From Alexandra to Tswane

It has been an amazing journey full with great experiences the past few days. On the 15th we were invited as a choir to sing in a workshop organised by Palesa Africa in Alexandra Township. The Leader of the group, Aveline Tau, had a big surprise for us because she invited different artists to perform as well: Hip pop , R&B , a story teller of Alexandra Township, poetry, kiss Kiss dance (amapiano). They all perform for Us. Then we learned a new song. Aveline knows me from Facebook via an African Artists Network and she knows me as Stigma fighter, so she did not leave me behind and invited me as a speaker as well. When it was my time to shine with my HIV story, the artist community of Alexandra who saw me singing with Duze were very surprised to hear my story. I felt their joy and appreciation of sharing such important information as U=U. I explained the importance of doing HIV testing and remain faithful to take medication in order to reach the undetectable level. HIV has now become a chronic disease and we have medication, so we must make sure we take it, always. I told them that they should not jump to judgement when they see somebody with HIV because HIV does not define us. I thank them for being my listeners. It was amazing experience interacting with those artists and the rest of the community. I believe this is the best way of reducing the stigma.

Next day, the group went to a wildlife Park, but I had a mission! I went to visit Pretoria to refresh sweet memories.

So I started my Tswane journey at Menlyn Park, where I found Wimpy, a famous food chain in South Africa! This was an epic place during my pregnancy as my baby wanted me to eat only tuna sandwich from Wimpy. As I passed by, a waiter girl looked at my T-shirt and she smiled and asked “Are you an activist ?” I said, “yes I am”. She told me that she would love to do such work as it is a big problem here. I asked her why she wanted to join the fight, if maybe she knew someone with HIV. She told me that her close friend has HIV. I told her that she can support her friend by speaking out on behalf of her friend. She asked ”Are people not going to think that I am HIV positive too?” I told her that in any fight you should expect to win not to loose. I explained how I won my battle 16 years ago, I told her how important it is to keep trying even if people will try to push you. You must know what you want and keep finding ways to reach your goal. Then I sat down and had a cappuccino since they don’t sell tuna sandwiches anymore…

Then I visited another favourite of my husband and me, Baobab restaurant. We had many great lunches here after our shopping spree. Back then it was the only place where I could eat Brochette like they make them in Burundi. So I got in and spoke to the waiter, Jiji. He showed me around, how Baobab had been extended. Then I told him how special this place was for us. And I saw myself that it still is for many because during my lunch this couple got engaged during a birthday celebration. I congratulated them, and of course they ended up asking me about my T-shirt. So, here goes my story again. Jiji already asked me before and I told him, and much he did not know. I made a video to express the gratitude of what he has learned from me. Again, another way of making a difference.

On my way out I met Anthony from Ghana who greeted me in his language. I responded to him in English that I am not from Ghana but that I know it is a greeting. He followed me and asked “Hey lady, let me ask you something. Tell me, what does your message mean?” So I shared it once again and what stuck most was when I explained about U=U. All seem to be so surprised!

And now to my highlight which I almost missed as so much has changed in the area… But I found the sign to the Newland area. I could not wait to get there, our former home here in South Africa. The house where our son Rio spent his first months in this world. I finally saw some familiar shops on Ave Lane, and them I found it, Marigold. I boldly knocked on the same gate that I closed 13 years ago and a lady opened. I asked if I couls make some pictures of the house that I left so long ago now. She said yes please, though she warned me it has now become a community house and that they changed many things. Despite the changes, so many parts were still the same, it made me very emotional to see the place again. My mission was accomplished.

On my way back to Menlyn park for a taxi , I saw a street dancer. He inspired me for what he does for people passing by in their cars, despite no one really giving him anything. And yet he kept dancing, again and again. He did not give up and he said he will keep doing it everyday. I felt I still wanted to see more. So I made a video which can be watched on my Facebook page. To conclude, U=U opened his eyes as well. He promised 100% to go for HIV testing.

My final visit was Hatfield. A place which gave me comfort after my first visit seeing a HIV doctor and gave me life by supplying me with my first medication. I was supposed to meet Dr Mogotlane in this place, but unfortunately she had to take exams in Durban. So I went to visit the pharmacy which supplied medication for 3 years, WOOLFSON’S PHARMACY .I wanted to thank Dr Vally personally as he helped me a lot during that time. He was very discret and he never delayed my medication. Every 3 months he would get it ready before my departure to Luanda. Unfortunately he was not around that day, and his colleague did not believe me so he asked my surname. Guess what? I am still registered in their system. I like so much! They asked my contact details so he could get in touch one day

I finished my trip at Hatfield Plaza. A nice, small shopping mall. Luckily, it has not changed so much. But Hatfield Square, which used to be a nice collection of shops and bars has changed completely. They closed all shops and bars and build a lot of apartments. My special place of Amarula coffee and snails and garlic bread was gone.

My visit was useful with fun, education and refreshing memories. From Tswane I went back to Glenburne Lodge where I joined my choir to the Carnivore restaurent. What an amazing day!

Peace, Eliane

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