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2summers

Traffic passing the Hillbrow Boxing Club

A Visit to Hillbrow (Lockdown Day 99)

I’ve been working out with George Khosi at the Hillbrow Boxing Club for many years. Up until the lockdown started I’d been going to Hillbrow about three times a week, every week, since 2012. George is not just a coach. He’s like an uncle to me. And although we’ve been checking in via text every week or two, I hadn’t seen him in person since March and that was starting to feel really weird. Also the gym — which is on the site of an abandoned petrol station — has been undergoing a major renovation since February. I was eager to see how things were going. Obviously I still can’t exercise at the gym, but I figured I could go for a masked, socially distanced visit. Yet I felt apprehensive, like the coronavirus somehow makes Hillbrow more dangerous than it was before. It’s weird how the pandemic makes me afraid of things I wasn’t previously afraid of. I promised George I would visit this week. Today was the last day of the week. So I finally went and I’m so glad I did. Visting Hillbrow Hillbrow, which has always had a serious problem with sanitation (in fact that’s a huge […]

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Girl collecting a food parcel in Melville

3000 Food Parcels (Lockdown Day 98)

It’s Day 98 of the South African lockdown, which I literally cannot believe. Earlier today I suddenly thought back to my Day 9 post, when I said it felt like Day 900 and questioned my decision to blog every day of lockdown because I suspected it might last longer than 21 days. Ha! Hahahaha! As usual there is a lot of bad news in South Africa today, but I won’t torture you with it. It’s Thursday, food parcel day, and the Melville food program has now surpassed 3000 parcels donated (400 of them today). This isn’t “good” news exactly — it’s definitely not good that this program is so sorely needed — but it’s quite an achievement nonetheless. There has been some debate about this program in Melville — around who is receiving the parcels and why, who is/isn’t worthy of receiving food from charitable programs, etc. If you’ve been pondering these questions yourself (or not), please watch this video, which includes short interviews with several of the parcel recipients. Those of you who read my food parcel post last week might recognize Josaya the poet in this video. I chatted with Josaya again this morning — he told me […]

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Beetle

Lockdown Day 97

I’ve been thinking all day about what to name this post, or what kind of theme or subject to give it, or whatever. But today is Day 97 of the lockdown, which means it’s been 100 days since I started this Lockdown Journal. (I started the journal three days before the lockdown started.) I just counted up all my posts and I’ve blogged on 88 out of the past 100 days. (I took weekends off after Day 50.) It’s officially too much now so today’s post just has a number, not a name. South Africa had nearly 7000 new COVID cases yesterday, nearly 3000 of which were in Gauteng province. Joburg is becoming the country’s new coronavirus epicentre. South Africa’s health system is crawling toward a breaking point — there aren’t enough oxygen tanks or ambulances. I don’t personally know anyone who has been sick enough to be hospitalized, but my Facebook feed has progressively more posts about friends of friends who have died. There is talk of a possible return to Level 5 lockdown. I’m hesitant to admit this, but I actually don’t think that sounds like a totally unreasonable idea. I’m struggling to think any positive thoughts today. […]

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Trixie with a Basotho blanket

I Have a Blanket Problem (Lockdown Day 96)

Today, after a week or so of procrastination, I returned to the Aranda blanket factory in Randfontein. After my previous Basotho blanket post, a reader in America sent me a donation to buy blankets for the blanket drive my friend Kennedy is organizing. So I had to pick up a few more. When I arrived at Aranda, the first thing I saw was a sign reading: “Please take note of our price increase on 1 July 2020.” July 1st is tomorrow. I silently congratulated myself for ending my bout of procrastination on exactly the right day. I would have been so pissed off if I’d gone tomorrow and found the blankets more expensive than they were the day before. I quickly chose five blankets for the donation and started to walk toward the checkout. But my feet kept stopping in front of the spiral aloe blanket. “The prices are going up tomorrow,” I told myself. (I tried to find out how much the increase will be but the salesperson was secretive.) “You’ve driven all the way out here. If you don’t buy this blanket now, you will regret it.” “I don’t need three Basotho blankets!” I retorted to myself. “I […]

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Smokey in the kitchen

The Melville Cat Leaves and Comes Back (Lockdown Day 95)

