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Ahmad at Jumbo Farmers

Mixed Feelings (Lockdown Day 68)

I’ve been trying to make my lockdown posts more targeted — like trying to focus on one specific topic per post, rather than rambling on about everything. But today I can’t do that. I have too many different thoughts and feelings roiling around in my brain. The move to Lockdown Level 3 has left me feeling confused about how to make decisions and spend my time. After more than two months of basically no choices, I suddenly have so many. My head is all over the place. The good news is now that we have a bit more freedom of movement, I can start visiting places around Joburg again and blogging about them, like I used to. Jumbo Farmers I started today by going to Jumbo Farmers, an independently owned grocery store in Albertville that is supplying the Melville food parcel program. I met Ahmed, manager of Jumbo Farmers, last week when volunteers were packing the Melville food parcels at Heritage Baptist Church. Ahmed and James, a Jumbo staff member, brought two big truckloads of food for the parcels. Jumbo Farmers is selling this food to the program at rock-bottom prices and Ahmed is paying for some of it out […]

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Thoughts About Racism, Anti-Racism, and White Supremacy (Lockdown Day 66)

It’s Day 66 of the South African lockdown. I don’t normally blog on weekends and today I was supposed to work on another task. But I’ve decided to do that task tomorrow and blog today, because I can’t stop thinking about racism and white supremacy. I should have written this post long ago. As America is literally on fire this weekend in response to the brutal killing of a black man, George Floyd, at the hands of police — the most recent such killing in a trail of many — I suddenly don’t know what’s taken me so long. So here goes. * * * * * * * * * * * * * * I am a descendant of slaveholders. My grandmother‘s family was part of the Southern aristocracy in Richmond, Virginia. One of the first books I can remember reading on my own was a biography of Robert E. Lee, commander of the Confederate Army during the U.S. Civil War. The book was written for children and it portrayed General Lee as a hero. My family is related to Lee’s family, a fact I was raised to be proud of. I am no longer proud of this […]

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The Melville Cat

A Difficult Day for the Melville Cat (Lockdown Day 64)

From the Melville Cat: Good evening. It is Day 64 of the human lockdown. The last time I provided you with an update was Day 37, nearly a month ago. My apologies. I have not been spending much time in the house. Even during this very cold weather, I prefer to sleep outside and enter the house twice a day — for ten minutes only — at feeding time. I don’t like anyone to know where I sleep. I allow Heather to pick me up and hold me each time I come inside. “Why are you so skinny?” she asks me. “Why won’t you sit on my lap anymore? And why do you have so many blackjacks stuck in your tail?” I do not answer. Today I came inside earlier than usual, at about 3:00 p.m. Heather fed me promptly, as expected, but then surprised me afterward by pushing me into the plastic box and driving me to that horrible place called the vet. “What’s wrong with Smokey?” asked Charmaigne, the vet — who, despite her profession, I must confess is a fairly pleasant human. “He’s just so skinny,” Heather told Charmaigne, “And he’s itchy and acting a bit strange.” […]

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Volunteers at the Melville food distribution

Food Parcel Day (Lockdown Day 63)

It’s Day 63 of the South African lockdown, and for the second consecutive Thursday I took photos at the weekly Melville food parcel distribution program. I wrote about this program in detail last Thursday. This week the process was the same, except: 1) The volunteers gave out more food this week than last week; and 2) The distribution moved from Tanya and Sean’s house on 3rd Avenue to the Heritage Baptist Church at the corner of 7th Avenue and 5th Street. Thanks to this move, the distribution happened much more quickly today than it did last week. Also these volunteers are incredible — what an efficient, courteous, and good-natured group of people. I was (and still am) in awe. All of the compliments I gave to the volunteers above also apply to the people who came to pick up their parcels. Every single person at the church today was respectful and kind. Everyone wore a mask (when they weren’t drinking coffee). Everyone socially distanced. Everyone sanitized. Everyone was patient and helpful. Witnessing this process overwhelmed me. When I got home I saw a social media post — written by someone who had walked past the distribution but didn’t know the […]

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Chicken and waffles from the Kwoffee Shop in Melville

Chicken and Waffles in Melville (Lockdown Day 62)

