Village Blues

I don’t know why but the December holiday period tends to fill me with nostalgia. I look back at great Christmases past but also at the irreplaceable part of my youth growing up in the village. It’s very funny how I have grown up to make peace with the fact that I grew up in a rural village. Back in the day, being a village boy was an unpardonable sin in urban South Africa.

But times have changed, so much that those without a village background are now looked at the same way we look at snakes in the city: “where the hell do you come from?” So Yes, I’m proud of my village roots and the contribution the village made to my being. Elim

Village Green

Village Green

. That’s where I spent the first twelve years of my life before boarding school introduced me to electricity and showers. But the most revolutionary thing that boarding school introduced to a lot of us village bumpkins was tap water, inside the house.

No longer would we have to carry 20litre canisters down to the river and back up just to have a bath. We had water, inside. With basins and all. Damn. And wait for this one. It was goodbye the long-drop toilet. Now, for those not familiar with this form of ablutions, the idea was quite simple. Dig a deep hole in the ground: build a toilet seat over the hole and erect a suitable structure over this and voila, you a have yourself a nun-flush toilet for the next few years, depending on family size(and of course meal size and frequency). This structure deserves a blog in itself and I was reminded recently of the goings-on inside the long-drop toilet by a well-told tale of a facebook friend about his experiences with the long-drop.

There must have been a great deal of good vibes in the village for it to be the place of refuge for my mind whenever we approach these holidays. Our village, before the introduction of ‘locations’ was your typical rural African village. Everything was done in slow motion, almost. You never rushed anywhere. If you wanted to get anywhere on time, you left early. None of this ‘put the foot down’ nonsense because you’re running late. Running late was not even an option.

The only thing you could be late for in the village was school. See, your typical village had just one or two schools. The result was 80% of the students came from outside a 5km radius of the school. Depending on weather conditions, late-coming was acceptable. In extreme cases, those that had to go across a river were excused from coming to school on days that the river was swollen.

But you just never had an adult say I was late for church, a funeral, work. No. Waking up early was part of the village’s DNA. It was part of how things were done. You can imagine the cultural shock to my system when I discovered one could run late for things. But I adapted and before I knew it I too could play my part in being late. So much so that in the very few cases that a lady friend has looked me in the eye and blurted Ím late”, I have a standard answer that is rooted back in my village days: It’s not me(mine). I don’t understand why I’m usually the only one laughing at the joke.

Anyways, a boy growing up in the village and not herding some sort of animals was just unacceptable. If your family had none you found a way to help friends herd their own cattle or goats. The experience of being out in the bushes and fending for yourself is one I can never forget. It was just accepted that once you are out there you would find a way to take care of yourself when it came to food. Not that you were not allowed to go back home and eat, you were. But we just got so wrapped up in whatever we did out there that going back home to eat was a huge inconvenience.

Also you forgot about the longdrop toilet when you were out in the bush. You became one with nature. Also there was no 3-ply nor 2-ply toilet roll out in the bush. There was just no-ply toilet paper. So you improvised. And we lived, and survived and grew up to the point where we can now pamper our behinds with 3-ply toilet roll.

Being one with nature meant eating fruit, fish and wild animals for those who had the skill to catch them. But it also meant that when nature called you went behind a rock a short distance away from your chosen base spot. Of course there were one or two hotheads who never bothered with the accepted behind-the- rock convention. So it was not totally unheard of that in running after that cow or goat your foot could find itself landing in the freshest of you know, human excrement.

The most beautiful aspect of village life was that everyone knew each other. Literally. You could walk from one end of the village to the other over a two-hour period and be guaranteed that every single person you would meet knew you or you knew them. And that’s why it was said ‘’it takes a village to raise a child’’. Any adult was your aunt, uncle, grandmother or grandfather. They could send you to the shops an hour away without consulting your family as long as you were not running an errand for someone else.

The only time of the year when you got an injection of foreign life into the village was at a time like this one, when all the people who worked in the cities made their way home. Bringing with them not only money but Christmas goodies and new clothes for the children in their families.

Like in all close-knit villages strangers stood out like a sore thumb. They didn’t have to do or say anything, they simply had to be and you just knew, ‘not one of us’. Amazingly, back then this meant you had to be extra courteous because you were dealing with someone you didn’t know unlike in the city where not knowing someone means putting on your bigotry hat.