The Melville Cat normally speaks for himself on this blog. But today, for some reason, I feel like speaking for the two of us. I didn’t choose Smokey as a pet — he chose me. He had a perfectly good home already, with a wonderful lady who has become a dear friend. But for some reason Smokey decided his place was with me, and there was nothing anyone could do about it. Because Smokey is an unconventional cat and came to me in an unconventional way (read this post, and the two posts linked at the bottom of that post, for a bit of the backstory), we’ve never had a conventional human-cat relationship. I definitely do not feel like Smokey’s “owner”. And even though we’ve been together for nearly a decade, Smokey is “my cat” only for as long as he cares to be. He is free to go at any time. And go he often does. Not many people have “indoor cats” in South Africa; it’s hard to keep cats inside because of the way our houses are designed, and most people would never consider doing so anyway. Keeping Smokey indoors, even for short periods, is damn near impossible. […]

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Heather on koppies 2011

Ten Years of 2Summers (Lockdown Day 92)

Ten years ago today, I opened wordpress.com for the first time and started this blog. I published a short, not terribly interesting post about why I named the blog 2Summers and my recent experience obtaining an international driver’s license for my impending move from Washington D.C. to Johannesburg. (I started the blog six weeks before moving.) There were no photos in that first post and I didn’t share it on social media. About five people read it at the time. It’s strange that this ten-year anniversary is happening so soon after I celebrated the publication of my 1000th blog post. Ten years, 2010 to 2020, 1000 posts, 100 posts per year…Everything is so neatly divisible by ten. Nine has always been my lucky number but maybe it should be ten. It’s also strange to be experiencing all these huge personal milestones during a global pandemic, which — much like the past ten years of my life — feels at once both unfathomable and inevitable. New people are always asking: How did you wind up in South Africa? If the time is right, and the person asking the question is right, I’ll occasionally give a detailed answer. But most of the […]

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Josaya Muianga the poet at the food parcel collection

The Poet (Day 91)

This morning I got up early and went to take photos at the Melville food parcel program, as I always do on Thursday mornings. I arrived at the church around 6:30. Due to another commitment, I had to leave at 7:30. At 7:25, I met Josaya. I overheard Josaya speaking to Sean, who co-founded the food parcel program. Sean asked Josaya where he lives, and Josaya said he doesn’t have a home currently. He used to be a student at the University of Johannesburg. Sometimes he stays with friends. Right now, he sleeps on the street. Last night his blanket was stolen. Josaya’s outfit caught my eye immediately. Everything was in shades of blue and yellow, not matching (not even his shoes) and yet all going together. “Curated” is the word that comes to mind. Josaya was saying something to Sean about the works of Francis Bacon — I assume he meant the 20th-century artist, not the 17th-century English Lord Chancellor, although I didn’t get the chance to find out. There was a paperback book sticking out of the pocket of Josaya’s dark blue robe. “What are you reading?” I asked Josaya, pointing to the book, and he pulled it […]

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Heather's knitting

Knitting (Lockdown Day 90)

About six months ago, I decided to take up knitting. It was January, a time for new beginnings and all that. I had just gone through a breakup — number six of seven (or thereabouts) in an endlessly on-again-off-again relationship. South Africa was experiencing regular bouts of loadshedding (planned rolling power outages). I was desperate for a hobby that: 1) doesn’t require electricity or internet; 2) keeps me off my phone; and 3) allows me to shut off my noisy brain. I asked my friend Fiver, who is basically a professional knitter, if she would teach me. “Yes!” Fiver cried, clapping her hands with joy. Fiver loves teaching people things. A few days later the two of us went to Arther Bales, the famous haberdasher in Linden, on a rainy Saturday morning. Despite the terrible weather, the shop was packed — Arthur Bales was having a huge sale and everything was 30% off. Fiver helped me choose a pair of needles and two balls of elegant, multi-colored yarn in shades of green and blue. I remember standing shoulder-to-shoulder in line at the checkout, clutching my purchases excitedly, when the cashier coughed. The guy in front of me chuckled and said […]

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Plant in my old garden

I Just Want to Stay Home (Lockdown Day 89)

