I am always dreading the annual Durban trip. This year is worse because they made me go with the Grade 8 students. They are too eager, and too excited about everything; high school, boys, trips etc. Even teaching them is a mission; it feels like grade one on steroids. It's bad enough that I have to stand in front of them and try to give them information. Some seem completely blank while others bombard me with endless questions. The worst part is having to pretend like you know what you’re talking about. Why did I become a teacher if I hate it so much? Well, it was either that or I become a nurse. We don’t have many options where I’m from. Government sponsors education or health above everything else so we basically get free education if we venture into those departments.
I know that voice. Sigh.
“Buyisiwe,” I say as I turn to face her. She is a very beautiful child, loud and very clever. She’s too smart for her own good.
“I don’t think you should go to Durban with us today,” she sounds sad or concerned, I’m not sure but she’s just not her usual self.
“Why not, MaNdaba,” I ask even though I’m scared of what she might say.
“I had a bad dream…”
I knew it! She has crazy visions. I think it's a result of her wild imagination.
She continues, “You were pulled by a huge wave and you screamed and we couldn’t help you”
Sigh. “We will pray and make sure it doesn’t happen. Don't worry your pretty face about that, go join the queue outside or you will be left behind.”
I am expecting her to contest but she doesn't. She runs off and joins a group of loud teens eager to finally go to Durban. Buyisiwe Ndaba is a special child. She is smart, reads books I’ve never set my eyes on. My colleagues told me her parents are both very smart; an engineer and a town planner. Clearly they are from rich families to afford such qualifications. I once asked why she wasn't going to a model C school like other rich kids, she told me her parents wanted her to go to the same school as they did. This weekend will be the longest of this year, as I enter the bus full of noisy teenagers and drinking teachers. I’m the only female teacher going and will meet another one in Durban; she was on leave but agreed to help with the children.
Durban is hot and the children love it. Our first stop was the famous radio station and the kids shouted their names. We arrived too early in the morning to start anywhere else. I don’t think I have ever seen them so happy and they are even better looking without their uniforms. Second stop was a boat cruise; this group is not as troublesome as I expected. They are obedient, maybe it's because they are scared of getting lost. My female colleague suggested we get them lunch at the workshop shopping center. We are very lucky to have someone who knows the place very well and that is not drunk at 11 o’clock in the morning – male teachers are such a waste! So here we are at the workshop and there is an event of some sort, just great! We order bunny chows for the children and they are delighted as usual. The three male teachers joined the crowd while Miss Zondo and I wait for the children to finish eating their food.
“Can I get ice cream?” Buyi says appearing from behind me. She is in Miss Zondo’s group but she doesn’t seem to be comfortable with her or perhaps she is worried a wave might take me.
“Don’t go too far, Buyisiwe. Buy that ice cream and come back here, okay?”
She runs off. Sigh. I have to keep checking her, there is no way she will follow my orders. I have to admit though; Buyi’s dream/vision has been haunting me. Maybe it's because I’m scared of water; how embarrassing! I slowly walk out of the shop towards the ice cream stalls, I notice Buyi walking with some girl. I did say this child will never listen to instructions. I don’t follow, I just keep my eyes on them, and if anything happens I’ll go there. My eyes wonder around the crowd; I see Mr Mpanza chatting up some girl – young enough to be his daughter – nothing new there. There are a lot of people here looking excited, whoever is performing today must be really loved around here. Except that guy… He looks rather odd, nervous. Standing a few meters from the stage; he is wearing pale jeans, a woolen hat, gloves…is that a gun? Is that a bomb? Maybe I watch too many movies, I look away. My better judgement won’t let me. I look at him again; it's a gun! Without thinking I rush towards Buyi and her stranger friend.
“Buyi! Come back here! Damn this child will give me grey hair before my time!” I’m screaming trying to shove past the crowd.
I turn to look at the guy with the gun… where he was standing, and he’s not there. I can’t see him. I check for Buyi; a huge crowd is running towards me now. I don’t see her or the woman she was with. There is a lot of smoke coming from where that man was standing, that didn’t sound like a gun. That was… Where is Buyi? I try to force through the crowd but they are too many and too strong. They are pushing me backwards. I’m hearing gunshots now; there is a stampede. I turn around to go with the crowd but I’m too late, I fall. I can’t allow them to step on me, I crawl between their legs until I’m next to a body. She’s bleeding and she’s…
Lord this isn’t supposed to happen.
She’s shot… She’s… It can’t be! Lord, please no!
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