“Just ask him,” Amanda says urgently. “There’s nothing wrong with asking. What harm can it do?”

I nearly laugh out loud. Amanda and I might be long-lost sisters, but there are some things we just don’t get about each other.

“Listen, Amanda …” I sigh. “I’ve just started getting to know my father for the first time in my life. I don’t want to be the girl who gets in touch with him only to hold out her hand and say ‘please give me some money.’ I don’t want to be that girl. Can’t you understand that?”

“But you really need the money.  I mean, you’re living in a … a … SHACK for goodness sake!”

The way she says this makes me burst into giggles. I can’t help it. She’s looking really offended now, but that only makes me laugh harder.

“What?” she demands crossly. “What’s so hilarious?”

“It’s just the way you said SHACK. Like it’s a fate worse than death to be living in one.”

“Well, isn’t it?”

“Amanda, half of South Africa lives in shacks. It’s not so bad. My mom and I lived in a shack with my granny and cousins when I was little. We only moved into our house when I was about five. So now we’re back in the shack – it’s not so terrible.”

Amanda has a look on her face like she really, really doesn’t believe me. And to be honest, I’m having a hard time convincing myself. The company my mom worked for downsized and she got retrenched. She’s been having a really hard time finding a new job. This happened to my dad – who also happens to be Amanda’s dad – a while back. But the difference was that he had savings and investments to see him through. My mom’s got almost nothing.

She immediately rented our two-room RDP house out to another family and moved us back in with my granny in Alex. And when I moaned about that, all she said was, “We need an income more than a house, my baby. That rent will buy us food every month.”

So now she’s still looking for a job, I’m sleeping on some scratchy blankets on the floor with my cousins, and a family I don’t even know are living it up in our house.

But the one thing I’m really not going to do is ask my father for money and make him think that’s all I’m interested in.