Last weekend, we went away for a few days to explore the Garden Route of South Africa, which was an incredible experience. One of the many highlights of the trip was when we stayed at a game lodge and went on both a sunset and sunrise game drive. To see animals without a fence in between was an incredible experience and one that I will never forget.
While having dinner at the game lodge, we were talking with our tour guide and sharing about our experiences both in Cape Town and in the township. He said, “I’m glad that you are visiting our beautiful city, but I am happy that you also get to see the other side of the rainbow (the township).”
Today, we were riding in an Uber and talking with our driver about what we’re doing in Cape Town. When we told him we are working in a township, he replied, “Ah, yes. The other side.” I feel like there are two sides to life in Cape Town and I think about what this experience would be like if we weren’t working in Vrygrond.
After we returned from the Garden Route tour, we were supposed to be working back in the township. Unfortunately, there have been strikes and protests in the area and a strong police presence due to conflict over taxis. It was decided that we would not work in the township until things had settled down so we did not go into Vrygrond during the week.
Knowing that there were tensions in the township and that people were affected by this (many people were unable to get to work) made me feel emotional. I got a sense that people have felt oppressed and powerless for a long time. There have been peaceful protests in the past and calls to action have not been heard. During these protests, there were tires being burned in the street, and there was also some looting. Though I don’t agree with looting, I think that these protests were a means for people to get their voices heard. I feel hopeful that community members will organize and address their needs with local government now that some attention is being focused on the township.
It’s difficult to not think about the children of the township and how these conflicts and additional stressors impact their lives. No matter how “rustic” the crèche, they are a safe, consistent environment for children. In the crèches I work in, I see children being nurtured and encouraged and I hope that the teachers realize how powerful this is for the children. The week before we went on the Garden Route, I was talking with a preschool student who loves to help her teacher. I told her she would be a wonderful teacher when she grew up. She beamed. Another student overheard, and told me, “Teacher, I want to be a nurse when I grow up.” I told her, “You would be a great nurse because you take good care of people.” And she replied, “It’s too much money.” This is a sad reality but caught me off guard as I’ve not heard this from a preschool-aged child. Preschoolers often dream big fantasies for when they grow up: ballerina, firefighter, astronaut, doctor, veterinarian, etc. My wish for the children is that despite the obstacles that will inevitably lie before them, they will continue to dream big for their futures.
(Photo credit to Bridget Emery- taken from the driveway of our home in Ottery)