04 June 2009

Township tour

Beds are underrated. Even hard, twin beds.

Dinner and drinks were great last night with Stephen. He took us to a bar for drinks where we sampled a few local beers, then he took us a few doors down to the Royale to fill our stomachs with the best burgers in town. The conversations was insightful, we learned a lot about the culture and politics. He helped us arrange a private tour of the townships for Thursday morning. It was an early night because we are still jet lagged, plus it is not very safe for us to be out after dark.

Thembile (Tim-be-lay) was our tour guide, Uncle Clive was our driver. We first visited an apartheid museum in CT before heading out to visit three townships. I am baffled by the ideas behind apartheid. Apartheid was instituted in 1948 when there were no racial concerns or divides. The government took it upon itself to uproot and resettle all of the citizens that were not white in order to establish a class system based on race. Coloreds (any person not fully white or black) were considered second-class citizens and were settled just outside the cities. Blacks were considered third-class citizens and received little to no consideration by the government. They were settled even further outside of the cities in townships (a very un-PC way to describe this would be shanty towns). Some of these homes are nice cinder-block houses that are about 500 sq. ft. while others are pieced together with corrugated aluminum, signs, and tarps. This remained until 1990 when apartheid was abolished with the election of Nelson Mandela, but the culture and ideas have been slow to change. The government is now building homes in the townships for people who make less than R3500 a month (that's 433 UDS). These are proud people who continue to live in these areas by choice. I've read about them in Kaffir Boy and saw them in Tsotsi, but it wasn't real until I saw it with my own eyes. It's poverty that doesn't exist in America.
The first township we visited is called Langa and is considered small at 250,000 residents. We drove through the streets before stopping at the community center. Here residents are taught arts that continue their traditions and skills that support them financially. He next took us to a ndaba, medicine man. It is the most fascinating thing I think I have ever seen. His shop was a dark shed (no electricity) with animal hooves and skins and strung from the ceiling with low tables full of plants and herbs. This ability was passed down to him from his grandfather ('s spirit after he died, because it skips a generation, you know...that's how it works). He received his gift when he started getting his visions/dreams at 14. I'm not sure my pictures will do justice to what I saw. Fascinating...

Next, we visited the largest township, Khayeltcha, with 2 million residents. We dined at Mzoli's, a hot spot known all over CT, in the township of Gugulethu. It is a butchery that braais (barbecues) its fresh meat. The four of us ate with our hands from one tray piled with grilled chicken, beef, and sausage while we sat outside on the patio. Delicious...

This is great...we've all heard and laughed about the clicking tribal languages we've seen on National Geographic. Well, Thembile taught us a few words of the Xhosa language on our drive back. It was hysterical. Too bad we don't have audio of it.

SA is days away from winter, also known as the rainy season. We've had rain and a fog that continues to hang over the mountain. We have been told by two different people that the sun always shines on Saturday...let's hope so!

HIGHLIGHT: Visiting the medicine man. I've never seen anything like it.


  1. What a wonderful experience you two are having! I cannot wait to hear these stories first hand and see the pictures.

    Be safe.

    Mom Harris

  2. Wow! What a day! What an experience. Can't wait to see the pictures. What is this about "not safe"?? CURFEW: 3 pm! Doors locked.Continue to enjoy every minute of this extradordinary, educational, eye opening trip. Poe says Hi. She's doing great.
    BE SAFE!
    Mom C

  3. hey sisters.. i'm glad to see some pics.. man robin.. it looked like you were about to jump in one of those.. annie must not have had her diet coke for the day yet. i feel ya!!! well miss you both.. p.s. annie who is stephen.. hmmm interesting that he wasnt mentioned before. oh well love you and miss you tons.

  4. p.s.. that was meredith before ha ha.. oops.