I am Nosipho Ndamase, 18 years of age and a rural girl. I live in a small village near Tsomo in the Eastern Cape. I am xhosa, a proud one if I may add. I left school when I was in grade 11, once I failed the grade I decided to drop out. I live with my mother, Nobesuthu(53), father Wilfred(64), older brother Bandile(25) and younger brother Lwazi(14). My older brother is a taxi driver, he is employed by a wealthy man from another village. He’s the family’s breadwinner, along with my father who gets welfare money.
Our village is very small, we have less than 80 people. Pretty much everyone knows everyone. The church is a place where most villagers meet – after Kwa Bra Xola’s Place of course. Our church influences the village in many ways. Girls wear dresses, pants are not allowed in church and also outside church. I don’t understand why girls are not allowed to wear pants when God and his people used to wear long dresses. The pastor talks ill of the city, he says the city is an evil place. Half of the congregation want him out, you tell me which place is more evil.
Mthembu’s son, Melikhaya, went to the city to look for work in 2005. It’s 2010 now and he hasn’t return. Ntombizanele, my friend’s older sister went to go study in the city last year. She came back with a baby and her family decided she must not return to the city. Her family called the pastor to pray for her. The next Sunday she stood in front of the church and apologised. Everytime I ask her about the city she just tells me the city is okay. I’ve always wanted to visit the city, maybe get a job and provide for my family. Obviously my parents would never approve of me going to the city.
Whenever I watch Generations the soapie, I get more interested in acting. I want to be an actress, I don’t want to be a housewife like my parents foresee me to be. I wish my parents were not so old fashion. I wish the church didn’t influence our village that much. I wish I had a sister, my brothers are annoying and they always gang up on me.
My two friends, Zimkhitha and Noluthando are curious to see what this big bad city is all about. Well, at least Noluthando is curious because Zimkhitha is very reluctant. She’s like the pastor, she thinks the city is evil. Deep down I know Zimkhitha would love to go to the city but she can’t because her boyfriend promised to marry her. It’s been 2 years of promises, and she still thinks her boyfriend is “waiting for the right time”.
I can’t wait to go to the city when the opportunity presents itself.
* * * * * * * * * * *
It was a quiet Saturday morning, everyone was sleeping. I think it was about 06:15am. I heard someone crying or something, whatever it was. I was scared, I listened attentively and for some odd reason I thought it was a mermaid. I heard stories about mermaids that lived in the dam nearby. Apparently they cry when something bad happened. My older brother’s friend, Zolani had an encounter with a mermaid. He was coming from Bra Xola’s Place, the tavern. He was drunk, when he passed the dam he heard a mermaid singing his name. He ran like a mad man, I don’t know if the story is true but mermaids freak me out.
When I heard the cry becoming more and more louder I sat up. I heard my parents getting out of their bedroom. My younger brother is a heavy sleeper, you can bang pots in his ears and he still won’t wake up. I walked on my tippy toes to the sitting area. I saw my parents peeping through the window. My mother was talking softly to my father, I couldn’t make out what she was saying but she had a serious face. I heard my father saying, “it’s a baby”, what? I quickly went to peep, I was curious, is it really a baby? My father unlocked the door and my mom said, “Hayi Jola!” (No Jola) she was terrified. My dad looked at my mom, they were having a silent eyeing fight. They were talking with their eyes, making funny facial expressions. I think my mom was scared for my dad to open the door. What if it was a mermaid? Or some evil thing? Or whatever it was. My dad was sure that was a baby.
Suddenly the crying stopped. It was a bit dark outside. I saw my dad locking the door again, once again my mother wins. My dad is a stubborn man, it took a few nasty looks to convince him it wasn’t safe to open the door. I sat on the chair gently because it was wobbly. “I wonder what was that”, my mother said. My dad was sticking to his story, “it was a baby” he said. After a few minutes there was a knock on the door. My parents looked at each other, my mom was shaking her head. The person knocking shouted, “Jola! Vula ndim uDlamini” (Jola! Open it’s me Dlamini). Oh, I know that voice. It’s Dlamini, our neighbor. My dad opened the door, Dlamini was holding something wrapped in big blankets.
