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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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Heather and her Basotho blanket

A Basotho Blanket (Lockdown Day 83)

It’s Day 83 of the South African lockdown. In celebration of this entirely unremarkable and insanely high number, I bought myself a Basotho blanket. I am not a therapy shopper; I generally don’t self-soothe through buying stuff. I also don’t have much spare cash at the moment. But for the past several weeks, as the lockdown drags on and the temperatures dip ever lower, my instincts have been driving me to buy a Basotho blanket. Those inner voices reached a crescendo yesterday — the coldest day in Joburg since August 2012 — when I woke up feeling like I simply must get into my car and drive the 45 minutes to Aranda Textiles in Randfontein. But alas, yesterday was a public holiday and the blanket factory was closed. So today was the day. I have blogged about Basotho blankets more than once (see here and here), and my post about a previous visit to Aranda Textiles — where all Basotho blankets are manufactured — is one of my most popular of all time. (Thanks to Black Panther, Basotho blankets became world-famous in 2017. People who google the blankets, which are nearly impossible to find outside Southern Africa, often find 2Summers.) […]

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MK marching in Soweto on the weekend of Nelson Mandela's death

Soweto (Lockdown Day 82)

Welcome to Day 82 of the South African lockdown. It’s both freezing-cold and raining in Joburg — a very rare occurrence. It’s also Youth Day, a South African public holiday commemorating the 1976 student uprising in Soweto. For the last couple of weeks I have been thinking constantly about racism. Soon after I woke up this morning, I found myself having a bit of a mental meltdown over it. I’m not sure why (probably because there’s not much else to do on a dark, freezing-cold, rainy public holiday during a pandemic), but after I woke up I scrolled deeper than usual into my Facebook feed. I was appalled by the number of racist posts — some subtle, some flat-out hateful — that I came across, today of all days. In a recent blog post, I said I want to use my platforms to speak out against racism and racial injustice. I am still committed to doing this, but I also can’t help thinking: What’s the point? Speaking out on racism in South Africa — or America, for that matter — feels like screaming into a gale-force wind. Institutionalized racism is woven so deeply into the fabric of our societies. It’s […]

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An elderly man at Villa Gloria in Krugersdorp on the West Rand

Villa Gloria in Krugersdorp (Lockdown Day 81)

Over the weekend I went with my friend Michelle to Krugersdorp — an outer suburb on Joburg’s West Rand. (You may remember Michelle as the proprietor of the Junkie Charity Shop, and former human to the Melville Cat.) Michelle was donating a large potjie (Afrikaans for “stew”) pot to a feeding scheme in Krugersdorp, and she asked me to come along to take photos. Neither Michelle nor I knew very much about where we were going. But eventually we found our way to a plot of land with a big, boarding-house-like building called Villa Gloria. Virtually every inch of land around the big house was occupied by tiny wooden dwellings. Villa Gloria is home to a non-profit organization called the God Disciples Foundation. There are more than 300 people living there, including 120 children, paying rent on a sliding scale. The Foundation also runs a creche (nursery school) for the small children and babies at Villa Gloria. Daniel Geyer, the owner of Villa Gloria, describes the property as a kind of halfway house. But some of the residents have lived there for years. Many of Villa Gloria’s residents are elderly, disabled, survivors of domestic violence, and/or recovering addicts. Others have […]

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Braamfontein sunset 2012

The COVID-19 Paradox (Lockdown Day 78)

It’s Day 78 of the South African lockdown. Today I don’t care. The cold front has finally descended and the low temperatures have turned my brain to sludge. We had a high of 9 degrees Celsius (48 Fahrenheit) today. This morning it was a blustery -2. I realize that sounds really wimpy to those of you living in cold climates. But try working from home in that kind of weather, when the inside of your house is virtually the same temperature as the outside. Right now I’m counting down the minutes until it’s an acceptable time to curl up on the couch under a blanket and watch Schitt’s Creek. Last night I was chatting with a friend on WhatsApp and we were having the “I know I have no right to complain, but…” conversation. You know what I’m talking about, right? That conversation when you’re complaining and complaining while at the same time feeling obligated to acknowledge you shouldn’t complain? Lockdown sucks! But it could certainly be worse. There’s no work! But at least I have savings. I’m bored! Boredom sure does beat starvation. I’m freezing! But I have a roof over my head. I’m lonely! But at least I […]

