Page 21. The first final goodbye

My father and I drove to My Darling the day before Lazy’s funeral. My aunt Grace and my father remained really good friends after my parents divorced. She was the one who would keep him posted on what was going on with us in the USA on a daily basis. I am not sure how my mom felt about her sister keeping in touch with him but it doesn’t seem to have affected their relationship. This would be my first road trip with my father and it gave us time to get to know each other a bit better. It was nice.

When we arrived to My Darling we got lost and I couldn’t really direct my father because there weren’t any street names and it was all grovel road. When we pulled over to ask someone where the house was all we had to do was tell them my sir name and they directed us to my grandparents home. I was shocked that a sir name was enough to get you directions to your locations especially when I am used to getting directions through street names.

We couldn’t even pull into the yard because it was packed with cars and people. I then found out where people were going to sleep since there were no hotels near by. Many people slept in their cars (including my father) and neighbors allowed other guests to sleep in their homes. As you walked into the house people would start singing songs and you could smell the meat from the slaughtering. This time I was wearing a dress and when I went in I would greet everyone in Sipedi. I later joined my cousins with helping serve everyone food and drinks.

The singing continued through out the night and I started to wonder since we have to get water from outside how are all of these people going to wash in the morning?!?! Especially since the service is scheduled to start at 5am. 3am my aunt Grace wakes up my cousin Dineo and I to go and wash. I am just following the lead here because I still don’t know how this is going to work out. We go into the bathroom and there are three big buckets full of water. My aunt gets in the tub and Dineo and I each get in a bucket and wash. As uncomfortable as that experience was, I was so grateful we were the first because the thought of having to go behind other people and follow that process grossed me out.

Around 4:30 am the singing got louder and we started the preparations for the service. I made sure to wear a dress with a shawl to cover my shoulders and a wrap to cover my head. A large tent was setup outside on the street for the 5am service. Fortunately it was cool at time and we headed to the cemetery at 6am. I still couldn’t believe the amount of people that showed up to the funeral.

They buried Lazy next to my grandparents. For years I did not know that my sir name “ Matlhako” was spelled wrong. I noticed when I came back earlier that year that my cousin Dineo spelled her sir name “Mathlako”. When I looked at my grandparents tombstones “Mathlako” was spelled the same way as Dineo’s sir name. Only later was it explained to me that my mother switched the letters so that if my father and his family tried to find us it would be difficult if the spelling was different.

It’s now around 7am and the sun is rising!!!!! All I could think about is shedding the layers of clothes. I was sweating bullets but when I looked around everyone else was fine. No one else was bothered by the heat. I did manage to keep it together. After the burial we went back to my grandparents home and had lunch. I also got to catch up with some of the cousins and meet my mothers older brothers sons. My uncle passed away when I was very little but I did remember my two cousins. I don’t know why but the boys in my family were just easy… I found myself laughing a lot when I was with the male cousins.

Later on that day my father and I said our goodbyes and hit the road for Johannesburg. The following week I found out FIFA was drafting my agreements. Before I could celebrate my aunt Anna called me and my other cousins into her room and she delivered the news that my cousin Jojo has passed away. I found her delivery a bit cold because she didn’t even look at us but we all handle grief differently. Just like Lazy, Jojo was 36 and we were very close when I lived in Swaziland as a child. He was also very close to my father and was like a son to him. I also suspect he died of AIDS. I soon learned that when someone has AIDS no one talks about it. Even in your own family.

In the eighteen years that I have lived in the USA, I never attended a funeral and already after being in South Africa a few months I was heading to a second one and back to back. The expectations of me were very foreign and when I think about it today unfair. Jojo’s funeral would be in Swaziland the country where we ran away from my family and moved to the USA eighteen years earlier.




Page 20. First funeral

It’s the Saturday before Lazy’s funeral, my aunt Shila and her daughter Tabang picked me up so that we could go to My Darling and help prepare for the funeral which was the following Saturday. We were just going for the one night and would return the following Friday. About an hour into the drive Tabang asked if I packed a skirt or dress?!?! I told her no and didn’t think it was a big deal. In my mind we were going to help with preparations and there wouldn’t be anything formal until later in the week. I also asked her why she didn’t say anything when she picked me up because I could have changed then. She thought I knew that when there is a death women must wear dresses or skirts until after the funeral, especially within the family. At that point there was nothing that we could do so we continued on the journey.

