How do I begin this post? It is so difficult when you realise that your perception of townships are so wrong and then you realise that you haven’t really been to a township in all your live and then why do we call it townships and not neighbourhoods and why are people (all the colours) very surprised that we did venture into the township.
It is all a very unnatural situation.
Anyway – back to my story. To get to my afternoon job I have to drive on some very dilapidated roads and it takes me through several squatter camps. And what do I see? Poverty, decay, dirt, and rubble. On Friday I had to go to the 2nd job but I had Zoe with me so she had to go along. And what did this child of mine see?
She saw the friends running around the houses and she saw freedom. A child living in a house with walls and electric fencing that has everything she could wish for envied the children in a squatter camp because they are free!!
And then there was a race in Katlehong in Sunday – now Katlehong is only about 10 minutes from us and we decided to go and run there. Well our black running and gym acquaintances were flabbergasted that we chose to go and run in a township. And you know what, once again I was blown away. I expected dirt, I expected hostility, I expected fear, I expected guns and violence.
And what did I get? A normal neigbourhood. Granted there is poverty and you have houses that are completely run down but you also have the houses where you can see the owners are proud of their houses and they look after their houses and they do what they can to make it look neat and beautiful. The women sweep the streets and the pavements in front of their houses. The kids play with their neighbours and cheered the runners on.
OK – I have to admit that the organisers of the race had private security guards on every corner and the traffic police were in full force to keep the taxi’s at bay but never every in a traditionally white neighbourhood did I get so much encouragement and applause from the residents. And I felt safe. The school we ran past had the most beautiful gardens I ever seen at a school.
And then another running story. At one intersection the taxis were going mad because they wanted the traffic police to stop the runners because the want to cross the intersection – I can understand where they came from because for them time is money, I hesitated and started to stop and a gentleman from Soweto, so obviously black grabbed me by the hand and pulled me over the intersection. We ran together for a bit and he translated everything the spectators said and then I had to walk and he ran on. At the finish I once again thanked him for his chivalrous deed and he took my hand and kissed it – what a true gentleman! And where else ever in South Africa will you see that between normal run of the mill people?
And then just to place a cherry on this day of revelations – I came 4th in my age category! I was really just over the moon – for a total nerd and bookworm to start placing in sporting events? That is mind boggling!
And now I have to start on my work day – 4 work days left!