There was much excitement in the Hewitt household on Sunday morning when we bundled the children into our car and set off for Mamelodi to go drop off all our ‘stuff’ for the month (mattresses, clothes, paraffin lantern, buckets etc). Upon arrival we could immediately sense the jovial atmosphere that had infiltrated the township on this post pay day weekend. We were pleasantly surprised to see the effort Leah and our landlord had made with our shack: some rat sized holes between the floor and the walls had been cemented up and the shack had been given a quick lick of paint and the floors a polish. We unpacked, headed back to our other home, left the car behind and caught a taxi back to Mamelodi.
Here are some of the highs of the first 48 hours in our new home for the month:
- The warm welcome the community gave us and the steady stream of people who came to say hi
- Sitting around a communal fire at night with a melting pot of cultures represented: the Ndebele, Xitonga, Xhosa, Pedi, Sotho, Afrikaans and English.
- Experiencing the beat and rhythm of weekend township life with loud kwaito beats competing with Sunday gospel music and coal fires announcing the imminent arrival of supper and another cold winters night
- The entire Putco bus singing gospel songs together on the way to work at 6:30 this morning
- Children blissfully unaware of class and colour barriers: making friends, learning to cartwheel, chasing each other around with joy and abandon
- The good Samaritan lady who saw me standing on the side of the road yesterday waiting for a taxi after fetching the children from school and offered me a lift, initially just down the road but upon hearing our story to our shack doorstep (her first time in Mamelodi)
- Having conversations with people we would never have conversed with before like Sipho from Mica
- Appreciating just how good a spaghetti meal with a basic tomato, leek, celery and onion sauce tasted after a day of oats for breakfast and a single potato for lunch
And some of the lows:
- Experiencing a bone aching cold on the first night. Being way under-dressed for the bitter cold in bed and worrying about the children freezing
- Water condensing on the shack roof while you sleep and drip drip dripping cold drops on sleeping bodies
- Rats. Hundreds of them. Luckily none in our shack but scurrying outside as soon as the sun sets
- Alcohol. Too much of it. Post pay day celebration turned inebriation. Luckily not in any way aggressive
- Adjusting to living in such small space with children.
- Frayed nerves in over tired children. Not knowing how to discipline effectively when tiredness turns to rudeness and fighting and there is no space for timeout, no TV or books for quiet time