Sunday, May 16, 2010

“Looking for Work”

In America, it is not terribly widespread to see estates which are enclosed by six to ten foot high fences. There are probably a lot of those kinds of properties in places like Hollywood, California, places where the rich and famous live. Generally, though people living in America expose their yards and homes to the outside world. In Africa though, it was much more common to keep any home of much value hidden and secure behind a tall barrier.

HEART compound was one of those places.

Every time we left the property in one of HEART’s vehicles, one of the staff would open the huge gate for us and close it behind us. Upon our return, the driver would honk the horn and someone inside would efficiently open the gate again. It was pretty much unheard of to go outside of the fence on foot. It wasn’t that HEART was situated in that bad of a neighborhood either; it was just how things were.

As we found out one day.

We had just arrived back home and the driver had honked the horn. We waited the usual few minutes for the gate to be opened. That few minutes though was enough time for a young woman to approach our bus. As the woman walked along the side of the vehicle towards the driver’s window, all of the team members inside looked at each other with wide eyes and with the same thought. “That woman is carrying a machete.”

And so she was. Though perhaps only in her 20s and of average height and slight build, she was wielding a three foot long machete with a four inch wide blade. She spoke to our driver in Swahili and he answered her in the native language, quickly sending her away.

After we had driven into the compound, we asked him what that had been all about. He said she had come asking for a job. He told her, “It is no way to ask for a job by coming up to a window.”

I’ve never heard that career tip before. Or since.

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