It was the height of the Cape Town summer, sweltering, especially in the confines of the white 90’s VW bus special. Piles of bodies, to the point of absurdity, fighting for whatever breath was left in the stifling interior, were crammed in without discretion. A hodgepodge of browns, blacks, empty stomachs, full stomachs, aching backs, the required bags from a special day in town, all hoping for something greater, populate every square inch of interior. For us old hands, this degree of physical proximity, feeling the rock hard muscles of men, whose lives were spent as day laborers, pressed against shoulders, the sticky sweat from women’s thighs pressed into yours without embarrassment, had become a welcome addition to the ride; as though the contact reassured all of us that life, and all its implications, would be ok in the end.
Read the rest here: Getting the Bends
Humanizing the suffering of poverty, it was no longer a number thrown about by the UN on nightly news reports. Such intimate experiences with the random body pulled from the crowd of passengers waiting in the sun, glistening with exertion and patience, offered a taste of humanity lost on rigid concepts of space and person imported from western societies. It became impossible to peer from the windows, watching the tin shacks of a township travel past, and not feel something for the men and women with whom you had known so often, and shared so much. The greenhorns, battling homegrown customs and negative perceptions of African hygiene, found little comfort traversing the city with the masses. And the masses they were: teeming, overflowing street corners, market places, and sidewalks, the seams of the city bursting. It took a special skill, developed on these foreign streets, to navigate through the ebb and flow of the thronging; graceful, balanced, rhythmic, a natural waltz induced by opportunistic comings and goings.
to be continued…