When we arrived in My Darling, from the gate into the house it was flooded with people. Even though I attended my cousin funeral years ago, I didn’t remember what the custom was when it came to funerals. In the USA I never attended a funeral, at best I went to a former classmates home to pay my respect when his brother died but the funeral itself was for immediate family and close friends. You would think a celebrity passed away it was so packed. There were first, second and third cousins from every side. Relatives that were not really relatives, by the time they explained how you are related it was confusing because you weren’t? I literarily needed a stack of index cards to keep up with who was who?

We had to greet everyone and of course all the women were dressed in skirts or dresses. I was so annoyed and slowly my confidence level dropped. When I didn’t speak Sipedi it was another strike… I felt like I had the word disrespectful or she thinks she is better written on my forehead. We eventually made it to my aunt Grace who was sitting on her bed in her bedroom. Just to give an idea, there were chairs outside, all over the house and in my aunts bedroom with people sitting on them. In my aunt’s room people would rotate so that everyone would get the chance to see her. When one group finishes another enters the room. In most South African cultures if a man dies the wife or his mother has to stay in her bedroom on the bed with her head covered and sometimes shoulders. It’s a mourning ritual. In some cases they have to stay that way till the funeral and other cases they can’t leave their home for a year. It differs based on the culture. Since Lazy was not married my aunt had to be the one to stay in the bedroom while people came to pay their respects.

The other part of the culture that honestly till this day I don’t understand is people will come to the house every day throughout the day until the day of the funeral and the family in mourning is the one who has to serve tea, coffees, scones and meals the entire time. The reason I struggle to understand this is because you would think it should be the opposite, people should be making it easier for the family in mourning. Some of the guest were very arrogant and wanted a different brands of drinks. I was so shocked and confused by it all. Being a family member I automatically became a server. Imagine every person I interacted with was staring at me because I am not wearing a skirt and I respond in english. Sunday couldn’t come fast enough!!! Eventually that evening my aunt gave me a piece of cloth to wrap around my waist. There were friends of the family who assisted with the labor as well but for the most part people were waiting to be served.

Another big tradition in the South African culture for funerals, weddings or any type of celebration people slaughter cows, sheep and/or goats on the property as they prepare the meals. All you could smell outside was raw meat and smoke because the cooking for the most part was outside. Family and friends donated money or live stock for the rituals and funeral expenses. It’s great that so many people helped with some of the labor and expenses but for someone like me I looked at it differently. I thought about the expenses of feeding a massive group of people all week! The more people means the more funerals and traditional ceremonies that I would be expected to participate in because all these people came to my cousins. With time I realized that in South Africa most weekends you are attending a funeral, wedding or ceremony because that is what you are suppose to do. It’s mostly for the relatives that you are not related to but told you are related to. South Africans will travel far to attend funerals. I must say that I also found it fascinating.

Since I don’t like to cook I took on the role of serving coffee, tea and scones. It doesn’t sound like much but doing that all day by the end of the day you are finished!!! Each time I served I had to speak to people which was dreadful and stressful since I would respond in english. Even when I would respond in Sipedi people would laugh because I pronounced words with an American accent. A few people would even tell me that I didn’t pronounce my own name properly. We couldn’t stop serving until the last person left and people stayed till the wee hours of the night. This would continue until the day of the funeral.

I eventually asked one of my cousins, isn’t this stressful? Having all these people here to serve when you are suppose to be grieving? She explained that the purpose of all these people being here is to prevent the grieving, your too busy for it. It didn’t make sense because you are just delaying the grieving process. Even though I still don’t get it I also respect and appreciate that it’s been the custom for centuries. I don’t have to follow it and my mother is very clear that she also has no interest if following the tradition. It’s not for everyone and that’s ok.

I was then informed on what to do and expect at the funeral the following week. I was told to wear a skirt or dress. I had to cover my head and shoulders because if I didn’t I wouldn’t be allowed to enter the cemetery and people have been turned back for not following the custom. Friday will be the viewing of the body. The funeral service starts at 5am Saturday and we head to the cemetery at 6am. I can’t remember why the funeral was so early but I’ll put money on it that it’s because of the heat! Then we all come back to the house for lunch which the family will be serving.

Sunday evening we headed back to Johannesburg and I felt sorry for the remaining relatives that had to serve guests day and night for the entire week. I was also wondering how all the people coming to attend the funeral and did’t live in My Darling could attend the ceremony at 5am when the nearest hotels were almost two hours away. I did’t ask and would find out the following week!!!

