Catalan Cultural Immersion – Alexandra Township

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Blanca Calvo is an architect from Barcelona, studying her masters in planning through the Mundus ,Urbano Programme while working as an intern at t1to1 – Agency of Engagement in South Africa.
As part of her masters research, Blanca spent 2 weeks living in the Apartheid planned buffer strip of Marlboro South and Alexandra’s East Bank that separates Alexandra Township from Sandton in Johannesburg, South Africa.
 
  
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Blanca made contact with the local grass roots initiative FEDUP to make the necessary arrangements and plan her stay to have minimal impact on the settlement. The following account, is her depiction of the time spent in Marlboro South and Alexandra’s East Bank.
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Monday – 10:14 _ Forest Town

Pack my stuff: Two pair of socks; two pieces of underwear; jeans; one sweater; one t-shirt; two notebooks; some pens and pencils; camera; lighter; torch; toothbrush and toothpaste; towel; and my basketball ball.
Try to fit everything in one backpack. Done!
Backpack on my back and start riding my bicycle. 12.9 kms to go.
 
Monday – 11:02 _ Marlboro South
My family is waiting for me. They show me my room: space enough to open the door; a drawer; a double bed to share with the daughter (the other daughter is away, so we will be just two in the bed); a luggage fit into the 40cm between the bed and the wood wall that separates us from the neighbours.

 

 
Monday – 15:37 _ Vasco de Gamma / 7th Street
 
Off for my research.

 

 

 
Monday – 18:36 _ Marlboro South
 
I come back home after a full research day. The ladies are standing around a fire on the street. The men are around another fire across the road. Electricity is gone. All in a sudden a explosion next to us shocks us. Electricity seems to be back. Everybody goes home and starts cooking dinner.

 

 
Monday – 21:12 _ From Marlboro South to Alexandra
 
Mapula comes to my home. She wants me to go with her friends in Alexandra. They cannot believe an mlungu is staying here.

 

Monday – 23:27 _ From Alexandra to Marlboro South
 
Back home. Mossi comes with us. No one on the street. The fires are not burning anymore.A police car rushes down the street. It stops. It reverses. The policemen inside opens the window. Looks at me.Policemen – Everything ok?

Mossi – Yes, everything sharp

(The policemen keeps on staring at me)

Me – Yes, everything ok

They leave and we go to bed.

 

 
Tuesday- 05:00 (aprox) _ Marlboro South
 
Marlboro wakes up. I don’t.
 
Tuesday – 07:00 (aprox) _ Marlboro South
 
Laud music starts playing behind the wood wall at the room next t me. Will be like that all day.
 
Tuesday – 08:16 _ Marlboro South / Marlboro Gardens
 
I meet again Petronella at the spaza they opened at the fence that separates Marboro South to their neighbourhood, Marlboro Gardens. She invites me for lunch on Wednesday.
 
Tuesday – 10:02 _ From Marlboro South to UJ University
 
I must go to work. Cycle down to Pan Africa. Leave my bicycle at somewhere safe and take a taxi. 30 minutes and  R11 after I’m in city centre.
 
Tuesday – 18:37 _ UJ University
 
Work takes long. I take the advice of my friends of not walking alone at Alexandra after dark. I won’t make it to come back today.
 
Wednesday – 15:14 _ Marlboro South
 
I pump up my basketball ball. About 10 kids come to our courtyard and take it over.
 
Wednesday – 18:33 _ Marlboro South
 
Having dinner with my host family in front of TV when a big explosion happens. Electricity is gone again (they told me it was gone yesterday night too). Somebody was trying to connect to the network, he should go to a doctor.
Fires start burning in the street. Furniture makers are still working at the corner  around a fire. Everybody meets around the fires and talk until time to go to bed.
 

 

 

 

Wednesday – 22:07 _ Marlboro South
 
Fires stop burning. People go to bed.

 

Thursday- 02:00 (aprox) _ Marlboro South
 
Somebody wakes up up singing loud. The neighbours make him shut up.
 
