As we walked across the taxi parking lot, the hosts of our bed and breakfast introduced us the woman who would be giving us the walking tour of their township. She was a bigger woman, with thick, curled hair tied on top of her head and held in place by a bandana. She wore a black skirt with a green tank top, and kept her cell phone in her bra. I guess this is where women across the world keep things. As we began the tour, she began to explain the history of her township, Masiphumelele. Masiphumelele is Xhosa for “We will succeed,” our tour guide explained.
While she talked to my godmother about the poverty in the townships, my eyes were taking in the scenes that surrounded me. Signs were posted on fences, many of advertising, low-cost, “Painless,” abortions. Alongside those signs were ones offering free HIV/AIDS testing, and they both listed phone numbers and doctors names. Hens and their chicks crossed the road quickly in front of us. Dogs wandered in the streets, trying to find shade or food. Cats also relaxed in the shade to avoid the heat, even though it was only 10 in the morning. Children either played barefoot in the street or made their way to the overcrowded school. If a child’s family could not afford school, the child stayed home, stuck in the vicious cycle of poverty, with no hope of leaving the township. Shacks made from scraps of metal proved to be unbearably cold in the winter and hot in the summer.
But despite these harsh conditions people of the townships faced, there was a feeling of success. Every other corner had a little convenience shop, and while it wasn’t much of an income, these little shops were what kept the hope alive in these people. The township's library had been painted with inspiring messages to the young people of Masiphumelele. Without the youth of the townships, there is no future to look forward to. South Africa still has a long path ahead, despite the end of the apartheid.
As an American, I have never experienced anything similar to the experiences of the people in the townships. After walking through Masiphumelele, I have become forever grateful to be as lucky as to be born in America. I will never have to worry when I will get my next meal, if I will make it through high school, and if I will be able to get a job. My trip to Masiphumelele was unforgetable, and I will remember it for the rest of my life.
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