Soweto - at least the government provides the "loo"
Merchant - selling whatever he was selling.
-Yummee "cow intestines-cooking" and our guide
-Kitchen and "sleeping quarters"
-Typical day in the squatting settlement in Soweto
-The children - no need for comments :)
Plan B – Soweto
I did go to work on Friday, at least I saved the day off so I’ll use it for next time. Managed to get back to the hotel at decent time to meet up with Anthony and his wife Cat and their daughter Erin. Very lovely, fun, funny and intelligent couple. Anthony is originally from Kenya however lived in London for at least 10 years, met up with his wife Cat who is originally Irish and now they have a gorgeous little girl 10 month old that was the star of the hotel guests and staff alike. We had few beers as that is much needed relaxation after mad day at work, cursed up a storm on the way things are going at work, but overall great chats!
Since my plans to Lisbon got cancelled I thought what a better weekend to do explorations around Joburg. After all I have not even seen the down town Joburg what a shame! So I booked a trip to go to Soweto! Naaaaah forget the big, tall, glass, concrete jungle of down town, Soweto sounded far more exciting! From what I saw in the movie “Tsotsi”, from what Jane told me about it and the little reading I done, I braced myself to see the reality of extreme poverty, humanity crises at its worst, dirt, disease, and illness everywhere!
Oooh mine was I in for a SURPRISE! Seeeeeeeeeee, this is what I REALLY love about being bitten by the traveling bug! Normally we receive information from media, books, newspapers, friends, etc. We receive, organize and collect the information and we create our own assumptions on how things are or how they function. Perhaps at times we may know the facts however the facts have been given to us by a completely different and unique person. Person with distinctive point of view, different presentation style, use of words, description, verbiage, language, vocabulary, his/hers mood at the time of the story, their education, background…. The list goes on and on and on… we get to read/see about things from their persona point of view not ours. So when we actually come and get to see the reality we may be shocked, overwhelmed, surprised, felt deceived, laid to…etc…but at last at this time we get to create our OWN view and story. And so I did about Soweto and so many other places I visited.
I went with my friend Jeetesh from work – who actually works for the client, and supplies me with beer! Well the nice thing is that our client has a lovely perk for their employees and they get bunch of free beer every month...I guess I know how to choose my friends huh? Naaahhh, I am kidding –the beer is not the only quality for J. I am sure I’ll write about him more in my later chapters…as he got very interesting story to tell. J! – pay back is a “bi…”
The tour guide picked us up in the hotel and off we went… My assumptions of Soweto were so different then the reality, in my mind I pictured little huts and squatting settlements build from boards and metal scraps, very deep red/burgundy dirt roads shimmering in the hot, hot African sun, women carrying water in jugs from far away sources dressed in native clothes, boys playing soccer form a newspaper ball tied up by strings, men listening to local radio…As we actually entered the township, I see all BMW’s and Mercedes passing us by, huge power plant in the distance nicely pained in modern graffiti’s, huge hospital stretching for several blocks, people busy hustling and bustling around, huge stadium ready for the world cup, and of COURSE let’s NOT forget the mall!!! Hmm what happened? The modern era caught up with the old charming Soweto! Yes, indeed in some ways it’s still the same charming Soweto housing more than 4Milion people and considered the biggest town ship in Africa, however is no longer as poor as it was before. The signs of modern technology, urbanization, and better economics certainly affected this adorable place. I was bit disappointed that it has changed so much as I loved the charm/vision of the old Soweto, but at the same time I am very happy for the people are living in better conditions and things are slowly looking out for them. The first stop was actually a squatting settlement. NOW that sounded more as the picture I had in my head! Little squatting houses made up from scrap metals, heavy rocks placed on the top of the roofs so the wind does not blow them away, hot African sun glimmering in the late afternoon’s lazy day reflecting off the dirt road, pack of men drinking beer and “gambling” away, kids running around playing soccer and building castles from dirt, a man cooking cow intestines on the open fire offering us a taste, folks just mining their own business. Though it may look like a scary and very poor area I have not felt threatened a one bit, actually if I had a choice I would love to stay over with one of the families just to experience how the weekend life is. Our tour guide took us to his “sanctuary” that was considered quite luxurious as they actually had slab foundation! Wow is that all they need for luxury?! We walked into the tiny kitchen which had all the necessities family of 5 may need, tiny room where they had TV! Oh yes, and they were “borrowing” the electricity as many other hundreds of thousands families do from the government without paying the bill. And ONE bed…so he explained that he lives with his aunt and uncle and their 2 daughters! Both men sleep on the bed and the women share the slab floor! What the heck!!! I would have kicked his as$ for that one, but I guess here its normal, so I kept my mouth shut, but I really had few naughty words for him after that one! What the heck the men think of themselves that they are the “God’s gift to women or what???”
When in fact men could not survive without women as we RULE!!!! He he he…Sorry you guys but we do RULE!
While walking around I was smitten by the most adorable children I ever saw! They had huge brown eyes, most adoring smiles, cute curly hair, amazing soft dark skin, wearing bit ruggedly and dirty clothes, most of them barefoot, looked well fed and actually happy. They looked so innocent and just stunning! I have seen many children in my life however I have looked at these completely different, as they were even more beautiful and more innocent then I have ever met. I think the main reason is that they grow up in such harsh conditions, playing in the dirt right next to the raw sewage, walking around barefoot, and yet from their little compounds they can see to the other side of the creek with beautiful big homes and fancy cars. When they looked at me with wonder in their eyes I really questioned what they actually thought? They looked so happy with just the little things they had, were they ever wondering how come we are so different or did they even know the difference? I wondered how many of them will have the ability to go to school or even university, how many will end up living in the same squatting settlement as their parents and grandparents? How many will become more and break the barrier and grow into new heights and dimension if they only got the chance to do it? I was also thinking that we all easily can blow through $700 bucks a month on silly things like dinners, Starbucks coffee, or shoes when that would be more than enough to put up a house for another family? Or even better start a school in the settlement where they could come in to learn computers and learn the “other” world that right now may seem so far far away yet only across the creek at the same time? Let’s just say after this visit I was so speechless and emotionally moved, I did not wanted to talk just pray and hope that one day these kids and all less fortunate people in this world will get to experience the “finer” things in life as clean water, or shower, or actually flush toilet rather a raw sewage and dirt.
Till today I am moved and hoping to find a way if not here in South Africa but anywhere in the world to give back and to help and make lives better. One life at a time... it will make the world a much better place.