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Tuesday 28 Mar
Johannesburg, South Africa

South Africa

hello!
Well, it's been a while since I wrote. This is partly because I haven't been near Internet for long enough (weirdly enough it's been easier in nearly every other country but South Africa to find good email), but also because being in South Africa is a bit like being on a regular holiday - so there's not so much to write about.

Michael- I'm sorry about your birthday! But even if someone was to pay me $50 on the spot right now I couldn't tell you what the date is today. AND I nearly missed Mothers Day - which is a much bigger sin. It's hard to keep track of months when your internal biothermal control system is all skewed. It's March and yet most of South Africa is hot and sunny and coming up to Autumn. It just doesn't feel like March.

So, I'm now in the final week of my Africa trip. How can six months go so fast? There is less of a culture shock here as you'd expect but it's still pretty interesting. I went to the apartheid museum today - man, it is totally f*cked up what they did here. So, it is interesting to see how things are now. What you are looking at is the result of a series of experiments on how one might segregate a population along racial lines and in particular how a minority of whites created law after law to control every aspect of the lives of blacks and coloureds. I say blacks and coloured because that's how they were/are classified here. We stayed over in a little village on the way to Cape Town and I asked the owner of our guesthouse how many people lived in the village. And the response?:
"Well, there's about 500 whites, 1500 coloureds and 4500 blacks"

Being coloured was marginally better than being black. If you were black you had access to about 4 years of basic primary schooling; you couldn't buy or own land; you couldn't vote; good jobs and housing were totally inaccessible and often your wage was capped by the government. If you were coloured you had access to slightly better education, jobs etc. but many still lived in poverty. It was a harsh government-controlled life. That's not to say all the white people were living it up in luxury. Before apartheid, the urban poor of all colours lived alongside each other in slums. But with a white government promising to elevate the status of poor whites, the seeds of apartheid were already being sown. And do you know it was made completely illegal to marry or have sexual relations between whites and blacks or coloured. Heaven forbid the blacks should dilute white purebred blood and drag the whole of humanity down to the same depraved level. Honestly, what a lot of horseshit.

It is a great country to visit - stunning scenery, loads to see and do, interesting history blah blah blah, but it seems to be marked by a lot of bad feelings. Let's assume that a white girl in Africa is likely to be chatted up in most countries, for most guys it's a standard trying-it-on-with-a-girl thing and rejection is taken well. In SA, it's the only place (I've been) where a rejection has ended with the question 'it's because I'm black, isn't it?'. Which is quite funny considering that after six months here someone being black is counted as a positive. West African men still win hands down but there are a lot of cute guys here too. Interesting that the race card comes out where it never has before. I have met one South African lady (white) who told me she would never date a black man because she wasn't brave enough and her Dad would kill her. But I guess if apartheid only ended in 1990 (ish? I had to leave before the end of the exhibition), it takes a long time to change the way people think.

In the meantime I spent a week with Aarti in the Drakensburg Mountains - stunning! Then Lizzie arrived and we set off for our road trip to Cape Town. Can I just say that Cape Town is one of the most amazing cities I have ever been to. Mountains on one side, beaches on the other, museums (not that we visited any), cool restaurants, ridiculously friendly and helpful people and a brilliant nightlife. What more could a girl want? After that we drove along the Garden route stopping off to admire the scenery, fit in a few activities and most importantly to visit the WORLD-FAMOUS Billabong Clothes Outlet in Jeffreys Bay (I bought a beach skirt, a black top - good for travelling, a grey vest (which I am wearing today) and this really cute green t-shirt which has a pink vest to go underneath - it goes weally well with my eyes).

Brave things Lizzie and I have done in SA:
1) Abseiled off the top of Table Mountain. Together. This was bloody scary. It's the world's highest commercial abseil (not the longest, you don't go to the bottom of the mountain) and was mostly terrifying. Especially because when I was getting into position to walk backwards off the mountain I lost my balance and fell off sideways instead. Very amusing for our guides I'm sure as I'm dangling there wondering how the hell to get back into an abseil position.
2) Treetops canopy sliding: visit an indigenous forest and slide between the trees! This was fun. The most amusing part was when Lizzie launched herself onto the slide (which is the scary bit) but unbeknown to her the guide was still holding onto her safety rope. So she slid, ground to a halt, looked around somewhat apprehensively to work out what was going on, clocked the guide holding her rope and said 'you bastard' as he laughed and let her slide off.
3) Horesback riding along the beach with lots of cantering - brilliant. Not as amusing as the horse ride we did on the way to Cape Town. Everyone is cantering along at a pretty fast gait when suddenly we hear hooves pounding and Lizzie's horse gallops past with Lizzie turning to shout ' I can't stoooooooooppppppp'. Lizzie asked to swap horses with the groom as hers now had a 'taste for speed', so they swap over and on the way back her new horse does exactly the same thing. Tee hee!

Oooh and whilst in Cape Town we went to this night on a Sunday at a place called La Med which is THE place to be apparently. Everyone we met recommended it. The pre-La Med bar is called Caprice and most of the Aussie cricket team were mootching around. Not that I recognised any of them but just to give you an idea. And I got photographed! I am FAMOUS! In a being on a website with about 2 million other people kind of way. If you have the time and the inclination you can see me here in the middle wearing the red jumper.
http://www.thunda.com/html/20060319,418,2.html

Lizzie was not cool enough to be included as they thought she might be underage :)

So anyway, there you have a very brief round up of the last 4 weeks. The next update will be from Melbourne.
Hope everyone is well.

Jenny - are you really pregnant? Congratulations!!
Mum - Happy Mother's Day (message reinforcement)
Michael - Happy Birthday old man! I guess my present is on it's way since you kicked up such a fuss about me missing yours eh?

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