His demeanour exuded optimism as he addressed a group of eager teenagers.
“Today I want to share with you a story of the drought in 2015. The year when rainfall averaged 403 mm in South Africa. A pittance in comparison to recordings since 1904, which yielded the average rainfall results at 608 mm.”
Pausing to take in the confused expressions on the faces in front of him, Anderson continued.
“At the time, I lived in a one bedroom house with my Gogo, our walls were naked, not even a lick of paint! We had no running water apart from the outside tap, placed at the back of the house, next to the outside toilet.
On the radio, regular warnings were being issued of the water restrictions, level two as I recall. Yet all I could think was how irrelevant it was to the community in which I lived. I mean how much water could one waste with only one tap. Our water was already restricted to three kettle fulls a day. One for a morning wash and coffee. One for a quick splash before bedtime, and one for cooking and dishes? Then of course our weekly laundry that my Gogo washed in hand basin filled with water twice, one for washing and the other for rinsing.”
The gasp from the teenagers where audible, even though they were miles apart, shocked that the man in front of them grew up in such depriving conditions.
“My Gogo, being the responsible woman that she was, took heed of these restrictions. She implemented various water saving methods that she became accustomed to in the suburbs where she worked as a Domestic. She placed a brick in the toilet cistern, and instructed me to only flush after a number two. “We have to do our bit” she would say.”
Looking into the camera, Anderson smiled, and continued.
“A few days after the water restrictions were implemented my Gogo arrived home with purple flowers wrapped in wet newspapers. I remember thinking her insane to have travelled in two taxis and a train with this! She said it was for the garden. All the while all I could think was, why bother planting something so beautiful on a property that was so arid; surrounded by littered streets?
I was only twelve years old. I thought I knew it all, but I kept quiet and observed her as she dug a hole outside, next to our front door. Talking to you now, I can still smell the dust, as she dug, while I watched from the open door.
There she was, a woman in her fifties, down on her knees, planting this purple plant. It must have gone just after 6 pm, when she dusted herself off as she stood up from the ground. Smiling at the ground, she summoned me outside and asked me to dispose of my wash water on the plants that evening.
This, became my chore for as long as I lived with my Gogo. Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday evening I watered this plant while she pruned it.
As the years went by, this plant adorned the outside walls of our home, no longer left bare. Our house became the feature piece in our street. This filled me with great pride and admiration.
When it bloomed, our front yard exploded into an array of rich purple flowers while beautiful sounds filled our ears as hummingbirds and butterflies visited our home.
The change that this plant brought into our lives really puzzled me. It changed the atmosphere around us, and filled me with a thirst for knowledge. As the flowers bloomed, I too found myself wanting to explore the world outside of my immediate community. I found this opportunity in our local library where I consumed books like you won’t believe!
One of the first books I read was about gardening, specifically identifying this purple flower. The Bougainvillea. The more I learnt about it the more I could relate to it. Later in my life I became a Botanist. All thanks to my Gogo who invested in my education. Allowing me an opportunity to reach my fullest potential and to explore the world beyond the limitations of my immediate environment.
She reminded me of this Bougainvillea, she brightened up my life and introduced me to a culture of nurturing and growing potential through planting this Bougainvillea at a time when we were being told to cut down on our water usage. A time during which most gardens died a miserable death, yet our Bougainvillea thrived!
My Gogo taught me that I should not restrict myself based on the limited expectations of others, but that I should always see the opportunity where others may only see obstacles. It is with these lessons in mind that I established the Bougainvillea Bursary Fund.
Today you are beneficiaries of my Gogo’s belief, today I present to you an opportunity to fulfil your potential. All I ask is that you not restrict yourself, but that you seek solutions where others may only see obstacles. Think, no restrictions on our potential”
The small conference room exhaled in applause as the teenagers, from diverse backgrounds, stood up in admiration of their benefactor, Anderson.
Logging off and looking at the blank screen, Anderson felt inspired and anxious. Walking back to his desk, reading through his draft presentation for the UN, focusing on the findings of his field research in East Africa. The impact of soil contaminants on the local plant life, research that he finalised in November 1947, decades after his Gogo introduced him to the Bougainvillea at the age of 12.
Every Thursday, until the end of January, I will share a post with you, a title challenge from a friend. Today was a bit difficult as it was a “post by photo” from Natalie Buttress. Let me know what you think of this fictional piece.
Whilst this post is fictional, I also want to draw your attention to the residential water restrictions in Cape Town, our current reality.