It’s been almost 5 months since my first step into Southern Africa. It’s so different from Morocco though, and at the same time many of my conceptions towards the continent has been challenged. It wasn’t as… frightening as I thought it would be. I didn’t see starving children, malnourished, mud cookies, which were part of my Geographical Imagination of the continent. It almost surprised me to see those huge supermarkets with shiny floors and rows of fresh fruits, french fries and meat and cakes and SUSHI behind the glass counters, tall air-conditioned malls, inter-city buses that were just like all the others – air-conditioned, sometimes promising wifi, with music occasionally blasting in the trip. Was I that ignorant, to feel this surprised? I suppose so. Nonetheless I do acknowledge that as a tourist, I saw the shiny bit of things.
Some things poignant to me was how my notion of animals have changed. Wild animals, not the ones I’m accustomed and largely exposed to, locked in the zoo. My notion of fearing wild animals, and the idea that I do not have to worry about HIV in my home country, and the large network of land transport services in my homeland, these were great.
Summing up my first evening in Johannesburg – emerged unscathed, had a Joburger, and listened to the various stories about getting and avoiding attacks/carjacks (18 times, he counted). Despite these, the driver and Peter both shared the sentiment that they enjoyed the energy of the city, and loved the city in ways – a ‘un-boring’ place amidst the ‘chaos’, they found a place for themselves.
Free education, free healthcare (even the HIV pills are provided by the government) unemployment benefits, pensions. 11 official languages.
Observing blacks speaking English, or Zulu (the next most common?) language to each other. Medium in schools dependent on which schools you go to.
So many cars, seemed like everyone had a car because of a lack of public transport systems. Didn’t see any bus stops around (although there were those mini-buses), nor motorbikes (too unsafe, Peter suggests).