Page 19. Unpacking…

Now that Dineo and I were back in Johannesburg and FIFA was finalizing my agreement I managed to spend sometime with my mothers side of the family. My cousin Lazy was also back in the hospital and extremely ill. No one discussed what his illness was nor did I get a straight answer when I asked. It also allowed me more time with my other cousins and it wasn’t nearly as awkward as it was when I first came. With everything going on whatever issues we had were not as important. The main focus was Lazy and his health.

My aunt Grace ended up coming in from My Darling as well because of Lazy’s health. It wasn’t until she arrived that the family dynamics started to show. It seemed as if my aunt Grace and Dineo were at odds with the rest of the family. Each side would tell me their side and my only options were to pick sides or just be supportive to both sides without getting involved. I decided to just be supportive, especially because I wasn’t there when it started and there are always three sides to every story.

If there is one thing that I have learned the painful way is never take sides, especially when you have a relationship with both parties. I also didn’t want to gamble with anyones feelings based on different truths. This was one of those situations where just being there was more important than being right.

While Lazy was in the hospital he wanted to be taken to a Sangoma in hopes that he would heal. A Sangoma is a “traditional healer”. When I think of a Sangoma I think witchcraft, at the same time I do have a respect and appreciating for those who believe in the powers of a Sangoma. Lazy never made it to the Sangoma because shortly after his request he passed away. He was the same age I am today, 36.

Lazy’s passing was difficult for me for many reasons. It reminded me of my cousin Angel who passed away at the age of fourteen. She was my mothers older sisters youngest daughter. When Angel died we were already living in the USA and she was the cousin I was closest to. She was a year older than me and we would write letters and send cassette tapes of our favorite songs to each other. She was my best friend.

My mother and I flew to South Africa for her funeral in 1994. I don’t remember much about the funeral but I do remember having a great relationship with my cousins and they were so happy to see me. There was this other cousin Lerato that I immediately connected with at the funeral. She was probably four years older than me and I was around her all the time during Angels funeral. We didn’t communicate much before the funeral and I don’t know what it was but after we left for the USA Lerato and I kept in touch the same way Angel and I did. She didn’t take Angels place but she did fill a void and was a connection that I had to the family. About a year later she was killed in a car accident.

When Lerato died I was fourteen years old and by then I had lost so many relationships in traumatic ways. We never talked about it and I dealt with it internally. We didn’t attend Leratos funeral but I have to imagine that it had a huge impact on me. Around that time I started a pattern of detaching myself from relationships and with more time it escalated. Through out my teenage years and adult life I had gained the reputation with family and my mothers friends of holding grudges and not forgiving. I really struggled to understand why it was such a problem for people because to me it was normal. In a lot of cases I was bullied in hopes that I would deal with pain the same as everyone else. It really made me feel like I was difficult to love. How can you change for others if you yourself can’t understand what the problem is. I was surviving…

When Lazy passed away it really hit home because he was another one who was very kind to me and I had a soft spot for him in my heart…just like that he was gone!

I believe now that the reason I can detach from relationships when I am extremely hurt is because I lost so many relationships with out explanation and they were all sudden. I handled things based on how I processed them as a child. This journey has taken me back to places where I am learning to unpack what has served it’s purpose in order for me to fulfill my journey. So much of what I carried on my shoulders was never mine to carry, today I have the ability to communicate better and at the same time not allow other peoples truth about me become my truth.

Page 18. My Darling

On my third trip back to South Africa, Dineo and I went on a road trip to visit my aunt Grace in My Darling. My Darling is about four and a half hours away from Johannesburg and in a different Province called Limpopo. The road trip was different from the ones I was used to in the USA. I was used to exit stops every ten to twenty minutes from most highways. Not on this trip! There is only one exit before the next big city which is three hours away. Until you get to the next town the scenery is just open land and mining fields. The heat was unbearable even with the air conditioner on. The sun was just beaming straight through. You literarily stay on same road without having to make any turns for at least three hours. Our first stop was in Polokwane aka “town”. Polokwane is a very small town in Limpopo and considered the big city for all the neighboring communities in Limpopo.

After stopping for a break and bite in Polokwane we headed to My Darling. I didn’t think the heat could get worse but it did the further north we went. The scenery of mountains after leaving Polokwane was stunning. I knew we were getting closer because cows, goats and pigs were just wondering all over the streets and houses started to look different from the ones in the big cities.