It’s Day 89 of the South African lockdown. Initially I had plans to go out and do a couple of errands today, which I was hoping would give me something to blog about. But then I didn’t. Despite spending much of the morning trying to mentally psych myself up, I never did leave the house. Upon further reflection, I don’t think that’s necessarily such a bad thing. At the risk of sounding alarmist, COVID-19 is really starting to make its presence felt around here. Yesterday South Africa surpassed 100,000 total confirmed cases. 10,000 of those cases were confirmed in the past two days alone. Hospitals in some parts of the country are experiencing strain. I’m hearing more reports of people in my sphere coming into contact with the virus and even losing loved ones to it. For the last several weeks, COVID-19 — like, the actual disease, as opposed to the lockdown or some other pandemic by-product — has felt like a fairly distant threat to me. Today that threat feels more immediate. Also it’s cold. The days are short. I don’t have anything terribly important to do. And if I’m honest, I don’t really want to go anywhere. I’m […]

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Trixie in the bottlebrush tree

Trixie the Melville Kitten (Day 88)

It’s Day 88 of the South African lockdown. Today, at long last, Trixie the Melville Kitten (who is actually not a kitten anymore) makes her blogging debut. From Trixie: Hello! Hi it’s Trixie! I’m blogging I’m blogging I’m blogging. I wanted to blog for a long time. Heather said I’m too little. I said I’m two! Big Brother said I’m not smart enough but that’s wrong. I asked asked asked, I said please! They said no no no. But today Heather said she doesn’t have ideas to blog. Big Brother says he’s cold. He’s at the fire. Heather said today I can blog. I’m blogging I’m blogging I’m blogging! Heather says it is lock-down. It has been lock-down for a lot of days. I love lock-down, Heather is here all the time. She feeds me and plays with my string and stays in bed with the hot bottle and I sleep where it’s warm. Lock-down is nice! Outside I love to climb. I climb in the tree high high high! Heather stands under, she says don’t fall. I don’t fall. I climb and I roll roll roll on the ground. I sneak in the grass and the leaves. I run […]

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Sunset on the koppies in December 2011

Lockdown Level 3, Version 2.0 (Day 85)

It’s Day 85 of the South African lockdown. Two nights ago, President Ramaphosa made a speech announcing upcoming changes to the Lockdown Level 3 regulations. During the first few weeks of lockdown, these presidential speeches felt like big sporting events. The whole country tuned in live, we all had our snacks and beverages ready, and endless Whatsapp messages were exchanged during and after the speech, analyzing every word he said. But this was the first time since the lockdown started that I didn’t watch the president’s speech in real time. I did watch the next morning. I still think President Ramaphosa gives great speeches; in fact he brought me to tears during his powerful monologue on the explosion of gender-based and domestic violence currently plaguing South Africa. Nonetheless, the presidential speech magic of the early lockdown days is gone for me now. The rule changes, which will presumably go into effect in the coming days, are quite extensive. Restaurants will open for sit-down dining (although not for sit-down alcohol consumption). Hair dressers, salons, and spas will open. Casinos (!), movie theaters, conference venues, and hotels (but not Airbnbs) will be allowed to open. Some sports will be allowed. Cigarettes are […]

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Man with a backpack food parcel

Backpacks Full of Food (Lockdown Day 84)

It’s Day 84 of the South African lockdown. Although after the president’s speech last night, I’m not sure how long we can continue to describe the state we’re living in as a “lockdown”. I have a lot of thoughts on our current lockdown regulation situation, but I’m going to save those for tomorrow’s post. Today I want to show you pictures of the backpacks full of food people received during the Melville food distribution this morning. The food parcels distributed in this program (which I started documenting more than a month ago) are usually packed in plastic grocery bags. It breaks my heart seeing hundreds of single-use bags going out into the world every week, but what other alternative is there when distributing emergency food on such a mass scale? This week was different though. A donor provided hundreds of backpacks so each recipient received their parcel in a sturdy, reusable bag. This was very exciting. I took photos at both the backpack-packing yesterday and the backpack distribution today. If you’d like to donate to the food parcel program from within South Africa, please send a payment to the Viva Foundation using the following bank details: Name: Viva FoundationBranch: FNB Olympus Plaza […]

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