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Soweto, Johannesburg


  I spent a few days in Pretoria, back to the big cities. I can buy
Mitchells Bosuns Bitter again, but I still have not found any other
beer that is rumoured to be brewed here.

I visited the huge Voortrekker monument, built to fulfil a vow
made by the Boer pioneers on the eve of the battle of Boold river,
where it lookefd certain that the few hundred voortrekkers would
be certainly defeated by an army of 5000 Zulus. However, due to
superiour weaponry and good camp placement they survived,
with only a few casualties, while thousands of the enemy filled
the river with blood.

I then called up Jopie, a resident of Soweto I met in Eshowe,
Zululand over a month ago, who had given me his number and
invited me to stay. After nearly missing each other in
Johannesburg, we made it out on my motorbike to Nalede township,
which is one of the further ones - deep Soweto.

Soweto is named from SOuth WEst TOwnship, and is a vast black
township that houses most of the black population that works
in the huge city of Johannesburg - the economic and business
heart of all South Africa. It has a bad reputation historically,
as many of the battles of apartheid were fought here.
The city has a very high crime rate, mostly black, and - guess
where they all live. However, I do not think they muddy
their own back yard, as I saw no crime, and no drugs.

Jopie lives with his wife, a seven month old son, and another one
on the way. They live with his aunt - in a nice 4 room brick
house. Kitchen, small storeroom, dining room / sitting room, and
two bedrooms. I slept on the floor of the dining room.

Friday evening we spent at the shebeen - meeting the locals,
just sitting around in the front room of a similar house.
I met Samje - another friend of Jopie's, who has learned
to program C++, but has found no job. We went back to the house at
1 AM, to talk some more, and reassure (by our presence) Jopies
aunt, who was worried for my safety.

Saturday we went to Baragwanath, the HUGE hospital that
services Soweto. It is several city blocks, and has a
large highrise just for the staff to live in. It was the middle
of the day, so we did not see anything more than lots of people
in a quiet hospital environment. No blood .. however, I heard
from a doctor in Zululand that one of the problems they have
her is that people always present themselves very late -so
when they are ill they are very ill.

We went to another shebeen later,  - as always run by a woman,
this time it was Anna - a feisty lady always with a smile
and repartee. The shebeen patrons were not all men - there
were often women just drinking and chatting, not (always) 

Sex is treated much more casually here - most of the men
(Jopie included) have a piece on the side, and it seems
fidelity is not something that can be expected of the men.

On Sunday we visited Thomas, a workmate of Jopies who lives in
Diepkloof - another suburb of Soweto, in his shack at the back of
his uncles place. One room, electricty, a hotplate, and a bed.
We had breakfast there, and then went to see his sister, who lives
nearby. Most of the family was home - a nice home, too. Not too
differnt from many simple houses in the USA. Her son, who was there,
was 28, and completing his third and final year at university
studying to be a lawyer. He is not married, and ew talked for most
of the afternoon about business in South Africa, and the problems
of the country. Most interesting.

Later, we went to another location, Pimve, also in Soweto, for a 
25th birthday party for one of his friends. Good fun. Then a
shebeen/nightclub closer to home in Nalede, with a professional
outfit providing the music. Most excellent - all african. Great
dancing. Yowzah.

Got back this morning - safe and sound. I am now staying in
Yeoville, and nice suburb of Jo'burg, intent on selling my
motorcycle in the next week before I go home.

Cheers,     Andy!

Andy Rabagliati   .   andyr@wizzy.com    .   <URL http://www.wizzy.com/andyr/>