“>Sicelo has troubles at home and at university in those first dark days…

Yho! Bhuti umama uyathukisa phezulu, ukhalazela nokutya oku,” whispered my niece urgently, her tone in stark contrast to the alarm that had just blasted in my ear. My niece’s warning that my sister was on a warpath upstairs did not surprise me. As if employed to wreak havoc, she was constantly bellowing out what she viewed as being ‘advice from a child of God’.

Sicelo! come here. Didn’t I tell you that I don’t want even a dirty spoon in this sink?” she would yell.

Of course this was never met with a response on my part, because I knew that it was effectively opening a Pandora’s box, so I usually just complied and removed the spoon or cup she was going crazy over.

“Uzungand’mameli, uza’zibona sowuyimbuqe ubonanje,” was her routine follow-up. To me, though, yelling that I was destined for failure just because I didn’t remove a dirty spoon from the sink went beyond just being a daily routine. Her words seemed to have a way of burrowing through the wall of immunity I had tried to build up for protection against things I deemed hurtful. I wished that my siblings could all have cameras planted in areas of our house, because my sister’s fits of rage seemed to be timed to go off whenever they were not there.

My sister’s politics always managed to twist their way into any picture, and, according to my niece, this is exactly what was happening on the morning of the 25th of February 2010 – the first day of lectures for that year. The more I thought about it, the more it seemed as if my sister was trying to sabotage my first day at Belville’s beloved Udubs. I couldn’t understand why her politics couldn’t wait until the end of the semester or something.

A battle to cut my extra-large pants down to size was next on the menu. For a person going into such a monumental battle, you would think I’d have scissors, sewing machines and a team of dressmakers, but all I had was a pin. Luckily, I won this battle.

Standing at our door and soaking in the sight of Philippi as it lay out in front of me, against the backdrop of the barely-visible table mountain of course, I could feel my legs itch in protest against the thought of walking any considerable distance. “Didn’t you say that you do Geography, cos I have a feeling that walking to that station is like walking from here ‘til East London?” I asked my niece. Of course what I was really hoping for was a 200-metre stretch or something much lesser.

“I reckon that it’s a kilometre or more…” was her response – clearly not appreciating that it was at least 500 metres more than what my tired shoes’ soles could handle.

But I soldiered on.

Upon arriving, though, I was immediately stabbed with an unavoidable truth by the flourish of Carvellas and All-Stars: firstly, I was no Brad Pitt; secondly, the only thing that kept me from being barefoot were shoes that looked like they had been patched by a blind man. The cheeriness of these ‘Carvelians,’ as I call them, or ‘charma-boys’ and ‘charma-girls,’ as the ghetto calls them, was now gnawing at me as well.

I listened with a close ear as they spoke, hoping to hear even an inkling of sympathy for my disadvantage, but all I heard was: “Unyathela malin’ ngamalin’?” The best translation my supposedly textbook brain could muster for that was: “You dare bump into my Ferrari-shoe with your Toyota-takkie!” As if that wasn’t enough, they stumbled their way into politics. “Zuma is my new idol, dawg! You can see, by the way things are going, that there’s no way that guy’s not gonna to be richer than Motsepe by the time he quits,” announced one of them, sounding quite content with himself.

Realising that the Carvelians wouldn’t relent anytime soon, I clung on to my freshly-bought bag and could feel some of my anguish escape as it reminded me with its fresh scent that my style is not completely defined by second-hand materials. But I still couldn’t stop the image of being a centre-piece of embarrassment on the previous year’s open day from resurfacing. It was hard not to remember the giggles and laughs that rang out through the entire train carriage as they realised that I had sat on a seat soaked in urine.

Just as I was losing my sanity in the sea of foreign faces that lied before me, a familiar one showed itself. It was Masixole. As if heaven sent, he immediately asked me: “No lectures, dog?”

Lectures! my inner voice exclaimed. I’ve probably got at least three that I need to attend; so where’s mine? Where’s the timetable that any other good student would make use of? These were the questions I began asking myself, as the significance of his words snapped me back to reality and plucked me off the tree of self-pity that I had clearly been dangling from. His words not only reminded me about why it was best to find myself a friend who cares about my success, but that even if I may stink with poverty, I’m certainly not here to wallow in shame.


Have you had any similar experiences? Tell us what you think.