I’ve already settled in pretty much. The apartment Betsy has rented is decent enough, with a nice patio and garden. Sweet cats occasionally come by for a visit and there’s a large communal pool with braai area inside the complex. On top of that, we have our own, more or less private, pool right next door. The patio and garden overlook an uncultivated area outside the complex with a pool and large trees around it. Birds wake us in the morning and occasionally a cow passes by on a grazing trip.
Close by, more or less in walking distance, are some seven malls, ranging from the old fashioned (not covered, situated around a central parking area) to extremely modern (a recreation of an italian village, complete with some 40 restaurants, many bars, theatre, 12-screen cinema, casino and hotel. That last complex, Montecasino also has an arcade hall with, indeed, DDR (5th mix). I’m saved.
Indeed, an ‘stand alone’ apartment or house would be nicer, but this place, in a decent location and with very decent facilities isn’t halfway bad. Unfortunately, we can only stay here for some three months, when the owner is set to return.
Jo’burg clearly isn’t very cheap, even though it’s cheaper than most European countries. Next door, a new compound is being built where apartments sell for 250.000 euros and more. Restaurant main courses typically go for between 5 and 10 euros, a Castle (national beer) sells for 1.25 euros. Luckily, a game of DDR costs less than 30 cents.
It seems Betsy will really start working on Tuesday. That is, she’ll start training, she still doesn’t have a work permit. So far, we’ve found one internet cafe that lets me bring my own PC. However, it’s pricey at some six euros per hour. Even so, one of the Kegs (a chain of bars with branches as far away as Harare) turned out to have a free wireless hotspot which, clearly, I’m sitting there as I upload this, works fine. I can drink five teas per hour and still pay less than at the internet cafe, which is practically next door to the Keg.
Hash night is Wednesday and right in this area. We could have gone last Wednesday, but with no clean clothes and with other things on our mind, we decided to postpone our first visit to coming Wednesday.
Indeed, my luggage has arrived, and only a day late. Everything was still there, with one of the pockets sealed with a plastic tie-wrap, but also with a cellphone missing, or so it seems.
It seems I’m still pretty much conditioned to Zimbabwe, where, for example, parking attendants always expect to get paid a little something for waving your car in or out of a parking bay. There, the parking attendants were never employed by the ‘owners’ of the parking bays (say, the mall). Here, the attendants are employed and although they still wave a lot, mostly, they don’t expect to get tipped a few Rand.
Also, coming in for the landing on Jo’burg international airport, I couldn’t help but notice that the landscape looked so very English. Hilly, green and very well organised (well, at least at that distance). Driving around the city, from the airport to the house, patches of highly organized and well kept areas and very new buildings alternated with bare patches of land, the occasional street hawker and vegetation that wouldn’t sit well in the UK. Still, I couldn’t help but like it.
But now that I’ve been here a few days, there’s one thing that doesn’t really sit well with me. The weather is good (we have breakfast in the garden every morning), the food is good and the malls are nice, but there is no history. I’m sure that that’s also the reason why a place like Montecasino is so popular. The covered cobblestone streets give the impression of authenticity, something that’s lacking in most of the country and even if it’s there, like in downtown Jo’burg, it’s not really accessible.
We were there, in downtown Jo’burg, two years ago, when visiting one of the downtown museums. After that, we walked to the train station from where we took a taxi to our B&B. Although the walk was fine, nothing happened, the empty-except-for-the-ground-floor office buildings were quite creepy and, indeed, we were practically the only whiteys on the streets.
It seems that the project they were working on when we were here two years ago has reached maturity. In the downtown area, they’ve renovated some old factories or warehouses which are now a theatre and exhibition area, most probably with some restaurants and cafes thrown in as well. It’s called Newtown and I’m sure we’ll be visiting that place once or twice.
On an unrelated note, could it be that the etymological origin of the word ‘police’ lies in the Greek word for city, ‘polis’?