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The Problem with Normality - A Look at a South African Township

When something becomes normal you stop noticing it. When you first learned to tie your shoelaces, you noticed every single step of tying them. You noticed because you were trying to remember what to do. Today you can tie your shoelaces without thinking. So you don't notice what you're doing.

When something becomes normal you stop noticing it.

When you first learned to tie your shoelaces, you noticed every single step of tying them. You noticed because you were trying to remember what to do.

Today you can tie your shoelaces without thinking. So you don't notice what you're doing.

If you grew up in poverty and walk into a rich household, you will notice how different it is. Likewise, if you grew up in riches and walk into a poor household, you will notice how different it is.

If, however, you stay in a poor household for a while, even though you grew up in riches, you will seize to think about it.

Once you've adjusted to something, it becomes normal to you. It's similar to falling in love - once the stage of getting to know someone is over, it's only too easy to make them part of the scenery. Which is why we have to practice to pay attention; we have to remember that our time with someone is limited. Likewise, we have to remember what we can do to make our time with someone even better than it is. As soon as we stop paying attention, we forget.

Becoming aware of our own thoughts is hard because they're normal to us. If you always felt inferior when walking into a crowd, you won't even notice you do so. It's normal to you, even if there is no reason for you to feel inferior, just as there is no reason for you to freak out before a date, be stressed at work, or get nervous when doing public speaking.

Normality is simply what we're used to. And once we're used to it, we stop paying attention to it. It goes unseen. Even our own thoughts. Maybe ever so often something alerts us to the fact it isn't what it should, or could, be. Maybe we don't have to accept feeling terrified when we are in a crowd of people. But to change our thoughts requires work. And for some reason it seems our brain is more comfortable not changing. It's like a workout - we know it'd do us good, but it requires effort. Much easier to sit at home on the couch being miserable.

I work in a township in South Africa. Hangberg, it's called. It's in the outskirts of Cape Town, in a suburb called Hout Bay. Stunning place. Stunning landscape. It's a place filled with natural beauty and fruitful soil. Tourism abounds. There's an ocean filled with fish. The climate is temperate, if windy. Even if you don't have a lot of money it's a place where you could live a good life.

Yet, what you will find in this township is alcoholism, drug addiction (mainly to "tik," or crystal meth as it's also known as), rape, unplanned pregnancies, HIV, prostitution, incest, depression, poor diet, domestic violence, criminality and so forth.

The little ones. Before "normal" becomes normal.

To the people living there, that's normal. It's normal to suffer. The only things they might appreciate are things that take them away from the suffering momentarily. Often that's alcohol, drugs, or sex.

These people don't suffer to the extent they do because they have to, but because they've chosen to. They were likely never aware of making the choice though. That's the sad part. They just succumbed to normality. And so they ended up staying with the person who beats them at home, or who makes a living selling drugs.

I work with children in Hangberg and I can see them suffering because of the situation. They are still acutely aware that this isn't normal. They feel the pain in an entirely different way from the adults. They haven't given up yet. Still, they start acting out their wounds from an early age - they feel pain, so they start inducing pain. They are screaming out that something is wrong and that they are hurting. At the same time, they will be drawn to any adult that shows them love like moths to a flame, because that's what they truly want. That's what they need.

The children grow up too, though. And as they do they are blinded by their circumstance. They come to expect certain things. They come to believe that life in the township is normal. It's normal to have parents who beat you, get high and go to jail. It's normal to live surrounded by aggression and deprivation. And eventually it's normal to become the parent who beats kids, gets high and goes to jail.

These people have a choice, but just like we have a choice not to feel shy, scared, fearful, etc. in certain situations in life, but don't really notice, they've become so accustomed to it, they don't even realize there is a choice. Normality, sick as it may be, holds them in its deceptive prison. It's deceptive because it doesn't feel like a prison. It feels... normal.

Of course, education is also needed. You need to know the alternative route to be able to take it.

I'm on the board of two charities in Hout Bay - the Proudly Hout Bay Women's Forum and Little Angel's Community Center for Children and Youth. Both projects aim to shift the idea of normality to something else. To a better reality. One where health is in focus.


What I also work on though, is to check my own reality. Because sometimes, I'm only too blinded by my own sense of normality.

Here's a thought: nothing but happiness is normal. If you don't feel 100 percent satisfied with something, you need to do a mental workout to change either your own outlook, or the situation. Train yourself to notice when something doesn't feel right. No matter how "normal" it is.

Related Articles

It's really hot outside right now - and sometimes the question is, what are we going to do now to offer the kids something despite the heat? We have some tips for you, maybe you can use them with your little ones.

Water fun in the pool

We have a pool in the garden, but it is not very big, about 3 meters in diameter, in our eyes absolutely sufficient for a fun or quiet cooling. Surely you can not swim in it, but in order to "dive" for an object, or "water dances" or just to relax, it is definitely enough.

One should not forget that also in the water to the sun protection must be thought. That means, as in the outdoor swimming pool: do not forget to apply creams. In the best case, the pool is in the shade or is protected by a larger parasol. Ours is in the sun - we hold the children in strong heat and sun to regular water breaks, so that they can then stay in the shade. Sometimes they do not see it directly, but with some persuasion and an ice cream or drinking break, it works.