Dineo explained to me that the animals roaming around the streets belonged to people in the communities. The amount of animals each family had determined their wealth within the community. I asked her how do owners keep up with the animals if they are just roaming around freely on the streets and other peoples yards. She told me that each household has a signature stamp on the animals to help identify them. In the later part of the day owners go out to look for the animals and bring them back home. Since these are small communities the chances of anyone stealing them are slim but some do get run over by cars.

I was fascinated at how different it was and the way people lived. For me to go to the mall, banks or commercial outlets it’s easy access. Here a lot of people try and arrange car pools once a week or month to go into town. I believe at the time only one bus came early in the morning and later in the evening to take people to town and back. It is literarily a day trip just to go to the bank, mall and restaurants because of lack of transportation.There are small shops to get some necessities in the communities but for most essentials you would have to make the trip into town which is about one and a half to two hours away from My Darling.

We eventually made it to the home that once belonged to my grandparents and now belongs to aunt Grace. My aunt was so excited to see me and I was excited to see her. The first thing I asked was are the toilets in the house? She laughed and said yes but we still have to get water from outside. There were lots of buckets full of water in the house and she baked lots of cookies for me! Part of the house looked familiar and other parts I didn’t remember. My grandfathers shop was no longer there. That used to be my hang out spot and I would always get treats from him.

I used to spend a lot of my holidays in My Darling as a child. I remember chasing the peacocks around my grandparents yard. My first year at FIT most of my projects were inspired by peacock feathers, maybe it’s because it reminded me of My Darling!

Fortunately from the beginning my aunt Grace and I embraced each other the way that I had hoped and that made me comfortable. The only entertainment for me in My Darling was bonding with my aunt. There was no where to go for entertainment. My wifi and phone network for the most part was poor. We did have a really good time together. I caught her up on what was happening in my life and she caught me up on her life. She would occasionally poke fun at my American accent. I no longer sounded the same.

The following morning we woke up to breakfast in the kitchen. Eventually the neighbors and all the people who knew me when I was a child came over to check me out. Even though I was uncomfortable it was no where as bad as meeting some of the strangers I met on my fathers side. I think it’s because I had a relationship with my aunt Grace prior to coming to South Africa and I felt safe telling her my insecurities when meeting people I didn’t remember. They would tell me stories about me when I was a child and of course I didn’t remember them nor the events but I maintained my polite smile.

The other thing that bugged me is people didn’t like me speaking english and most cases made comments about it. South Africa has eleven native languages, I can speak three well and a few others I can understand. Both my parents are Pedi and our language is Sepedi. When we went to the USA we stopped speaking the South African languages but I never forgot them. It’s just that after not speaking the languages for eighteen years I no longer had the confidence to speak to the locals in Sepedi, SeSotho and Zulu. I could understand what people were saying but they didn’t like me answering in english even though they could understand english. My aunt would constantly have to apologize for me by whispering “ she comes from America”. I don’t know whats worse, hearing what people are saying about you or not knowing what is being said?

After three days in My Darling we headed back to Johannesburg. It was sad saying goodbye to aunt Grace because my visit with her was nice. I did tell her that my future visits cannot be more than three days, my Darling was just too rural for me! We both laughed! Little did we know then that I would be back within a few weeks to burry her son and my cousin Lazy.

The journey back to South Africa has shown me just how colorful my life is. I am very fortunate to have the exposures from both the USA and South Africa along with the many different dynamics that both worlds have taught me. This was a journey of answering questions that I never knew I had.

Page 17. Managing it all

While I was in New York working on the business and NBA range of handbags the FIFA offices contacted me saying the agreement would be ready in a month. As a requirement I would also need to provide them a business plan so that they can structure my agreement based on my projections and target retail categories. The FIFA licensing process was different from the NBA licensing process. Both processes were very intimidating and motivating at the same time. It was very educational for me, especially because I was still in the early stages of running a business.

Now that I was back in NY I started to promote the NBA bags. I prepared press packages that included information on my company, the product and also included a sample of the bags. A few months later ESPN magazine had a contest and a feature that included my LeBron James bag as the winning prize. I also managed to get the bag in one of basketballs top magazines Slam. The best part is the NBA flagship store on Fifth Avenue featured the bags in the front window display and mannequins!!!

