Friday, September 06, 2002

Random Musings: post-South Africa

Among the numerous reasons why I love to travel is this: seeing more of the world changes the person that you are slowly becoming. Meeting new people, seeing new things... it opens your mind and your eyes... and, if you meet new experiences with the right frame of mine, you come away from traveling a better human being.

I've posted an article I wrote... which of course had to take on a certain tone and mood for publishing's sake. Now, the following is actually an email I wrote to my friends when I got back home. Minus the gossipy bits of course. ;)

Sept 05, 2002
Hullo out there!

My mom was in South Africa for the World Summit... so I tagged along. For most of the time we were in Johannesburg. It's a biiiig city! Plus there isnt much by way of public transport so you either need to get a cab or have someone pick you up. We were picked up by the couple that ran a very nice bed and breakfast operation. It was my first time to stay at one of those type places. The couple along with her parents do all they can to make you feel like you are part of the family. Such lovely, warm people. They had two dogs, three cats and a parrot... (one of the cats had to be the biggest cat i had ever seen! He'd curl up in my lap and purr and I would feel it reverbrate up my spine. I think it was the fact that we were staying at a house... I mean even if we were paying for our room and board, it felt super cozy and stress free. As a plus, the wife is a certified cordon bleu chef. And oh wow, the meals that she came up with. Mmmmm.

More thoughts:

1) I think Jo'burg is a very interesting city... there’s a lot of really cool things to do nearby so it’s a good jump-off point. On the Lonely Planet site they make it sound like this evil, dangerous place... but my impression of it is like of any large developing city... like what people think of Manila but it’s not like there's a mugger on every corner.

2) One of the things we did that I thought was very eye-opening was we took a tour to the Apartheid Museum. It showcased the history of South Africa and how apartheid started and of course how it ended. They want you to have a real feel of what it was like to be discriminated against so from the very beginning you are asked to line up for your tickets according to the color of your skin: white, black, non-black (mixed). Then even as you enter the museum, these lines hold true. After you’re inside though, it becomes a free-for-all and you are once again, on equal footing with everyone. I cant put into words the sense of history, loss and subsequent hope that permeates the whole museum. It was very moving to be there.

(It boggles the mind that that kind of racism and prejudice was so blatant all the way up to the early ‘90s. if you think about it though, pockets of that still exist everywhere in the world today. Even here in the Philippines.) They have a website that you can check out if you’re thinking of looking into visiting.

After that we went to see Soweto, one of the townships. A township basically used to be the only places where black people were allowed to live. Whether you were rich or poor, if you weren’t white, that was where you had to stay. There are several different kinds of houses there now... from the shanty looking ones much like the ones you see in slums around the world to upper middle class neighborhoods. This is where i was able to take some really cute photos of the kids. The way their faces were so open and the way their smiles just lit up their faces… I don’t know how to explain how warming it was to have met them.

4) . I know I’m a far ways away from being able to claim myself a world-traveler. But I’d like to think that I have met a wide variety of people, nationalites and whatnot. One thing about the people we met in South Africa... they reminded me a lot of Pinoys and Hawaiians. Super hospitable and super friendly. They asked a lot of questions about where we were from and what the Philippines is like... and how we were finding our stay... things like that. One lady shared her table with us at the organic market. She had her two children with her… this beautiful girl of about 6 and a baby that looked so cherubic I was looking for wings. We had a pleasant conversation with her about the Philippines and about Jo’Burg. It ended with her giving us a list of really good restaurants we might enjoy trying while we were in the area. Even in the Sandton Mall, there was a café that became part of my daily routine. While Mama was off saving the world with the other delegates, I’d sometimes stop by this café and have coffee or dessert. The waiters were unfailingly polite… having recognized me as a familiar stranger after three consecutive visits. Once, a man at the next table bought me and my mom dessert because he’d overheard us trying to decide which one to share. And no, he wasn’t trying to put the moves on us. He joined us at our table and we had a good time chatting with him. It’s moments like that that flavor the meat of your trip.

5) Promise this is my last segment. I know this is super long already.

As part of the World Summit, there was this Expo Village that was built to showcase African crafts, sustainable projects etc. It was really interesting. There was a flea market and people selling goods made by cooperatives and made from mostly indigenous or recyclable materials. And there were a lot of stalls that showcased their earth-friendly projects. One of the coolest places at the expo was a stall called "The Unplugged Kitchen" ... they made this cafe where everything was cooked by solar power and this new gel that doesn’t use fossil fuel. To make sure nothing went to waste they tell you to tell them how much to put on your plate. Real meals people... (chicken curry, mashed potatos, frankfurters, beef stew). The chairs and tables (actually even the cafe itself) were made from discarded soda cans. Quite possibly one of the neatest and most clever ideas I’ve come across ever.

Interesting photos:
The Lesedi Women
The Unplugged Kitchen stove:

*Whew* Nine days in a kind of nutshell.

Love you all muchly,

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