SATURDAY 25TH OCTOBER
This weekend, we took time out and got much needed head space. The whole process of writing a play, debating, discussing race issues, was starting to take its toll by the end of the week. This is not easy work; this is challenging work, work that hits you in the gut.
Iain and I decided to step back and have a breather from each other and the whole process. Yesterday Rob and I went to a local market and picked up some beads and jewelry to take home.
We found our way back to the same area where we intercepted the march on Friday,
I am now a lot more bulshy, it has not taken me long to settle in. I am like, take me as I am or do not take me at all. I walk around with Rob hand in hand, it is what it is. I think I took it a little too far yesterday, when three sisters made some inaudible comment, and I turned and confronted them.
“What’s your problem, if you got anything to say just say it.”
In fact they were saying how beautiful they thought I was, whilst I thought they were chatting about Rob and I. Oh the shame, the shame, the shame. We had a good laugh and a good talk and all was well. I had to humble up myself and a lesson was learnt! Luckily they were good-natured and were not offended by my crazy behavior.
A lovely hand bracelet I was given by a Zulu woman in the market, after I bought lots of bracelets and necklaces from her stall!
We found ourselves in front of a square where some young Zulu girls were dancing which was great to see, but what really caught my eye was a man taking locks out of a woman’s head, as if they were extensions. Beside him were piles of locks, which were obviously not hers, but which he had just removed from her head!
I have never seen anything like this in my life. It seems that in SA you can sell your locks, and other people who do not have the patience to grow them, or only want them for a short amount of time, can purchase them and have them put in their head. Beside him was a row of different types of locks which people had cut and sold to him.
I spoke to the guy and he was from Zimbabwe. It was an amazing thing to see, but you know what I loved about it, at least our hair is valued enough to be sold… good African locked hair has a price. I saw another guy sewing in locks to one lady, this lady must have bought her own as she was taking them out of her bag, one by one and handing them to him. What a ting.
We walked around the local shopping area for a bit and things got a little hectic, lots of people, lots of noise, lots of market stalls. One thing I noted was how dirty the streets were compared with Glenwood, the area we are staying in which is a more up market area.
The big difference was that every day I have seen people, black people, cleaning the streets in Glenwood even if there is nothing but leaves to clean. Here it was obvious that this is not the same.
I saw kids singing on the street to make a little money and a young boy of about 14 approached me for money. It’s hard to say no to everyone, it’s hard to say yes to everyone. He claimed he wanted something to eat, he was earnest and heartfelt and I could not find it in my heart to say no. Continuing to walk, there were women, with children in-between their legs begging, old women begging. I had to look forward in the end, my eyes forward so I could not see them, ignoring the calls and cries for help. I could not help everyone.
SUNDAY 26TH OCTOBER
This day has to be one of my best days ever. I spent the day with Nokolunga Dlada, who I met during Poetry Africa she was gracious enough to come over to the place I am staying at last week, and have an intense talk and discussion with me around issues of race and what it really means to be black in South Africa. I really felt I needed to talk to someone who really knows rather than presuming anything. I also wanted Iain, the guy I am working with, the director who is his wife, and Rob, to be able to sit down and listen to black people talk without interrupting, the aim was for them to just listen. I am grateful that she took the time out to do that.
She met us today and took us out on a day trip. I have not laughed so much since I arrived here and it was just the antidote to the intense work I have been doing the last week.
Nokolunga has a beautiful spirit and is funny as hell. She bought along a friend, Khanyi, and we went on what I can describe as a mini African road trip. She was gracious enough to take us to the area she lived, Pinetown, and then we headed out further to the school she teaches at Dick Ndlovu High School, which is in a semi rural area, and then even further into the rural areas.
The school was basic, I mean really basic, the only library was full of books which were now defunct as they no longer followed the curriculum!
What I love though is Nokolunga’s passion to teach and reach out to young people regardless of the challenges that being a teacher in SA face. A large number of children do not even finish school, for many different reasons. School goes up to 18 in South Africa and by then some of the girls are on their second children!
The areas Nokolunga showed us were beautiful, rolling hills, valleys, green, green, green and more green. The little I have seen shows me how beautiful SA is. I can understand why white people wanted to colonise it.
We stopped off and were introduced to a lovely delicacy which is just like a dumpling, a massive round fried dumpling, it was so hot but lovely. When we stopped off, everyone stared at Rob; I do not think they see a lot of white people around there!
The rural areas were eye opening; limited electricity and water supply, there were large containers with water, which people and even at times animals were using.
It made me think about how I leave the tap on at home, the lights on, how many pairs of shoes and coats and just clothes in general I have. I have way more than I could need now, it’s time to start downsizing. I was also reminded today of how little I had when I was younger and I was just fine. Things do not make you happy. In fact I think I would be happier, if I de-cluttered and got rid of a lot of stuff.
A lot of the kids from rural areas have to walk over an hour to get to the school Nokoluga works at. What does that do to a kid, walking over an hour to school, how tired must you be when you arrive. I think of our kids back home, who have free bus travel or mum or dad drops them to school, it is a different world.
We ended up in PheZula a tourist park, which has a village and ZULU dancing, a game reserve with vegetarian animals, and even a lizard and snake park.
It was all a bit touristy but it was perfect, just what we needed. We watched the dance, which was fun, although I got the impression it was the end of the day and the dancers would be glad when it was all finished, but that was cool, It can’t be very stimulating performing the same routine day in and day out.
Here is me broking out! No shame when they invited us to dance, you know I jumped up and just started flinging myself around!
The dancers were gracious enough to pose for pictures afters with and my new crazy friends x
Poor Rob not only does he stand out due to his witness but also his height!
This is me trying my hand at grinding down corn, I don't think I was doing a very good job!
We then ended up in a Congolese restaurant, Nokolunga dropped us back home, we knocked back the food and then I collapsed on the sofa and had to sleep.
This is me tired, but just about to tuck into some nice food! Life is good.
What a day, it was a real fun day full of laughter and learning. Nokolunga is exactly the kind of person who you want to meet when you are travelling, someone who will take the time to show you and tell you about the real life, the everyday day life, which will put you straight and tell you the truth of a place.
It was a day to remember a day that made me feel both grateful and sad. Grateful to share this experience but sad, sad that for the majority of indigenous South Africans, basic daily life is a struggle, whilst white people still sit at the top like fat cats licking the cream off the milk.
All photos by Rob/Sloetry Photography