December 12th, 2005


South Africa FAQ-ish

weather: cloudy
outside: 3.7°C
mood: ...
Just because a lot of people are asking me:

South Africa is beautiful in the spring. We were there just at the time when it was between seasons, so it was very windy, but amazingly bright and clear. I very very highly recommend it as a vacation spot. Everyone we came across was very friendly and helpful.

Everyone keeps asking me about the political climate and the racial aspects. As a tourist, going around in the touristy areas, we're very shielded from all of that. The only kinda political thing we saw was a labour union strike. Victoria & Alfred Wharf workers, I think. There was nothing to it, they were just milling about in an open space. They weren't allowed to picket at the Wharf itself.

Based on observation alone, I would say it looks like the population of Black-to-White is about 50/50. But I know very well that it's not. And in general, there is a trend of the Whites having the supervisory and managerial jobs while the workers are mostly Black. It's not absolute, but you do see the trend.

As you come out of the airport, you drive past a Black residential area*. It's densely packed with houses like that picture only, the ones I saw were smaller. There's no organization to where the buildings are placed either. These (what I call) Shoebox Communities are everywhere along the highways and major routes. Some of them are new neighbourhoods with properly built buildings, proper roofing/siding/etc and all the houses are lined up nicely. Many are like what you see coming out of the airport.

I haven't Googled for the crime rate and safety statistics in Cape Town, but they do tell you not to go out after dark. There were security staff posted around the hotel. They're stationed in pairs and there were female security staffers too.

Our In-Law family's property is completely walled and gated in. They have electrified fencing at the top of the 6 foot high perimetre wall. Everyone in their neighbourhood has the same thing.

The tour guide** tells us that there are (were?) four classes of citizens in South Africa: White, Asiatic, Coloured, Black. You may only purchase property in a neighbourhood designated for your class and you need the approval of your neighbours. I think this may already be legally abolished now, but even so, the residual effects of this will continue for a long time to come.

Anyway, pictures are forthcoming. Some days I don't think they're that bad. I'm just rotating some of them and shrinking them all down to a sane size (800x600) with a trial version of JASC Image Robot that only does 5 images at a time... =P

* South Africa TravelPhoto.Net has many of the same photos that we tried to take but theirs look infinitely better. So, while you're waiting for me, take a look through that gallery.

** Our tour guide was a Chinese guy and somewhat a 同鄉 "fellow townsman" of mine =) Not only is he Hakka, he's 梅縣客家 [MeiXian (pronounced may-HSIEN): one of the largest populations of Hakka/Kejia] which is where my maternal grandfather is from. I'm from 順德, BTW, which is very close to Guangzhou, 樂從 and 佛山 in case there are any more "gah-gee-lang" reading my journal =)