A tale of two Sowetos

 

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Passing through Soweto, in a small township called Motswalaedi, which was named after an African political hero and Nelson Mandela’s close friend. It’s so interesting how much language, a small switch in words, can spell the difference from contempt to richness. A township is only for blacks, slums are for both.  

This poor town has only 1 water tap, and you can see children running around, with their shower caps still on. Rows upon rows of tin and metal houses line up to the horizon, blinding against the sun.  They play with stick horses, and yet they seem happy. Our tour guide showed us through the town, and even took us into one of the woman’s houses. She said she was happy that tourists came here. It gave them a voice. She lives in a two room house with her sister and two daughters, with bare amenities, but she’s happy. “The happiest time of the year is during Christmas. We go to church, and it’s quiet around here,” she says, a toothy grin lighting up her face. Her happiness and desire is so pure and simple, and I wonder yet again, those people that society deems are “poor,” can be richer than we’ll ever be. 

“People don’t think they are poor. They feel they are poor, but they don’t think so,” says Donald, our guide. However, I still wonder, with such simple and happy-seeming people, was there a snitch in this seemingly idealistic truth? When we ended our tour in the township, we were led to a few shipowners, who the local tour guide claimed to have made the items themselves. Upon closer inspections, they looked like any other average souvenir in the street markets, and over-priced (five times as expensive than the ones in the actual city of Soweto, may I add!). It makes me wonder….Is what they are saying the truth? 

There seems to be two Sowetos. The Soweto I hear, and the Soweto I see. 

 

-Yada

 

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