Each family had its own graveyard, usually not far from the family home. Everyone in the family knew all the graves. So it was with agonising horror when the then government decided to disrupt our nice village life by starting a settlement to provide space for people who had been moved from their own areas which were close to or in the then white areas. Part of the process meant the relocation of all graves to a common graveyard to provide space for the new arrivals.

We had grown up to know you don’t mess with people at rest, the dearly departed. But we were quickly disabused of this notion by the arrival of huge earth-moving vehicles that could dig a forty year old grave in two scoops and empty the remains into a small little coffin for reburial at the new gravesite.

The new location brought with it new people, with new behaviours that were not necessarily suited to our village way of life. But we all understood why they had ‘funny’ behaviours. Their settlement was built on the graves of the ancestors of our small picturesque village.

This new village, complete with the mall and everything, is not the village that my mind finds refuge in during times of trouble. My mind finds refuge in that small little green village that had only about three television sets at the beginning of the eighties. The little village in which we knew every car and its registration number without knowing why we knew it.

It is this village that my mind returns to every festive season. It is a village that I cannot physically return to but I guess will stay with me for many more Christmases to come. Happy Holidays and thanks for reading.

Advertisements

4 responses

  1. Syd, the more I think about the content of your blog posts over the last 18 months, the more convinced I am that you have some wonderful material for a book. I would buy your memoir or novel in a heartbeat; I think thousands would. You have a gift for connecting with your readers that goes straight to the heart, and this is just one more example. I loved it. Have a wonderful Christmas, and may God bless you and your family this holiday season and throughout the coming year.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for you kind comments Cynthia. You have no idea how much your comments and guidance have made me realise that there must be something to this whole writing thing.

      Many blessings to you and your family through this season, may you also have a wonderfully blessed 2015. Thank you for reading, as you always do.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ll second what Cynthia said! I read your story to my Mum, who also grew up in a little village. It might be half a planet away, but it seems all villagers have things in common – she too was ‘looked down on’ as a boring villager from the boondocks when she first went to work in the city. She never had an excuse for being late to school, because my grandfather was the village school teacher, but plenty of kids from outlying farms would miss out on heavy snow days on winter and she, too, was first introduced to hot showers at boarding school! And everybody still knows each other…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for reading and sharing with your mom. It’s amazing that we can be half a world apart but still have so much in common. Which just goes to show that all the perceived differences are artificial. Happy holidays Heidi, pass my regards to my fellow village people.

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Black eye mag

Because there's no black future without no black vision

Can Anybody Hear Me?

Uncovered Myself One Pound at a Time; Still Discovering Myself One Day at a Time

ellisnelson

children's author

micahdoes

Living wide and eating well.

How Leaders Manage

Shape your Character change your life.

On The Heath

where would-be writer works with words

♥♥SOSHI LOVE ♥♥

My life & Korean language journey

MamaDimensions

Being, in all the ways, Living, in all the ways, Communicating, in all the ways, Loving, in all the ways

Sweden and the Middle East Views

Articles, updates & views - from another angle than in your mainstream Western media

TB Joshua Watch

A comprehensive resource on TB Joshua and SCOAN

Hopefully Bikiniskinni

About my journey to becoming, hopefully, bikini skinny.

Little Miss Understood

Striving to be better one post at a time.

bluestockings magazine

bluestockings is an intersectional, anti-oppressive publication that commits to centering voices of people from marginalized and historically resilient communities, across multiple axes of oppressed identity.

Globe Drifting

Global issues, travel, photography & fashion. Drifting across the globe; the world is my oyster, my oyster through a lens.

Tea With Charlie

Your Daily Cup of T.

What Beautiful Light

Photos, Commentary, and Videos by Rudy Owens

chanyado

Chanyado. Shade. Respite from the sun. A place under the tree to rest my head, and wiggle my toes out in the sun.

One Man's Opinion

The views gained from leading an interesting life.

The Newswatch Television Official Blog

Telling America's Story for Over 20 Years

Deconstructing Myths

Social justice is built one idea at a time...

The World I Want

creating space

Artfully Aspiring

Making Every Day A Masterpiece

borderlineblossom

A fight with my Life

Bold Blind Beauty

Real Beauty Transcends Barriers

Akanyang Africa

An Informed View of South Africa, Africa and the World

%d bloggers like this: