It has been exactly one week since South Africa went in to lockdown due to the Coronavirus pandemic. Stories coming out of informal settlements like Diepsloot tell of long lines waiting for water at the public tap. Non-essential shops and hair salons have illegally remained open resulting in over-zealous military reactions. But, because shacks are built on top of each other, coupled with a lack of water and sanitation, the residents have no choice but to share communal space.
In the three days the government gave us all to prepare for the lockdown, Tebogo, one of our original kiddos, made the decision to leave. He gathered his little sisters from Diepsloot and made his way to stay with friends in rural Bakenburg, Mokopane, Limpopo. He knew this would be the best option for his family. The villagers have everything they need to survive within their farms and cattle kraals. The quarantine would seem like less of a hardship in the remote village.
When I spoke with Tebogo it seemed as if he had found some peace in what for so many is an incredibly stressful time. “The beauty of nature can be seen and felt here. A day always begins with chirping birds and with the not so musical sound of a rooster crowing. You know it’s late morning when you hear the cows lowing and the goats bleating. Life in this village is the true definition of simple and plain.” He said it with such contentment that it brought tears to my eyes. No one deserves a bit of calm more than Tebogo and his sisters. It was a comfort to know that at least three of our kiddos were away from the chaos.
As to be expected, Tebogo was quick to tell me he is keeping his sisters on a strict home schooling schedule while staying on top of his own university course work. All of Tebogo’s lessons have been uploaded to a zero rated website meaning he can access and complete his course load without having to utilize any cellular data. A huge financial relief for him as the village has no WiFi capabilities. While the network can at times be slow, and there isn’t enough bandwidth to access YouTube and Netflix, he is able to stay current in his classes.
The realization that I had paused my own Netflix binge to have our conversation hit me like a punch to the gut. What would the majority of us do if we didn’t have our WiFi and streaming services during all of this? Can you imagine the average nineteen year old around the globe accepting this so calmly? No nineteen year old should have to carry the burden of taking care of himself as well as his sisters during this crisis. My heart broke when he said, “Mam, life moves very slowly here. I’ve been here a week, but it does feel like I’ve stayed for ages.”
We all feel his pain and miss our own versions of normal. We are all sending out prayers, wishes and pleas that we return to our regularly scheduled programming as soon as possible. For Tebogo, that’s bustling Johannesburg, the university life he worked so hard to achieve and his internship at PWC.
We are trying not to let the unsettling stories coming out of Diepsloot worry us too much. We wish we had the ability to check in with our eleven other families, but with no phones or access to internet it is impossible to reach them. We can only hope that they too are finding moments of peace and happiness in the midst of our new and uncertain normal. We hope everyone is.
Thank you to everyone who has continued to support our kiddos during this time. Let’s all continue to do what we can to flatten the curve. #togetherapart