When I was a student at FIT I used to dream of having my bags featured in the front window displays at the NBA flagship store. I would go to the store every week worried that some company would come up with my concept and beat me to it. To have my bags retailing in the NBA flagship store and displayed for everyone outside to see a few years later was a very big deal to me. I had a lot to look forward to and the FIFA licensee was going to be a great addition to growing my business.

The NBA and FIFA were not the only projects consuming my mind. My family started absorbing a lot of my mind too. I found myself thinking about them most of the time. Some of the thoughts were happy thoughts and others were negative thoughts. There were days I would brag to my friends about reuniting with the family and then there were days I would find myself walking down the street in Brooklyn fuming, thinking why couldn’t they have reached out to me?!?!

My mother was also starting to pick up that I was embracing the relationship with my fathers side of the family and it didn’t help our relationship. Her insecurities started to kick in and with our lack of communication I did not lean on her for emotional support. I really tried to managed the relationship by sharing the bad stuff because I knew the good stuff would not fell good to her. My mother has never really spoken much about my fathers side of the family and sometimes thats enough for a child to know the topic is off limits. The deeper my relationship got with my fathers side, I would see sides of my mother that I never saw before. This wasn’t just a journey affecting me but it also affected my mother in ways that I never could have imagined and probably never will get to fully know.

Then there was Dineo, with her brother very ill I would check in on her regularly. Lazy was out of the hospital but still very ill. Dineo and I planned for my next trip to visit her mother, aunt Grace. My aunt Grace I remembered very well. She was my favorite aunt and she would call us often while growing up. My memories of her were very positive. She still lived at my grandparents home in a small village called “ My Darling” located in there northern province of Limpopo. Even though I was not thrilled about going to my darling because it is a very rural area, I was looking forward to seeing my aunt. One of my last memories of my darling was that the toilets were outside and we had to fetch water outside. It was going to be the experience. Granted this is now eighteen years later, surely there should be some improvements.

At that particular time I don’t know what was consuming my mind and time the most. Was it business or the family? I found myself trying to build a company, managing new personal relationships and dealign with countless emotions all at once. I just managed everything that was happening without stopping to process and deal. You can say my survival instincts took over.

Growth can only come when you are uncomfortable. This was the beginning of me being uncomfortable for a long time. I was growing. The beautiful thing about growth is that it has taught me options about life that I never could have imagined possible.




Page 16. The journey is mine

With Lazy in the hospital I spent more time with Dineo and my mothers side of the family. I wasn’t looking forward to it because it was uncomfortable meeting them earlier. It was a different discomfort form my fathers side of the family. My first encounter with my fathers side was more welcoming and they were nice to me. They avoided discussing the past. Granted, the elephant in room was also making me uneasy. I was mostly uncomfortable with them because of the history between my father and mother. I couldn’t understand why they never reached out whenever they came to the United States, especially NY. There were lots of South African friends who would come visit us and share all the nasty things my relatives would say about us. The price being paid for my mother and fathers relationship was largely by me and my younger sister. The truth is, naturally I had a lot of mixed negative feelings while enjoying being embraced by them. My fathers side embracing me was something that I was not prepared for.

On my mothers side of the family I received the opposite treatment. Dineo and her brother Lazy were really excited to see me and made my experience a little easier. With them I felt like I belonged and protected. Everyone else gave me the cold shoulder. At the time I really didn’t understand why, which is why it was very difficult. I remember my mothers older sister Shila, being aggressive asking me why I never call and why I didn’t contact them? I am sure she meant well and her feelings were hurt but I didn’t receive it well. Why did that matter? I am here now. At the begging I found myself fighting tears when I was around my mothers side.

The other thing that made the experience difficult is there were dynamics within the family that I knew nothing about and I was thrown into them. The difference between American and South African families, in South Africa everyone gets involved.  I’m talking about parents, siblings, cousins, second cousin, friends and the list goes on and on. If you don’t participate you are being disrespectful or selfish. If you didn’t grow up in that environment it’s overwhelming. I did my best to stay out of it, my goal was to support Dineo the same way that she supported me during my time in South Africa. While Dineo was still dealing with her ill brother and family dynamics she still managed to find ways to make me comfortable in that environment.

