Thursday, February 28, 2008

South Africa: Electrofied, Poolside, Razorwire Delight

So the news from South Africa that peppered the main section of the paper we read on the way to Jo'berg was not the most reassuring. Page after page of luridly described crime reports were interspersed with political scandals. We weren't optimistic. Landing at the airport didn't exactly raise our expectations either. The airport is in the middle of, what appears to be, slapdash renovations with signs posted everywhere (including Customs) saying that the police were not responsible for your safety. Not optimistic.

But once we got out of the airport, the surroundings take on an entirely strange feel. My best analogy is that parts of the city looks like the fancy parts of Miami with the addition of electric fences and razor wire surrounding the manicured lawns and beautiful houses. Sun-drenched, post-apocalyptic architecture to be sure. But when we pulled into our compound, suffering jet-lag, we have to admit that the presence of a pool and the nicest room we had stayed in in quite some time was a pleasant surprise.

Since we were only in Jo'berg to connect to Victoria Falls, we were okay with just relaxing poolside for half of our time. It was nice to not have to run around and figure buses, etc out. But we did have one site that we were told was a "can't miss" and that was the Apartheid Museum. So we tore ourselves away from the compound lifestyle and went into town.

The experience of the museum begins when you purchase a ticket and are handed your identity card. Kristi was Non-White and I was European. So, we had to use separate entrances, received separate information, were treated differently. A powerful way to begin. The museum lives up to all of the good things we had read. It is informative and moving and the architecture is quite visually arresting.

After a brief tour of some of the poorer sections of town, including squatter settlements, we returned to our compound to finish off our South African sojourn by the pool. A tad schizophrenic, but I suppose that is one of the themes of the country.

p.s. The photo is "Stretch," our poolside companion.

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