Tuesday, August 17, 2004

surviving south african

it is always so strange driving into the langa, round the back from the n2 side. to get there you have to pass the opulence and grandeur of the local casino with its glittering exterior and flashing lights and clamoring sirens announcing another winner. you have to pass a place of dreams to enter reality that is always shocking. the state of the homes, the rotting flats that house far more people than they were ever designed for, along roads that are littered with rubbish that seems to have come from a recycle bin, as if this is its last destination.

the children, thin and dirty kids whose eyes are still bright with life, run around freely playing games, pausing to watch us as we drive past, the occasional one throwing a quick wave before darting off again. life on the streets of a township is like surviving a battle ground. these kids see it all happening, the drugs, the abuse, the poverty, they are the next generation, and every day will teach them far more than the average person will understand.

driving through this one has the feeling of wanting to get out – either out the car to help the nearest child or get out of the area as quickly as possible to avoid becoming another statistic in next months crime reports. the townships are not a place to hang around. You go there with purpose, know where you are going and show your confidence – somehow it makes people feel that you’ve been there before, and they will tolerate you.

it is still the friendliest place to be when you’re there as a friend. people will come up to you from across the street, to greet, chat about who you are and what you’re doing, maybe see if you got a cigarette and then wish you well.

the community knows each other, they know each others business, and if you’re there with a resident, you become a part of the greetings and welcome smiles. you become a part of the ubuntu - that state of humane humanity that the west will never understand.

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