“My wife heard a noise outside and ordered me to check what is was. I saw blankets covering this little one”, said Dlamini. Wait, no, wait; what? My dad looked at my mom. I was so lost, who’s baby is that? Obviously not mine. My dad checked the baby, took the baby and thanked Dlamini.
I stood up, I wanted to see the baby. My mom told me to go to sleep, I told her I wasn’t sleepy. My dad said I must go to my bedroom. I looked at them and left. When I was in my room, I couldn’t sleep. A baby? I wonder who’s baby that is. Baby? No ways. Maybe the person who abandoned the baby just left the baby there. I mean, the baby has no ties with anyone in my family. Of course the baby has no ties with anyone in my family, really.
I heard my older brother arriving. His taxi is a skorokoro. When he entered the house all hell broke loose. My parents and my brother had an argument. I heard my mom say, “You going to take care of this baby”. My brother stormed out of the house, I heard the baby crying. The baby’s cry became distant and more distant, it’s clear my brother left with the child.
In the afternoon, my parents called me and my brother to the sitting area. They told us to not tell anyone about the baby, it’s not their business. My dad added, “Even Dlamini, his wife, his children, the pastor or anyone”. My brother was confused, “What baby?” My mom said “good”. We swore not to tell anyone.
* * * * * * * * * *
After the baby incident, my parents learned to accept the baby. He lived with us, yes it’s a baby boy. My parents named the baby “Abongile”. My older brother bought baby food and clothes for the young one. My older brother, Bandile is a taxi driver so he’s always away. Me and my mother look after the baby, I do the babysitting the most.
One sunny Tuesday afternoon, I was sitting under a tree. The baby was sleeping, my parents were visiting a family member. Suddenly, I saw an unfamiliar face. This girl was short, she was wearing a long colourful dress. She came towards me, I stood up. “Hi, can I help you”, I said. She looked around and asked if the baby was fine. Oh, so this is the girl who left the baby? She looks so young, maybe she’s my age or younger. “Yes, the baby is fine. Who are you”, I asked curiously. She told me she’s the mother of the child and Bandile’s ex girlfriend. What? So this is what my parents were hiding from us?! She asked to see the baby, I told her my parents were not at home which motivated her more.
I led her in the house, the baby was sleeping. “Oh, Mandla mntanam!”(Oh, Mandla my child), she sighed. Wow, she knows the baby is her child now? I was surprised. My parents named the baby Abongile, Mandla? Okay. She wanted to take the baby, I couldn’t let her. I used my dad’s Nokia 1100 phone to call my brother, Bandile.
After about 20mins my brother arrived. He parked his taxi, banged the taxi door. He was very furious. “Anelisa mnqundu wakho ufuna ntoni apha?”(Anelisa your ass what do you want here?) he asked furiously. The last time I saw my brother this angry was when my parents called him “ingcongconi” (mosquito) because he always rely on them for everything. The girl was so scared, I don’t blame her though. Bandile slapped the girl, just when he tried to beat her even more my parents arrived and stopped the fight. My parents confronted the girl and they didn’t give her the baby. They wanted her parents to fetch the baby not her.
It all felt like a scene from Generations, there was too much drama.
* * * * * * * * * *
Every Sunday everyone seems to be in a rush. The church starts at 09:00am but there’s an early morning praying session that starts at 7:30am and ends at 8:30am.
