Ag in Africa

22 February, 2007

One for the ladeeeez

Filed under: johannesburg, Soweto — Ag @ 9:57 pm

…especially Clarkie and V. Me and Gary hooked up to watch a theatre performance in a Soweto school yesterday. No-one recognised him. Or me ; )

Me and Gary


18 January, 2007

Raining in Soweto

Filed under: johannesburg, Soweto — Ag @ 7:44 pm

I went to a street party in Soweto a while ago. It rained. True African rain. Just like in the films. I took some pix of Soweto in the rain that I really like. Maybe I’m missing grey English winter days…

Wet highway to Soweto
Wet highway to Soweto

Raining in Soweto
Kids running on the street

Typical Sowetan house in the rain
A typical Soweto house

Food was being served out of a mobile food thing. When these guys aren’t dishing up, they run anti-violence workshops in Soweto.

11 January, 2007

I love Soweto

Filed under: johannesburg, Soweto — Ag @ 8:54 pm

So for New Year’s Eve, we went to Soweto. Soweto. I love the name. I love the place. I have indulgent, romantic perceptions about the place and I’ve no intention of getting real.

Soweto is a city of 3.5 – 4 million people, mostly black. It’s huge and when you’re there, it stretches beyond the horizon. The names of the areas of Soweto range from the fantastic to the Orwellian…from Orlando, Pimville, Meadowlands to Zone 1, Zone 2, Zone 3 etc. Funny how the old regime liked to make these places of forced poverty and degradation sound like paradise. Take the townships of ‘Eldorado Park’ and ‘Naturena’. Nothing could be further from the truth. So, why didn’t they go the whole hog and call them You-Lucky-People or You’ve-never-had-it-so-good?

On NYE we went to a house party in Meadowlands. They had a HUGE sound system thumping out house music in their tiny front garden, so the whole street was dancing. It was warm and lovely so everyone was outside. It was so loud that you had to get up very close and personal to talk. There were kids running, some old folk and lots of young people all dancing and smiling and shouting. Not a drop of cynicism or world-weariness in sight. Even mon amour was seen to dance, albeit briefly. And at midnight the whole of Soweto let off little single fireworks. The sky was full from every angle. The kids were setting them off in the street and running around with little handheld-put-put-rockets.

Which brings me to a NYE highlight that I think will never be repeated: naked men dancing on the roof of a house. Beat that.

25 September, 2006

Cruelty to dogs and diarrhoea

Filed under: Development worker, johannesburg, Soweto — Ag @ 6:13 pm

So, anyway, I’m in Africa. I had one of those they-wouldn’t-treat-a-dog-this-way journeys. (Why are dogs always the benchmark for cruelty? I treat many people loads worse than I treat my dog, Bobby. For example, only a very limited number of my friends are allowed to sleep on my bed and none of them are allowed to share my pillow. Having said that, Bobby doesn’t smell or snore…)

The journey started on that lovable old rogue – the British Train. Got on at Tiverton where me and mon amour could barely squeeze into the vestibule (or whatever you call the bit where you get on). Loads of people – men to be exact but unusually pleasant ones – squashed in like cattle. As always in stressful travelling situations, I switch to my refugees-put-up-with-this,-so-should-I mindset. But it was so bleedin’ awful I wasn’t sure that refugees do necessarily put up with it. To top it off nicely, one of the men sharing the vestibule was on crutches, which begs the question – Would they let a dog on crutches stand in a vestibule for the length of the journey? Or cattle on crutches? If I could draw, it would be a great pic. (Lucy, if you get time out from being super-successful, please add illustration here.)

It was one of those very modern trains where the toilets are the size of a pied-a-terre-a-Londres. Three times brave (more likely desperate) people scrambled over the luggage-terrain and were able to hit the ‘open door’ button. The door slid back gracefully, conversations stopped and we peered in at the amazing space in the toilet. It was like peering in on first class. There was floor area – enough that you could have sat down on it. And you could stretch your arms wide, you could stand up straight. It was almost attractive… If only it wasn’t a water closet.

Inevitably, the rest of the journey was better, cos it didn’t involve a British Train. I got stuck in one of those seats right in the middle of the plane, next to a woman reading ‘Properties Abroad’ and an English bloke banging on about how awful the UK is. His example was, ‘You can’t say boo to a Muslim without getting in trouble’. Which begs another question – Why would you want to?

On arrival I went to a wedding in Soweto, as you do. It was HUGE. I’ve been to Indian weddings, but this was ENORMOUS. There were hundreds of people, and they all got fed. The speeches were interminable. When I’ve been at Hindu weddings, I’ve been reliably informed that the more cash you pass to the priest-person, the quicker the dull bits of the ceremony get done. After an hour of endless speeches in Zulu, I was wondering if this might be a good time to spread a bit of international good practice.

But the wedding was also very beautiful. When the bride and groom arrived, they danced very gently and rhythmically up the street towards the building. Songs were sung by everyone following behind, and everyone danced. It was gorgeous and I felt my awkward Englishness at not taking part. Then, mindful of mon amour’s insistence that I eat well, I stuffed my face with yummy veg casserole and rice. Then I spent the whole of last night running, in both senses of the word. Cramped trains, obnoxious passengers and diarrhoea. So far so typical.

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