A Capetonian in Joburg: First impressions

I’ve been here nearly two weeks after our “semigration” from my home city of Cape Town. Most of it’s been spent unpacking boxes, drinking too much whisky and driving around the megalopolis trying to find decent furniture.

In da area

The GPS has taken me through Mayfair, similar to the rougher parts of Woodstock with its seedy slum feel, and a suburb called Blairgowrie, which could have been directly transplanted from Cape Town’s Plumstead.

Then there was Fourways. Fourways defies comparison, but imagine Parklands mixed with Belville, multiply by 20 and wave a Tuscan wand over it.

I know it’s unfair and probably more than a little inaccurate to draw parallels with Cape Town areas, but hey, it gives me a sense of order. Desperately needed in a place that seems to sprawl and disseminate itself without end.

I visited Parkhurst and felt like the démodé cousin from a less stylish country. New Zealand perhaps.

Oriental Plaza was far more fun and affordable for someone who’s spent numerous days of her life hunting bargains at Access Park. It’s a bit rougher and much bigger than Access Park, with more Indian clothing and less sombre Muslims.

The coconut samoosas from World of Samoosas are incredible, and I sat in the sun quite happily munching five or six of them.

Rays! Golden rays!

Ah yes, the sun. The Joburg weather in general really. Yes, it’s very cold at night, but the days are magnificent for someone who only knows July and August as raining, grey, sleeting or storming.

How can I explain the simple joy of putting on lipgloss without having to check the wind speed first? Or hanging up a load of laundry and having it dry in one day?

Unfortunately this dryness also extends to lips, skin, sinuses and even my eyeballs – I used a pack of CelluFresh and a tub of Body Shop Shea Body Butter in a week. Still, worth it for the 22-degree midday high.

How can we help you?

Then there’s the usual question – are Joburgers really friendlier? Well, yes, largely by dint of socialising like the world’s going to end tomorrow. I’ve gone out more in the past two weeks than I would in two months at home.

Joburgers have also been incredibly welcoming and helpful to a one-city woman who feels rather misplaced and clumsy at this altitude. And, unlike Capetonians, nobody asks, “What school did you go to?” within five seconds of meeting you.

But despite its cliquishness and miserable winters, I still miss my Cape Town – crazy family and friends, all the best restaurants within a 5km radius, surfing at Muizenberg and Big Bay, strolling down Long Street on Saturday morning, sundowners over the Atlantic…

So to avoid being a sulky and morose émigré, I’m going to discover and embrace all the fantastic little things about living here. Like the fact my Cape Town apartment could fit into the bedroom of my Joburg one. Or that virtually every restaurant has halloumi on the breakfast menu. And that Mozambique is within driving distance.

One of my best friends, a fellow Capetonian-in-Joburg, keeps telling me, “This is an adventure for a couple of years. Then we’ll be home.”

He’s right. And I’m going to do, see, touch, taste and experience as much of it as I can. Starting with those coconut samoosas.

11 Comments

  • July 30, 2010 - 11:31 am | Permalink

    To get to the heart of Jozi you’ve got to go hang out around the Market Theatre and Mary Fitzgerald square, and Braamfontein. It’s gone through so many changes but now finally feels like the optimistic beating heart of Southern Africa. It’s always been the heart of Jozi to me but in the ’90s it resembled the kind of heart you’d imagine a voodoo doll might have. Intriguing but caked with dried blood and stained with unnameable other human and animal excretions and spiked with rusty nails…Anyway, it’s really something now. Whenever I go to Jozi I head straight there to have a coffee and get my bearings.
    Enjoy

  • July 30, 2010 - 11:33 am | Permalink

    Sounds like you’re taking to Joburg with aplomb. I don’t know if I could ever leave Cape Town, but who knows. The school thing, I didn’t know that it was a CPT thing, I just thought it was an odd thing which happened to me all the time.

  • July 30, 2010 - 11:52 am | Permalink

    The other great thing about Jozi, if you’re living in an older suburb you can get piped gas on tap.

  • July 30, 2010 - 12:00 pm | Permalink

    I generally find the school question only comes up when you’re talking to someone who went to one of the southern suburbs snob schools (Rondebosch, Bishops, et al).

    Comforting read, I am very reluctantly considering a move to Jhb soon.

  • amanda
    July 30, 2010 - 12:15 pm | Permalink

    Kretz: Piped gas? I’m in Killarney, haven’t seen it yet. Oh, love the voodoo doll reference.

  • amanda
    July 30, 2010 - 12:16 pm | Permalink

    Mvelase: Sorry, it’s not just you. You’re still special though.

  • July 30, 2010 - 1:46 pm | Permalink

    Coconut Samoosas are heaven :) I remember having my gran send them over when I was growing up in Durban.

    I am a Durbanite-in-Joburg so I can so relate to you. There is definitely more going out, less chill time but also no BEACH. Sigh

    Enjoy every moment and every experience and yay to being able to travel to Mozambique more :)

  • July 30, 2010 - 1:48 pm | Permalink

    You live in Killarney!!! Me too! When we meeting up and how awesome are the flats!! They HUGE! I love it but if you move to like Fourways and Sunninghill flats are matchboxes or smaller. :)

  • amanda
    July 30, 2010 - 2:59 pm | Permalink

    Zahira: Killarney is awesome. Let’s have coffee; would be nice to finally meet you.

  • July 30, 2010 - 3:07 pm | Permalink

    Sure. You have my details on these comments. Unfortunately cannot do this weekend, have my scuba qualifying dives :) . How about Monday? or something?
    let me know.

  • July 30, 2010 - 8:52 pm | Permalink

    Welcome! Nice to hear a Capetonian who doesn’t whine about Jozi and shoo hey how they miss the mountain…
    Never mind the samoosas, you need to come to Fordsburg to the Somali coffeeshops for doolsho and qaxwo!
    (and the piped gas is in the really old areas like Kensington – which we also think is the prettiest. Not a Tuscan monstrosity in sight!)

    ZK – you’re diving now? Inbox me girl, have some great divespots to share with you….

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