My last day in
Today I went on a township tour with ten other foreigners picked up at hotels and hostels across
Throughout my trip so far, I have seen the economic differences in
We started our tour at the District 6 Museum. Starting in 1966, the entire community was torn down and declared a white area. District 6 is still mostly a vacant area in
After the museum, the true experience began. We spent most of our morning in Langa, a township community that originated around 1901. We first went to the community center and met local artists making pottery, sand paintings, jewelry, and other crafts. Such friendly, empowered people. I met a guy who does sand and chalk “paintings,” and he has been an artist for eleven years. If I had any room in my luggage, which I don’t (don’t laugh), I’d have bought something.
Then we went further into the township to experience the four different economic lifestyles from the Hollywood of Langa (“normal/humble” 3 bedroom family houses in the
Our first stop was a shock to the system. Our guide pulled right up to an outdoor food stand. I don’t even know if it’s a stand, or more of an outdoor cooking station. Twenty sheep heads sat on a plank in the morning sun and waited to be boiled. I really tried to be a brave vegan. I did. I stood there breathing through my nose and trying not to go woozy when the woman was using the hot knife to shave the head. When another woman and two guys from my group stepped away, I sighed with relief and joined them. The smell is still in my nose hours later. It’s a delicacy for this community, but I had a hard time. It was worse than sitting next to someone eating a lobster. Oh, not a Maureen-friendly experience.
After this, we wandered down the road, half of us feeling queasy, to a Shebeen, an informal bar. We sat around a little fire with ten local men (currently unemployed) and the two women running the Shebeen. A fresh jug of homebrew was passed around to us, and it was a sour cider beer. The men then drank after us, but the women did not. As owners, they are not allowed to drink, but they kept everyone comfortable. Our guide is from Langa, and they all know him. They were friendly and welcoming to all of us.
We then went to the new houses being built in Langa. A gorgeous little boy came up to me and hugged my leg, then proceeded to push me away! Children are gorgeous and fun everywhere, aren’t they? We walked into a few different homes—two and three room houses (a lounge, one bedroom, and a tiny bathroom for one family). Here, the local community was involved in building these houses; 80% of the construction workers must come from the local community.
We talked to one woman who has lived in the same room for 15 years. When I say room, I mean room. 11 people live in this one room. Yet, this room was full of life and color. She radiated happiness and cheer. I bet if you went into the biggest house in
Our last stop was at a traditional healer. Snake, crocodile, and springbok skins hung from the ceilings. Herbs and dried plants were piled high. I later asked the guide how community workers working with HIV education interacted with the traditional healers. It seems to be a delicate balance. You may not know that
It was a day full of contrasts. As I sit here typing this hours later, I am so grateful for this experience. It’s been years since I visited a township, and it reminded me that I love this country for its contrasts—its artists, its children, its community workers, its unemployed. They all tell
I am off to
So, I shall love and leave you. Stay well and remember we all have our own stories to tell. Tell yours.