Vignettes Through Submersion (Words Fail).

by Chris Kamalski

Vignette |vinˈyet|noun 1. a brief evocative description, account, or episode. 2. a small illustration or portrait photograph…
Lawrence, my host (and fellow 'sharer' of his twin bed) in Block KK.

Lawrence, my host (and fellow 'sharer' of his twin bed) in Block KK.

  • Hospitality is consistently re-defined by our friends in Soshanguve.  Lawrence shared everything he owned with me: His twin bed, best food, ‘bath’ (Small, round, plastic tub filled with boiled water on his floor), love for house music, ability to cook (We enjoyed avocado on white bread for breakfast one morning).
Relatively new aluminum outhouse.  Reminded me of APU Mexicali days!

Relatively new aluminum outhouse at my house. Reminded me of APU Mexicali days!

  • The smells of the township are so vibrant: Fresh pap (corn maize) cooking, trash burning, dust swirling, strong detergent cleaning.
How we submerged as men within the community.  Passing the hours on the stoep with the boys.

How we submerged as men within the community. Passing the hours on the stoep with the boys.

  • Time stands still in Soshanguve.  We sat on the stoep in front of Granny’s house for hours each day, laughing about anything and everything.  Men seem to stay outside in conversation or activity (We often played soccer or simply walked around) while the women were busy cooking and cleaning in the house (Gender roles are entrenched as ‘normal’ within this society).
I spent each morning sitting in a barbershop stall near a major intersection in Block KK, watching the neighborhood begin its day.  Listening to the taxis honk for passengers was strangely lyrical.

I spent each morning sitting in a barbershop stall near a major intersection in Block KK, watching the neighborhood begin its day. Listening to the taxis honk for passengers was strangely lyrical.

  • In January, I spent a week in London visiting new friends just prior to heading down to South Africa.  One Saturday I walked through Portobello Road towards Notting Hill, stopping at a famous roundabout in front of the Notting Hill Gate, marveling at the modernized activity all around me. Contrasted with the busyness of life at a local intersection in Block KK (Friends selling bread, taxis picking up passengers through rhythmic hooting of horns, women lighting coals to cook and sell corn on the street corner), these two intersections tell parallel stories of the development of our world.
Our local walking buddy, Alex, posing in front of a tuck stall that sold amazing lollipops.

Our local walking buddy, Alex, posing in front of a tuck stall that sold amazing lollipops.

  • Somewhere early in my travels, I let go of the idea that local food is to be avoided for sanitary/health reasons.  I have subsequently enjoyed local delicacies far and wide (Manzana Lift in Mexico, Quatro Staggioni pizza in Italy, the greatest cherry lollipops here in Sosh).
Shacks in Sosh exude character simply through their paint color.  Beauty personified.

Shacks in Sosh exude character simply through their paint color. Beauty personified.

  • Cliched as it may be, everything in Africa is colorfully vibrant.  The shacks throughout the townships are a gorgeous mismash of primary colors almost haphazardly painted.  It’s as if the colors were exploding artistically from the paint brushes, and testifies to the pulsating ‘life’ that is found throughout Soshanguve in particular.
Our nightly ritual at sunset.  Walking to buy electricity for the evening.

Our nightly ritual at sunset. Walking to buy electricity for the evening.

  • Food for each meal and electricity are purchased as needed, usually for the next meal or evening’s light.  Everyone walks to the local neighborhood tuck shops for just enough provisions for the evening.  At sunset each night, a whole crew of us would make an event of the walk to the local hardware store to buy light for the nightly festivities.  It was so relaxing and fun!
Dryers are non-existent throughout South Africa.  Granny's well-used clothesline.

Dryers are non-existent throughout South Africa. Granny's well-used clothesline.

  • I have always hated laundry with a passion, and can’t wait for the day when I can bargain with my wife over the release of this chore.  But something about the reliance on the sun’s daily provision of warmth to dry my clothes outside has made this an enjoyable activity these past few months.  Seeing colorful clothes flapping in the breeze in each yard brings a smile to my face nowadays.
The apprentice crew (+ Doug) with our host families.  Grateful for this shared experience!

The apprentice crew (+ Doug) with our host families. Grateful for this shared experience!

  • We were (are) loved as family these past few days, and our return has already been requested by many of our host families.  They have taught us so much by opening their homes, families, and lives to us.  Living together inescapably shapes a person.
Outhouse beauty (Alt caption: Township servilletes are readable!).

Outhouse beauty (Alt caption: Township servillettes are readable!).

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