Sunday, September 20, 2009

A Day in Jo'burg

I woke up super early this morning and I feel miles away from Cape Town, which now feels like home. I lucked out and was able to talk to Loren for a little bit before I left. I was nervous about not talking to him for five days, but now that I’m sitting her, I feel much more at ease.

Ivan picked us up around five and I was quickly reminded of the first night I arrived in Cape Town, though this time the scenery was much more familiar. Check in went on without a hitch though I did forget about my keys in my pocket and one of the security guys started engaging me in a conversation which I was trying to get through the check point. I’m still not used to that. I will be in my own little world, worrying about the next thing which in this case was just getting on the place so I could sleep when I suddenly I’m being talked to early in the morning and expected to engage. I must admit I got a little annoyed because I just wanted to sit down so I could semi-sleep but I suppose that’s a part of the American mentality: all business

The gates are all in one place, squeezed together and there are very few chairs for people to sit. But it worked fine. We first board a bus which then takes us to the plane: a very strange set up from what I’m used to. The flight was fine. I mostly slept. One thing I had noticed is that they play actual music on the plane as you board and get off the place which I love.

We land and I decide to finally open my eyes. Joburg is very ugly in comparison to CPT: no Table Mountain or any mountains at all as a matter of fact. But the airport is much nicer then what I’ve seen of CPT’s. We find our way through the airport and spot a Subway which I was so excited to see because I hadn’t seen one in CPT yet. Then we make it to where the public transport is and call for our free transport. The backpackers that we’re staying at is very close to the airport literally a stone’s throw way, but we would have never been able to find it on our own.

The guesthouse is so nice for R150/night which is under $20/night. There are three swimming pools, one small and two bigger ones, one of which has a slide and the other had a fun little island.

We check in and settle in a bit. The rooms are nice, tons of bed in one place with a kitchen, bathroom, living room: a really sweet set up for the price. I found it amusing that the kitchen was in the girl’s room but not the guys, yet the guy’s sheets were pink, purple and yellow...very masculine

Then we got sucker into going to the Apartheid Museum with this private tour guide. We had already planned to go just on our own but it worked out well. We paid only a little bit more which allowed us greater freedom.

Our guide was a proud Chinese man named Danny. Not a fan of Britain or America but a huge fan of China and the Dutch. He gave a really detailed account of the beginning of CPT which was great except for the fact that I was running on very little sleep and could barely concentrate. Needless to say, I missed some info but most of the stuff I had learned before. At one point, Danny slows down on the highway and scared the mess out of me. But he just wanted to show us the hostels that the miners used to live in, which was cool. We also got to see downtown Joburg which was surrounded by hills or perhaps they should be called mountains. Danny told us that the tallest building in Africa is located in Joburg. Then we finally got to the apartheid museum. Authestically it was hideous, all gray concentrate although there was a nice reflective pool with a Nelson Mandela quote. Again most of the info was things I already knew but seeing actual artifacts and getting a multimedia approach was nice.

One thing they did have that I want to talk about is the Nelson Mandela exhibit. I’m not a fan of idolization and I feel that that’s happened with Mandela. Now don’t get me wrong, Mandela is a hero. I’m not denying that. It’s just that people idolize everything about him and that can be cribbling. It can cause South Africans to judge everyman in comparison to Mandela and it also can prevent them from looking at his faults. But the biggest thing I don’t like about the Mandel idol is that it prevents other people’s amazing storied from being told. There are so many unsung heroes whose stories should be told, but people are so focused on Mandela that little interest is paid to others who made freedom possible in South Africa, and this is not a phenomena only occurring in South Africa. The same thing is done with MLK. I remember the absolute shock I felt when I found out the Dr. King cheated on his wife. In retrospect, I shouldn’t have been surprised, but I remember how it completely changed my view of MLK. It brought him down to earth. I blame education for that. When you learn about MLK in elementary school, you get a very black and white impression of him. But I supposed they do that with all history topics when you’re little. I hate that. The reason I love history so much is because of its complexity and I am a firm believer that a good understanding of history can help you not repeat the same mistakes.

But enough about that, I pretty much speeded through the museum because 1. I was hungry and 2. I was exhausted so reading every single word and caption was impossible. But since Adam was way behind me, I did some wandering and discovered that we had barely scratched the surface of the museum. I’m not exactly sure how that happened. I guess the set up was poorly designed or we just missed a sign. So we didn’t see the entire museum, but it was fine. We both weren’t in the best of spirits since we hadn’t eaten since early in the morning. Danny picked us up and took us back and I finally got to attack the bag of granola I brought. We were greeted this time by two Marquette girls, Rose and Nora who we didn’t know were also going on the same Kruger trip. We mostly chilled by reception, though I did wander around at one point and discovered the pool with the slide and the one with an island where the Marquette girls were chilling. I also discovered a bunny cage with two inside and one that had somehow escaped.

Then Adam and I decided to see if there way any place close by to eat. Basically it was something to do. We were in a very dull part of Joburg. It was just a surburb with tons of car dealership. So we went back and got a menu for the restaurant there. It wasn’t as cheap as I thought it was going to be, not really expensive but at the price we paid for the room I expected much less. But it doesn’t matter anyway because we ended up being invited to go with the Marquette girls for dinner with their program director’s girlfriend. She was really fun though she did scare me a couple times by running a red light. But we got to our destination, the Nelson Mandela square in one piece. It’s apparently is a very touristy area. We decided on this place that was famous for its meat. It reminded me of a classier verison of Mzoli’s. There was free bread, which was delicious and little sausages, also quite tasty. I ordered a starter portion of lamb but they apparently ignored that. The guy was a bit annoyed with us because we all pretty much ordered started. The place was pricey though and I hadn’t expected to have to pay that much. So I got way more meat than I wanted. I literally couldn’t finish it. I did finish the mashed potatoe no problem though. I was supposed to get the lamb to take home but they forgot, which I was actually ok with. I’m so over eating tons of meat. I literally can’t do it anymore especially when I don’t eat a lot of meat anymore but the last two times I ate at a restaurant, they give you way too much meat. So I think I’m going to stick with my one meal a day with meat.

On the way back, Nora started talking about “the Elders” a group of men who someone decided were. The list includes Koffi Anna, Jimmy Carter, Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu and Madiba’s wife. I thought it was first surprising that Jimmy Carter made the list. I apparently don’t know anything about Jimmy Carter like apparently he created Habitat for Humanity. Also I think it’s interesting that the list is made up of majority blacks and most of the people are from South Africa. Once we got back I wrote in my journal, then went to bed super early I think it was around 10.

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