How I experience life in a township
Lea* from the Netherlands has joined the AIDS Hope team in January 2020 and even though some things are different than expected, she loves living in Mamelodi. Read about how she has been experiencing life in a township:
When you think people in Mamelodi speak all the same language you are horribly wrong! People here speak several languages like Sotho, Zulu, Tsonga, Sepedi or Mamelodian. (This is actually not an official language, but a mix of all the different languages.) The fact that they speak so many different languages, but are still able to communicate with each other is really surprising for me. Where I come from we only have one official language but we are still not able to always understand each other. These many different languages give me a problem though. Before arriving in Mamelodi, my goal was to learn the local languages but since there are so many, the question is which one?
Around the Meetse A Bophelo centre is always something happening. There is always some noise coming from somewhere. Even during the night, when you want to sleep there is music in the background. In the beginning I really needed to get used to that, but now I miss the music when it’s not there.
The people living in Mamelodi are very warm and they will always greet you. I love driving around to pick up the kids from the schools. When I do so I always come across the same people. First, I smile and wave at the woman in our street who is selling fruits and vegetables. When I get stuck in traffic on the main road, I get the opportunity to talk to the guys who are selling cigarettes and other things. While waiting at the schools for the kids to come out, kids gather around me and marvel at a white person. They always try to talk to me in their home languages, but I obviously can’t communicate with them. When the kids I’ve been waiting for are finally out we drive on to another school.
At the second school I wave at the man with the rod. Apparently, he keeps an eye on the kids while they are waiting to be picked up. Then, I head already to the last school. In the car I have a never-ending discussion with the kids, which road is now the fastest and most comfortable. We are definitely not all on the same page regarding that. On my way back to the centre I greet the same guys again, wave at the same woman and then I enter the gate to Meetse.
I love living here in Mamelodi, but there are some things I thought I would never do. Some of the things are:
- I never thought I would eat fries on my bread. Now I love to eat Spathlo. (Local food, which includes fries on bread)
- I never thought I would walk with socks in my flip flops. Now I still don’t think it looks nice, but I do it anyway.
- I never thought I would take a roundabout the wrong way around just because it’s quicker. Now I’m doing it without even thinking about it.
- I never thought I would stop a car in the middle of the road to let someone in or out. Now it’s normal to do so.
- I never thought I would be able to navigate my way through Mamelodi. Now, I still get lost but I can find the houses of the kids and I know my way from the main roads.
- I never thought I would feel comfortable driving a big car backwards. Now, I’m used to it and love the fact that we have big cars.
- I never thought I would push myself through traffic. Now I’m doing it quite often, otherwise I wouldn’t move at all.
- I never thought I would use roads that are still under construction. Now, it has become normal and is the fastest way to get from A to B.
- I never thought I would get used to street vendors who sell their products at the traffic light. At times they are annoying though but if they’re not there something is missing.
- I never thought I would have times without electricity or water. Now, I know what to do when there is no water and I’m not surprised anymore when we have load shedding.
This is just a small sneak peek into how life in Mamelodi and at AIDS Hope looks like. There are a lot more things for me to discover and if you want to experience it yourself- come and join us!
*Name changed to protect identity