We were woken by the sound of birds, a very sweet sound to those who live in the heart of Sydney’s urban jungle. There is an species of Ibis here called the Hadeda Ibis. It’s much prettier than the white, reptilian things that infest Hyde Park in Sydney. It also has a very loud call which sounds like one of those hooters which come attached to balloons for kid’s parties. Or like someone saying ‘HAA!’ through their nose while breathing helium. Anyway, that’s what woke us up.
We had no mission activities scheduled for that Saturday morning, just recovery from the trip. We had some breakfast with Deane and Polly, and then Deane took us out to the local shops. This was our first taste of South Africa. I was pretty stoked when we turned out of their street onto one of the main roads, called ‘Alan Paton Drive’, my very first consciousness of South Africa was through reading ‘Cry, the Beloved Country’.
I’ve often heard people who have travelled a bit say that the most immediately disconcerting features of another country are those things which are most similar to home. Other than the giant fences, and Black Africans, the shopping centre we visited was much like suburban shops in Australia. Probably more like Canberra than Sydney – the suburbs of Sydney are much uglier. The ‘look’ of Pietermaritzburg is probably most like the Australian cities of Toowoomba (or, if you haven’t been there, like Brisbane but without the humidity and with mountains). It has a similarly subtropical climate. It’s a beautiful, green city – particularly for someone used to dusty, brown Australian landscapes.
The differences were striking also. Whenever you pull into a carpark in SA you will find a group of men who are ready to guide your car to the most convenient spot, and who will guard it for you while you do the shopping. They are not part of any official service, just blokes who are trying to find a way to make some money. It is expected that you will tip them when you leave. In a country where unemployment runs at 23% at least they are getting something. Tipping is odd for most Australians, I find it odd anyway, but I’m pretty happy to help these guys out.
After the shops, Deane took us for a walk around the University campus and explained a little of the history of the University and the city. We had lunch with the team at the house of another couple from the Church, and then headed down to Durban to watch a real, live South African rugby match.
Emma’s written something about watching the rugby, so I won’t worry too much. It was great fun. I think that’s where you go to see the Afrikaaner side of South Africa. It’s a side that isn’t always attractive, I walked past an Afrikaaner bloke yelling at a Black car attendant, asking him for directions to something, and then abusing the car attendant when he interrupted. There are some deeply ingrained patterns of behaviour that will take at least another generation to overcome.
The photos tell the rest of the rugby story better than I can. Boerewors hotdogs are really something else.