Archive for July 2013

Guest post by my parents, Laurette and Barry Moolman

An insight by Laurette Moolman, Ena’s mom:

Ena asked me to write about our feelings regarding their Mamelodi-for-a-month. It is a good thing that she only asked me now, because initially we were filled with trepidation. Sadly one first thinks about all the possible dangers that could befall them and especially the two little girls. As time went by we got used to the idea and we also know that Ena and Julian are doing this for the right reasons and not for sensation, as much as the media would probably like to turn it into a Reality Show with constant twitters and tweets and Facebook “OMG!”  or “awesome!” comments.

Ena said we should not be too surprised at their decision since they grew up with Barry and me as parents and at times we too did some quite unusual things. I suppose so yes, but then one tends to forget your own adventures and rather pooh-pooh them as having been nothing. In India we were invited to the village of our driver, on the edge of the Tar desert in Rajasthan. We were the first western people ever to have visited this village and the village itself was like something caught inside a time loop. No electricity, no telephones. Every family had a cow, a buffalo and a camel which they used for working the fields and for food. No refrigerators so the cow and buffalo are milked early every morning and butter for ghee and joghurt made. The women grind the grains for their delicious bread and they cook on small coal fires. And so we went there, the first time also not knowing what to expect but we were overwhelmed with the friendliness of everyone in the village – after they overcame their initial curiosity which was quite unnerving to us. To be stared at as though you came from outer space was quite daunting!

However, we went back several times and it became for us one of our very special places in India. The fact that we had to wash from a bucket of warm water brought to us, heated on a fire, didn’t bother us at all. One weekend we went to the neighbouring village for the wedding of our driver in the middle of summer with temperatures reaching 50 degrees! It was even more basic since they had to find sleeping accommodation for many wedding guests. We got alotted a roof with two string cots and the next morning when we woke up, we saw many wedding guests on the roofs around us. For a toilet we had to go into the courtyard and push a buffalo calf out of the way to get to the VERY basic hole with bucket of water. We had a small bucket of water on the roof too, for basic washing.

We enjoyed these weekends without a thought to the mod cons back home, but it was always only for a weekend. And of course we were always someone’s guests and didn’t have to fend for ourselves. Our intrepid childred are going to live under such different circumstances for a month and we salute them and will be with them in the spirit from here in Iran for the first half of August and then fortunately from closer by for the second half of the month. And hopefully be at the end of a cumbersome taxi ride on their part  for a visit. We have also heard rumours of a street party in Mamelodi towards the end of their time there where we will hopefully be able to meet the people with whom they will share their month.


And a very personal piece by my dad:

With the advantage of hindsight, I realize why you and your family chose this new journey of discovery, respect and empathy.

You grew up in a colour blind world where pigmentation never entered your vocabulary and where empathy for others became part of your life.

From your childhood in rural Umtata where you ran around with a tiny beaded skirt to that long flight to New Zealand where you, four years old, holding a tiny suitcase in one hand and your baby sister with the other boarded the plane to Wellington.

Two years later, back in Pretoria where you did us proud at St Mary’s DSG, one of the very few multi-racial schools at that time.

Then in Germany where you learnt a new language and experienced something more of the diversity and unity of cultures.

Later on in India, where you, blissfully happy at Girls’ High, had to uproot yourself join me, expecting shopping malls but discovering slums and smelly local markets.

During your outreach time at school you worked In those slum areas.

I shall never forget the time, after you finished school in Delhi and did a gap year in Harrods in London when you flew back to New Delhi and surprised me at the crack of dawn on my birthday. You took the journey on a dodgy airline full of bidi smoking workers on their way to Bangladesh via Delhi.

I was so proud of you when you became a trader at JP Morgan after graduating and I understood and respected your complete change of direction to do your MBA in China.

Then after starting a family, where you donned a scarf and visited us three times in Tehran, twice with a tiny baby and the third time with both our grandchildren.

This next part of your life journey fits the pattern.

Hence the advantage of hindsight

I am proud of you and deeply respect you.

Your dad

Our R25 Solar Cooker!

One of the comments from a reader, Gaynor, following a preIMG_2809vious posting: (Solar Cooker: yes or no) was why don’t you make one of your own? Well always being up for a challenge we decided to do just that and spent last night working on a little science experiment. Instead of our R2500 bought version we managed to make one for just R25 using cardboard, glue and tinfoil. Julian found a brilliant link on the internet “Solar Cookers: How to make use and enjoy” and we followed their instructions and came up with a simple solar cooker of our own. We were fairly skeptical as to whether it would work but before going out for the day we set it up with some dried beans and onions inIMG_2821 water (mmmmhhhh, not really gourmet meal but high in protein, cheap and healthy) and went off for the day. It was not a particularly warm day today but it was sunny and there is no wind here. Upon returning home at 5pm the sun had almost set and the beans were cold but they were cooked. So we heated them up, added some salt and cumin and had ourselves a very basic but cheap and replicable meal. So thanks Gaynor, we will be taking our home made solar cooker along to Mamelodi and

hope to make some more meals in it.


Our Seismic Shift in Two Pictures

Here is a great visual of the seismic change we can expect from July to August. The aerial photo below shows our home on the east side of Pretoria. Notice the big houses, plenty of space and lots of trees

Bateleur Aerial Photo








Now 10km north as the crow flies, a whole new world opens up  The aerial photo below is of the vast informal settlement that that we will call home for the month of August. Our shack is located somewhere in the middle of the picture. Notice in complete contrast the absence of trees and high density living  connected by dirt roads. It is easy to see why we have no electricity or council sewage services to look forward to.

Mamelodi Aerial Photo

From Hillbrow with Love

“Why only a month?” was Nigel Branken’s first question. It was probably meant to throw us off guard and it had the desired effect. His question was quite a contrast to our often fielded enquiry of why a month in the first place.

We were in the middle of Hillbrow, sitting on their couch and swopping stories in their cheerily named apartment block called Blouberg. Not surprisingly, the apartment name failed to conjure up emotive images of Table Mountain that it might have been supposed to.

Looking across at the Branken's neighbouring building

Looking across at the Branken’s neighbouring apartment

Hillbrow is an inner city suburb so rough that high rise residents have a penchant for throwing things like engine blocks and pool tables onto unsuspecting passers as part of New Year Festivities.  Watching a big rubbish bag being tossed to the ground from 10 stories up, hitting the ground with a resounding thump only emphasised the point. As did the rest of the litter drifting in lazy gravitational pursuit.

It gave me that feeling of being on holiday. Not in the ‘sun drenched beach’ sense of the word, but rather that this was a parallel universe to my daily life.

Nigel and Trish were probably never quite your stereotypical middle class family. But two years ago, their decision to move from the leafy streets of Midrand to the Bronx of South Africa must have been quite a curveball to family and friends alike.

To Nigel and Trish, this is what makes them come alive in the world. It can’t be easy to have made the lifestyle adjustments they have needed to make. It also can’t be easy to be held up at gunpoint on a disconcertingly regular basis as part of an unofficial cell phone exchange programme.

But their story has been captivating enough to inspire Carte Blanche interviews and impact on many people around them in small, big and meaningful ways. ( The question of ‘What makes you come alive in the world’ is often a double-edged sword laced with incredible vulnerability and incredible passion.

Which brings me to what George Washington Carver would have said about the Brankens: “When you do the common things in life in an uncommon way, you will command the attention of the world.”

At least, there are some crazier people than us out there…


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox

Join other followers