What is your first world land problem
There is a shed next to the house. Primitively built from sheet metal consisting of two small rooms, each no larger than 10 square meters. The tin like that of a can of peas.
But it's not a shed, it's not a closet. Gladys has lived here with seven children for eight years. Six people slept in one room, the two tallest boys in the next room, which is the kitchen. I can't imagine how you can live here with eight people. The sheet metal, which is badly processed, the roof that has been temporarily patched so that it does not rain in and was probably carried away in a storm. Thin sheet metal that does not protect against heat or cold.
I understand that Gladys didn't want to invite us, was ashamed. She couldn't even have offered us a place to sit in her "tin house" as it is called in English.
Next to the "tin house" is the new house, the house that Gladys has been building for five years, on which she has saved every margin and, with your help, was able to complete it in the "speed". The contrast couldn't be greater. It is built of stone, not plastered, but a stone house, has real windows, a lockable front door, is partially tiled. It has a kitchen, a living room and four bedrooms and two bathrooms can be created. In each of the bedrooms there is either a bed or at least one mattress that is shared with another person. There are curtains in every room.
And yet it is simpler than we know any house. The kitchen consists of an old refrigerator, two very old hotplates and a small table. Our old, small IKEA dining table and our old chairs are also in this room. As far as I can see, Gladys has a total of four plates, it seems to us that she bought extra glasses for our visit, there are two metal pots in which the rice for dinner is being cooked. They're probably eating together from a bowl with their hands. You hardly see any supplies or food, and the whole house is impressive because of the absence of many things.
There is no picture hanging on any of the walls. Pure luxury, of course, but this catches my eye.
Tiles are only laid in the kitchen and living room, but the rooms look great, you have to say. In the remaining rooms, so as not to walk on the ground, there are plastic sheets that you can imagine like large plastic wax tablecloths. The individual bedrooms do not have doors, but are either open or covered with a curtain. There is no proper ceiling in the bedrooms so the roof truss is over you. The walls stop somewhere, however, so that the rooms at the top are "open", meaning that they are not completely separated from the neighboring room. There is a closet in Glady's room, as far as I can see the only one in the house. There is a smaller shelf or counter space in every room, but not really a piece of furniture to store something in. But they also have nothing to stow away. The two bathrooms are still completely untreated, consist of exposed stones, bare, earthy floor.
The living room consists of two sofas, one of which is ours, a small table and a small television bench with a small box television on it.
Outside in the “front yard”, there can be no question of a garden, as it is a dusty area, a long clothesline is stretched out, I recognize items of clothing that I have sorted out, one sees a small fireplace in which things are burned that are not needed or where people cook when there is no electricity, a round toilet, a tap and an approx. 100 liter water canister that is used when the water is not running. And here the water did not run for over a year because the pipes were damaged. The city did not provide any remedy here, so at some point they took on the problem themselves and laid new pipes. In the meantime, water has been fetched from neighbors. With the new pipes, the general water problem has been solved, but there are interruptions in the water supply almost every day. Water is and will remain a huge problem in South Africa. This faucet incl.
Canister is the only source of water for the house. This is where the water for laundry, dishes and people washing and for cooking is provided. The house has electricity, you buy prepaid credit like a cell phone and can then use it. When the credit is empty, there is no more electricity and you have to buy new credit.
It is two o'clock on Friday afternoon when we all go home with Gladys. We need a good half an hour by car, Gladys is more likely 1.5 hours for one way with various means of transport and footpaths. What is very reassuring is that Gladys and her family live in a safe area. Your “tin house” is an absolute exception here. Most of the houses are made of stone and are of a reasonable size. The neighborhood is built on a slope and can be reached via an unpaved path.
When we arrive the chickens greet us - an attraction for the boys and we get some feathers that have to be taken home with us.
Football is playing when we go into the house. The top game Egypt against Uruguay. Of course you're somewhere for Egypt, although you're more of a fan of the Uruguayan players. Two of the boys are sitting in front of the television, a boy is lying on one of the beds and is playing a game of cards alone. Little by little we get to know the family.
The house is very clean, all beds are made. And we agree that this is not just because of us today. Gladys is a warm, cordial woman who also has clear rules and ideas. She holds the family together and it is clear that everyone has to follow certain structures. The children take care of the household here, the daughter is doing the cooking while we are there.
