Chapters 8 and 9 – Outside Zim Borders



Edited by Chris Walker


The raindrops were hitting hard on my head. Some were cascading on my face blurring my vision as I made my way to the bus stop one morning. It was raining heavily. This was my fourth day at work. I was alone, l wasn’t gonna wait for my cousin sister. The last time I did that we ended up walking a 5 km distance on foot because we were late. Our boss was very punctual. We were supposed to start work at 8am, so she would come to pick us at the station at ten minutes before eight, and if you’re late it means you will walk and your salary will be deducted. I wasn’t worried about the salary deduction because as a part time employee I was exempted. I was worried about the walking distance in the rain. So that day I was going to work alone. I had mastered all the things to do

1. stir your finger in circles to indicate that you want the taxi to pick you up.
2, as soon as you get off the taxi at the rank run or walk fast to join your queue😁😁 make sure you won’t hit people otherwise you don’t want to draw attention whilst you’re a foreigner.
3. never sit at the front in the taxi unless you have an ‘A’ in mathematics.
Sitting in front means you will be responsible for all the money and the changes so if you don’t know the language stay clear from the front seat.

I arrived at our picking point and waited in a Somalian shop since it was showering. I saw my cousin making her way down the foot bridge and I waved at her. She smiled at me.

“Mufana wakuziva manje wauya wega” ( little one you now know your way to work) she said that smiling and hugging me.

“I’m not that dumb😄 lol😄” I laughed.
“I can see that, so its already five minutes before eight let’s go”

Well the day went well and it was a Thursday.

“Hope the train will not delay today” said one of the coloured as we made our way to the platforms.

We were ditching the gate because they didn’t want to pay not me. I was willing to do every legal thing and follow all the rules but my colleagues here were teaching me new things.

There was a way were the security fence were cut. So we were to squeeze through that little gap and run through railway lines. There were four to five lines and the risk of being hit by a train was very high but seems like people didn’t care. That eight Rand for the ticket was more important than their lives.

Anyway we succeeded in dodging the security but then the train delayed. A lot of people were filling every space of the waiting area. In South Africa, train is the cheapest mode of transport so everyone opted for it.

So as a newbee I was observing everything at the train station. All the benches were full so we were sitting at the edge of the platform with our legs hanging out to the railway lines. The security came and warned us and he actually showed us the barrier line not that I haven’t seen it in the first place. I have seen that line and read the cautious but I was too tired to follow those rules.
Anyway the train came and my cousin sister Diana told me that I should get in the train faster.
“The train is going to stop for a minute only so make sure that you get in ten seconds or else you won’t make it” she warned me.

As soon as the train stops, people started to squeeze each other to get in. My cousin was already in the train shouting to me to get in. I tried to push people making my way to the door. The clock was ticking and after a long struggle I managed to get hold of a steel that was near the door. The train started to move. Only one foot was in the train. Someone was pulling my jacket from my back and cursing. The other one was pushing me out. I tightened my grip on that steel. My life was depending on that steel. The guy who was pulling my jacket was too heavy for me and I was chocking because he was pulling the collar. He was cursing me and I recognized his tone. He was coloured (historically, mixed-race people have been referred to as ‘coloured’ in SA). His life was depending on me and my jacket.

I flinched as I looked down on the railways. I gripped my hands harder to that steel with agitation. I could imagine falling down and having my body grinded by those hot steel that made the railways. I did a silent prayer for protection. I didn’t know how much longer I was going to hold on with my neck choking.

After a kilometer, I found a space to put my other foot. Actually I found myself inside the train. I sighed.

We arrived in Bellville and my cousin said we have to jump platforms and dodge the security again. I managed to climb on another platform with the help of one of the coloureds but the problem started when we were running down the steps to an underground gate way. I started feeling dizzy. I was telling myself to run in order to keep up with others but I couldn’t. I was feeling drowsy. I tried to make another step and I was hearing different voices saying ” hlala pantsi sis
(sit down sister).
People could see that I want to fall but I was fighting it. There was no way I was going to sit in the way. People were running from the security and I was supposed to keep up with my sister who was likely to be at the taxi rank already by the time I recovered.

When I told my sister she banned me from using the train. I was now afraid of trains. I started taking taxis to and from work.



Edited by Chris Walker


Saturday morning saw me getting prepared to hit the mall for the first time. I woke up early getting ready to go to the nearest mall which is Gugulethu mall. I had seen how big it is on my way to work. It shared the same area with the taxi rank. I had admired it and promised to take myself there one day. So today was the day I was going to explore it.

I told my sister that I’m visiting the mall. My uncle was at the parking area and I told him that I was leaving for the mall. He wasn’t impressed. He was scared that since I was still new I could get lost or kidnapped. He insisted that I should go with at least one of my nieces. Two of them were excited about the idea.

“I’m gonna drive you to the mall but when you’re coming back don’t get into any car. Only the Avanzas. They are called pella. You should check first who is inside. Don’t just get in a car with only men” he warned me. Well l had known of those cars. My cousin sister had told me about them.