It’s Day 62 of the South African lockdown. But I barely care about that right now because I’m just excited to write about cool things I saw and did today in Melville — like I used to do on this blog before there was a pandemic. I know you all want to hear about the chicken and waffles. But first let me tell you the rest. My first stop was the Heritage Baptist Church — one of Melville’s prettiest churches at the top of the hill on 7th Avenue, right next to the Melville Koppies — where my volunteer friends were packing food parcels for distribution tomorrow. I won’t say too much about this because I blogged a lot about the food parcel program last week and I’ll blog about it again tomorrow, when the actual distribution happens. But I want to reiterate what a wonderful group of volunteers this is and how grateful I am to be a part of what they’re doing. And I’m so happy they’ve been able to move their operation to this church, which has a lot more space than Tanya and Sean’s house and will allow them to help more people. After a couple […]

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Level 3 Basics (Lockdown Day 61)

It’s Day 61 of the South African COVID-19 lockdown, and we’ve officially been at this for two full months. (Our lockdown started on March 27th.) A few days from now we’ll be entering Level 3 of our lockdown, so I think I’ll give a brief update on where things stand. COVID-19 Numbers As of yesterday, there have been 23,615 confirmed COVID-19 cases in South Africa and nearly 12,000 confirmed recoveries. There have been 481 confirmed COVID-19 deaths. The pace of new cases has increased — for the past several days we’ve had at least 1,000 new cases each day. More than half of the country’s confirmed cases — 15,396 — are in the Western Cape province (where Cape Town is). Gauteng (where Joburg and Pretoria are) accounts for only 2,993 cases, and the numbers in Gauteng are still increasing quite modestly compared to the Western Cape. There is speculation that the Western Cape is doing a lot more testing than Gauteng and this accounts for some of the difference. But still, after two months of lockdown, I’m amazed by how low the COVID-19 numbers are in Joburg and Pretoria. Many scientists and modellers predict South Africa will start to see […]

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Bougainvillea flowers

Fetch the Bolt Cutters (Lockdown Day 60)

It’s Day 60 of the South African lockdown. And today, it is time to fetch the bolt cutters. I wake up in my usual fog, lying in bed in the chilly darkness, reaching to remember what day it is. I stagger into the kitchen to feed the cats and make coffee, telling myself I need to go for a run — or a walk, at the very least — but instead crawl back under the covers with my phone. Scrolling mindlessly through social media, I suddenly remember that last night I downloaded Fiona Apple’s new album, Fetch the Bolt Cutters. I’d been listening to a review of the album on a New York Times podcast, just before drifting off to sleep, and after hearing one brief clip I knew I needed this music in my life. It’s time to listen. I spring out of bed, brush my teeth, and get dressed. I slip my phone into my jacket’s inside pocket, tie on my mask, insert my headphones, and walk Melville from end to end as Fiona’s syncopated rhythms fill my ears. I’ve been/ thinking about when I was trying to be your friend/I thought it was then/But it wasn’t/It wasn’t […]

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Trixie the cat

Lockdown Journal: Day 57 (I Got Nothing)

It’s Day 57 of the South African lockdown. I really don’t have much to say. Here’s a picture of a cat. I put a lot of energy into my posts from yesterday and the day before, and woke up today without much motivation left. Also I don’t think I can top yesterday’s experience. A boring lockdown day at home and my run-of-the-mill emotional angst seem like very trivial blog topics compared to a food program feeding hundreds of hungry South Africans. Fortunately it’s Friday and I’m going to continue my new habit of taking Saturdays and Sundays off from lockdown journaling. I’ll be back on Monday, hopefully with renewed vigor. I did receive a beautiful food delivery from Publik Wine Bar today. During the lockdown, Publik has pivoted from selling wine (which, if you believe today’s news, may or may not be for sale in South Africa again…like ever) to selling and delivering fresh produce and other specialty foods. I finally decided to give Publik a try. There are a few items here that I’ve never cooked with before, and I’m super excited about all of it. I actually had to ask a friend to help me identify the vegetable […]

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People waiting in line for food parcels

Lockdown Journal: Day 56 (Melville Food Relief)

