I spent most of my holiday visiting my grandmother and my uncle who live in a beautiful quiet village called Tyeni on the banks of the Mbashe River near Clarkebury. I wrote about my trip on Facebook and people so enjoyed the stories that I thought I should share them here. Here’s the second post about my first night there.
My uncle and I made to to my grandmothers house. She screamed when she saw me and said “mama mama” hugging me, switching off the candles and turning on the lights. She calls everyone mama mama including men. Last night I sat on her stoep, with a snuck in beer to my left and a book to my right. It was pitch black out. There was only moonlight and the stars and the odd blue light flickering of a busy TV through some houses in the distance. She kept yelling at me to get inside but I was listening to the crickets, barking dogs and the sounds of the house. I felt perfectly content.
My ride here was a story teller’s dream. For the most part, the ride was quiet and pleasant even though we were driving really slowly. The windshield of the lorry taxi was shattered and the wipers were on full blast for the entire trip even though there was not a drop of rain in sight. Apparently they start when the car starts so they were going going going for the duration of the ride until the driver had to let someone off in some village where the cows are awfully thin and the graveyard is eerily too close to the road and has no enclosure. The driver got out to remove the wipers from the glass surface so that they were standing, in a way prostrate so that when we drove and the wipers were on, they were dancing in front of us. An LGBT rainbow umbrella lay horizontally between the dashboard and the windscreen. In typical rural life style, every car that we passed hooted at ours and we hooted back. The closer we got to our destination, the more the driver started speaking to pedestrians. “Naaaaaaanku’mkhwetha”, he would say or “Hekwedini goduka”, to a boy in the distance. A woman who was driving in a bakkie in front of us for a while, randomly stopped and came to the car with a packet of Bokomo Cornflakes and 4 small boxes of uLong Life. “Ndicela unikezele uNokuzola wethu Sibari”. He took the packet and put it on my lap and off we went. At the next stop where we were letting someone off, the driver was determined to fix the wiper situation as if this is the first time it was happening. The car was on an incline and the hand brake was way up pushing against my thigh. As he got out of the car he asked me to take the umbrella and use the sharp end to press the brakes using my hands so that the car wouldn’t roll backwards. I didn’t ask questions and pressed on the brakes with the sharp end of the umbrella for about 5 minutes until a man came to the window to give me R26. “Ndicela uzunike uDriver”. With my left hand I reached for the cash but the driver got there and relieved me from my pedal duties by taking the money. We drove and drove discussing the history of the area and talking about the longstanding feud between the villages of Tyeni and Ntseleni. I learned the Xhosa word for a border territory, which is umda, the root of the village’s feud. We drove towards a group of four little girls standing in a row. They must have been about 4 and 5 years old. As we approached them, the driver stuck his head out the window and said “Nithunywe nguNokuzola?” and the children screamed in unison exblockquotement “Ewe sizolanda iimpahla zikaSis Nokuzola”. I handed the milk and corn flakes over to the driver who passed it out the window to the girls.
We drove until it was then our turn to get out. The car stopped and 3 boys came to it. They greeted my uncle “Molo Tatomkhulu”. My uncle greeted them back and asked them to carry our bags. They eagerly took a heavy load each, including my suitcase, some potato sacks and my uncle’s things. We walked to the house and when we arrived, my joburg mentality kicked in. I had three R2 coins and started playing with them in my pocket in anticipation for them to ask for their reward. I waited for my uncle to make a move. He thanked them and told them to go behind the house and pick 5 peaches each. The looks on their faces was extremely satisfying. We followed them to the back and there was a peach tree with literally hundreds of peaches hanging. There was a customer waiting, an older man who was waiting for my uncle’s wife to bring a packet for him. They cost 50 cents each and he was buying 15. The kids jumped with their hands in the air and climbed reaching for peaches, making it rain stones of small peaches. I joined them. 3 more little girls came in screaming “Tatomkhulu sizothengiipesika” before I could see their faces. We all stool under the tree, my uncle, his wife, the customer, the three boys and the three little girls all eating peaches as the sun came down. It felt like something out of West African novel. After some time, my uncle started walking me to my grandmother’s house where I would sleep. We were stopped at his gate by 3 men who came to ask my uncle for a goat. He put my bags down and said “mtshana, this is important. ndiyabuya”. Next thing I see the three men pulling a live goat towards the gate while I sat on my suitcase. One man on the left horn, one of the right and one holding the tail while the goat characteristically screamed like a human. I sat and watched them, smiling, thinking I’m so fucking glad I’m here.