I remember when my family and I moved into the neighbourhood called Turffontein. It was a peaceful and quiet area to live in. We had a few neighbours; my sister had only two friends that lived just across the street. No one ever thought the neighbourhood would change. However, after only a few years it did…
“Oh my God”, said my sister Lungile in an annoyed way.
It was another one of those days – the Zimbabwean men who had moved in across the street had once again bothered my sister.
“Have these people looked at themselves?” Lungile continued, “I wish I could provide them with water, soap and a facecloth to let them bath. It is such a shame.”
Ever since the owner passed away, the Zimbabwean citizens had turned the house across the street into a hostel when they came into the community a few years back. People had ignored them at first, but they quickly got attention from their lifestyle. They looked lifeless, ashy and unwashed; as though water was something they hadn’t seen in a long time. They played music at high, deafening volumes. Everyday seemed to be a party for them, but one cannot miss how they drown their sorrows in drinks. They find themselves in bottles of alcohol and whistle at every girl that happens to pass by. Many parents like my mother, Winnie, curse under their breathed every time they look at the place and shake their head in mourning of what it has become.
“I wonder”, I said to my sister as we stood side by side, watching them from the balcony, “You would never see our neighbours sharing gossip over a cup of tea with a plate full of cookies or jam stuffed scones. We hardly talk to each other.”
The house right next to the hostel is one we call the ‘Barbie house’. It is home to two girls, who my sister often refers to as ‘thing one and thing two with a roll of her eyes.
The name was adopted from the two hyperactive characters in the Cat in the Hat movie. As soon as they step out of their house, their presence is felt. They scream at the top of their lungs and always have a group of teenagers gathered around their house.
“Why would someone wake up, bath and dress for the top of their game for no reason? They are out there in crop tops, shorts that are short enough to have men blushing and wear tons of makeup, only to stand outside their gate screaming”, is a question my sister often asks.
“What is our generation coming to?” I sometimes ask, knowing that I would never have the nerve to be that revealing in public, “I sometimes feel as though I could never fit into this neighbourhood, “All I see is fake people surrounding the community who would never come if I needed help.”
It feels lonely, as if I am trapped in one room full of strangers and expected to survive with them for eternity, but this is after all still my community, my home and my hood.