Leaving Kruger Park (see previous posts!) was of course sad as it’s arguably the most incredible place I’ve been in my entire life. However it is hard to feel too sad whilst driving through the gorgeous South African countryside:
Lots more pretty citrus farms:
I think I managed to actually nap in the car a bit and we were back in Joburg and installed ourselves in Mike and Linda’s gorgeous guest room, which among other things had the most glorious long, narrow, deep soaking tub in the bathroom. We also asked about laundry because our clothes from the park were soaked in sweat and about a gallon of bug spray… and Linda went, “Oh we don’t have a washer and dryer here so we’ll just have the staff do it.” Gosh, owning guesthouses is NOT a bad gig. (Well, although it’s a ton of work. They were hosting a Dotors Without Borders group and Mike was making gorgeous tiramisu and a giant meringue with berries and whipped cream for their lunch… someone got a mouse in their room… some South African soap opera star had gotten chicken pie for lunch so had to have a different dinner… and just gazillions of calls related to bookings and confirmation and payment.)
We settled in and then spent the evening with our cousin John and his (37 weeks pregnant) wife Greta. We went to dinner at a trendy Asian fusion place and talked about cats for a long time (of course). But we also heard about the interesting Johannesburg neighborhoods and the weird ways people lived during segregation. Greta is getting a creative writing PhD from Vitsrasserzurfenlordknowswhat University (I just looked it up, it’s actually called University of the Witwatersrand). She also gets some support from their migrant studies program and works with a lot of sex workers, many from Zimbabwe (from where immigration to South Africa continues to be vast). Greta was spending the week leading a training with the end goal of passing on this sex worker organization’s newsletter to be managed independently by its members.
Sashimi taco mm:
The next morning involved more fabulous breakfast made by Mike.
I tried this tasty friend for the first time!
It’s cool that it’s B12 enriched. And it was not dissimilar to miso when smeared atop a generous layer of butter.
The day began with yoga on the deck, next to the pool. Rough life! We had a later start to the day since the plan was for Lee to take us to the apartheid museum in downtown Joburg. Lee took us through the winding back roads in little ethnic enclaves (the Ethiopian area, the Indian area) and pointed out people illegally mining in the abandoned mines for smaller gold bits they carried out in buckets (apparently the gangs controlled all that stuff and you had to be on our gang’s turf to do this safely).
We had about an hour and a half at the apartheid museum. It was dense, with lots of written sections highlighting people and events, photos, objects, mini films… It was hard to tell exactly what order to go in at various times (though I think being accustomed to keeping to the right versus the left may have been part of the confusion).
Hearing about the nationalism that led to apartheid felt far too familiar in this era of Trump. I also was just struck at the greed of the Afrikaaners- they hated the black people and wanted them gone yet ultimately wanted and needed to keep them close to the city to exploit them for cheap labor in Johannesburg. I also hadn’t realized that part of the reason the US and Britain didn’t do more to push against apartheid was because of their fears of Soviet power- yet another part o the world where they tolerated a regime that violently suppressed all dissent. Another surprise- that more people were killed in the clashes between 1990 and the first elections in 1994 than had been killed in the previous 40 years. Also didn’t realize that leaders like Steve Biko, part of the Black Consciousness movement, got inspiration from America’s black power movement. Oh also, toward the end they listed the Bill of Rights from the South African Constitution and it’s beautiful and made me want to sob.
Peek at the World Cup stadium on the way home!
Lee gave us a ride back to Mike and Linda’s and then we went grocery shopping with Mike to make dinner for the night. I impulse purchased a variety of exciting cheese and a smoked trout dip and Malindi and I made a nice collaborative meal.
Malindi made gumbo… she brought a seasoning mix from her home in Louisiana, yum!
I made Thanksgiving-ish green beans since we were missing Thanksgiving.
And we also made real guacamole since they hadn’t had it, and again, SOUTH AFRICA HAD ALL THE HUGE AMAZING AVOCADOS. It was a tasty meal.
We wanted to eat outside since it was probably 65ish degrees? But poor sweet Linda had to wear three sweaters and a vest to sit outside comfortably in that weather haha.
