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Africa South Africa

Making Beer in a Cardboard House

“They want you to see how they live and that they are making it despite all the odds,” the tour director said as he took us on a visit to see creative, successful small businesses in Cape Town, South Africa.

Two ladies from the Xhosa tribe in South Africa, faces whitened with calamine lotion, invited us into their home where they were making beer in old oil drums and selling the home brew by the gallon to anyone who would buy it. Turns out, 12 men sitting outside their house did drink the custom brew and they drank and drank and drank as they passed the bucket and each one took a huge sip until they passed out.

Then our tour group was invited to have a seat inside the 15×15 foot house for a visit. I sat on a wooden bench near the door and leaned back to relax on the wall. And when I did, I almost fell through the house. It was then that I realized the house walls were made of cardboard. And as I looked around, I saw the roof was plastic and the floor was dirt. As we visited, the 2 ladies offered all of us a gallon bucket full of beer to sip on and all agreed the home brew was good.

Several doors down, we visited a sheep-head barbecue business, where the split heads were cooked open butterfly-like on an old oil drum and customers loved them. The fire and home was made from scraps of wood obtained anywhere possible and the sheep heads were obtained free from the local meat plant. From these heads, the family was making it.

We met a man selling souvenirs from his street stand and a lady selling fruit inside her concrete block store, which was built to provide permanent shops for these businesses. But there were more “temporary” shops than permanent ones.

The final visit was with the medicine man and, as I entered his home, I couldn’t see a thing, including the medicine man. But when I took a flash photo, I got a picture of a wooly haired cave man-type person in a fur cap with all of his potions, animal parts and furs stuffing the room almost to capacity. It was a grand, heart-warming tour of people making it in the Langa Township slums of Cape Town, South Africa.

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