My First Township Experience
Today has been a very busy day and there is definitely a lot to process. We hit the road in three buses and drove to Hout Bay. The roads were so windy with trees on either side and the mountains were so close! We first went to the township where we were met by a young man who went through the Educo Africa program as a teenager. One portion of the Educo Africa program takes at risk teens from the townships up into the mountains for a month of rehabilitation/rediscovering themselves. After the month, they return to the township where they become positive role models and help out the township. We walked around the township and I really had no idea what to expect. The houses were shacks and there was an elderly woman with only one leg walking up the road with crutches. Everyone seems very content, well fed, and happy. The township seemed to "flourish" because they had simple grocery stores, barber shops, and even a shoe repair place. It seems to be a very functioning community. As a walked through the streets I realized that there was so much work to be done. However, I have no idea where to start. The people of the townships are the experts of their own living community, so I would have to listen to what they need. I began to feel slightly inadequate and unprepared.
The children in this township are wonderful! They are so happy and waved at us as we walked past. As a future elementary teacher, I was very curious as to how the children receive an education. Do they have to walk to school? Are they known for missing school because of the lack of money? I realized that I need to be more extroverted in terms of asking questions.
As we were walking back down the hill to leave the township, we heard glorious church music. A congregation was walking up the hill singing in Zulu and clapping. They were dressed in bright colors and very joyous. I was smiling and clapping along when I saw the truck following the congregation of singers. It contained a coffin. This was a funeral procession. This change in emotion hit me very hard. At many funerals that I have experienced, people say that it should be a time of celebration, but the mood is still very sorrowful with many tears. Why can't our funerals be this genuinely joyous? Why doesn't an entire community come together to celebrate the life of the deceased?
After experiencing my first township, I have a lot to process and don't really know where to begin. I look forward to visiting more townships and gaining more knowledge to help me understand my experiences better.