Saturday, July 29, 2006

From South Africa 2005 Part 6 - Johannesburg

Date: Sat, 12 Mar 2005 15:58:28 -0500
Subject: hey there

Hi everyone,

So, Dave has shingles apparently, which is caused by the same virus as chicken pox... apparently it lies dormant in some individuals and pops up when they're run down or stressed out... His head keeps swelling and apparently it's generally very painful. Since it's on his head near his eye, it's kind of serious but it doesn't seem to have got into his eye yet. Luckily, he's not experiencing any pain really, just fatigue and a bit of a headache. He's now on antiviral medication and he said he felt better today so hopefully it doesn't get worse.

Anyways, we did pretty much nothing yesterday except take him to the doctor and get his prescription filled. Dave's aunt and uncle live in an area where you can walk around (unlike his dad) and there are shops and restaurants nearby. We went to a nice Indian place for lunch. Last night we watched a really good documentary called Amandla (which means power in Zulu) about the role of music in the struggle for freedom. It was fascinating and I won't go into detail about it but if you can track it down I would really recommend it.

Today Dave's aunt took us to a craft market that is run by an organization that is trying to help people make a living at their crafts. We bought a beautiful wall hanging (embroidered maybe? Or some other kind of needlework) and Dave's aunt bought us a Zulu basket as a wedding gift.

Then we went out for lunch with some of Dave's old high school friends, who were very nice... I found we definitely had a lot in common with them, which I think was nice for Dave. Then we went to his other aunt's house and hung out with her, her husband and Dave's cousin Matthew. His aunt is working on a PhD in psychology and is a practising therapist. Her husband is a barrister... they're all very clever and very well informed so the conversation was good... It did nothing to dispel my feeling intimidated though. Their house is gorgeous and very big, on a koppie overlooking the city...

We talked a bit about crime with both of Dave's aunts, which was interesting. In Cape Town I found myself wondering if people weren't just a bit paranoid but this is most certainly not the case in Joburg. They've both been burgled, one of his aunts more than once and she even woke up with people in the house. Richard was hijacked and Matthew was mugged... his story is slightly humorous (in retrospect, knowing he's ok) because he was mugged at knifepoint and gave the guy all his money and immediately was mugged again, this time at gunpoint... he said he'd just been mugged and the gun-wielding mugger went chasing after the knife-wielding one... but it seems that people are a bit more relaxed here than in Cape Town - they say that crime is a fact of life and you just take precautions and hope for the best. Burglary happens and it's inconvenient but they've been ok so far.

The barrister talked about how truly miraculous the democratic elections were in 94 because he said things were so bad in the 80s most people really were just waiting for all-out war and total destruction.

Not sure if I mentioned some of the little differences between SA and Canada before, so here are some bizarre little differences: the doorknobs are higher, almost chest level; the toilet flushing lever is on the right side of the toilet; fat content in milk is not measured by percent: it's called full cream, low fat or no fat; light switches go down when they're turned on, or sideways, not up; the country is truly multilingual and I think I'm beginning to get used to not understanding most of the conversations around me; everybody drinks roiboos tea; people say yaa (like in Swedish or something) not yeah and they say "I'll tell you" and "Look" a lot... I thought I was pissing people off when they started a reply with "Look" but it just seems to be a figure of speech; traffic lights are called robots; people say must instead of should (oh you must go to that place or whatever); everyone seems to have a maid; there are mostly black people in rural areas, in urban areas too but that doesn't seem different to me. You can't seem to get away from race here, everyone talks about it; but in some ways maybe it's a bit refreshing not to be always trying to avoid or ignore it.

The food is different in some ways... there are many traditional Afrikaans dishes but most centre around meat so I haven't sampled them. There is a nice desert called melktert, which is like tapioca pudding in a pie without the bubbles... But restaurants in the cities are diverse like in Canada.

We just got back from a dance performance that Matthew took us to. He said he'd seen other work by this choreographer and dance company and that they do cool fusions of traditional african dance and contemporary dance. Unfortunately this one wasn't good... it was all conceptual with lots of pretentious talking and not much dancing and Matthew was disappointed and apologetic. We were going to see Richard's gig but they were charging cover and Dave was wiped out. Oh well...

Tomorrow we're off to a flea market, then lunch with his aunt and her husband and then they're taking us to the Cradle of Mankind at Sterkfontein caves.

I haven't shot any film in Joburg because it's not safe to carry a camera around (especially one like mine) but I must take pictures of Dave's family...

Anyhoo... I'll tottle off to bed now...

Love Kate

Date: Sat, 12 Mar 2005 16:33:20 -0500
Subject: more differences

I forgot a few differences... people wear their shoes indoors all the time - I'm not sure if there's a reason for this or not - and the doors and windows don't have screens, just burglar bars... and when they say just now they mean later... so I find myself saying just now more frequently but I use it in the way we use it at home...

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