The Highs and Lows of our First Few Days

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

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  1. Elana says:

    So how do you charge cellphones without electricity in the shack? And how do you access emails and update your blog?
    Great adventure guys!! Thanks so much for sharing! I’m excited to read more of this month to come!

    • Ena says:

      Hi Elana. We charge our phones at work and have access to laptops there too (for me in the mornings while children at school). We also have a non smart phone with us which has a battery life of about a week (huge iphone fail…..)

  2. Serena Jain Serena Jain says:

    Unbelievable Ena, just truly amazing stuff here and can’t wait to read more about this experience of a lifetime…. All the best.

  3. Anwar says:

    Well done. I hear so many more affluent ppl complaining about shacks & how a drain on their tax & an eyesore. But you went to expierience it first hand. You litterally walking a mile in their shoes. Good job.

  4. Alan says:

    Wow!!..I am really impressed at your efforts to understand the other side of our SA culture. A lot of white people are really missing out in taking the time to understand other race groups…If we did more of that SA would become so much more of a harmonious country to live in.

  5. James Davis says:

    If the Hewitt couple really,really was concern about how their poor maid and her family lived in the township. Then they could put some money together and have their maid’s grill (teeth) fixed.

  6. Ena says:

    In fact that is exactly what we did to say thank you for all her help during the month

  7. Tshidi says:

    It saddens me to read the Tweeter msgs tgat were roared against u. And any comment that says rather you should have done what i think? Sad how dictating and controlling we can be at times.
    Thank you for not letting any of these minds to take you off the path you chose to walk. Such courage. I know it’s not easy to be a few amongst thousands esp with your kids. But u did it for you.

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