1) What I love about Joburg: The people
This is a cliché and it flies in the face of Condé Nast‘s ludicrous pronouncement (ludicrous, I tell you!) that Johannesburg is the world’s unfriendliest city. But as a whole, people in Joburg are nicer, funnier, more creative, more genuine, and more interesting than people in any other place.
Raymond, a street vendor in Newtown.
1) What I hate about Joburg: The traffic
Traffic in Joburg sucks. And it’s dangerous. In fact Joburg’s traffic is far more life-threatening than its crime.
Overlooking the traffic on William Nicol Drive in Fourways. If you’ve been there, then you know.
2) What I love about Joburg: The skyline
A view of the Joburg skyline from a rooftop on Rissik Street.
2) What I hate about Joburg: The poverty
Obviously poverty exists all over the world. But in Joburg it’s not unusual to encounter a barefoot street child in rags, kneeling in the center of a busy intersection at 11 o’clock at night. Joburg’s poverty is terrible and it’s not okay.
An informal settlement in Alexandra Township, just a few minutes away from Sandton’s “richest square mile in Africa”.
3) What I love about Joburg: The possibilities
Anything goes in Joburg. There are means of getting around obstacles. There are ways of doing things that can’t be done elsewhere. I’m not talking about bribery, either. I’m talking about flexibility and persistence. Joburgers don’t give up. They make a plan.
I’m living proof of the statement on this bench.
3) What I hate about Joburg: The bureaucracy
Anything is possible in Joburg. Unless you are sitting in the ghastly waiting area at the Langlaagte Vehicle Licensing Office or the Department of Home Affairs, or waiting in line at the post office, the bank, or the Vodacom customer service centre. In such places it often feels as if nothing is possible. To get an idea of what I’m talking about, read my three-part series on registering a car in South Africa.
See the expression on my face? That’s how I feel about South African bureaucracy.
4) What I love about Joburg: The weather
Joburg’s weather is the best-kept secret in Africa. The days are hot in summer, but there is virtually no humidity and early mornings are always cool. The afternoon heat is usually broken by a brief, intense thunderstorm followed by a stunning sunset. I live comfortably in a house with no fans or air conditioning.
Winter nights can be cold, and central heating is nonexistent, but winter only lasts for two months and it never rains or snows.
A typical summer evening in Joburg.
4) What I hate about Joburg: The crime
I hesitate to include this because the prevalence of crime in Joburg is grossly over exaggerated. But loathe as I am to admit it, crime — especially petty crime — is an issue here. I have never been victimized in my four-plus years in Joburg, but I’ve been lucky. I get tired of not being able to park my car on the street for fear it will be stolen, or hesitating to walk alone up the street with my laptop on my shoulder.
Razor wire, high fences, and armed security guards are unfortunate realities in Joburg.
5) What I love about Joburg: Everything that I hate about Joburg
Joburg has many challenges, many annoyances, and many odd quirks. It’s not easy to live here. But it’s exciting, exhilarating, and fun. Above all it’s never boring, at least not for me. I’ll complain about the traffic, the crime, and the bureaucracy. But I’ll never let it break me and I’ll continue to love Joburg all the more.
This photo says a lot about Joburg. On the surface it’s a dirty puddle in a run-down city street. But look more closely and there are many layers of beauty.
5) What I hate about Joburg: Paper towels. WTF.
I’ve been looking for a chance to blog about this for a while but it was hard to fit in. Now is the time.
Can someone please tell me why paper towels in South Africa are only available in packages of two? And why they are so flimsy and non-absorbent, and steadfastly refuse to tear along the perforated line? And why the cardboard roll is usually too misshapen to fit into my paper-towel holder? These questions have been killing me for years.
On the bright side, the dearth of decent paper towels is good for the environment. I am often forced to use a sponge or dish towel when I would otherwise be wasting paper.
There’s a great opportunity in South Africa for a smart paper towel manufacturer. Someone seize it, please.
Thus concludes my top-five list of Joburg loves and hates. I may come back to my top five series in the future though because I’m really enjoying it.
Before signing off, I must empahsize that there are many more things that I love about Joburg than there are things that I hate about Joburg. Otherwise I wouldn’t live here. Just for kicks, here are a few more things that I love:
Waking up every morning to exotic birdsong. Flowers blooming all year round. Hadedas. Smiling at people on the street. Driving a car with manual transmission. Highveld thunderstorms. Jacarandas. Inserting the word “hey” at the end of a sentence. Drinking masala tea in Fordsburg. The Hillbrow Boxing Club. Joburg fashion. People wearing white robes, praying in parks on Sundays. Ponte City. Eating avocado (it’s called “avo” here) on pizza. The Melville Cat. My amazing friends. Walking on the Melville Koppies. Referring to traffic lights as “robots”. Ray.
Last but not least, this blog. 2Summers couldn’t exist anywhere else but in Joburg. Thanks to all of you for reading my 500th post.
Speaking of the blog, I’m preparing to make some changes and 2Summers might go down for a few days at some point in the next two weeks. I’ll be back as soon as possible though so stick with me.