When Gladys shows us the house, she shines like a honey cake horse, she bursts with pride. She was so excited to bring us along and is relieved that we just feel comfortable with her, the family and the many neighbors in the afternoon.
I baked for our visit and brought a couple of muffins with me. Also bought a lot of snacks. I guess in Africa you never know how many people will come and that's the way it is. I haven't thought about the fact that we may not have enough plates for everyone at Gladys, but I realize that this is probably never the case and is a first world country problem, as is the lack of paper napkins or kitchen rolls. So I just cut the cake and put a lot of pieces on a plate. I use a second plate for the muffins. Our children throw themselves on the cake and the juice they brought with them. After the third piece I brake Leo. Of course he doesn't understand. The things we bring with us are accepted very cautiously; everyone probably wants us to have enough first.
Within a very short time, around 15-20 children aged 2 to 15 are playing with our boys in the front yard. One of the boys who doesn't belong to Gladys is wearing one of Leo's old shorts. As white visitors, we are an attraction, and so are our children. Many children come from the neighborhood, but we also do not know all the children who are here. The “front yard” would be used as a playground all the time. Since the houses are on the slope and this front yard is level, it also makes sense. And the children feel that Gladys likes them. In addition to the aforementioned card game, which is shared, there is also a larger ball of toys that is hardly recognizable as such, as at least double the amount of air would help it look something like one, a small NIVEA soccer ball, which is probably a better one Times has seen and two toy cars that were talented and handcrafted from wire. Some of the boys play football really well and are probably wondering whether our older, somewhat clumsy son can really come from Germany when he can't play football at all. In any case, the children are very much taken care of, they go to the chickens that run around here, try to teach football tricks and play with the wire cars.
In addition to watching and playing football, talking a lot and laughing, photos also play a major role this afternoon. Not only are we wild to capture these experiences, it is also vehemently demanded to take photos of us in all possible constellations.
In addition to the many children, more and more adults are joining us. The 65-year-old neighbor has been there from the start and welcomes us to family members who have belonged for a long time. Four years ago she accompanied Gladys to us on her first day at work and checked whether she could leave Gladys with us. At that time she made a motherly decision for Gladys that we look trustworthy enough and that she can leave Gladys with us. We tell the story from our point of view and we all laugh heartily about it. However, the neighbor also “scolds” us that we are leaving Gladys now, so it doesn't help to assert that we have found her a nice, new family. The neighbor has a clothespin on her bright yellow-green ANC T shirt and Leo asks why she has a "peg" there. The neighbor then says that she has just done her laundry with her washing machine and holds her hands in the air and laughs out loud. Leo doesn't quite understand, but lets it go.
We spend a short-lived afternoon, talking, laughing, watching a little football on the side, being with everyone in the front yard and simply incredibly grateful to receive this insight. It is incredibly nice to see what Gladys and her family have put together, it is amazing to feel the gratitude that they show us because we have supported them, even if we emphasize again and again and it is also the case that they can be grateful, but have to be even more proud of themselves and, above all, of Gladys with the discipline and determination with which they put the house on their feet. Because the truth is, we and you helped financially, but they did most of the work on their own. And that even though they don't have a margin too much and also had no father in the family who could contribute to the income. The father of the first son was shot, the father of her second son and her twins left after the birth of the latter and probably fell ill and died soon afterwards.
For us it is the greatest gift to see that we were able to support at least one family to take such a big step towards a better quality of life and to see this before we have to say goodbye to South Africa. Of course, it also shows how little they have despite everything and that we live in so much abundance. Before we go we will probably ask Gladys what the next step in building a house will be for her. We are full of admiration for Gladys and she is a super star who more than deserves to receive a parting gift for her loyal and incredibly valuable support.
The “tin house” in front, the new one behind. Photographed from behind.
The "tin house" from the front and inside.
The new house from the front, the bathroom, two bedrooms, the kitchen and the living room
Gladys with "her baby"
The children playing in the front yard
On the right the twin sister, in the middle Glady's eldest son, next to him Gladys
Glady's neighbor, "Gogo", that is, grandma as she describes herself and proves herself directly
Almost the whole gang at the top, including Gogo and Gladys
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