Wednesday, March 30, 2011

SOUTH AFRICA THROUGH MY EYES

To be honest I don’t know what I think about South Africa. Even after 2 weeks.

I'm going to have to start with the things I see.

South Africa is about soaring mountains and crystal clear oceans. Vineyards and farmlands and mines stretch as far as the horizon. Driving around the countryside takes your breath away - you are in awe of the constant change of view around you. Game reserves are aplenty, you'll be given the rare opportunity to be in the company of elephants, rhinos, giraffes, zebras, hippos, kudus, elands, wildebeests and warthogs in the wild. In the cities, the roads are pristine and estates are just filled with beautiful houses with manicured lawns and you sip your wine out near the swimming pool and stare at the shadow of lavender swaying with the wind. Cashiers never fail to give you a big smile and greet you when you line up for your groceries. Everybody's friendly, everybody's warm.

Everybody seems to be happy. Living the life.

But a lot of times, that life is neatly hidden behind electrical fences, barbed wires and thick metal grills. Drive a bit more and there'll be roads heavily potholed with signs that say 'Hijacking Hotspots - for the next 6 km’, nothing more so you just have to take your chances. Very cautiously, you continue driving and shanty towns slowly appear. You lock your doors because it's bloody dangerous. Hide everything. Never wind down the windows when you reach junctions - people come to try sell you trinkets, newspapers; others ask for food, money, or garbage. Never look people in the eyes. Never do anything. Sit put until the light goes green. Because that's what you're told to do.

There's just so much disparity around, so obvious that it's shameful to see. Poverty is prevalent within the black community. This amidst the vast richness of everything else. You will observe the many that are forced to walk for miles and miles to get anywhere because cheap public transport is scarce when 9 out of 10 private cars are only driven by the 10% population of whites - I counted. Whatever image the country's portrayed for, although still holds true to an extent, has deeply hurt it's own reputation and will continue so until things really change. Crime is real, but so is fear mongering – sadly, even among locals. Time will heal, time is needed to put South Africa's sad history behind her but from it too, to welcome and embrace her full potential, slowly, but surely emerging. Many are trying to make a difference for the better and that says a lot about the desire of her people.

All in all, I love the marvellous time I have in South Africa; the scenic tour around Cape Town, the quiet stay in the wine district of Stellenbosch and Franschhoek, the lovely wedding in the little place called The Moon and Sixpence, the exciting game drives in Thulani and Pilanesburg, the busy weeks in Johannesburg, most of all, the great people I meet.

But at times, my heart sinks.
 

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Security is big business in the cities.
 


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Kids coming home from school at the Malay Quarter in Cape Town.

 
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A view of Cape Town from Table Mountain.

 
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At a vineyard Stellenbosch.

 
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Cape Agulhas, the southernmost tip of South Africa. The moment we first saw the ocean, Rizwan and I just stopped by the side of the road and sat there in silence. It was one of the most beautiful experiences.
 

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Wildebeests in Pilanesburg Game Reserve





Before signing off, here's a big HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Little Jen back in Miri. Best wishes and good luck for the exam!

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