Just for the fun of it – The Seli, pictured in my header, has been lying rusting in Table Bay for a few years now – have a look and enjoy! http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=462126653819125
I grew up in a small town, called Worcester, in the Western Cape area of South Africa. Childhood days are remembered fondly, even though we were quite poor compared to some of my friends. But, we always had food, clean clothes that my dear mother normally sewed for us, good schooling and we attended church unfettered and religiously. Sundays were family days, and before church on a Sunday morning, we all jumped in to prepare a Sunday roast – a feast of at least two to three types of meat to be cooked under foil in the oven whilst we were at church, and then the vegetables were cooked once we returned home. And never a Sunday passed without a pudding to satisfy the sweet toothed family.
I remember some family holidays – mostly sea-side caravan camps, where we either slept in tents or if we were lucky, a rented caravan. But always enjoyable, always leaving me with a sense of belonging to a loving family. When I was 10 years old, I travelled the width and length of South Africa with my older sister and her husband, drinking in the sights like The Drakensberg with the majestic Golden Gate National Park, Durban’s beaches, Aliwal North Hot Water Spring and Cango Caves in Oudtshoorn. I thought I had died and gone to heaven – South Africa was my Eden.
And then in later years, after being married at age 19 (yes, can you believe it!!!), my then husband and I took the opportunity during our first child-less 7 years of marriage to explore our country even more. Never a Rothman’s July Handicap Horse Race passed in Durban without us flying up from Cape Town, and with the obligatory new frilly dress, high heels, big hat and elbow-long lacy cloves, I struck a pose as if I was the richest girl in the world, and my husband took photos of me with long-lensed cameras as if I was a top model!
And for the rest of my years until age 51, I never thought too much about the real differences between the “have’s” and the “have-nots”.
Sure I lived close to Du Noon low-cost housing area in Table View,and sure, every time my gardener complained that his house had burned down yet again by a careless neighbour’s fallen candle spreading fires, I gathered up all my friends and we donated truck loads full of stuff. But still, I lived in an “upmarket area”, and did not really know the other side of the coin.
Now I live in Kigamboni – a suburb of Dar es Salaam. I tried to explain it to Celia, my beloved domestic worker of 25 years whom I left behind in Cape Town, by telling her that I live in the “lokasie” – slang for squatter camp / area where non-whites live. She found it funny, and in a weird way it is, but since then I have opened my eyes wider to take in the sights and sounds of my surrounds, and see the world through the local Tanzanian people’s eyes. If you look at the picture below, you’ll see Kigamboni on the opposite side of the port entrance – no high-rise buildings as Dar es Salaam has.
And here are some of the facts I found:
1. Most of them have some education, but not enough.
Even a university degree here equates to little hope of finding a job that pays well.
2. Even though the kids play in the mud after some rain, or the fact that most of the locals commute by either tuk-tuk, motorbike or bicycle, the people are
proud, the clothes clean, the dress-sense magnificent! And the personal hygiene great!
3. They eat far more healthy than the 1st world citizens do – loads of fresh produce: fish caught on the day, vegetables harvested from the rich African soil, fruits so plump and healthy they entice you to the trees, saying: “pick me, pick me”.
The people are lean, strong and beautiful.
4. Most of the African countries lack visionaries in their leadership – I believe there is almost a sense that if you suppress the population enough, they cannot ever be a threat to your “kingdom”. Please, at this point I want to state categorically that I am not politically inclined, but I do think the Tanzanian people are so intelligent – they have the brains, just not the know-how at all times. Which makes one believe that with correct guidance, Africa with its rich soil and resources, does have the untapped potential of becoming more 1st world.
5. The sense of family and caring is immense – as per the Zulus in South Africa, an “InDuna” – caretaker over say 10 families, gets appointed and respected to act in the best interest of the community. In Tanzania the crime rate, other than pilfering, is very low – they are such peace-loving people.
6. They are however “scared” people, as just about every household other than the ramshackle old buildings, employ one or more Askaris – normally Maasai, feared for their hunting skills with bow and arrow, to guard the property 24/7. Now in South Africa, especially Johannesburg, most people in the affluent areas live with high security fencing around their large properties, and various other forms of security in and around the mansions are installed as well. But then we have armed robberies on a daily basis, where people get killed for as little as a cell phone. And let’s not even talk about the farm murders that are so rampant – this simply does not happen in Tanzania!!
So then, historically, South Africa has been seen to be more 1st world than the rest of Africa. I know my Kenyan friends were a-gawk when they first witnessed the good condition of our roads, unlike the pot-holed, almost impassable roads of some areas in Africa, the large shopping centres like Waterfront, Canal Walk, Tyger Valley Shopping centre etc, where you can buy anything from a fishing rod at Cape Union Mart to a pie at the deli section of Shoprite Checkers.
O how I have longed for a fast-food, take-away place so many a night when I am too lazy to cook – no such luck here!
Fresh milk, cheese, wholesome bread, lamb chops etc are all hard to come by and so expensive, but veggies and fruit so cheap and plentiful. Clothes are super-expensive, and even shops like GAME and Mr Price, here at Mlmani City Shopping Mall, sell everything for at least 3 times the price in South Africa.
My questions, which really is just a debate in my head, (but you are welcome to air your views, please), are then as follows:
1. Will South Africa slide into becoming more third world as per the rest of Africa?
2. Will Africa rise up and become more 1st world – the easy access of television, and the super-fast technology Africa has embraced when it comes to computers, internet, cell phones etc has opened up the world to even the poor.
3. Is the 1st world diet going to kill off large chunks of the people living in countries where fast food, fatty, rich ingredients are easy to come by?
4. Are the family values in the 1st world disappearing, and how will Africans preserve such proud heritage?
I am musing – I may not see the results during my lifetime, but our kids and their offspring (cannot think further than that!!) are the ones that must ensure sustainable practices for generations to come……….and I would hope it becomes a combination of taking the best of both worlds and blending it into a wholesome one…..
- Taj Hotel Cape Town wins illustrious award, South Africa (south-african-hotels.com)
- Celebrating our heritage this Spring at One&Only Cape Town, South Africa (south-african-hotels.com)
- Events: Cape Town Artscape Theatre, South Africa (south-african-hotels.com)