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Sunrise in Melville

A Jozi Winter Sunrise (Lockdown Day 77)

For the last couple of Thursdays mornings, I have intended to get myself to Heritage Baptist Church and the Melville food distribution by 6:00 a.m. The food parcel recipients have been lining up as early as 4:00 a.m., and the whole process is more or less finished by the time the sun comes up. I’m supposed to be documenting the program. But last week I arrived at 7:00 and basically missed everything. We’re nearing the dead of winter in Joburg, when it’s cold and dark and nearly impossible (at least for me) to get out of bed before sunrise. But this week I made myself accountable by arranging to walk up to the church with another volunteer at 6:00 on the dot. (Thanks Lucy!) So we made it. I chose the right day to be up early. A cold front is about to blow into Joburg (there was snow in the Western Cape this morning, and below-freezing temperatures are on their way to town by tomorrow), which means the normally clear winter sky was scattered with clouds. I had the privilege of watching a phenomenal sunrise. The sunrise was beautiful and cheered me up a bit — I think it […]

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Flowers in the garden

Five Good Things That Have Happened to Me During Lockdown (Day 76)

It’s Day 76 of the South African lockdown, and I have now blogged on 71 of the last 79 days. (I started my Lockdown Journal three days before the lockdown began.) I have blogged about virtually every aspect of lockdown, COVID-19, and the state of the world during the pandemic. I devoted an entire post to my “airing of grievances” related to COVID-19, and have moaned or complained in every single one of my 70 previous posts. I’ve blogged very little about the good things happening during lockdown. So that is what I’m going to do today. Following the tradition of my Jozi Tops Fives series, here are five good things that have happened to me during lockdown. You may have experienced some of these things too. 1) My world view has completely changed. I see the world differently than I did before the pandemic hit. I can’t say I’m seeing things more positively, but I’m definitely seeing things more clearly and I’m really happy about that. It’s not like I was blind to the inequalities in the world before all this happened, but I was semi-ignoring many of those inequalities. Not anymore. I have become much more aware of […]

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Mbali preparing meat in her food trailer

The Jozi Lockdown Hustle (Day 75)

It’s Day 75 of the South African lockdown. People are hustling out there. From its earliest beginnings, Joburg has been a city of hustlers. No one is going to make your way for you in this town, unless you’re a member of the very privileged few. People work hard in Jozi, often on several jobs at once. Now that we’ve hit Level 3 of the lockdown, Joburgers are hustling harder than ever. The Underbridge Chef I met Mbali Ndlovu on the first day I went to take photos of the Melville Food Parcel Program, when South Africa was still under Lockdown Level 4. Mbali is one of the program’s volunteers. Last week Mbali asked if I would come take photos at her food trailer, where she sells take-away meals just outside Milpark Hospital. Her bright yellow trailer stands beside the bridge where Barry Hertzog Avenue passes over Napier Road. So Mbali calls herself the Underbridge Chef. Mbali is 35 years old and originally comes from KwaZulu-Natal. She lives in Milpark and has an 11-year-old son. Mbali has worked many cooking jobs, the most recent of which was at a Spar grocery store in Bryanston. To get to that job she […]

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Guy walking into African Accent spaza shop in Katlehong

African Accent Spaza Shop in Katlehong (Lockdown Day 74)

