The Nodars kindly introduced me to the Masiphumelele Library. Over the following weeks, I visited the library to work as a math tutor with Ikamva Youth’s participants, play chess, and help with a couple of websites. On my last Sunday in Cape Town, I visited Masiphumelele’s Anglican Church and was blown away by the Xhosa service and music.

Masiphumelele, also known as Site 5 in Fish Hoek, was originally an apartheid settlement for about 8,000 people. In recent years, it has expanded through informal housing to three times that population. A recurring problem is shack fires that sweep through the community, devouring the wooden shacks before fire crews arrive. I read about one of these fires the first time I heard of Masiphumelele in 2008, and they happen every year. The government’s response (to those whose shacks are formally registered) is to provide care packages, which include four wooden posts and five sheets of corrugated metal so that families can rebuild shacks according to the same fire-prone design. The most recent fire in Masiphumelele, at the beginning of May, killed one resident and left two thousand homeless. Seven of Masiphumelele’s Ikamva Youth participants lost everything they had.

Everett Blaze

Smoke from a scrapyard fire in Everett

There was a large fire at an Everett scrapyard on Sunday.  I saw the smoke plume driving back from Middlesex Fells and figured it must have been pretty bad.  Luckily nobody was hurt.