khayelitsha, south africa 2008 – part 1

There are a few reasons why people maybe wondering why I didn’t write live from ths years Niall Mellon Township Trust journey. Firstly, it was impossible, for me and secondly they had a live blog here from every team there which gave a better overall picture. I was of course only one of over 2,000 people. For those who don’t know the story read the Irish township story here. I also had briefly touched on it here.

And so on to my story, my experience. I was of course one only of so very many….

We left a cold Dublin airport on the morning of the 27th November 2008 and travelled onto Heathrow and from there to Cape Town through the night. The staff on the plane had heard of the travelling Irish. I met so many people en route; One man from Sligo who had only once or twice been out of Sligo and this was his first time on a plane. This was inspirational in itself. The excitement was brilliant.

At the airport Niall Mellon and a welcoming team was there. Once again, ‘he’ shook individually the hands of every person who passed through the airport and thanked every one of us.

We arrived into the heat of Cape Town and after a short journey to our hotels – we reconviened at ‘The Arches’. The central meeting point for the 2000 irish people. We were welcomed by some local musicians and traditional dancers from local children and then followed a rousing speech by Niall Mellon and Bishop Desmond Tutu both thanking us all for coming here and praising each and every one of us for the work we would do this week. It was appreciated. It was heart felt. It was emotional.

But we still had not seen the townships. One thing Niall explained was the translation of the word shantee. Coming from ‘sean’ [the old irish/ gaeilge] for old & ‘tí’ [pronounced tee – meaning house]. It was not until we saw the ‘seantí’ towns that we would realise why we were actually there.

The welcoming march was the eye opener. We walked tall. Everyone of us. Together. seperated only by the colour of our t-shirts. We brought the traffic to a stand-still. It was amazing. I imagined people going into work that mornng explaining why they were late and explaining that it was because over 2,000 irish people were walking the streets… 😉

The people cheered us on. People were dancing and singing  and thanking us all. I saw their homes, their businesses and their faimilies. They were happy.

We were talking that evening of the days events. One conversation was of what was back home. People say we have a recession back home – recession ?!! I really should be so greatful for what life has given me. This was an eye opener. Maybe one we all need, because life is good. In this context, life has been very good to me. If I am in the midst of a recession in Ireland – well then how fortunate am I ….?

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