This past weekend was South Africa’s first weekend under Level 3 lockdown, during which we’re allowed to move around more or less as we please within provincial borders. So like many South Africans, I got out of the house — for real — and went to the African Accent spaza shop in Katlehong. Katlehong is about 35 kilometers south of central Joburg. As I was driving there, I realized it was the first time since March that I’d driven more than five kilometers from home. I first blogged about African Accent at the very beginning of the lockdown. Bongani Mabuza, the owner, was running a fundraiser called the #SpazaShopChallenge, supplying basic essentials to families in need in his community. I promoted the #SpazaShopChallenge in my blog and many of you donated to it. I had never met Bongani or been to African Accent before. But I had a feeling this place was special. Now that I’ve finally visited, I can’t believe how right I was. Spaza shops are like tiny convenience stores, located in townships or other neighborhoods without easy access to larger markets. Usually a spaza shop is on the same premises as the owner’s home — African Accent […]

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Lady at Food parcel distribution in Melville

Please Support the Melville Food Parcel Program (Lockdown Day 71)

Yesterday I took pictures at the Melville food parcel program again. I arrived at the church a few minutes after 7:00 a.m., just after the sun rose. I was nearly too late because the bulk of the 365 parcels had already been distributed by the time I got there, and the line outside had completely dissipated. People are arriving to pick up their parcels earlier and earlier — some recipients were lined up before 5:00 a.m. — which is interesting because the parcels are distributed on a ticket system and if you already have your claim ticket, there is theoretically no rush to be in the front of the line as you’re guaranteed to get a parcel. I suppose people just want to make absolutely certain they can feed their families for the week. I hung around for an hour or two, talking to the volunteers and taking photos as the last few people trickled in. Tanya Gardiner, who organizes the food distribution, fell and broke her wrist on Wednesday but she was still there at 5:00 a.m. yesterday. I am blown away by how organized this operation has become and how the volunteers are able to feed more and […]

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Love life dying protea

My Love Life Under Lockdown (Day 70)

It’s Day 70 of the South African lockdown. Perhaps this is a sign that I’ve truly lost my mind, but I’m going to get real and blog about my love life today. Throughout this long, arduous lockdown blogging marathon, many readers have thanked me for my honesty — for expressing how I really feel about what’s happening to me and to the world. But there is one huge topic I’ve almost completely ommitted: my personal life. Intimate relationships are difficult to blog about even during “normal” times, and I’m always very careful and intentional about it. Lockdown has turned love, sex, and relationships into even bigger blogging taboos than they were before — especially for single people. And yet love, relationships, and sex have been the most frequently recurring conversation topics among my single friends, and even many of my non-single friends, during the pandemic. Lockdown breakups, lockdown hookups, lockdown fighting, lockdown online dating, lockdown in-person dating…It’s all happening. We’re all thinking about it but no one is talking about it, at least not publicly. So here goes. I reconnected with an ex during lockdown. Or he reconnected with me, and I let it happen even though I knew it […]

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Mandy at Sweet Tea and Chickadee

What Next? (Lockdown Day 69)

I was talking on the phone with a friend this morning. I can’t remember her exact words, but she said something to the effect of, “I thought things would feel better once we moved to Level 3. But instead they feel worse.” Yes. Exactly. Two-and-a-half months ago, on 24 March, I decided to start this Lockdown Journal. My idea was that each day I would write about whatever was on my mind related to the COVID-19 lockdown, for as long as the lockdown lasted. Today, for the first time since I started, I’m hesitant to share how I really feel because I’m just so despondent and I don’t want to freak all of you out or bring you down with me. At the beginning of lockdown, we all cheerfully ended conversations with sentences like: “See you when this whole thing is over,” or “Looking forward to meeting for coffee as soon as lockdown ends,” or “Can’t wait until we can have a drink together again!” These sentences became the new COVID-19-era pleasantries. Nearly 70 days later I’m still exchanging these pleasantries, but with a lot less breeziness and enthusiasm. Because: 1) Except for visiting each other at home (which logically […]

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