My uncle took us to the mall and he dropped us in front of KFC. He gave us money to treat ourselves and he left for work.

The moment I stepped out of the car I started panicking. There were a lot of people and cars at the mall since it was weekend. I thought the idea of bringing these two kids were good but I was now scared of losing them. Honestly we just got into KFC and bought our food and left.
I asked my elder niece our home address but her answer couldn’t help. The drivers for Pella’s (small taxis) where screaming to us Uyaphi sisi ( where are you going sister). That phrase was the first I mastered when I arrived in Capetown. Did I tell you about language barrier? Oh I was suffering.

Luckily the kids were able to speak isiXhosa that was relieving.

“Uyaphi sisi ” another driver asked us.
“108” I replied
“Phi 108” he asked again.
“What?” I asked him “yooh sisi” he drove off.

“What was he saying” I asked my nieces .
“He said where are you going” she replied
” I heard that, but what did he say next?” I snapped

” I wasn’t listening mainini” she said that without even worrying.

Great. So we didn’t know were we stay. I only knew that its 108 but that was when you’re coming from Bellville. I didn’t even know the bus stop name but I was brave enough to utter the word Enkosi driver which means thank you driver whenever I got to my bus stop. Now I didn’t know what to say. Only one option left was to walk back home following the direction we came from. The kids seemed to be impressed by the idea. They seem to be familiar with the place. That gave me hope.

The walking was not easy because the kids were so eager to be somewhere I had no idea of so much that they were running and l had to follow suit and shout to them to keep walking in the sidewalk since we were using the busy road.

They were so happy to be out finally after spent most of their time inside the gate and at school. So I was suffering the consequences.

After walking for a kilometer we finally arrived were they were speeding off to – the park.

“Mainini we are going inside there. Its so exciting you won’t regret it. There is a pool there and some swings” said the elder niece.

“What? Have you ever been here before?” I asked surprised.
“Yes mainini used to take us here” the younger one said.

“No let’s go home first. We will get lost” I told them
“We will not get lost. We know how to get home from here” she said.

“How far are we from home” I asked
“Not far . let’s get inside” she said that running towards the gate and her sister was crying and ask her to wait for her.

As much as I was opposed to the idea, I followed them because they were the navigators that was supposed to take my clueless body back home dead or alive.

So the day eventually turned to be the kid’s day out. That was not bad since they were so excited about that.
We finally arrived home with me carrying another kid. Did I mentioned that it was supper hot?.

My sister was so worried and I explained to her that we were at the park. I left the walking part. I don’t know if I forgotten to tell her or I didn’t want her to know that I had walked the kids such distance in such hot weather.

Since my first day at the mall was ruined, I organised for another day. I wasn’t gonna tell anyone where I was going. I didn’t want any journey crashers.

So my uncle had told me some safety tips: Always tell someone where you’re going.
If you’re lost just tell the driver you’re going to 108. Ask the driver to drop you off at Mzoli (a famous place in Gugulethu). He actually drove us there to show me. It was a walking distance from where we stay. Approximately 300 to 400m from home.

When we went there I saw that it was a small but funny place. People were doing barbecues and drinking. Even some tourists you could see them there. So it is a famous place in Capetown.

So since now I wanted to go to the mall, that piece of information was going to work. I could now tell the driver to drop me at Mzoli and finish the journey on foot. Better that way.

Well I explored the mall. It was exciting. I even grabbed a burger at MacDonald’s as my niece had once suggested (see chapter 5). It was yummy. That day I was happy because I wasn’t going to walk a 3 km distance on foot.

I met my sister when I was walking from Mzoli that’s when I told her the truth that I didn’t know the name of our bus stop. She bursted with laughter. She couldn’t imagine that I could not ask for our bus stop.

Welcome to Capetown.


Once more I am very grateful to Pauline for choosing to tell her story on here! Eager to find out more about her experiences? Keep an eye out for more in the future👍

I am currently actively recruiting potential Trustees for Friends of Pakati as we are set to move towards a more formal footing. I have had 2 highly promising replies so far (more details later) and have asked others to see if they are interested. I think at this early stage, we dont need too many, either 3 or 5. I will naturally be one of the Trustees myself. An odd number is best for when issues need voting on.

The booklets for the Form 4 students at Pakati and Chanetsa Secondary schools are now being prepared, as it appears Vari at VaTonatsa Foundation, our partners in this venture, has now acquired all the relevant subject materials to proceed. All being well, delivery will be next weekend. A full report encompassing VaTonatsa’s review, along with delivery to the schools and comments from stakeholders and supporters, will be published soon after the delivery is complete.


My name is Chris Walker, and between January 1989 and September 1991 I worked, through VSO (Voluntary Service Overseas), at Pakati Secondary School in Murehwa South district in Zimbabwe. I was a Maths teacher for 2 years, the Acting Head for the last 8 months there. I have also taught in Botswana & the UK, had 4 years working for VSO, and have been a Civil Servant in Bradford since 2005.

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