age, and has seen and experienced many things that most people never experience in their lifetime. Her story about her trip to the Congo is on the Children of Fire website and is unbelievably moving. Mitta is also a burns survivor, having sustained burns when she was 8 while trying to warm her hands on a spiral cooker ring. Her mother states she was always into everything and a maverick- as she still is. She told me the accident happened at 6.30am in the morning and instead of screaming for help, Mitta remained quiet and tried to take off her turtleneck sweater which had caught alight. She got it stuck half way and as a result sustained major burning to her upper body and neck. About six years ago Mitta lost her two elder sisters through ill health, months apart. I’m in awe of her strength of character.

We took three bus taxis to get to Soweto, the kind of taxis that have ‘killing me softly’ by Roberta flack playing and a negotiating system for paying that made me feel ill it was so complicated. Mitta explained everything as we went along; sharp left means pullover to the driver, after the robot (the traffic lights) and at one stage she bellowed “chicken licken’ to the driver.  I thought she had totally lost the plot and then saw the takeaway sign ahead. ‘sometimes I feel like I’m going crazy’ said Mitta ‘ Ja, then you get sane again..’.  We arrived as the sun was going down.

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