Tuesday, 16 June 2015

A Weekend at Zweletemba

The drive out of Cape Town was long, but there were so many beautiful sights to behold (casual baboons chilling on the roadside) as we neared Zweletemba, a township in Worcester (oddly pronounced Wooster!). It’s always so disconcerting to see mountains surrounding me, as if we’re enclosed by them, and I always end up taking 9347 pictures of what I think are the same mountains. To know that there would be a small town hidden in this area is a lovely thought.

The view on the drive to Worchester
            We stayed in Zweletemba from Saturday morning to Monday morning with a group of students from the University of Virginia. I was paired with Mama Esther, my host mother, and Stephanie, a rising senior from UVA. From the moment we stepped foot into her household, we were welcomed with kindness that I find pretty incredible considering that we were complete foreigners. Unlike other homestay households, Esther did not have any young children with her but rather her 23 year-old grandson, Justice. He had just come home from university for winter break, and it was his birthday that day. Rather than going out to the spaza shops or meeting up with friends, he stated “there’s nothing better than to sit at home in peace, watching TV.” His personality was always so calm and collected, and it was such a breath of fresh air to hear all of his thoughts about topics ranging from movies to university life.

Mama Esther's lovely home!

Justice takes a selfie
            Sunday morning was spent at church, where members with warm hugs and smiles greeted me. I’m not religious and have never been to a service before, so I was pretty pumped to have my first church service in South Africa – of all places! The atmosphere was SO vibrant and powerful. Singing dominated the majority of the three hours (!!!), and even more surprisingly, by female members. It was pretty much similar to what I would I have expected out of a standard church service, only better. One could donate to Sunday school for the kids, constructing a church (we would housed in a temporary tin structure), and free will. Justice surprised Stephanie and I as the MC; he said nothing about it on the way there! Four of us Americans were in that one particular church, and in the midst of service, we went up to introduce ourselves. When the pastor came on to speak, I couldn’t understand any of the Xhosa but from what I gathered in a translation, the most important bit was directed at HIV-positive people. He said that people must remain strong and believe in themselves and the power of healing.  Faith can be extremely influential, so hearing him say those words and empowering people was wonderful.

With Stephanie from UVA and Mama Esther <3
            The weekend passed by too quickly and though my time in Zweletemba was short, I feel as if I had gotten a good glimpse into life at a township. Mama Esther and Justice left a lasting impression on me with their hospitality and kindheartedness. I will always cherish my homestay experience!

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