Our guide was Zamika, a 22 year old single girl. She's still learning English, but she's doing really well and although we had to get her to repeat a few things, we're glad that she's putting so much effort into it. We know how difficult it is to learn a second language!
A couple of the local women.
In the pic above, the lady on the left is married, but the one on the right is not. How do we know this? When you are married, a lady is only allowed to wear a long skirt. If you are not married, you have a lot more choice in clothing.
It was a Saturday, so the kids spend a lot of time playing.
There is no electricity to this area, so the children don't have televisions or computers. They spend most of their time outdoors. However, many people now have cell phones, and you can see tiny solar powered charging systems set up on people's roofs. We paid about R140 ($15.00) for our cheap basic cellphone including some airtime, so that gives you an idea of how inexpensive it is to stay connected.
Part of the community of Bulungula.
Bulungula doesn't have a central area, or a town square, or anything that you would consider a town. It's just a community. Bordered by two rivers. All of the land belongs to the community, and if you want to live there you have to be approved by the community. Then, the headman will assign you a plot of land. It doesn't cost anything, but you may have to buy him a beer.
If you grew up in the community, are ready for your own rondoval, and can afford to build it, it is the same process. The headman will assign you some land.
Building a new rondoval.
When you have been assigned some land, you can build your rondoval. It costs approximately R800 ($84) to build the wall, and approximately R1000 ($105) to build the roof. Yes, that includes labor. All materials come from the land with the exception of a piece of glass for the windows which they buy in town. Total cost of your house, including land? Less than $200.
Xhosa woman and child.
Odds are good that this lady has never been outside the community. We heard a story where a lady was asked how she felt to live in such a beautiful place.
Her response? "I wouldn't know, I've never seen anywhere else."
Our first stop was at a white man's home. JP is a 70 year old retired South African construction guy (and jack of all trades) who moved to the area to help teach the locals about different construction techniques that would make them employable. He's got some interesting ideas and he's enthusiastic about what he's doing, but the place was a bit of a dump.
RSC stands for Rural Service Center.
Teaching them how to build walls with glass bottles.
He teaches them how to build furniture from sticks found in the forest.
And how to have better gardens. Every homeowner has a large enough plot of land to have a garden for personal consumption.
Only problem is, he currently has only six students. On an overall basis, the locals still don't trust the white man and when he tries to recruit someone to take his classes, the response is often "how much will you pay me?". They don't have the attitude that they will benefit from learning these things, and they don't seem to appreciate the white man trying to help them. The six students he has are training to become teachers of his techniques to the rest of the community.
He also fixes things for the community. If you have something that is broken, you can bring it to him and he will fix it for free. The only stipulation? You have to stand there and watch him fix it so that if it breaks again you will be able to fix it yourself.
It's even more interesting because these communities along the Wild Coast weren't as affected by the apartheid regime. There wasn't a lot of involvement by the whites and they were essentially allowed to self govern during those years. Really, that left them far better off than the black people who lived in or near cities in South Africa, and we think they are even far better off today. They lead simple lives, but they seem quite happy to do so. Yet another example where we have found that they are not nearly as "poor" as western society tries to tell everyone they are.
Me, with some of the local boys. The one kid loved my sunglasses!
In another ten years or so, these kids will be going through a ritual that will officially mark their progression to manhood. This is one of these situations that is difficult for us to understand. There's a lot more to it, but here's the basics as we were told them. For 30 days they will be stripped of all clothing with the exception of a blanket. Then, there will be a celebration where a cow will be slaughtered and there will be a feast. Everyone in the community is invited. The cow costs approximately R6000 ($630) and is the second most expensive family tradition. Only marriage comes at a higher price!
Then, the boy will be circumcised. We had the opportunity to speak with the local doctor, a woman from Holland. She said that every year she sees a couple of these boys die, and some have to have their penis amputated because of infection. Nasty business, these traditional rituals. We don't get it, but there's a long list of things in this world that we don't get!
Next stop was a place where the ladies make soap to sell to the tourists who come through the lodge. There was no production going on because it was Saturday, and so no photos. Every homeowner here grows lemongrass in their garden plot, and they use the lemongrass to make the scent in the soap. They grow enough lemongrass to be able to sell the excess to a company in Cape Town. Yet another example of how the lodge has brought so many side benefits to the community.
Then, it was off to the local shebeen. This is an unlicensed bar; a gathering place for the locals to have a drink and socialize. There are thousands of these such places in South Africa.
Kevin, with a jug of the cheap beer.
They pass around a bucket filled with this cheap beer. The stuff sells for R5.5 (58 cents) a litre. And it tastes terrible. Warm and creamy, and a little bit sour. Yuck.
Men drinking in the shebeen.
Zamika explained that women are welcome in the shebeen, but at this hour the man will be expecting the woman to be at home making his dinner. If the dinner isn't ready when he gets there, he might say "Woman, what did I pay 10 cows for?".
That is the cost to get married. An expensive proposition, the groom and/or his family must pay 10 cows to the bride's father. A cow is worth approximately R6000 ($630) each, so the groom must save his chickens and goats until they add up to a cow. The interesting thing is, they don't place that much value on a cow as currency. Difficult to explain, and we're not sure we understood that part of it correctly.
Apparently you can get a deal if the groom and the bride's parents know each other.
When she was explaining all of this, I said that I paid 20 cows for my wife. I wanted to make sure I got a good one!
Cleaning your floor. With fresh cow dung.
As we were walking back to the lodge, Zamika saw an open door at one of the rondovals. She lead us over there and we were invited to see the inside of this lady's home. She was in the process of cleaning her floor. The cleaning agent? Fresh cow poop! Oddly enough, it didn't seem to smell bad.
Ruth and Zamika.
We totally enjoyed our tour with Zamika. Oh, you notice that she has something on her face? It's a special mixture to protect her skin from the sun. She says it leaves her skin soft and wrinkle free.