Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category
(written December 20th, 2015. Posted now because I was previously unable to post)
Its been a very long time since I posted anything but I wanted to ensure that I capture this experience. After a lifetime of dreaming of travelling the world I am happy to say that I (along with the hubby) have finally started exploring. My first stop, Cape Town, South Africa.
Its interesting to see how different cities deal with common problems. I’m not sure what I was expecting before I arrived to Cape Town but I’m positive it wasn’t this. The Cape Town that I experienced was completely ‘Western’ and with that all the luxuries and affluence that comes along with that. For the most part, people were either middle class or extremely wealthy. The city was extremely clean and at no point did I ever feel unsafe which is a bit interesting considering how many people commented on how dangerous South Africa is once I left it.
I didn’t realize how coloured my view of the world was because of the fact that I was only exposed to countries that exist on 2 very opposing ends of the development spectrum. Its hard for me really to understand how a city/country can both have so many ‘western’ luxuries but also the huge amount of crippling poverty. I suppose my first glimpse into the world that exists in between was during my trip to Brazil last year and I guess that South Africa exists in that same realm (although I do know that the 2 are very different). The wealthy population dominates the big cities and since we stayed within Cape Town we basically were exposed to western style affluence. I guess the reason I find this world somewhat baffling is that I understand poverty and inequality to be consequences of corrupt and incompetent government along with historical factors (eg. colonial legacies). It feels like countries should either be entirely screwed up like in the case of Pakistan or mostly okay like in the case of Canada. The more I think about it, the more I can understand on an intellectual level how this can happen but my limited travel experiences before this still means that I find it kinda strange.
For the most part we got around with Uber and it was also the only times we interacted with the black population of the city. We probably hired 20 Ubers during our 10 days in Cape Town and only once was there a non black driver (and he was South Asian). It was the the conversations with our Uber drivers were we got some sort of insight into what the ‘other half’ feels about the city and it was definitely interesting. The vast majority of Uber drivers were migrants from other African counties and were pretty harsh in their opinions about black South Africans. Pretty much all of them called the local black population lazy and entitled. I guess I can understand that attitude given how difficult it is for them (the African migrants) to get papers in order to work regular jobs and generally frustrated with that experience. That was an issue that i found common amongst most if not all of the Uber drivers. That was basically they only way they were supporting themselves as they navigated the South African bureaucracy.
Another very interesting thing was that the black and white population existed in parallel universes that didn’t seem to interact with one another too much. We would walk by rows of restaurants and would find that it was either filled with all blacks or all whites, very rarely a mixture of the two. There does appear to be a growing black middle class but at least in Cape Town, it appears to just exist separately from the middle and upper class whites which brings me to my experience in Johannesburg.
Johannesburg is very different to Cape Town. It is a town with a lot of money and with that, a lot of wealthy people who have created their own little fortresses. The wealth in Jo’burg was obvious but so was the poverty. In a way Jo’burg felt a little bit like New York. Much of the social segregation I found in Cape Town just wasn’t there to the same extent in Jo’burg. Blacks and Whites existed in mixed groups all over the place. That fact alone made it feel more familiar to me than Cape Town but the way that the wealthy surrounded their homes with electric fences and tall, thick walls ensured that I would be constantly reminded that this was not home. We stayed in a wealthy suburb and despite that fact, I never quite felt safe. The streets of the wealthy neighborhoods were just empty. People were rarely seen just taking a walk or walking their dogs or whatever and the emptiness of the streets made me feel really uncomfortable. By contrast, the lower income and poor neighborhoods were bursting with life. There were children playing soccer on the streets and adults hanging out and talking with their neighbors. Its interesting how these 2 drastically different worlds exists so close to one another.
After reading through what I wrote I feel like i’m being quite negative about South Africa but overall my experience was great. Cape Town is an absolutely stunning city. The water and the mountains are just gorgeous and the food was amazing (and cheap!). We dined in so many wonderful restaurants and found so many beautiful corners of the city. It is definitely one of the most beautiful cities I’ve ever been too. Johannesburg also had its charm. Although it didn’t have the same amount of natural beauty Cape Town did, it was full of cool little hipster spots. South Africa (or the small parts of it I saw) is an interesting place that I really enjoyed and I especially liked the fact that Uber and AirBnB is quite active there. Accomodation was cheap and very good and travel through the city was super easy. That is something that I sorely miss now as we travel further through Africa. I can’t complain too much, this is in fact what I signed up for.