It’s Day 56 of the South African lockdown. I spent the morning taking photos at the food parcel distribution program on 3rd Avenue in Melville. I didn’t provide all the details about this program in yesterday’s post. Here’s how it works: The Viva Foundation receives donations for the Melville food program (find out how to donate at the bottom of this post), then sends the money to Tanya. Tanya and Sean source food for the parcels through Pick-n-Pay and Jumbo Farmers, a local produce store in Albertville. Each parcel has about enough food to feed a family of four for one week. This week’s parcels contained maize meal, soup mix, dried beans, cabbage, potatoes, butternut, onions, sugar, salt, soap, and hand sanitizer, among other items. Each food parcel costs only R130 (about $7) to source, which is incredible. On Mondays, Tanya and Sean distribute numbered paper tickets corresponding to the number of parcels they’ll have that week. There are no criteria for who can receive a parcel. This week the Gardiners gave out 300 tickets but wound up giving out about 350 parcels because there was extra food. (The number of parcels has increased each week — it started at […]

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Food parcels ready to distribute

Lockdown Journal: Day 55 (Out and About)

It’s Day 55 of the South African lockdown. Today was a better-than-average lockdown day for me because I was out and about doing meaningful things. At 9:00 a.m. I walked up to 3rd Avenue, where Melville residents Tanya and Sean Gardiner have started a food parcel distribution program for Melville residents in need. Tanya and Sean have always had a policy of giving food to anyone who comes to their gate asking, and the need has grown so fast over the past few weeks that they decided to start a more formal program. Every Wednesday morning, a group of volunteers gathers at the Gardiners’ house to pack the bags of food. The food is then distributed on Thursday mornings. (I’ll explain more about how this process works tomorrow.) Tanya and Sean need help documenting the distribution process for the Viva Foundation — the charity they’re working with on the project. So I offered to come take photos and help out with whatever else is needed. I felt a little disoriented when I arrived at the Gardiners’. There were already a bunch of people there, bustling about in the front yard with armloads of food, and I realized: 1) This was […]

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Gift at Patisserie de Paris

Lockdown Journal: Day 54 (Patisserie Portraits)

It’s Day 54 of the South African lockdown, and my big excitement was going to Patisserie de Paris for croissants. I have blogged about Patisserie de Paris more than once (see this post from my 2017 #Gauteng52 series); it’s one of the best bakeries in Joburg. Normally the Patisserie also has a fantastic sit-down café and French cheese counter, but of course things are different at the moment. The Patisserie is currently selling bread, pastries, and take-away coffee, which you can either have delivered or pick up through the bakery’s front gate. I planned my Patisserie visit to coincide with my friend Pauline and her son Elias. The three of us sat outside on the pavement and enjoyed our treats — cappuccinos for Pauline and me, baby-ccino and chocolate croissant for Elias, who is six — in the bright winter sun. Pauline and I watched Elias build a satellite out of paper cups and plastic spoons. He reluctantly allowed me photograph him in his stylish mask. William, a Patisserie staff member who was working outside cleaning the fountain, asked to be photographed too. It was nice to feel vaguely normal for a change, visiting a favorite foodie hangout and spending […]

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Heather Bitmoji

Lockdown Journal: Day 53 (I’m Back)

It’s Day 53 of the South African lockdown. Did you miss me? It’s good to be back. I’m not sure if numbering these lockdown journal posts makes sense anymore, since I didn’t blog on Day 51 or Day 52. Skipped numbers might bother the OCD-inclined among you (and also me). But at this point I don’t know what else to do so I guess I’ll continue this way. Taking two days off from blogging was sort of nice. It was pleasant to pass the weekend without this daily task hanging over me. But the blogging holiday also gave me more time to obsess over worries I’d previously been pushing aside, such as: Blogging about the same topic every day for 53 straight days is probably not good for the 2Summers Google ranking. Also I don’t understand Google rankings. I am very unproductive, which I know everyone (including me) said was okay at the beginning of lockdown but now I’m starting to feel panicky about it. I have virtually no income and no plan for the future, and am unmotivated to do anything about these rather significant life challenges. The world is falling apart. This hilarious video sums up my lockdown […]

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