It was our first trip to SA and we had three good weeks in the Western Cape. It was our first experience of seeing the townships from afar and I must admit a range of emotions - shame, perplexion and anger. I wanted to know more and discussed with several people at various locations the plight of those living in the townships.
The open top bus tours had already been recommended to us, so when we saw that there was a stop and an optional township tour - we had to go.
With a little trepidation we got off the bus. We were met by the ever-smiling Patrick who calmly led us forward and began to explain the history of the township. All our questions were answered politely and fully. Though extremely overcrowded everyone we saw seemed happy, well-clothed and well fed. There seemed a constant stream of traffic but all of it was mindful of anyone who happened to be walking at the road edge.
Patrick had a clear pride in was has been achieved in the township (various college successes) and was obviously well known and admired within his community. Several residents waved hello or gave us a 'high five' and we felt safe and welcome.
Though we were told that we could take photographs we didn't as for us it would seem an intrusion. It would have been interesting to see inside one of the houses. We did pass several open doorways, but felt uncomfortable about looking in.
The highlight for my wife was to say hello to a lttle girl (aged about 15/20 months - the same as her own grand daughter) who was tottering along beside her mother. The little girl quite spontaneously gave her a smile and threw her arms around my wife's legs to give her a hug.
The trip was well worth it. It gave us a little insight and has been one of our most talked about experiences of the holiday.
I felt guilty afterwards for not buying more gifts that were offered fro sale. At the time I felt I didn't need them. Yet afterwards I felt that I wished I could do something to help. Obviously the two things fit together perfectly. I should have bought more items and in this way would help the craftspeople whilst retaining their dignity.
I did call back a couple of days later to more some little amends.
I think a trip to the township would be a small way of showing that you care for the plight of others.
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