D: This past weekend everyone on our program did a homestay with families in the Stellenbosch areas. Between sixteen students there were four different sites. Within each site the students were paired off and put into different homes. In an effort to help us understand the entirety of Stellenbosch the areas ran the socioeconomic spectrum, from very wealthy to very poor. I was placed in Kayamandi, the township in Stellenbosch. The NGO I work with is located there as well, but I tried to go in with as few preconceived notions as possible.
We arrived at our meeting location and waited for our host families. It was immediately apparent just how much we were going to stick out. There was a soccer game going on nearby, but I’m pretty sure more people were staring at our group. I received less attention than Ann and Victor however (apparently Asians are a rare sight). Everywhere we went we were greeted to cheers of “China!”, “Bruce Lee!” and, getting really creative with this one, “ching chong!”.
Nowethu, the host of Kris and Ann, arrived first so we went to her shack (for those who, like me, think that makes me seem like a condescending jerk, it is the technical term) to wait for the other host. The shacks are really quite amazing; they are for me the perfect image of contradiction.
Seeing satellite dishes on the shacks is very common, some people even have cars.
While on the outside they look like very informal housing, they are in fact very permanent, many having been there for decades.
Nono picked us up at about 8:30 (about three and a half hours late (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iHsrr0JJMbY TIA bru) and we headed over to her house. She is 25 and lives with her parents, brother (22), and two sisters (14 and 5).
This photo shows the inside of their home and the youngest daughter engaged in a dance off with a neighborhood friend (I have that effect on females).
Homes are an interesting dynamic of townships. In a sense they belie the financial circumstances of their residents. It is a natural to assume that those living in houses are better off than those in shacks, which is true in terms of things like access to bathrooms and running water. However, because the homes are government-built and essentially (or theoretically as corruption runs rampant) given at random, many people living in homes may be earning a lower wage than those people living in shacks. Interestingly, many of the homeowners have shacks behind their houses, displaying the actual amount of resources available.
This is where Nono’s brother sleeps.
The food given to us while in Kayamandi was great, probably better than the food I cook for myself (a lot of pasta, chicken, eggs, frozen veggies, sausage, and grilled cheese if you were wondering). The first night we were served what they called African salad. It was basically just maize meal topped with what Tandeki (Nono’s mother) called “sour milk”. Apparently it’s made from whole milk left out for two days. I’m just repeating what I was told.
Victor was a champ for putting it down, lactose intolerance and all.
That night we hung out with the family and talked out on the porch. Talking with Thabo (Nono’s father) we covered a broad array of topics, ranging from the ANC to the transition from apartheid to conditions in the townships. It was great to hear the perspective of a person living in a township as opposed to learning in an academic setting. On a lighter note, Victor and I spied an extremely circular baby that night. We couldn’t believe how mobile he was.
Breakfast the next morning was pretty self explanatory.
Baked beans in South Africa? You mad Dana?
The morning consisted of waking up at around nine, and not doing anything until 12:30. Victor and I passed the time by catching up on our South African soaps. They’re huge here.
Rhythm Nation was our consensus favorite. The most outrageous plot line involved a guy raping a girl so he could start dating her. Soaps are crazy everywhere I guess.
After this we went on a walking tour of Kayamandi. Nono and Nowethu showed us all the different sections and gave us history of the township. The first homes were built in 1941 and today it is now home to 30,000 people. The geographical size of the township however is not large as it only took us an hour or two to walk the entirety along the border. This is often achieved by sleeping an ungodly number of people into living spaces. It’s quite common to have extended families (6-10 people) living in a two room house/shack.
The sanitation here is repulsive. In many parts there is a constant smell of rotting trash.
I like this photo both because it is going to win me the IPD photo contest and I still can’t get over the way the electricity is set up.
That afternoon we got lunch at a street vendor.
Not the most encouraging menu. In retrospect I’m surprised I didn’t have qualms about ordering.
This cost 10 Rand, or about $1.30. Dat cost efficacy.
Attached to the vendor’s shack was a hang out spot. When we got lunch at 3:00 it was occupied by a group of men hanging out. And by hanging out I mean drinking. And by drinking I mean being pretty excessively drunk for 3:00 PM (Nono said they probably started in “the AM”.
This guy. Cheesin’.
Anyway they were really friendly and very willing to engage and talk with us, even scored a few free drinks (brandy and tonic is big here)! We got into some pretty deep discussions. The main guy I was talking to was wild. He told me he was a member of the ANC paramilitary wing during the struggle and committed acts he was “ashamed of and never wanted to talk about again”. Wut. And while he was drunk, he really encouraged me to try to take a look at the bigger picture and step into other people’s shoes (metaphorically obviously) to understand how people feel. Drunk wisdom.
Dinner was… tough for me to put down.
It consisted of maize, spinach, potatoes and cow stomach. Cow stomach is really hard to explain. It tasted really good actually. The consistency and feel was straight up weird. It was like the outside was covered in little feelers. I won’t be trying it again soon.
That night we just stayed in and watched TV. Surfs Up was on so we watched that. The chubby child penguin reminded us of round baby (see above)
The next morning we went to church. Kayamandi is an extremely religious place, with an estimated 70% (Thabo, 2012) attending church regularly. The service was completely in Xhosa, so we couldn’t understand, but I was content to just take everything in.
The service consisted mostly of singing with the sermon only taking up about 5-10 minutes out of a 2 hour and 45 minute service. Yikes.
Well with that our time was up in Kayamandi and we were heading back home.
Figured I had to get a group photo on here.
Just a few concluding thoughts:
1. There is a complete lack of activities in Kayamandi. Many of the other groups had events planned for them by their host families; we did not because there are no affordable options in the area. Nono told us that often times on weekends she stays in and watches movies because there is “nothing to do other than drink” (See: men drinking early in the morning).
2. It simply amazes me, and hopefully always will, that generations of people have been living in these conditions. The government has been promising housing (I guess it’s the least they could do after force removals) but there is really no end in sight. It seems that the strength of the community is what keeps people’s morale high. Dat Ubuntu. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ubuntu_%28philosophy%29
3. Every time I go out to Kayamandi the geographic proximity to Stellenbosch University surprises me.
The cluster of red roofs is Stellenbosch. I don’t have much to say on it, mostly because it’s a hard idea for me to put into words. These two places couldn’t be more different, yet here they are, a 5 minute drive apart. The fact that this country is so stratified, and so visibly so, always takes me aback.
4. Lastly, I was amazed at how welcome and comfortable we felt while there. Everybody we met was willing to talk to us about their lives and they was extremely forthright. While the setting could not be more different, living with Nono’s family felt very similar to being at home. They hang out as any family, including mine, does. Watching Thabo and Tandeki operate at church was hilarious in that it reminded me too much of my own parents (Hi mom! Hi Dad!). Also, it seems no matter where you go kids try and get out of church.
An avid reader puts it better: “i leave realizing that even though we’re different on the surface and are at different levels economically my house family and i share values that remind me of back home. it’s amazing to find how easy it is to relate to people here, and leaves me feeling with a startling notion that in reality, deep down, we are all the same.” (Bole, 2012). Doesn’t quite have my voice though.
Anyway, thanks for reading this monster post. Here’s a picture of a cute kitten to reward you.