To: Katherine Matthews
Care of: Ben Matthews
Graham House Res
Rhodes University

From: Sbusiso Mhlaba
14A Valkyrie Drive
Cape Town

20 June 2010

Dear K8,

I miss you already and you’ve only been gone a day! Hope you’re having a good time in Grahamstown. Wish I could have come to check out the theatre and stuff. The festival sounds banging. Tell your bro to rock his play. I’ll check it out when he comes to Cape Town.

Things are chilled here. We’re working on a mural for a creche in Nyanga. Could have used your skillz, but Kontax is still the number one graffiti crew in town, even if we’re one (wo)man down!

I had this weird thing happen yesterday which turned out pretty cool in the end. I got in a taxi accident. Nothing hectic – don’t bug out! The tyre burst and the taxi went swerving across the road and hit the concrete barrier that runs down the middle of the highway. Nobody was really hurt apart from some bumps and bruises, but yoh, for a couple of seconds I thought I was a gonner!

I went to the Sea Point promenade to chill and I was sitting on the bench checking out the sea and chewin’ on how quickly things can change. One burst tyre and then … bam!

And then it was like bam for real! This soccer ball comes out of nowhere and hits me on the head!

I was peed off! I turned around, holding the ball, and this Nigerian guy comes running up to me. “Hey, my brother, sorry man about dat. Can I have da ball?”

“Here’s your damn ball!” I said and skopped that ball back as hard as I could.

“Hei! Lionel Messi!” he said, mocking me. But then he invited me to come join them. I didn’t want to. I was annoyed that they’d disturbed me, so I said no at first. But you know how I roll. I couldn’t resist.

It was a bit strange in the beginning because all the players were foreigners. Congolese and Zimbabwean and Nigerian, mara they were really friendly, especially this young guy, Jamala, from the DRC and the guy who called me Lionel Messi. His name is Abaeze and he’s Igbo. He had to leave the country because of the violence over the oil fields.

It’s weird, we hear all this stuff in the news about the BP oil spill but apparently much worse has been happening in Nigeria for years and years and years! You probably know all about it, activist girl, but it was the first time I’d heard about it and it was pretty hectic, especially coming from someone who’d been there.

These guys were good! I had to bust out some of my moves big time and I still didn’t manage to score a goal. I think I managed to impress them though.

But then something weird happened. Abaeze left the field to go talk to this dodgy-looking white guy in a hoodie. They were talking for ages and then they did this funny switch and the hoodie guy pressed something into Abaeze’s hand. I only noticed because I was diving for the ball. I felt sick. It just confirmed everything I’d ever heard about Nigerians that they’re drug dealers!

I got pretty wound up. I started to go over there and Jamala pulled me back. “What’s the matter?” he said. I totally lost my cool. You know how I feel about drugs, especially after that tik addict at school tried to stab my sister!

I went crazy on them, started yelling about how drug-dealing is the lowest thing you can do and how drugs destroy communities and these guys just packed out laughing. Jamala was laughing so hard he nearly fell over. Abaeze came back and he wanted to know what the joke was.

I told him, “I’m pissed off that you’re a drug dealer, and for some reason your friends think it’s hysterical.”

“Drugs?” Abaeze frowned. “Does this look like drugs to you?” He held up a set of car keys.

“What is that?”

“Car keys. For Mr Hollis’ car. That I’m servicing for him. I was a mechanic in Lagos. I used to work at a major service centre before I left the country.”

“You mean… ?” I felt so skaam, K8, I wanted to like evaporate!

“It’s hard to get a real job with a refugee visa. I do odd jobs here and there whenever I can. You know, to support my family.” He took out his wallet and showed me photos of his three kids and his wife.

“I’m so embarrassed. I’m so sorry.” I mumbled.

“Hei, Messi, don’t worry about it,” Abaeze slapped my back. “It’s easy to get the wrong impression. After all, when I saw you sitting there on that bench all mopey, I thought you were a sulking little boy. And here it turns out you’re an okay guy. When you’re not making stupid assumptions, that is.”

They were all pretty cool about it, but I think they’re going to rag me about it for the rest of my life. Or as long as we keep playing together. They invited me to join them for practice again on Tuesday – but this time, they said, leave the stupid assumptions at home!

Anyways, it’s not the same without you. Hurry back. And drive safe! The roads are mad out there.