From Prison to Superstition: Rural Africa 101

Where can I reflect on life, find out my future, and meet the most down-to-earth people? A South African village homestay, of course. 

My host bro Lwandle and I make a great band! Here he is with a drum I brought him from Indonesia.

After 6 weeks in Durban, it’s time to move on! Before flying to Cape Town for my news media internship, I spent a week livin’ it up in a village not far from Durban. Besides sleeping 10 hours a day (how did I do that?), tossing my basic Zulu phrases at locals, and adjusting to outdoor loos, this goody tooshoo Christian consulted a local fortunate teller, went to a prison, and heaven forbid—had to navigate her lost self home without Google Maps!

Read below for my South Africa Rural Life 101:

Rural life is… a foodie’s delight

My plates here in the village have been absolutely stacked with food! They often have pap, a corn-based porridge, or rice as the staple. My host family also dishes out pickled beets, potato salad, and some form of chicken. Come breakfast time I count on cornflakes, and for snacks there’s fresh apples and bananas. Custard and biscuits (cookies) make their way for dessert. Don’t you love home cookin’?


Rural life is… the natural life

I love rhinos!!!

The village is a hiker’s paradise. Why? For every road that exists, there’s always shortcut paths that cross through farm fields and homes. And did I mention I’m staying near the ocean? That means BEACHSIDE HIKES!!!

I’ve also spotted numerous wild animals during my rural homestay. I took a day croc and hippo cruise at Saint Lucia Estuary before going on a game drive in Hluhluwe iMfolozi Park. There I saw giraffes, zebras, antelope, and the #1 animal in the world I’ve yearned to find: rhinos!


Rural life is… a mystical fright

At the village I visited a sangoma, a traditional South African fortune teller. Here’s how her fortune-telling visits go:

  1. You enter a dimly lit hut and sit down on a mat. The sangoma is sitting on an adjoining mat with 6 candles, a plate of burning incense, and a bag of bones in front of her. She appears to be praying.
  2. The sangoma greets you and asks for your first and last name.
  3. The sangoma aggressively yawns, utters words you don’t understand, stirs the incense, and then tosses the bag of bones across the hut’s floor.
Getting my fortune told by a legit sangoma (traditional Zulu fortune teller) was one of the most unique experiences I’ve had. Thankfully most of my fortune was positive!

This is how the sangoma speaks to the ancestors. Then comes the fortune telling part, which she interprets from the bones’ positions. In my case, however, she didn’t examine the bones until after she moved her boob up and down. Her boob pains prompted her to say something about my family life, and it was spot-on. I nodded wide-eyed, almost believing in her magic, when her phone rang. She answered it.

When she got off the phone I started to doubt her. Nevertheless, her future-tellings weren’t too far-fetched…besides me becoming bisexual. She affirmed that I’d been deeply affected by my grandparents’ deaths on my mom’s side (true!) and prophesied that one day I’d develop migraine headaches like my mom (not unlikely).

What sealed my half-faith in the lady was her claim that she’s a Christian who deciphers between praying to God and consulting the ancestors. Maybe our ancestors might know something after all!


Rural life is… within a prison’s sight

Besides having my fortune told during my rural getaway, I visited a prison. Mtunzini Correctional Facility is an all-male prison for inmates with sentences of 5 years or less. My task there was to talk with inmates as part of the Phoenix Prison Program, an organization that helps inmates reflect on what put them behind bars and consider their plans for after their release.

I was disgruntled by numerous things during my 2 days there. Inmates often had to share razors, didn’t have enough soap, and weren’t allowed to pursue any education.

Though many inmates endured less-than-ideal conditions, I found them inspiring. They helped me to appreciate the little things in life. Like rice. An inmate remarked how long it had been since he’d eaten rice. The inmates also taught me that there’s no excuse for lack of creativity. My last day there they put on a talent show by rapping, rubber boot drumming, and reading original poetry. The different buttons, zippers, and pockets on each of their orange prison suits was another testament to their inventiveness!


Rural life is… The Life

One of life’s simplest pleasures is chewing a piece of sugar cane and tasting its sweet juices.

My rural homestay was relaxing and refreshing, but why was it so great? Locals greeting me with “sawubona,” my 8-year-old host brother and I singing and drumming together, and the Generations soapie playing on my TV every night at 8; learning to accept the bucket method of bathing; brushing my teeth under the stars, the frogs hopping between my feet; and realizing how charming and priceless the rural life is.




As always, there’s more photos! My experiences may best be described below…

First from my rural getaway:

My rural host family (from left): Thulani, Lwandle, me, and Zinhle.
The day before my safari, my friend Nell and I hiked at Amatikulu Nature Reserve where we saw these giraffes.

And these are my final Durban memories:

I won a chilli-eating competition! Here I am alongside my fellow heat-lovin’ competitors at the Mumbai Spiceworks Chilli-Eating Contest in Durban. Sad fact: the guy on the far right shed tears after losing.
I missed strawberry season in my hometown, but made sure to make it for South Africa’s! Preparing strawberry shortcake for my Durban host family meant my great-grandma’s recipe is spreading to a whole new continent!
I’m obsessed with everything about India. That’s why meeting Ela Gandhi, Mahatma Gandhi’s granddaughter, made me so happy!
This is bunny chow, a Durban specialty inspired by its Indian community. It’s a loaf of bread cut open and filled with bean or meat curry inside.
After doing the Monster Veggie Burger Challenge at one of Durban’s Indian restaurants, I got the feeling that competitive eating may be in my veins.
Here I am with the Super Burger employees on Florida Road, Durban’s hip dining destination. After not getting a good enough wifi signal at other places, these guys gave their secret wifi password to me…and a complementary slice of cheese!




3 thoughts on “From Prison to Superstition: Rural Africa 101

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