Monday, August 04, 2008

More cultural context

On townships...
There are several townships scattered around Pretoria, Soshanugve is the nearest one to where I live. Townships are where non-whites lived during apartheid (when the government enforced strict segregation)--some were moved there by the government (this is the case with Soshanguve), but more often these settlements sprang up spontaneously outside cities—where the jobs were. Though apartheid ended in 1992, townships are still almost always all-black. There's a lot of fear about visiting townships, but it's more perception than reality. I've had conversations with friends in town (downtown Pretoria) who ask why I would go out to Sosh, because it's not safe. Then I've had conversations with friends in Sosh who wonder why I would go into town at night, because it's not safe. I'm learning that fear and safety can be relative things.

There's a variety of housing types in Sosh--from tin shacks to cinder block houses to brick houses. Some blocks share one tap for all the families, some have a tap in each yard, some have no running water, and some have indoor plumbing. Most houses are on dirt roads, though the government is now starting to provide more services, gradually adding sewer systems and paved roads.

Townships are full of informal businesses--tuck shops on corners and tables set up in front of homes, selling cool drink (soda), sweeties (candy), peanuts, potato chips, fruit, Chappies (gum), and even bags of clayey rocks that people chew on. (I've tried it and determined that they taste like dirt.) Some tuck shops sell sphatlo--also known as a township hamburger, it's ¼ of a loaf of bread, hollowed out and filled with atchar (spicy pickled mango chutney), chips (fries), polony (like baloney, only a lot more processed... and bright pink), and sometimes fried eggs and a Vienna (hot dog) or Russian (sausage). And this description is making me hungry...

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