Everyone is ready to go church, my brothers, my parents and me. I always walk with my friends, Noluthando and Zimkhitha to church. When we were going to church, we saw a tall light skinned beautiful lady. At first we thought the lady was “umlungu”(white person), we argued with each other. As the lady was approaching us she smiled and stopped in front of us. Kengoku? (And now?). “Hi guys”, she said with a smile on her face. We looked at each other and greeted her back. She asked if Melusi was home, uhm, which home? His house or Bra Xola’s Place? I told her I don’t know. She asked us to help her find Melusi. We agreed to help. We went to Melusi’s house and nobody was home. We went to Bra Xola’s Place and, surprise, surprise we found him.
Melusi gave us the house keys. This lady introduced herself as Linda. She lived in Johannesburg, wow, I was so happy to hear that. I was curious to hear more about this Johannesburg. Linda was so confident, I really liked her personality. My friend, Zimkhitha was panicking. She kept saying, “We’re going to be late for church”. Shut up! Linda invited us to have drinks with her, cooldrinks. I couldn’t say no, I said yes. My friends looked at me, I know they knew I wasn’t going to church. They left me, I ran after them and told them to not say a word to my parents and they promised. I trust them, but I somehow trust Noluthando more.
Melusi’s house looked great inside, I’ve never really entered the house. Linda said I can make myself comfortable, wow, the couch was so comfortable. Linda’s suitcases were pink and so beautiful. She asked me what I was wearing, I was confused. “Is this how you guys dress around here?” she asked. What’s wrong with my dress? Mxm. I quickly changed the subject, “How is the city?” I asked. She told me the city is great and much better than “this place”. I told her I always wanted to go to the city but my parents would never let me. I told her about my friend’s sister, Ntombizanele who was punished after going to the city and coming back with a baby. She was shocked.
Linda seemed to be the only person who understood me. She told me she had a good feeling about me. I asked her if she knew Karabo, she looked so confused. “Karabo? There are lots of people named Karabo in Johannesburg, which Karabo?” she asked. I told her Karabo from Generations, she laughed. What’s funny? She couldn’t stop laughing, I felt stupid. “You think Karabo and other celebrities are friends with everyone from Johannesburg?” she asked. I didn’t answer her because I was speechless. But she told me she only knew Karabo from tv and not personally. Whatever! I told her I want to be on Generations, she smiled. “I see you’re a big dreamer”, she said.
I told her everything that happened in the village before she came. I told her about the baby incident, my brother slapping his ex girlfriend and the pastor. She seemed to love me.
When I saw people coming back from church, I quickly ran home. I took the key which was under a brick and opened the house. When my parents got home they didn’t even notice I wasn’t in church.
* * * * * * * * * *
Days went by and I started learning more about Linda. She was 23 years old and had a 2 year old son. She’s dating a Congolese man, her baby daddy. She lives in Sandton in a big house. Her boyfriend has multiple businesses and she is living a good life.
One Friday afternoon, Linda was teaching me how to use her touch screen phone. She told me she was leaving on Sunday. I was sad, I really liked her a lot. “You can come with me to Johannesburg, that’s if you want to come”, she said. Wow! I told her I would be more than happy to come with her. The only problem I had was my family, how am I going to tell them? They don’t even know I want to be on Generations. I decided I will write them a letter.
My friend, Zimkhitha kept telling me how evil the city is. “I would never go to the city even if they gave me a thousand rand”, she said. Linda gave her the nickname, “stiff head” because she’s so stubborn.
Linda would call all of my friends and tell them beautiful things about the city. Almost everyday she told us beautiful things about the city. She told us stories of the places she’s been to. Sometimes I would glance at Zimkhitha and she would be smiling. I knew she likes the city but she’s too influenced by the pastor, her family and the villagers.
Every night I started having dreams about the city. I never been there but I feel like I’ve been there because of my dreams. I also had a chat with Karabo in my dream, that made me more excited. Maybe my ancestors are trying to tell me something. Maybe if I go to the city I will be an actress and be famous.
I noticed something very strange, for the past two days the same car came to visit my parents. Everytime the car came, I was sitting under the tree with Linda and my friends. It was a white car with black windows, I don’t know the car’s name but it was a nice car.
I wonder what’s going on?