The welcoming  I received from my fathers side of the family was the one I expected from my mothers side and the welcoming I received from my mothers side I expected from my fathers side. You can say I was thrown off…lol

Eventually the time came for me to return to NY and I still didn’t have a contract from FIFA. The FIFA officials assured me that I would get the contract and not to worry. Once I arrived in NY, I couldn’t wait to go back to South Africa. I believe thats when my need to belong came back. This was a hard feeling to identify with because for almost two decades I always told myself I did not care. How can I miss something that I never had? That wasn’t true, for the first 8 years of my life I had it. There was a need for those relationships and it would take another 7 years before I fully understood why the need was there. By recognizing my need to belong, it helped be learn that some environments I just don’t belong and that’s ok. It’s got nothing to do with me. The beautiful part about that is being ok with it and who I am as an individual.

I went to South Africa to obtain the FIFA 2010 World Cup licensee and little did I know the universe had other plans for me. It was to discover my true self! This happened by dealign with feelings that got neglected for so many years. In just a matter of months I was dealing with countless emotions from anger, pain, confusion, anxiety, joy and many more. These were feelings I couldn’t share with my mother because I wanted to manage her feelings. As supportive as my support system was, I don’t think they also fully understood what I was going through. Especially since I didn’t know what was happening. It took years for me to understand the affects and price that came with me returning to South Africa.

This wasn’t just about the culture, environment, my father, his family or my mothers side of the family and their treatment, it was also about how our move to the United States affected me, my sister and my mother. For example, when I am really hurt by someone I can just cut them out of my life. As if they never existed, could that be because at a very young age a lot of significant people in my life where were gone in one day and we never talked about it? I learned to cope on my own. Returning to South Africa helped me unlock and understand a lot about some of my feelings and actions through out my life. Feelings I struggled to understand, which made it difficult to make changes. A lot of things started to make sense to me, especially the kind of human being I am. The most beautiful thing that my journey back to South Africa has taught me is that NO ONE SHOULD EVER DECIDE FOR ME WHO I AM SUPPOSE TO BE! We all have different journeys that require different explanations and experiences. No one can walk through that journey for you, so never let someone take way what you are suppose to discover on your own journey away from you. The journey will be painful, lonely and beautiful. When you are suppose to pay attention you will…

Page 15. The beginning of the end

The day after Maru’s birthday bash Dineo received a call that her older brother needed to go to the hospital. She quickly got dressed and left. I stayed behind at my aunt Anna’s house and spend sometime getting to know the rest of the family. It was a full house and I had a lot of people to bond with. The male cousins were so easy to chill with but guys tend to be like that. I immediately flocked to them because they weren’t as curious as the women. They were more interested in the present than the past.

Through out the day I would run into my step mother and it was so awkward, I just did’t know what to say and what we would talk about? Where do we even begin? In fairness I bet she also had the same insecurities that I had as well. Eventually I would spend sometime with my older cousin Lucy from Botswana. She was nice but also very intrusive and entitled. From the beginning I was uncomfortable in a negative way with her because she was one of the relatives asking around if I was crazy like my younger sister Magrett. I think because of that naturally I just never cared for her. To keep the peace I gave her my polite smile and answers that I though she wanted.

I later got a call from Dineo saying that her brother was in the hospital and not doing well. I offered to come and she told me to come the following day. I forgot to mention in my earlier blog“ The Unknown” published November 3rd, about my encounter with Dineo’s older brother Lazy (I am laughing as I think about how the western world is pronouncing his name…lol). The day that I went to meet my mothers side of the family Lazy was also present. With the exception of Dineo, Lazy was very kind and welcoming to me. I remember him running to me and just picking me up with excitement. He wanted to know everything about me with no judgement. I felt safe with his approach.

The following day I went to see him in the hospital. Lazy looked very different from when I saw him a few months earlier. He looked very fragile, lost a lot of weight and couldn’t speak. I couldn’t understand how the same guy who picked me up just a few months earlier could barely lift his hand up when I reached out to hold him. I didn’t know why he was so ill. I don’t want to lie, I thought, is it AIDS? Because this is the stereotype, in South Africa if you lose weight suddenly the first thought is that you have AIDS. It was my first experience seeing someone at the hospital in such a grave state. I thought to myself I was looking at death. I left the hospital very sad that day and didn’t know if I would see him alive again.

At that time Dineo and I had built a very good relationship. We even kept in touch when I went to the US. I really cherished the relationship we were building and I wanted to be there for her through this difficult time. Even though Lazy was my cousin I still felt like and outsider vs a family member going through this ordeal especially because I was never around and didn’t know him well. I also didn’t want to overstep boundaries. The universe works in amazing ways, thinking about it now we both needed each other so much during that time and we were there for each other.