The dust of the previous day settles in the corners of my eyes, in tiny balls. I scratch them out to remove its stickiness and when rubbed between my fingers. I still felt the sand grazing my tips. With my head lifted, my first thought of the morning was when, where and how I was going to get a cigarette to start my day off with a spark.

After getting ready and getting my cigarette from my drawer, it’s time to get to the campus for the young lady. What could go wrong on such a perfectly gloomy morning in June?

“Oh yes, of course” I think to myself “the taxi”.

It takes about an hour and a half every day for me to get to university, such is the life of an ordinary person in Port Elizabeth, South Africa.

The most important thing about the first taxi I take is the music. So the driver of the taxi blasts the music until it feels like you can no longer hear, which almost leaves you unable to hear the gunshots that might follow later that day.

The walk from my home to the nearest taxi is about fifteen minutes and from there on I have a long ride to get to where I need to be. Accompanied by the long travel there is a dangerous part of the city that many people avoid. It has been named “Katanga” or some translate it as “War Zone”. This part of the city is notorious for its crime and violent nature, with scenes of poverty and complaints about government around almost every corner.

Driving through the streets of Katanga with the taxi is gambling with your life. This is what I do daily, never knowing what could happen next. The taxi has about fifteen seats that may be occupied by passengers, the gaatjie or better known “the sliding door operator”, calls out the place you want to go, and you just get in.

After getting into the taxi, the gaatjie smiles at me, I smile back and offer a polite greet. To my surprise he greets too and is happy to be receiving my R10 I suppose. We approach the streets of Katanga and I start preparing for the 5km of pure fear. I put my bag under the seat and switch my phone off and place it in my bra. Once in Katanga, we pick up a few more people, a woman about 40 years of age, with a baby and a little boy.


Tell us: Do you ever have to drive through areas in order to get to your destination?