Last night Leah asked us if we wanted to join her for church. The children were already in bed as we had decided to catch the bus to school this morning, so Julian stayed with the kids and I joined Leah. Leah gave me one look and said: you can’t go dressed like that: where is your skirt and you need a ‘kopdoek’ (scarf covering my head and hair). I made a quick plan with a headpiece, borrowed a skirt from Leah and off we set, walking through the dark township alleys to get to church.
The area in Mamelodi where we are staying has no street lights but there are a couple of massive flood lights on high poles like one has at cricket or major sporting stadiums that light up the area when they are on. In typical inefficient local government style, I often see these lights on during the day (when they have no effect) and off at night. Last night the lights were off and that combined with the lack of electricity in the community results in dark alley ways lit only by the night light and the many many communal fires along the way. The ‘better off’ have little wood fires that several people huddle around but others stand around fires burning anything they can lay their hands on: plastic, old couch cushions, boxes etc.
There is quite a vibe as you walk along the streets, people returning home from work, others buying and selling snacks, lots of spaza shops cashing in on ‘rush hour’ trade, and people talking, walking and going about their business: a far cry from the deserted streets in the predominantly white Pretoria upper class suburbs.
The church was housed in a shack which looked exactly like all the surrounding shacks from the outside but was painted a beautiful pastel blue inside, had four rows of blue benches inside, three candles lit and a calendar from the ‘head office’ church and smelled of freshly burned incense. About 12 people (11 ladies and one man) came along to the service which was all in Sotho with a small part translated into Afrikaans for my benefit. It was a lovely and surreal way to spend a Wednesday evening.