Third post in my Melville Snapshot series. Read posts 1 and 2. When I first started this blog in June 2010, hardly anyone read it. I blogged mostly for myself and my close friends and family who were curious about my new life in South Africa. A lot has changed in four years. While I try to approach blogging in more or less the same way that I did four years ago, I really don’t. I have more readers now and blogging has become part of my career. Thanks to my blog I’ve been able to experience lots of amazing, mind-blowing things (my recent helicopter ride over Joburg is a perfect example), and I feel like I have to uphold my reputation as a Joburg-based cultural adventure-seeker. Sometimes I feel like I can’t blog about “just anything” anymore.
I have a confession to make: I know a lot about Joburg, but I know nothing about Joburg’s public transportation system. Give me a car and a set of directions, and I’m off. I’ll get lost a few times, but I can find anything in this city by car. Take those car keys away, and it’s another story. Don’t ask me to get on a bus, board a train (not counting the Gautrain, which is easy to ride but has limited reach) or signal for a taxi. I don’t have a clue. In South Africa, the term “taxi” refers to a minibus taxi. About 90% of Joburg’s population uses the taxi system — an informal network of dilapidated minibuses — as a main mode of transport.
The title of this post was a shameless ploy to get people to click on it in a panic, thinking that I’m leaving Joburg forever and moving back to America. Gotcha! I’m boarding a plane tomorrow and flying to America for a three-week visit. (I used to call it the United States. But as with many other words and pronunciations, after three years of living here I’ve converted to the South African way of referring to my home country. “America” is shorter and easier to say than “the United States”.) This trip is momentous for many reasons, first because I haven’t been “home” in more than two years. It’s been two years since I’ve driven on the right side of the road. It’s been two years since I’ve watched Matt Lauer in the morning. (Is Matt Lauer still the host of the Today Show? I don’t even know.) It’s been two years since I’ve eaten legitimate Mexican food. (This dire situation will be remedied immediately upon my return.) It’s been two years since I’ve seen my mother.
Note #1: The title of this post is metaphorical. Native South Africans: Please don’t take offense. Note #2: If you are afraid of spiders, I recommend that you do not read on. Images may be disturbing. I wrote a couple of posts about rain spiders during my first year of blogging. The first post, Meet Millie, was written a week before I moved to Joburg, when Jon sent me blurry cell phone pics of a huge rain spider that had taken up residence in our house. Those pictures nearly swayed my decision to get on the plane to South Africa. (Okay, that’s an exaggeration. But you get the point.) A few months later, another rain spider appeared in the house and I wrote another post, called Rrabobi!. I can still remember the terror I felt, cowering on the other side of the room, when Jon moved within close range of the spider to photograph it. I thought he was completely insane and could not understand the affection he had for these massive arachnids.
My grandmother, Frances Mason (aka Cooncie), loved visiting cemeteries. When I was a kid, Cooncie was always nagging me to come with her to visit our family cemetery in Richmond, Virginia. I brushed her off. To 12-year-old Heather, nothing sounded more boring than walking with Cooncie around some stupid old cemetery. I was busy with important things like playing softball, shopping at the Limited, and chasing boys. It took a couple of decades (plus) and a move across the world for me to realize that Cooncie was right. Cemeteries are a lot more interesting than I thought they were. Pigeons fly over a monument in the Brixton Cemetery.
I try not to get upset when people refer to Johannesburg as “dangerous”, or “dirty”, or “ugly”. Such attitudes do Joburg a huge disservice, but they usually come from a place of ignorance rather than malice. Most of the people who say these things probably haven’t been into downtown Jozi for years, if ever. And they don’t realize what they’re missing. I suppose one could argue — in certain specific instances — that Joburg can be dangerous. One could even argue that some parts of Joburg are dirty. (Although most of the city is actually quite clean.) But…ugly? Nope. Not ever. Downtown Jozi reflected in a remarkably clear puddle of water.
I broke my iPhone yesterday. Don’t be deceived by the smile. This is just me trying to be a good sport. I’m not happy. (Photo: Fiver Löcker) I dropped the phone during an Instawalk. Last weekend, the people at Instagram challenged Instagrammers all over the world to meet up locally and walk together. It went without saying that the Instagram groups from Joburg (@IGersJozi) and Pretoria (@IGersPretoria) would get together and do a walk, as we do on most Sunday afternoons.
On a cold August evening last year, I sat in bed messing around with my new iPad. I hit the camera button and shot a picture of the Melville Cat. Then I went to the app store and downloaded a free app called Instagram. I plugged in the photo, added an Instagram filter, and got this. A grainy Melville Cat.