In a waiting room, in London yesterday, the discussion turned to children living in London and living in poverty in South Africa. Poverty in many different ways; material possessions, spiritual poverty, the lack of spaces to play and bond with family, both lamenting the child who grows up in a Council flat, in grey surroundings, grey weather and glued to palm pilots, computer games and a general feeling of lost innocence. Though it be a general supposition, my thoughts and voice turned to the trip I took through the Wild Coast, taking along two young girls from a Public School in England who were on an exchange.
Their initial observations were distressing. What they saw were children dressed in strips of tattered clothing, walking or running alone, or in groups beside the road, unchaperoned. The children were thin. Women walked with washing on their heads up hills and down valleys. Houses dotted along the way were small, with sheeted or grass roofs and dung-smeared ‘stoeps’ where old men sat, smoking, and staring. Too much poverty, they cried.
Visiting the Magwa Falls, near Mbotyi where we spend the weekend, children heard our vehicles approach and ran after us, in search of sweets and other goodies. They seldom had sweets, it was a treat which quickly turned into a bun fight as they shoved and pummelled each other for more. Not something these young girls were used to seeing and feared a little, but it was all a case of giggling. Anything but threatening.
By the end of the weekend they were hooked on the Wild Coast. They were hooked on the beauty of South Africa, and on South Africa. Plans for weddings there one day.
More importantly, they changed their minds about the children. Without any material possessions, the children seemed happy, healthy and well mannered. Running freely, fishing in the rivers and sea, tending cattle, totally at one with nature. Climbing trees and hopping over rocks came easily to them. They were respectful their elders, able to entertain themselves and most importantly, free in their own way. Life may be difficult in the Eastern Cape, but it is a beautiful place to be.
Material possessions are meagre, but Nature’s bounty is plentiful.
I often wonder how it would be if some of these grey children of the city, could run free on the beach in South Africa for just a little while – strive not to be wealthy, but happy.
p/c robharding, iluvsa, goinghomeless