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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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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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Trixie with flowers

Lockdown Journal: Day 50 (A Good Day)

Today is Day 50 of the South African lockdown. This week was really hard overall. But I think today was the best day I’ve had since the lockdown started. Around the two-week mark, when the president announced the lockdown would be extended from 21 to 35 days, I was trying to decide if I should continue numbering my lockdown posts. My friend Kate said I should. “You’re gonna want to know what number you’re on when you start to hit the 50s,” she said. I took her advice, but I also laughed because at that point I truly couldn’t imagine “hitting the 50s”. And yet here we are. I have published a blog post every day for 53 days. (One of those days I even posted twice.) I hit my 1000th all-time blog post on Day 16. I’m also nearing my 10-year blogiversary on 26 June, and two million all-time page views at some point in the next few months. I’m starting to wonder if we’ll still be locked down for those milestones, too. One thing is for sure: This blog has permanently changed, just as all of our lives have permanently changed. My days of blogging about travel and […]

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Laffa bread and hummus from Ba Pita

Lockdown Journal: Day 48 (Gerald’s Magic Bread)

It’s Day 48 of the South African lockdown. I’m better today than yesterday, mainly because I’ve discovered Gerald’s Magic Bread. I’ve mentioned previously that my most-read blog post of 2020 is Spar’s Magic Bread, a post I wrote in 2012 about baking bread from pre-made dough sold at Spar grocery store. Everyone wants to bake bread during lockdown (including me) and bread-baking supplies are often in short supply. So it’s no surprise people have been googling this topic a lot lately. At the beginning of lockdown I thought it would be fun to recreate that 2012 bread post, but every time I’ve gone to Spar I haven’t found any pre-made dough. A few days ago, I saw on Instagram that Ba Pita — a beloved shawarma restaurant in Melville — was selling uncooked pita and laffa dough along with hummus, baba ganoush, tzatziki, and a few other dishes for delivery. I jumped right away, mainly because I’ve been craving hummus and every time I go to the store I can’t find any. I ordered some dough too. Gerald, Ba Pita’s owner, dropped the goods off at my door yesterday evening — just when I was feeling at my lockdown lowest. […]

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Jameela at Flavour'z od India on Mothers Day

Lockdown Journal: Day 45 (Mother’s Day)

It’s Day 45 of the South African lockdown. Happy Mother’s Day. I started the day by doing what I do on most Mother’s Days: Opened my laptop and ordered an Amazon gift card for my mom. It’s not the most exciting present, but I know it makes Mom happy because she’ll receive it first thing when she wakes up and she can use it to buy exactly what she wants. Mom almost always knows exactly what she wants. It’s a quality I respect and envy. I scrolled through the online “cards” — the little graphic Amazon sends with its email gift cards — and decided on a picture of cactuses and succulents. I clicked to select the image and burst into tears. It’s been years, possibly decades, since I was last with my mom on Mother’s Day. But today it just feels like too much. Mom was planning to visit South Africa in October, and road-trip with me to KZN for my #10SouthAfricanTowns project. Mom and I love doing road trips. This one almost certainly isn’t going to happen this year. Later on I went to 27 Boxes to buy breadsticks from the Baker Brothers and browse around with my […]

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Lucky working in the garden

Lockdown Journal: Day 40 (Cinco de Mayo)

Read all my lockdown journal posts. Welcome to Lockdown Day 40. It’s also Cinco de Mayo, which doesn’t mean much in South Africa but I couldn’t think of a better title. I managed to work up the motivation to go for a walk this morning to buy cat food from Ziggy’s Pet Pamporium. (Ziggy’s opens at 9:00 a.m. so technically I had to break the rules and extend my walk slightly past the legal cut-off time.) I saw Lucky again, working in the garden next to my first Melville house. This made me happy. I also bumped into Father Russell from the Jesuit Institute, who I didn’t recognize right away because he was on a bicycle and wearing spandex, a bike helmet, and a buff over his face — quite a change from his usual priest vibes. These daily pandemic exercise sessions have created a funny new kind of human interaction, where you have to look at people carefully and try to identify them using characteristics other than their faces. It’s oddly uncomfortable. Anyway it was nice to catch up with Father Russell as he pedalled along beside me for a bit. I’m struggling to come up with interesting things […]

