Saturday, June 5, 2010

Township Tour 2010

I decided against my better judgment to take a shortcut home through the Mbekweni township. I was fed up with the traffic and thought that I should let my colonialist stereotypes go, and face my fears, and just dive in there.
Somewhere during the drive I started regretting it.
Maybe it was between the house made entirely out of signs stolen from the Paarl Gholf Club and the man selling goat heads. Maybe it was when a live electrical wire tired to a stick with plastic bags that was being used to power a giant TV fell off into the yard of the man with he huge chicken coop/frontyard barbershop and butchery. I don't know.
But it felt like a very very long shortcut.

I was reminded though, of a true story. My friend's cousin worked for a furniture store that sells various household goodies -including TVs. He sold a TV to this guy in the township. Next day, guy brings the TV back. "It keeps flicking off and on, " he says. The test the TV in the store and works perfectly. They send him home with another TV.
Guy comes back again. "It keeps flicking off and on."
Test it again. It works perfectly.
Finally they decide to send out a technician. Technician rocks up at the house. Yup, TV is flicking on and off.
"What your power source?"
Guy takes him out back. His whole house had been powered by a traffic light. Ever time the traffic light hits red, the power goes off. When it hits green, power goes on.

Most of all though...driving through the township, seeing the lines of wet laundry and people trying to feed their kids on stinking open fires, the lack of sanitation, the trash every where and thin dogs...I did feel grateful that I didn't have that life. People look at my 2-room house and my ancient car with the missing bumper, and they think that I don't have much. Those township people looked at me drive by in that busted-up 1995 Mazda and they thought that I was rich. Running water, car, house with a roof? That's richer than 60% of the world's population. And I was reminded that I really, truly, have nothing to complain about.

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