I had an amazing weekend. Left with my mind with my mind erratically going from one thought to another, came back the most clear headed I’ve been in years, Literally. But, before the inevitable emo musings ensue, let me give you a little background.
I’m a third generation Sowetan, my grandmother was born in Sophiatown and was there when a few white men decided to kick every black face out their home and sent them in near uninhabitable matchbox houses South West of the Johannesburg CBD. She was still young then, she met my grandfather – who, from what I understand, had to “downgrade” racially to be with her – they married, and had my mother in Meadowlands, Soweto. My father was orphaned at a very young age and lived in different homes, so he doesn’t count.
Because of Urbanization or Migrant labour system, most people have a spouse/parent/grandparent that still lives in the rural areas. During the December holidays, almost every black person I know went somewhere far, my Zulu friends went “home” to the KZN area, Sotho friends went to Lesotho/ Eastern Free State area, Tswana friends went to the North-West etc. I couldn’t go anywhere ‘cause my roots are in Meadowlands, ten minutes away from where I stay!
The only time I had the chance to visit the rural areas was in the epic summer of 2003 when I visited my grandparents (who moved from their Meadowlands home to QwaQwa in the late 80’s) and last weekend when a friend of mine allowed me to tag along with him to his Grandparent’s home, up North in the Sub-tropics. The place is called Venda (My non ZAlien readers are going to have to Google the place, and every second thing I said in the last paragraph lol). We left Friday morning at about 7 am, the trip was long but it felt short ‘cause we were busy having public transport inappropriate conversations about women, inspired by the KWV 5 year old brandy we were having. We got to Venda at about 14h00, but we were still a good hour and a half away from where we were going. The first thing that caught my eye about Venda was how green it was, I haven’t seen that much green since that one time I tried smoking weed with my now drug-addicted cousin and had an asthma attack, pardon my digression. At any rate, the scenery was amazing. The place is green and surrounded by mountains, river and fruit trees. We got to Thohoyandou at 14h30 and by that time we had already exhausted the contents of the brandy bottle, so went to a liquor store to buy a case of beer, groceries for his grandma and a few gifts.
We arrived in Mbahela, where my friend’s granny stays, at about 15h30. Everybody was happy to see us, I think this was about the time when the alcohol started to hit me ’cause everything from that moment until the next morning is a blur but from the bits and pieces that keeps seeping through whatever protection mechanism my brain deviced to keep me from remembering the vents of that day tells me that we left the house went partying at a shady shebeen, my friend’s brother’s wife was throwing herself at him, I remember someone bought me another 200ml of brandy and we finally went back at about three in the morning.
I hardly ever sleep the requisite 8 hours, the last time I had a good night’s sleep was in June. My body has adjusted to this disruption, or at least that’s what it feels like since all my motor functions are in order. Although we all slept after three in the morning, I was already awake by six. I got tired of staring at the ceiling, listening to people snoring, so I woke up and decided to explore the place, try to figure out what happened the previous night and, to think. I walked, for about two hours, making the most of my peaceful surroundings. Instead of the sound I’m used to, of motorist shouting and hooting at each other, I was delighted to hear the sound of birds chirping. The serene surrounding helped me to think about my life and shit, thoughts I can’t divulge here, because they are too deep and would ’cause the whole internet to implode.
When I got back, everybody was worried about me. They thought I got lost. Which is silly. Tried to catch up on some sleep but I couldn’t, my friend had so many places to show me. I saw many places, did many things but the things I won’t forget are 1) Taking a bath at the river 2) skinny dipping at a dam/ Farm irrigation well. 3) eating unripe mangoes and finding out how good they taste. 4)Having beer with people who speak a totally different language from mine and not hearing a thing they said (Hope they weren’t talking smack about me).
What I liked most about Venda though, is the hospitality, there’s a sense of community there. Like, other black areas, everyone knows everyone but unlike the urban areas, the people there have a genuine concern about each other’s well-being (Yeah, I said it!). Venda is also a fertile area, and the people’s self-sufficiency was also another good thing I noticed. We all know that the powers that be don’t know what to do to develop the rural areas, so unemployment is extremely high that side, you can say that the people are poor (although I hold ta firm belief that poverty is a state of mind) but, because everybody is making the most of the fertile land and growing their own food. The poverty isn’t as dehumanizing as it is in the urban areas.
Venda was amazing, I can’t wait to go back there some day.