Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Cash or card?

I am in South Africa. I have made it, more or less, to the end of my journey. I never really thought I would make it this far, not at the beginning nor in any place along the way. Certainly when I booked a ticket to Uganda I didn't think that I'd by flying home from the other side of the continent, and I had a plan for how to fly home from every country I've stopped at. It's been a long and interesting trip, and luckily it's not over yet. Next up for me is lots of hiking in the Drakensburg mountains and possibly Lesotho, depending on whether our little car can handle it.

So I'm in South Africa, obviously. At the moment in Pietermaritzburg, a medium side city in the middle of I'm not sure where. I spent a few days in Durban, a big city (4 million or something) on the coast. No qualifiers about it, I am squarely back in the developed world. No more Japanese- Tourist pictures of the tall buildings or street-scapes, it looks like any other city you've been too. Creepily so, actually. So far, South Africa is a weird approximation of home. Decomposing inner cities where all the action is and soulless suburbs where the white people hang out. The main difference is that there is a second set of poor-poor suburbs called townships (the whole Apartheid thing) that are full of black people, I imagine that is where the Africa I remember lives. But yes, I said "full of white people." This country is full to overflowing with white people: old ones, young ones, rich ones, homeless ones. It took much less time than I expected, but I'm reasonably reacclimated to the world of freeways, traffic and credit cards. I can't say I didn't go a little bit cross-eyed the first time someone asked me "cash or card."

There's not much more to it really. Durban is a lot like Portland actually, and the suburbs of the two are basically indistinguishable based on my memory of home. Now is not the time for me to make my assessment of White South Africans, though I really want to. I'm going to be slightly responsible and refrain from judging an entire nation based on one fairly backwaters region. I'll just leave it at this: 1. the uniform seems to be board shorts, crocs and cammo hats, 2. beef jerky and obesity are both incredibly popular, and 3. I read this described as the most violent and dangerous society in the world- including most current war zones. In a bizarre twist from my post last week about hanging out with locals, I've found that I have no real desire to fraternize with the locals- the white ones at least. If I wanted to spend an evening chewin terbakky and making racist jokes, Oregon holds plenty of opportunities. Probably Cape Town will prove to be entirely different. I sure hope so.

South Africa is beautiful though, very much so. It's as beautiful a country as I've been to, and unlike the other countries I've been to it has the developed infrastrure to fully enjoy it. It's not so damn hot now that I'm no longer in the tropics, are there are gorgeous beaches and mountains. I will spend the next couple days hiking way way up, there may even be some snow. When I get back, I'll post some pictures from the last week or so.

No comments:

Post a Comment