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Andrea and Marco on rollerblades

Lockdown Journal: Day 38 (Walking Thoughts)

Read all my lockdown journal posts. It’s Day 38 of the South African lockdown, and the third day of Lockdown Level 4. I took my second Level 4 walk through Melville this morning (here’s my account of the first one) and spent a lot of time thinking as I walked. My first thought: In many ways, Lockdown Level 4 is harder than Lockdown Level 5. Yes, we have a few more freedoms — we can walk outside for a few hours a day, we can order meals for delivery, we can shop for a few more things. But those few, very limited freedoms are also a reminder of how far we still are from life before the pandemic. Also there is no “countdown” anymore. First we had a 21-day lockdown, which was extended to a 35-day lockdown. Now we just have..Level 4. There is no way of knowing how long Level 4 will last, or Level 3 or Level 2 or Level 1. Will there ever be a Level 0? Last night I was watching a documentary called Salt Fat Acid Heat on Netflix. Samin Nosrat, the protagonist of the documentary who wrote a book by the same name, travels […]

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People walking outside in Melville

Lockdown Journal: Day 36 (Outside in Melville)

Read all my lockdown journal posts. It’s Day 36 of the South African lockdown — the first day of lockdown Level 4. It’s May Day and we went OUTSIDE. As of today, South Africans are allowed to go outside for exercise between 6 and 9 a.m. daily. Initially I wasn’t super excited about this rule, as you may have read yesterday. It’s unnecessarily restrictive, and the timing is poorly thought out as the sun rises late in South Africa at this time of year. Nonetheless, I dragged myself out of bed at 6:30. I didn’t want to miss my first opportunity in five weeks to go for a walk. I made coffee, threw on some yoga pants, packed my camera, took the garbage out, and walked outside by around 7:15. Two minutes later I remembered I’d forgotten my face mask, so I went back home to get it. By then it had already become too hot for the puffy jacket I was wearing. (I really should never complain about the weather in Joburg.) I traded the jacket for a thin fleece, donned my mask, and headed out again. Guys. I cannot explain the unabashed joy I experienced during this hour-long […]

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Lockdown Journal: Day 32 (Time Travel)

If you’re new to this blog series and don’t know what’s happening with South Africa’s 21-day (now 35-day) lockdown, my first post  has all the details. Or read all my lockdown posts. It’s South African Lockdown Day 32, the day I switch my lockdown journaling from evening to morning (although not that early in the morning — it’s 10:39 a.m. already). The first thought I had when I woke up this morning was: I was unrealistically positive in last night’s post. I made it sound like weathering this lockdown alone is easy for me, and although I may have legitimately felt that way at that particular moment, it is actually not true. The truth is my moods and perceptions shift wildly from one day — or even one hour — to the next. Last night, basking in the glory of my successful bread-baking afternoon, I felt relatively good. I was cocooned in my comfortable home, safe for the moment and not terribly lonely. It rained hard all evening — a gift in Joburg at this time of year, before the cold, dry season sets in. Both cats were inside with me. I made a tasty toasted Emmental sandwich with avo and tomato […]

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Note from Kelvin

Lockdown Journal: Day 29 (Exchange of Humanity)

If you’re new to this blog series and don’t know what’s happening with South Africa’s 21-day (now 35-day) lockdown, my first post  has all the details. Or read all my lockdown posts. It’s lockdown day 29. I’m going to tell you a story I meant to tell yesterday but forgot. I mentioned in previous posts that I periodically place bags of food outside my gate for whoever comes along. I include whatever I have laying around: half a loaf of bread, a box of crackers, an orange, a tomato, a can of tuna, chocolate brownies. I try to buy extra food each time I go to the store so I always have a few things ready. Usually the bag disappears within an hour or two. But on Tuesday I put my bag out a bit late and I guess it got dark before anyone saw it. Yesterday (Thursday), I pulled into the driveway after coming back from food-shopping and noticed a crumpled piece of paper near the car. (I almost didn’t see it because there are so many leaves in my driveway. I really need to deal with those.) I unfolded the paper and it was the note above, written on the […]

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