The Elusive Joburg

I’ve been in Joburg for over a week now and I am still trying to get a sense for the city.  It’s difficult, since, as I mentioned, until we get a car, I’m effectively housebound and can only explore on foot the small radius of shops and restaurants immediately surrounding our apartment complex.  And a girl can only visit the Pick ‘n Pay so many times before things get a bit stale.

But during my two weekends here, Al and I have gotten into our rental car and tried to see some of the city.  The weird thing is, we’ve only actually driven into Joburg itself once or twice.  The rest of the time, we’ve stayed in the suburbs (one of which, Craighall Park, we live in).  The suburbs are quite spread out and the gathering places, for the most part, seem to be fancy shopping malls.  Consequently, my experience of Joburg so far has largely consisted of driving from one fancy shopping mall to another.  The malls are lovely, but I crave an actual city with a street life and neighborhoods and freestanding shops and restaurants.  I know this must exist somewhere in Joburg but I haven’t found it yet.

On Friday night, for example, Al and I went to a shopping center called Melrose Arch for dinner.  We chose a restaurant called Meatco that specializes in – wait for it – meat.  After an absurdly long wait for our food (over an hour), we found ourselves drunk on red wine and starving.  When our steaks finally came, we devoured them like animals.

Africa-shaped steak (unintentional)

After dinner, we walked to a pop-up bar in the same shopping center.  I found the experience rather disheartening.  The bar, which had the potential to be interesting and different, was filled to the brim with cookie-cutter douches in expensive clothes.  Perhaps that sounds judgmental, but I’ve found that the specific breed of douche that exists in highly unequal societies (see, e.g., Brazil, South Africa) tends to be much douchier than your run-of-the-mill douche.  I am a student of douches, and this is my studied conclusion.

But the drinks were good! And scientific!

Anyway, I’m looking forward to this weekend because, first, we should have our car by then (a used Toyota Yaris) and, second, we have lots of fun, interesting Joburg-y things planned. We’re planning on going to a famous farmer’s market in the city and we’re having dinner with one of Al’s mom’s friends, who works for the Canadian High Commission in Pretoria.  Should be interesting to get his perspective on this place.  Lots to look forward to and lots to discover.

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