I can already tell it’s going to be harder in some ways to write weekly than daily. It’ll take far less time but a lot will get lost. It’s not easy to combine so many moods and experiences into something coherent and readable. Actually, maybe writing it won’t be harder, but reading it will be. In which case I wish you luck.
What do I like so much about being here? It’s a hundred little things that pass in an instant. Here’s a handful of moments from the past week:
- Miniature toads hopping out of my way as I walk up the concrete ramp to the Pro Nobis school for dinner.
- The average age of cars is much higher; many are as old as Justin Bieber.
- A graceful black bird with a half meter long wispy tail alights on the side of the road for a moment while I’m looking at goats in a stream bed. The bird takes off again before I could get a shot.
- I’m driving behind a pickup that has a tall bookcase standing in the back. The bookcase is not tied to anything but is instead held up precariously by two fellows mostly maintaining their balance as they trundle along.
- Mentally handicapped kids taking the initiative to build impressive toy cars, complete with working suspension and steering armatures, out of nothing but bare wire that Alan brings them.
- A mother hen and a line of chicks cross in front of my car in Nquthu center.
- The driver of one of the ubiquitous overstuffed-taxis honks and gestures angrily at me as he passes because I slowed down for the hen and chicks.
- The slow pace, hospitality, and easy laugh of nearly everyone I meet.
- Feeling natural on the left side of the road, even at a five-way roundabout.
- They use skeleton keys for everything here except cars.
- My snug little room, one corner piled with laundry, another with computer parts, and the way the sunlight breaks through the crack each morning where the drapes won’t go.
Probably not doing it justice. Reality in the moment is such a funny thing. But I like this place.
I was fairly amazed to find that Google has done street-view for most of Dundee. Let’s take a quick tour. Here’s the satellite map of Dundee. Grab the little orange fellow and you’ll see most of the streets light up blue. That’s how much of the town they’ve covered. I am amused that the driver seems to have stopped dead at the access roads for the township to the south. “I ain’t going in there”.
Here’s the place I’m staying. It’s the little cottage directly ahead of the gate. That window on the right is the one I look out every morning as I have my instant coffee.
Here’s the five way roundabout I mentioned. Good luck with that.
This is the Pick & Pay Plaza where I do most of my errands. Groceries, fast food, pharmacy, clothing, liquor store – and a coffee shop, Phumula, that has wonderful fresh baked cookies and a better latte than I can find in Las Vegas (except for my own). And check out that sky!
Here’s the Dundee Taxi Rank. In the foreground are the street hawkers, mostly selling produce but also the occasional phone charger or used tires. In the background are the lines of taxis that wait, gathering passengers until they’re overstuffed, before departing for destinations as near as Sibongile and as far as Johannesburg.
Speaking of Sibongile, here’s as close as the streetview driver would go. A nice enough, if poor, area. Though you do see young kids playing with trash. You can’t get a sense from that picture of the density further in, and the odd types of living quarters you’ll see.
Part of me wants to photograph some of it, but a larger part feels so self conscious when I take out the camera in such places that I just don’t seem to do it. I’ve no problem being there and interacting on a familiar level with the people, but photographing scenes makes me feel uncomfortably like an outsider.
On the other hand, if Google would let me mount a street view setup on my car and drive through the location, I’d love to. Not sure why I’m okay with that – As if anything in my head makes sense. Mark, hook me up!
Living The Dream
I met a super cool guy last night here at the backpackers. It’s been strangely quiet this year; I’ve been alone in the cottage most nights. Last night however a fellow named Michael stopped in for the weekend.
He’s an older bloke, retired from the military, probably in his sixties. Born in Scotland, raised in New Zealand, living in the UK and currently spending 10 months of the year on a motorcycle touring the world.
He and his wife retired around 2002 and rode bicycles everywhere. Once they biked from Scotland to India. His wife passed on around 2004 and his knee went bad. Since then he’s been on motorcycle. He’s rode all across the US and Canada, and straight down the Americas to Tierra del Fuego. He’s been in Africa for a while now. He’s going to Brazil in a few months which he feels he hasn’t seen enough of. He also said he wants to spend more time in China.
He’s very laid back, well read, friendly, and rather soft spoken. He shared some nice stories of his travels with me. He’s also tech savvy – pulled out a nice little netbook and was surprised to learn that there’s no wifi here. I shared my connection with him though, so he could check email.
One funny thing he mentioned – he likes the US quite a bit, but said that he finds when he’s traveling there he’s got this extra nervousness that only leaves him when he crosses over into Canada or Mexico. He says it’s because in the US he never knows which of a thousand laws or regulations he might be breaking. The idea that USians think they’re the freest in the world seems rather amusing and misplaced to him.
More to Come
That’s the public update. I’ll post another password protected one tomorrow. Same password as before – and for all my posts. If you want it, just shoot me a message.