I reached into my money pouch and removed four fifty dollar bills and handed them to the bearded man leading the shark diving excursion. The five of us piled into the van, a moving billboard covered with sharks and telephone numbers, and set off for Gransbaai.
Silence filled the virtually empty vehicle as we were not only exhausted from the previous night’s activities, but quite nervous to soon be diving in cold waters with hungry, sharp-toothed sharks. I sat alone in the third row window seat and held my freckled knees up under my chin. Pulling the sleeves of my blue sweatshirt over my sweaty palms, I cocked my head in order to stare out the tinted window at the quickly changing scenery. Trying to ignore the subtle reflection of myself, I gazed beyond the concrete highway and into the fenced in neighborhoods. The bustling cars and makeshift blockade did a sub-par job at masking the devastation that lay in the area. I sat up a bit straighter and craned my neck to see the shacks, the debris and the people whizzing by.
Pangs of guilt and discomfort crept into my stomach as I continued to stare at the homes made of colorful planks of materials that undoubtedly provided poor protection from any type of threat. Although still inside the van, I feared breathing too deeply in fear of blowing one over. From the road, the shacks looked so small and so short it was hard to believe more than one person could fit inside. I surely would be too tall for such a structure.
In an effort to picture living inside the shacks, I closed my eyes and found myself in a small playhouse from my childhood that was filled with cobwebs and was only five feet high. Lost in my own imagination, I was desperately trying to understand the townships at my fingertips. Although I felt safe from ridicule behind the tinted glass of the shark diving van, I felt ashamed. I sat comfortably on my way to a touristy adventure while I watched children playing soccer with an empty soda can on the side of the road. Although shark-diving seemed like the perfect adventure, I am sure my two hundred dollars could have been better spent as aid for the townships.
— Patty Meegan