Scene 2: Dominos


During our first two days at Service Dining Rooms (SDR), we were introduced to the Streetscapes participants, two of our co-researchers, Rudolph and Gideon, and the co-researchers for the Khulisa Team, but we really hadn’t had the chance to start building relationships. To facilitate our early interactions, we decided to play Dominos.

Cast of Characters

WPI SDR Team is our IQP team consisting of four students from Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI): Aaron McGinnis, Briana Rodriguez, Drew DeRubeis, and Liz Desjardins.

Khulisa Team is another IQP team from WPI consisting of four students, Tatiana, Miguel, Alicia, and Keegan, that is working at the Canterbury lot across from SDR.

Khulisa co-researchers are four guests of SDR that will be collaborating with the Khulisa team on the Canterbury lot project. This group consists of Adam, Sheryl, Joe, and Juanita.

Gideon is one of the four co-researchers we worked with. He is especially passionate about art, but he has been helpful in all aspects of the project. He was the only co-researcher present on this first day.

Streetscapes participants are clients of SDR that are part of a pilot program known as Streetscapes.


The Khulisa team and us, and both of our co-researchers gathered around to play Dominos in the main dining room nearest the entryway. The teams spread out the square tables and relocated the chairs so that four people could play at each table. The bright light streaming from the front windows matched the comfortable and lively atmosphere.


We dispersed among the different tables. Aaron explained that he didn’t actually know very much about playing Dominoes. Joe said that he has played a lot of Dominoes in the past few years, and that on Fridays SDR used to host game nights. As we started playing, Aaron placed his dominos in his hands and tried to match the number on his domino to one of the playable dominos on the table. Meanwhile, Joe narrowed his brows and focused his eyes with each move. Once he decided, he raised a domino high in the air and then smacked it down on the table. The noise startled Aaron. This load smacking of the domino on the table was a normal procedure. Joe then slid his domino over toward the playing field, expecting someone else to align it. Other smacks could be heard around the room. Realizing this action was common, when Aaron’s turn rolled around, he smacked his own domino down and pushed it toward the general vicinity of the playing field.

The teams spread themselves out in order to connect with each co-researcher better.

The teams spread themselves out in order to connect with each co-researcher better.

On the other side of the room, Drew and Liz were slamming dominos with Gideon and Adam. Although playing, Adam was focused more on talking. Adam would constantly prompt deep conversation about his experiences and the perceptions “outsiders” should have. Adam proclaimed his love for everyone, how others should see his life and his experiences and learn from them, and his faith in God. Deep stares and long pauses in his sermon-like stories made Drew and Liz a little uncomfortable as they would look back into his eyes. But, Gideon broke the silence and encouraged the domino game to continue.

Some members of our team playing with co-researchers from both our project and the Khulisa project.

Some members of our team playing with co-researchers from both our project and the Khulisa project.

At a different table, Briana enjoyed playing with two Khulisa team members, Keegan and Tati, and one of their co-researchers, Sheryl. To Briana’s surprise, Sheryl could slap her domino down forcefully enough with her fragile, nimble fingers to cause an echo around the room. Sheryl took on the role of an informal leader as she kept the game moving smoothly and taught others the nuisances of the game. The laughter and light taunting came easily as Sheryl and Tati won the first round.


Through this simple act of playing dominos, we realized that despite the differences in each person’s hometown, upbringing, family, personal experiences, clothing, or the amount of money in his or her pockets, we are all just people that want to connect and have fun playing a game. Our group came to South Africa with the belief that street people were just people, no different than anyone else. With that being said, upon entry to Service Dining Rooms and the Canterbury lot across the street, it was clear that the differences between our lives and life on the streets were noticeable. Even though we were greeted by initial friendliness coming into SDR as outsiders, the question of whether our team would truly be able to connect in the ways we hoped lingered. It was on this day that our team found that a connection can be formed through a basic medium enjoyed by all human beings, fun.


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