Water fun without pool

If you're hoping for a big jackpot, you also need to know that it can only be broken with the highest stakes. Only when you risk a high stakes, you can even with a direct hit the jackpot free games Super Hot Fruits. This also applies to progressive jackpots. Depending on how much money you have, you can choose according to the machine to budget.

Not everyone is in possession of a pool, has no garden or simply lacks the money for the purchase. Alternatively - as with us earlier - a small pool of water or an old bathtub can be set up and filled or even just a bucket of water, where it quickly sets the fun, namely, if you use small syringes and injected each other wet.


Or fills bombs and plays catching, at some point they are sure to break and depending on how cold the water is, in some the screaming is certainly great.

Do you have gradients on the property? Then try a waterslide. A tarpaulin is laid out, at best a slightly longer one, filling a bucket of water and sliding down with or without a butt-end slide. Or build a shower or a sprinkler, where you can also refresh yourself wonderfully. However, this is more likely if you can take the water from a well or rainwater collection tank. Tap water is too expensive.

To eat and drink

You should always encourage the children to drink. Of course, they only do it when they are thirsty, and then it is already too late. There is then already a lack of fluid in the body. For example, 10-year-olds should drink around 1.2 liters a day. In case of heat, sports or illness this need increases. Outdoors, the glasses or cups should always be capped, as there is a risk that bees or wasps will fly in. The safest are lockable plastic water bottles.

Our favorite drinks are:

  • water diluted with water
  • Springs of any kind
  • sometimes cold tea (fruit tea, slightly sweetened)
  • water

To eat at noon in such a heat often nothing hot, but rather fruit, pudding and cold dishes, cereals with fruit, yogurt, milk and other things, which falls into our hands.

What you can do with children when it's really hot

Summer is finally here, and that's right! In the meantime, if it's too hot outside for you, we have collected a lot of ideas for "cool" activities with big and small children - whether at home or on vacation.

If the outside temperature is more than 30 degrees Celsius and the sun is burning, you should do the same to the inhabitants of southern countries: stay inside during the day. Unfortunately, it is rarely as pleasantly cool in Central European apartments as in a Moroccan riad or Spanish patio.

Our hot-tip game tip: Turn on the fan and spray each other with a water atomizer - the wind adds a great deal of "glorious cool" factor and the spray is so fine that the floor does not get really wet (and slippery).

Funny for smaller children are also soap bubbles, tissue paper snippets or light cloths that can fly in the vortex of the fan; the elderly may try to keep folded aircraft in the air with the help of the fan.


Summer Idea Number one: bathing, splashing and swimming

On the beach and the sea you have to do without - or at least wait until it finally goes on vacation? Well, it would be too hot for your little ones anyway.

Even on the smallest balcony fits a wash basin for prattling. With watering can, pots and scooping tools, little children are busy for hours. And if it is too hot even there, just sit in the bathtub with your child.


Tip for shower-only users: An inflatable paddling pool can be squeezed into the lowest bath.


Do you have a yard or garden, where the temperatures are reasonably bearable, then you can declare this area to the water playground (a meadow in the park is of course also). A garden hose with spray attachment, a few water guns from the toy store (which should be sold out, Amazon often provides the very next day) and self-filled depth charges are the basic equipment for a day full of "Aqua Fun".

Your imagination knows no bounds: homemade glitter-glibber , bodypainting with finger paints or ice cube massage - you'll probably find more "cool stuff".


On the way in the city it gets really unbearable on hot days - the children sweat and nölen, playgrounds lie in the sun and on the slide one burns up the A ... In many cities public fountains offer a splendid refreshment.


Experience report thoroughly before you let your offspring climb into these facilities:

How is the soil under water - overgrown with slippery algae, sharp-edged or with tripping hazards?

What is the water quality? (if it is not drinking water, infants should not bathe here)

How strong are the fountains, is there a risk of injury or are the facilities even endangered by playing children? (You have the duty of supervision! If your children break something while you are supervising them, the liability insurance does not cover the damage.)

Are there signs or prohibitions for the use of the fountain? Where many tourists are traveling, bathing children are often not so welcome.

Is the fountain in the shade? When playing in the sun, while they are pleasantly wet, children do not notice the heat and get a quick sunburn or sunstroke.


For reasons you should not let your kids play naked in such actions; instead of a bathing suit or bikini, T-shirts and shorts get better, which you then exchange for dry ones. After all, you use the fountain quite by accident and not specifically as an outdoor pool, right?


By the way, much cooler than bathing lakes are brooks - if you come to one (in the city area many small watercourses are unfortunately completely embedded in concrete or laid underground), then enjoy the ice-cold foot bath.


If you really want to take a good bath, the early morning hours or the time just before the closing time are ideal for a visit to the outdoor pool. If you jump into the pool first, you will enjoy cool temperatures, more space and shade on the sunbathing lawn; the soil is not yet so heated and the ozone pollution of the air is still low.

After work or a kindergarten visit you are best left with a visit to the outdoor pool, even if you really want to swim. At 6 pm, most of the outdoor guests are slowly packing up, the area is empty and you can enjoy the water until the end.

Tip: pack a light picnic and have dinner in the bathroom. Then you can put your clean, well-fed and well-made children directly to bed at home.


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