Quarter Life Crisis

The world according to Sven-S. Porst

« Jo’burgMainStrand Day 1 »


1222 words on

After my stay in Jo’burg, I went on to stay with other friends on their farm close to Pretoria. They are almost the first people we’ve known in South Africa and I’ve known them for ages, seeing some of their kids grow up as well. While their house on a farm may not have as many creature comforts and more insects and power outages than houses in town, it has the advantage that it doesn’t look like a prison, which is good.

Up to this Sunday they were operating a restaurant on their farm. A very traditional South African affair where (white) people like to go on Sundays. It’s basically an all-you-can-eat buffet thing. With mostly traditional food including Bobotie and, mostly for the benefit of the older guests, offal. These kinds of buffets definitely aren’t haute-cuisine but I used to love them when I was little. Particularly because you can every dish as often as you want to – including dessert.

There were quite a few people including an 80th birthday party and I helped serving the people at the buffet. That was quite funny, mainly because many of the old people couldn’t (or, I’d guess wouldn’t) speak English and just talk to me in Afrikaans. I’ve heard my share of Afrikaans in my life, so it’s not particularly hard to understand, particularly as it’s quite similar to Dutch. But I’ve never really learned to speak it, so some of those conversations where a bit funny.

On Monday there was a bit of chaos which involved broken car tyres and the people who take over the restaurant come in early. So everybody was a bit stressed and I got to help out and pick their daughter up from school. That was quite interesting. As I was too young for driving when we lived in Pretoria and I haven’t been there for years, finding my way round was a bit tricky to begin with. Add to that the switch to left-hand-side traffic and the fact that I was going in a car with an automatic gearbox (which I’m not used to) to make this simple task a bit exciting.

When arriving at the school (school uniforms and everything, quite funny), I found it amusing to see that all around me there were very new BMWs and 4WDs waiting with their engines (and air conditions) running and the mothers sitting in there, worried about their mobile phones, make-up or other similarly important things for the rich house-wife (where ‘house-wife’ only means they’re not having a job, not that they’re actually running their households of course). Standing right between them in the very old BMW (according to the travel guide, South Africa is the country with the highest BMW market-share in the world) with the engine turned off and the windows open, I felt amusingly out-of-place.

On Tuesday, I had a quick drive around the suburbs where we used to live when I was young. I found the two houses, one is just walled in now, while the other one actually has a fence instead of the wall it used to have which looks much better. I also drove by the German school which still looks pretty much the same as it looked when I went there. To mess things up a little, I then meandered around a bit more, looking for some mall to buy postcards and have a coffee.

I found one that I always really liked when I was little. But I hardly recognised it as it has been vastly extended since I’ve been last here. What’s really funny is that in some parts of the building I really felt ‘home’ because they hadn’t changed at all, structurally. I’d to around a corner and immediately know what it’ll look like behind it, despite the new colour scheme and other changes. Most of the shops seem to be clothing related now, so tracking down some postcards was a bit tricky. And finding a post office even trickier (at the very end of the top floor). To make things more interesting they didn’t have international airmail stamps there, so I had to get four stamps (one R3, two 20c, one 5c) to assemble the postage for each postcard. Plus an airmail sticker of course. While this looks nice due to the colourful stamps it really reduced the space I could write on – which luckily I hadn’t already done at that time.

While driving around in the car, I listened a bit to the radio. And as a contrast to the natural beauty of the country, South African sophistication in music has never been very high. And, even worse, they seem to have completely halted any development way back in the 1980s. Do you really need to listen to Queen at least once an hour? I certainly don’t. And adding in some Genesis or Phil Collins or such like doesn’t help either. A bit depressing.

Later in the night, my dad arrived because he’s got some work to do in Pretoria. So I could offload the German papers that I’ve carried with me to him before departing to Cape Town on Wednesday.

Currently, I’m sitting at the airport, waiting for my slightly delayed kulula flight. While the international arrivals area only seemed slightly revamped when I arrived, the domestic departures have been completely redone. Quite well, I’d say. I’ve been at this airport many times. And I’ve always loved to see the jumbo jets of all the international airlines standing lined up and waiting for their evening departures. There are quite a few of them here, and I could seem them again from the lookout room – in which for some inexplicable reason they played German summer hit ‘Die perfekte Welle’.

From where I’m sitting now I can see a few local planes and one of SAA’s A340s, which is probably being prepared for its departure tonight. I’ve never gone in one of the big Airbuses. Somehow I always end up with airlines using Boeings.

The last thing that comes to my mind to write is that all the South African airports used to be named after people who played rather unfavourable roles in the whole apartheid things. They had ‘Jan Smuts’ airport in Jo’burg and ‘D.F. Malan’ airport in Cape Town. Both airports are only called ‘Johannesburg International’ and ‘Cape Town International’ since the end of apartheid. Which is good not only because of the background of their former names but also because you’ll actually know which city people are talking about. (So I suppose that JFK and CDG airports don’t have very user-friendly names either…)

The flight was smooth once it began. A bit loud though which may have been related to the fact that my seat was very far at the back, right next to the engines. The (European) iPod wasn’t too effective in covering that noise up at its maximum sound level. Perhaps getting a set of those in-ear headphones would be helpful fo flying?

And kulula’s funny lines from their website proved to carry on right onto the plane. With them spicing up the safety advisory with additional remarks, that the lavatories weren’t just outfitted with smoke detectors but also with cameras for the captain’s in-flight entertainment, say.

After the in-flight entertainment was over, I was in Cape Town.

March 2, 2005, 18:16

Tagged as country:za, south africa, travel.

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