May 11, 2010

Xolani, the gardener

Xolani is the gardener who lives in our complex. He's a middle-aged humble soul who quietly works and emits a humility that is seen in his eyes. I have known him since October 2009. We started talking as soon as we moved in because of my interest in gardening. He have a very small yard area that doesn't belong to us but we've managed to plant seeds along the edge of the grass in front of some shrubs. Xolani cares for our additions to the yard even though it's not specifically his responsibility. A couple months ago i planted a rotten tomato in the earth. A cluster of little tomato plants sprouted. Recently he separated them into a row and is enabling them to grow well now.

Xolani wakes up before 6am each day. He has no electricity in his home. He works in candlelight when the sky is dark. [ For six months out of the year it is dark until around 7am] Without electricity there is no warm or hot water. He also is without indoor plumbing so he fills a basin up from a public faucet outside somewhere nearby. This is how he, his wife and 3 children bathe each day. It is common for hundreds of thousands of our African brothers and sisters in this wealthy land to collect water from an outside faucet, and keep big buckets of water inside for rinsing, cooking, etc.

Once he leaves his home to come to work each day, he takes a walk to the train station. Sometimes he has to wait a long time for the train; sometimes the train is too crowded to find a space to stand; sometimes the train gets stuck somewhere along the route; sometimes the train workers are on strike and he can't get to work. Once the train arrives at the closest station to where we live, it's almost an hour walk until he arrives. So each day, morning and late afternoon, he walks about an hour to/from the train station.

Xolani earns R50/day. He begins work around 8am and ends work around 4pm, leaving his home about 2 hours or more before work begins and arriving home about 2 hours or more when the day has ended. He spends R25/day on transport. If he spends money to buy lunch, he's left with R20/day earned, but he's only been able to afford a loaf of bread for lunch.

Xolani doesn't complain but does wish he was able to find work as a gardener for individuals rather than work for this company. He knows that if he worked for 3 different homes 3 days a week, he could earn about R600. But he has no connections with wealthy people and there are many more waiting to take his job, so he works hard and doesn't complain to management about the very low wage that he is earning.