Again, Lee took us out in the first part of the day to the place I requested- Soweto. The first place we went was the Hector Pieterson Museum. In 1976 the schoolkids in Soweto were very brave and took to the streets to protest the new bizarre demand that they do the work for 1/2 their school subjects in Afrikaans. The schools already had pathetic funding for balck students compared to white, not enough teaches (and poorly trained ones), students having to go in classrooms in shifts. But now this dumb ***ing law that after all this work of learning English and submitting exams etc in that language they now had to newly learn Afrikaans just to placate the nationalist Afrikaans nut jobs. Anyway, the kids walked out of class. The result was tear gas, rubber bullets, and eventually real bullets, and these kids had only rocks and shields made from trash can lids to defend themselves (pictured below)
(Of course, all the official police statements said the same crap they say today about the kids being violent and provoking them). There was national and international outrage and the government was not keen to allow any public mourning or funerals since these kids were rebelling against state authority or some dictatorial ***, but eventually one symbolic funeral was held for this one poor 12 year old child, Hector Pieterson. The museum was mostly photos/videos/eyewitness accounts of that day. Then outside its doors was a path to the spot where he was actually killed.
Our next stop was Nelson Mandela’s old house:
And it was just interesting driving around and people watching in Soweto. The sort of dome shaped roofs you see on some of the houses below are old and made of concrete. They are pretty crappy insulators. Nonetheless they’ve now been there so long they are kind of symbolic of Soweto.
We stopped for lunch at a wee little spot where the sweetest lady had her restaurant. It was just us and one other guy in a little courtyard on a back street in Soweto. Our mission was to try pap!
Pap is that big white lump of cornmeal. It’s a staple food for a lot of the people in South Africa. As you see below it serves as both starch and utensil in the meal. Your goal is to make a ball of it using only one hand and then use that ball to scoop up the other things on the plate (in this case, spinach and the most wonderfully seasoned beef). Lee of course made it look effortless. I, after I managed to stop burning my hands, was less than adept and ended up with sauce all over everything hahaha.
Another landmark of Soweto is these two towers. People bungee jump off of them. Dumb crazy people lololol.
Then as we were driving back to Mike and Linda’s we went by Johannesburg’s largest hospital, Baragwanath, which is also the third largest hospital in the world. It’s where a lot of doctors from all over Africa do their training, because they can see so much trauma and other exciting things. Apparently the care for patients isn’t especially good Once we got on the subject of medical things, Lee shared that his wife died of tuberculosis two years ago. He said the disease had hidden in her bones and she was initially given the wrong diagnosis and treatment. We also talked some about the AIDS epidemic, about PREP, and about condom use. I never turn off my public health brain hahaha.
I really have a hard time articulating Mike and Linda’s relationship with Lee. On the one hand he has worked with them for about 12 years and Linda says he’s invaluable like in circumstances where you need some complicated permit and there’s a long wait list and then Lee goes behind the scenes and fixes things. On the other hand, they still refer to him as the “driver”. I have no idea how much money he makes. We enjoyed talking to him about his beloved pet corn snakes and grey African parrots.
Lee dropped us off with Mike and Linda and then we went from seeing the big poor black area from Johannesburg to the ultra rich white fancy area of Johannesburg, all in the same day. They wanted us to see a store by one of their favorite South African artists, Carrol Boyes. We browsed that shop and Linda sweetly bought Malindi a wedding gift there. Then we split up for a bit and strolled around the mall. I fell in love with Poetry, a store that’s a bit like a South African Anthropologie except the quality and prices are both slightly better. I got a fabulous flowery green dress. I also ducked into Exclusive Books, an interesting bookstore. I wish I knew which authors were good to get South African stories.
We met up for what I’d requested- a little mini bridal shower tea for Malindi. We went to a cute shop in the mall called Tasha’s and sat out in the courtyard. We all got fancy coffees and I got some sweet treats for the table. Linda likes talking about weddings a lot.
I got a cappuccino with whipped cream on top, *sigh*.
That night Mike cooked us yet another fabulous dinner.
This meal was the day before Thanksgiving and I’d call it a tiny bit Thanksgiving-y!
The next morning it was Thanksgiving! We arranged to meet John and Greta for an early breakfast (before they left for work and we left for our flight) at the most dreamy open air café/coffee shop near their neighborhood. The shop had this neat little tiny windmill fans to keep bugs away from the baked goods and had delicious samples of items like Cronuts. There were cute little shops nearby but unfortunately we were zooming along to get ready to go to the airport so didn’t get to browse as much as I would have liked.
I deeply approve of bakeries with samples.
Corn cakes+sauteed mushrooms+pesto+poached eggs
Fam! Malindi, cousin John, me, cousin MIke.
Next stop, Capetown!