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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Happy (07/12/07)

TITLE: Celebration in Shanty Town
By Debbie Roome


Jabulani ran from shack to shack, each a hodgepodge of dull iron, torn plastic and faded plywood. “They’re here!” he shouted. “They’re here.” The settlement seemed to burst to life, an exotic bird lifting grey feathers to reveal marigold, teal and violet. “Come!” he exhorted. “Follow me!”

The residents, still pulling on shirts and shoes, stumbled out of doorways, their voices bubbling in excitement as they wove across muddy pathways.

“Is it true?”
“Have they really come this time?”
“Where are they, Jabulani?”

By this time, the young boy had a snake of humanity following him. A rope of gleaming ebony skin and vibrant smiles. A woman near the back started the singing, a traditional hymn of thanks, a swelling of melody as others joined with rich harmonies and deep emotion.

Jabulani halted the people near the perimeter of the shanty town. Men in work overalls were clustered around, setting up digging equipment, unloading pipes, lugging fat bags of dusty cement. He flashed white teeth at the crowd behind him. “I told you they were here.”

The people formed a loose semi circle around the workers and listened as they explained what they would be doing. “The government has sent us to bring fresh water to your settlement. We’ll be laying pipes and drains and by this afternoon, there’ll be six taps ready for use.” The crowd erupted in a cheer and swayed happily as the woman led another hymn of praise.

Hours passed and still the workers had an audience as they laboured under the fierce sun. Shy women who offered cooked maize meal; bright-eyed children who squatted in the dirt; eager teenagers who helped wheel loads of stone and sand, and men, grateful the government had kept its promises. They chatted amongst themselves.

“This is a happy day for us.”
“Clean water will mean better health for our children.”
“Our women will be pleased too. No more tramping to the river.”

By 4pm, the job was nearly done. A row of six, silvery taps poked out of damp soil and the workers knelt, pouring quickset cement around their bases. Skillfully, they tamped it down and smoothed it into a rectangular pavement. Nearby, a queue of woman stood waiting, buckets on their heads, patient, expectant, happy smiles draped from ear to ear.

“Wait a while before you use the taps.” The head-worker instructed them. “The cement will be dry in half an hour.” The women nodded as the workers packed their equipment and drove off towards the city.

The sun dribbled dying rays as the older women started fires and sweet-smelling smoke curled across the jumbled skyline. “We need water to cook.” They called out. “Are the taps ready to be opened?” In response, one of the younger women reached out and twisted a silver star. Clear liquid splattered into her bucket, burping air, spraying drops, until pure, crystal streams poured forth.

Immediately, they broke into song again, a song of jubilation which spread across the settlement. It was a time for rejoicing, a time for happiness and thanksgiving for a life-giving fountain had been birthed in their midst.

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Member Comments
Member Date
Kristen Hester07/19/07
Oh wow. This gave me happy goose bumps. How shallow I now feel that I was thinking of things like pedicures and bubble baths when I thought of happy. You have truly captured Happy. I can picture the village, the people, the workers, the smiles. I love it.
Helen Paynter07/19/07
Great message, and very visual, evocative writing. I love it!
Joanne Sher 07/20/07
What an amazing take on this topic - makes me so appreciative of the "necessities." Your descriptions are so vivid.
Dee Yoder 07/20/07
Having a household without water for just 3 days during an ice storm showed me how much clean water meant to me! I can imagine how much it would mean to a village that hasn't ever had fresh, flowing water. Great story!
Verna Cole Mitchell 07/21/07
With your wonderful word pictures, you took us right into the village and let us share their joy.
Sara Harricharan 07/23/07
You certainly captured "Happy" here! This is so authentic! I love the story, the descriptions and especially the ending with the "Silver star" Great job! ^_^
Dixie Phillips07/24/07
Wow! Talk about putting life into perspective. This has got to be a contender indeed!
Sharlyn Guthrie07/24/07
I need to be reminded that I take many things for granted...things that would make others extremely happy. Thanks for this beautifully written reminder.
Dolores Stohler07/25/07
I truly enjoyed this glimpse into the life of an African village. Clean water is so essential to life but Americans tend to take it for granted. Having travelled in the 3rd World and seen the poverty, I make it a priority to daily thank God for clean water, good food and a roof over my head. Thanks for writing this.