Rebuilding Foundations

An exploration of international development work in Africa

Appearances Can Be Deceiving

While I was writing yesterday’s blog post, I realized that I never followed up to my Halloween “incident” despite there being more to the story.

(Original post:

I’ve seen the man again who stood in the shadows and watched me last Halloween.  I’ve seen him many times – trying to break into people’s houses or stealing old ladies’ purses.


Joking joking joking.

The truth is that he’s a homeless man that lives in my neighbourhood.  He hangs out by the internet coffee shop that I use to Skype with my family every week.  Once he tried to communicate with me, but he’s mute and I kept repeating, “I’m sorry but I don’t understand.”  I only had an hour of internet time to Skype and wasn’t going to waste it trying to attempt South African hand gestures.  But I think he recognized me, as well, and felt guilty for scaring me.  He’s often at the coffee shop when I go and the owner gives him free coffee.

Furthermore, he often sleeps in the church parking lot.  Sometimes he’s still asleep in the morning when I get my car for work.  His favourite spot is underneath a tree – the exact place where he stopped and watched me from on Halloween.

If anything, I probably ruined his good night, sleep tight plans.

On New Year’s Eve, he was asleep in the bushes right beside my car’s cage.  I hadn’t seen him for a couple weeks and felt nervous again – mostly because everyone back home seems to think that I should be more scared of this country as I am.  As I started up my car, he woke up and looked at me.

We made eye contact.  He smiled and gave me a thumb’s up.

I returned the gesture (at least I understood that!) and smiled as well.

So even my one of my few “Joburg horror stories” isn’t really all that bad after all.

Stay tuned tomorrow, though, for how not to walk down Long Street in Cape Town.  It’s not a horror story, but a prime example of stupid tourists being, well… stupid.  Even though we didn’t get mugged, we probably deserved to.

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