You know you’ve woken up in Jozi when….
You reach over to turn on your radio. And you get nothing. You confirm this by flicking light switches. Electricity out.
You are forced to shower by candle light. Romantic? Rural.
Your whole house shakes & tremors on the 8am clockwork button to underground blasting of Gautrain tunnels.
You over-moisturise and ensure you have eye drops because of the driest air in a metropolis next to Mexico City & Beijing.
You eat your Bokomo breakfast & "paw paw" to the background noises of the bitching of your maid that she can’t make her morning milky over-sugared tea, and the neighbour shouting at their pretentiously-named dog (usually called after some expensive clothing or booze) to stop barking at random strangers who have to walk to work.
As you drive out into your road, you see the neighbourhood security company, which is starting more to resemble a private army, hassling some half-broken-down car to move along swiftly. They all stop to wave a happy morning to you, AK47s slung over their shoulders.
You realise all of this is being captured on the new security cameras on every neighbourhood corner.
Your trip to work has been doubled in the past few years by now manoeuvring through:
- Gautrain diverts;
- Slowing down to zones, which you always thought were 80km/hr, signposted at 60km/hr and traffic camera-ed;
- Robots (traffic lights) out cause of continued loadshedding;
- Roadblocks to check expired licenses & outstanding traffic fines.
The first sign of a roadblock up ahead is watching taxis scatter left & right into smaller streets, like rats desserting a ship.
On the most gorgeous blue-skied day you pass women using umbrellas – as these now protect one from the African sun as well as the afternoon thunder storms.
They are walking past women setting up ad hoc stalls of a few pieces of fruit, cigarettes, and loose sweets – African entrepreneurs of a different scale.
Radio stations are offering:
- Debates on whether the latest politician is guilty of corruption charges brought against them, often first exposed by media;
- Amateur poetry that is actually quite decent & thought-provoking;
- Tasteless jokes & overstretched eighties tunes, where high-pitched voices are the amusement factor;
- Adverts from government demanding you pay your taxes, you "know your status", phone in & report criminal acts - because the outcome of all South Africa depends on you, the individual;
- Mainstream anything that is American, from music to comedy to topics on the show;
- iPod tunes, thanks to the re-arrival of the i-Trip in SA.
You wave at/ give thumbs up (Sharp Sharp) to your familiar newspaper seller and/or street corner beggars (now of any race & African nationality) and/or sellers-of-anything-from-clothes hangers-to glue-to phone chargers.
You get stuck in a lane between a taxi going straight in the left-turn-only & a dump-truck on its way to deliver dirt to a latest construction site, while sitting behind a PUTCO bus spitting diesel fumes out at you, and checking out the garishly gold woman in her jag behind you.
You might not have a mountain to guide you, but rather you have:
- the Hillbrow tower & Ponte;
- Sandton City’s green Prism & the RMB star;
- The Dome; or
- A water tower atop the Northcliff Ridge.
Streets are lined by beautiful avenues of ancient oak & jacaranda trees and by gutters blocked with litter & deluge from a storm the night before.
And are being walked along by an oblivious Grade R kid, proud in his new uniform and oversized satchel, as he putters along, all on his little own, to his overcrowded school that hopefully has finally received the required textbooks & learning materials for the year.
When you get to the office, you walk down the corridor greeting colleagues in every language from English to Sotho, Venda to Afrikaans, Shona to French.
You catch up on your emails, SA-unique blogs, farcical news, & mates’ Facebook photos of Mozambican holidays, before this area’s electricity disappears.
Your post is late to be published because you spent the last hour searching out a suburb that does have both electricity and serves decent take-away coffee. Accompanied by a colleague who wanted to take a break from sideline UNISA assignments, studying because she really rather wants to be in tourism, in time for 2010.
You feel a need to do this whole post again – but by photos – cause the images of your home just are kinda beautiful, in their own way.