Weekly photo challenge: Threshold

Threshold can be so many things. It can be the divide between two rooms, where you can cross from one side to another; where you exit one phase of your life and enter another. It can be a new beginning and chance to start fresh; full of tickling excitement and optimism regarding what this opportunity might bring.

But it can also be a limit; the critical point that triggers a reaction. The invisible line we don’t even know we’ve crossed, until we are faced with the consequences and are forced to deal with the results.

During my time in southern Africa, I have often admired the inner strength and the coping mechanisms of young girls. And adult women. I have often wondered how their life experiences have shaped them, and what kind of knowledge they carry with them, often prematurely.

I have marveled at their, seemingly, incredibly high threshold to deal with physical and psychological strain.

And I have asked myself how so many of these dandelion children are able to still stand tall, and smile and sing their way through the hardship.

I imagine a lot of my Scandinavian sisters would have crumbled to pieces long time ago.

girl at shebeen

She’s standing outside a shebeen, leaning up against a Coca-Cola advertisement. I keep thinking it must be a weekend because of all the drunk men around, but it to be honest with you, it could be any day of the week. The unemployed, rural countryside does not adjust its’ clock according to office hours.

“Go home,” I tell her, because this is no place for a young girl. But it’s my expat voice that says that, without taking into consideration what she might be exposed to there. I don’t take into consideration the widespread domestic violence and the chances that she might be sold to provide drinking money.

I give her a coke, and as I’m doing it, I’m wondering if I’m creating a bad habit; if I’m contributing to the evil cycle and tempting her to come back here, to lean up against the coke ad again and again, all brown and sweet, to see if there will be more freebies coming her way.

Her threshold…based on her rather poor clothing, the lice in her hair, the skin rashes made by mites, her bare feet and unkempt hair, I dare say it’s probably pretty low in terms of the price she would charge if a man said he was willing to pay.

Her mental survival threshold, if TB and HIV/Aids doesn’t get to her first…Well, I hope it’s high. Sky high. Because I think she needs it, if she wants to remain standing for long.

This post is part of the Weekly Photo Challenge from the Daily Post.

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9 thoughts on “Weekly photo challenge: Threshold

  1. This is so heart-stoppingly beautiful and tragic that I have tears in my eyes. A lot of good it does this innocent from my safe harbor in the States! I know such atrocities exist, although I tend to hum loudly when I encounter such things, so I can avoid imagining my children in such scenarios, and then I wonder, how can I pretend they don’t? Don’t I owe it to these children to do something? Would they want me to even if I could? I am so glad and worried for you that you are there offering concern at the very least and understanding/documentation for bystanders like myself/possibly protection for these innocents. Thank you.

    1. Do you owe it to them? I don’t know. I used to answer that question with a very loud and convincing YES! But I don’t anymore. I think the system owes them a lot. I think their parents, the school, the country owe them a lot. Or at least a fair chance.
      I believe that that chance, can only be provided through change in attitude. And changes in attitude must come from within. I’ve seen too many donor-funded projects attempting to change people’s minds fail. We’re dealing with very persistent weeds that need to be pulled up with the roots.

      So instead of claiming that you owe them something, I would say to the men in this part of the world: “No matter how poor you are, and what ethnic background you come from: Rape and incest is NOT RIGHT. I don’t give a shit that you’re starving; What you’re doing is WRONG.” Sex with virgins has never cured HIV/Aids and it never will, it only creates an abundance of single children-mothers that effectively have all the doors slammed shut in their face.

      How are they supposed to finish school while providing for their children? How are they supposed to be able to provide their own children with a good upbringing, when they are nothing but children themselves? How are they supposed to protect their girls from men like you?”

      And that was today’s rant.

      It’s not really you that owes them anything, Elizabeth. It is the people that are supposed to be looking after them, bringing them up, providing them with their basic needs and an opportunity to flourish, even if they have limited means and a meager income.

      Cay is going to try to wrap her head around some of the social challenges of southern Africa. Initially she will say and feel exactly like you: Shouldn’t I do something? At least donate some money? Start a women’s group? Kick the police’s ass and force them to act? But that’s still some time to go before she’s ready to deal with all of that.

        1. Wise…? I don’t know about that, but thank you. A bit cynical and disillusioned, definitely. I’ve been involved in enough poverty research and community work and have developed tough skin, and I lost the silk gloves somewhere along the way

          1. You took a beautiful picture, and then provided the not so beautiful back story, which is fundamental in helping those who don’t know or understand like myself, what the situation is there from a more personal point of view than anything we could get through the media. I don’t want to go on and on about the wonderfulness of your post because to do so would take the spotlight off of its subject, but it’s really good, I mean global media good. It belongs in NG or something. Plus, you’re there on the ground trying to do what you can while at the same time accepting the limitations of the culture, etc. I don’t know, your words and the photo just blew me away.

            Fondly,
            Elizabeth

            1. Thank you, Elizabeth. I now feel like putting in a whole row of blushing smiling smileys, but it doesn’t feel quite right to this post, so a very wholehearted thank you will have to suffice.

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