I take a shuttle, from the train, for the last part of my daily commute. With this has come many experiences, some of which I share here with you today. These rude awakenings should all have their own posts, as there are many important aspects that can be raised for each. But the need to create this understanding of life in the city central, released onto paper, far exceeds the perfection of many posts.
The most delicious smells wafts through the air at times. Smells of pap and mielies cooking early morning. Sometimes mini braaiers have sosaties with meats stuffed onto them. My favourite of all is the fresh scone and vetkoek smells. It teases my cravings for doughy goods! These small spaza shops all have stories to tell. Dreams of bigger things and families to support. And I itch to spend some time learning of these stories and inspirations.
Other experiences have me raising questions of how many times water can be used, reused, reused and used again? As potholes are a common aspect of the city roads, with their users brushing teeth or washing their faces therein. How much water do I not waste with my daily activities? Should I start thinking about ways to store and reuse water? The answer here is most definitely Yes! On the point of recycling I have watched a man pack everything out dustbins to recycle. His clothes were torn with plastic bags protecting his arms. When he looked up, I just smiled at him. He waved, toothy grin and hurriedly got back to work. Time is money and his survival.
Another man lay strewn across the walkway. Needle in one hand, opposite arm outstretched, he pokes himself with the needle, inserting what looks to be Heroine. His arm is bleeding from all the attempts but he keeps at it. “One more hit” it seems he says to himself. I watch horrified, but humbled, that I have been blessed not to have reached such a low point in my own life. Some addictions can be seen to the eye, they are not pretty and we forget easily that this is the lives of street dwellers and the wealthy alike. We all have addictions – some contribute positively to our lives while others destroy everything around us.
Joyful children can be seen on the same streets, holding hands and crossing busy roads, that have my heart at a stand still. Sometimes I find myself holding my breathe until they have reached safety. Yet they walk with confidence and pride, chattering away excitedly. Their uniforms crisp clean and neat with polished shoes. The older children are more confident and take care of the younger children whom hold onto each other’s backpacks. It has me question my own parenting skills. Surely there are ways as a parent, where I can teach my son such independence and pride of his belongings? Teach him to take care of younger people around him and be kind.
A pastor standing on a street corner, warning everyone, and no one in particular, of the coming days and repentance. This man too has a part to play in this thriving but fragile city. He warns of things that take place daily on the very same corner he shares with others. A brothel’s door stands open not too far from his preaching. People walk circles around him while others laugh. That man has the persistence and guts that I admire. In the face of adversity he continues, in the cloudy, rain threatening weather he cries out passionately. He is strong in the words his soul speaks, yet weak in an old man’s body.
Last year I was freezing on my way to work. Bodies lay on the cold paved cement under cardboard boxes, black bags and torn blankets. I decided the popular phrase “Winter is coming!” would do for the request to donate blankets. A few close friends and I drove this initiative at work and in our personal lives. People brought blankets or R50 for us to buy a cheap blanket from PEP stores. Many blankets were taken to shelters surrounding our work environment. We impacted many lives and it felt great. As a parting point to this blog, I am inspired to try collect tin cans for December so people in shelters could have Christmas too. I am not too phased by the silly season but being hungry with nothing to eat isn’t great for anyone really.
My daily commute allows me to sit back and take stock of my life. Where I have come from and where I am. What addictions I have that aren’t necessarily seen, but affect my life. What I need to teach my child to be a self-sustaining adult. How to work sparingly with resources. To be kind and compassionate to strangers. To make a stand for what I believe in the face of adversity. Most important: to not focus on fuss but rather the joy one can create in all our lives!