Is this really Africa?
14.01.2010 - 30.01.2010 28 °C
Another year, another job adventure, another blog.
It took me some time to decide whether to write another blog like for Cambodia but after many encouraging words I decided to go for it again. I wasn't sure whether to do it again because last time I didn't get much feedback but that's how it goes with blogs. However, this time its possible for everyone to write comments without having to register, which I hope some of you do from time to time.
I've been in South Africa for 3 months now and so far been completely absorbed by all the new impressions, people and things to organise. This is why this comes a little late but I also had to get my head around everything and develop my own view of how to see things and how to write about them. Still, I'm often not sure yet what perspective to take as you'll see.
I arrived together with another colleague I already knew from the preparation in Germany and who works in Lesotho. We met in Frankfurt airport and checked heaps of luggage in before embarking on the 11h flight to Johannesburg. I'm not a friend of long haul night flights really...
Arrival at Jo'burg Airport
When we eventually arrived at 9am, we were picked up by a colleague and driven to Pretoria. My first impressions in the airport and then on the road (they drive on the left here!) were along the lines of:
- there is road construction and building sites everywhere - a lot to finish until the football starts
- there is a LOT of traffic and some very unconventional driving methods (read: nobody really sticks to the rules)
- I thought they only had 6 lane highways in the US...? Apparently not!
- most drivers seem to be white people in new and big cars
- is this really Africa???
Lost contrstruction worker?
To be honest, it was a bit of a shock arriving here between Jo'burg and Pretoria, which clearly is the most densely populated area in South Africa. Probably about 1/5 of the population live here and it really feels like a different planet from the rest of the country. In the city, it looks like a mix between US and some European culture and maybe a little bit of Africa. But there are also big differences between different areas of the city and even though Apartheid officially ended in 1994, its still very present in the way people live here. There are many distinct upmarket "white" residential areas with neat houses with gardens and pools and surrounded by walls, gates and electric fences. Black people live in other areas of town or outside in the townships, coloured people again in other areas. Of course there are exceptions but the general pattern is clearly visible.
Pretoria Church Square
As long as I hadn't found my own place, I stayed in a shared house with other colleagues. This was also in an enclosed security compound where all the houses look the same and you don't see your neighbours very often. It is a requirement for all of us in the major cities to live in a compound like this but I didn't really want to feel enclosed behind walls and fences and eventually managed to find a lovely house with a wild garden and no fence (but in a security complex) where I settled in quite nicely.
Social life in the city is often centred around what's on offer in the numerous shopping malls but the longer I live here, the more I get to know the 'nice' spots as well, like cool cafes, bars, parks, etc. and by now I refined my views a little bit - there is a lot of nice nature within short distances from the city.
I've also been on a couple of trips to the coast, which was really great - there are many pics in my photo gallery and I'll write more about it in another story SOON (I promise!).
Take care everyone, sunny greetings,