Thursday- 02:40 (aprox) _ Marlboro South
 
A lady wakes us up screaming next door. Somebody get into her place and stole the cables. The TV is still there.
 
Thursday- 05:00 (aprox) _ Marlboro South
Marlboro wakes up. I don’t.
 
Thursday – 07:00 (aprox) _ Marlboro South
 
Loud music starts playing behind the wood wall at the room next t me. Will be like that all day.
 
Thursday – 07:30 _ Marlboro South
 
I wake up and have breakfast my host family in front of TV.
 
Thursday – 18:29 _ Marlboro South
Today we have electricity. I have a bath in my room, inside a bucket. We have dinner in front of TV. I come back to my room and start reading.
 
Thursday – 19:56 _ Marlboro South
Electricity is gone again. Fires start burning in the street. Furniture makers are still working at the corner  around a fire. Everybody meets around the fires and talk until time to go to bed.

 

 

Friday- 05:00 (aprox) _ Marlboro South

Marlboro wakes up. I don’t.
 
 
Friday – 07:00 (aprox) _ Marlboro South
Laud music starts playing behind the wood wall at the room next t me. Will be like that all day.
 
Friday – 07:30 _ Marlboro South
I wake up and have breakfast my host family in front of TV.
Friday- 05:00 (aprox) _ Marlboro South
Marlboro wakes up. I don’t.
Friday  – 07:00 (aprox) _ Marlboro South
Laud music starts playing behind the wood wall at the room next t me. Will be like that all day.
 
Friday – 18:28 _ Marlboro South
Sun is gone. People starts drinking in Marlboro South. I have dinner in front of TV with my host family and go outside to meet the rest around the fires.
Mapula and Taspitxu want to take me out on party to Alexandra. We get into Taspitxu’s car and start the route all over Alex.
Saturday– 02:11 _Somewhere in Alexandra
Every time we get into a new place people looks at me as if an alien had just come in. After the shock, they are happy to meet me. Many of them have seen me around with the bicycle or playing basketball. “What are you doing here???”
After visiting 5 different bars around Alexandra the party is over. People works tomorrow. Taspitxu left us on our third bar. The fifth one closes. Workers on the bar kick the clients out. They leave Mapula and me and all the people who wants to protect me be the last ones to get out.
Once on the street everybody wants to help us go home. “Don’t trust the others”. We get into a taxi and go home. Great night!
 
Saturday– 02:40 _ Marlboro South
Mapula stays in my place. Tonight we will be three in the same bed.
Saturday- 05:00 (aprox) _ Marlboro South
Marlboro wakes up. I don’t.
Saturday  – 07:00 (aprox) _ Marlboro South
Laud music starts playing behind the wood wall at the room next t me. Will be like that all day.
Saturday– 08:31 _ Marlboro South
I wake up. Marlboro South is hangovered, drunk and working. Will be a long day today.
Saturday– 19:56 _ Alexandra
After dinner Mapula takes me back to Alex to his friend place. We hear music before entering the courtyard. It is one neighbours birthday and are making a shangana party to celebrate it.
 I first do not dare to join a party I am not invited in. I spy as much as I can behind the door.

My friends want me to go outside.After the “mlungu shock”  I am immediately welcome into the party.
Sunday – 00:33 _ Marlboro South
The party is over and we are tired. We go to bed.
Sunday– 01:00 (aprox)_ Marlboro South
Some five gun shoots wake us up. It sounded far from our wood wall. We keep on sleeping.
Sunday – 09:13_ Marlboro South
I wake up. Marlboro South is hangovered and drunk. It will be a long half day.
Sunday – 10:30_Marlboro South and AlexandraMy friend comes to discover the area. We start at Marlboro South and end up in Alexandra. We are fascinated by a double story house. The owners let us in and show us the house. They built the extensions themselves.

 

Sunday – 15:46_ Marlboro South
After saying goodbye to all my new friends I put my backpack again on my back and start cycling out of Marlboro South.
Sunday – 17:07_ Forest Town 
Back to the silent suburb totally sweat. Switch on the light, the heater put some water to worm up for my coffee and have a warm shower.