Travel Stories

Yeoville - Johannesburg - Day 1

           And then, having left my home on the Cape thirty six hours earlier, the Etihad Airlines captain announces in Arabic that we have begun our descent into Johannesburg, I waltz through customs, a man lets me use his cell phone to call the driver who works with the hostel where I have booked a room (who answers her phone awakened from sleep at 4 A.M. with a smile) who picks me up within twenty minutes, and inasmuch as I have not changed dollars into rand tells me I can pay her when she comes by tomorrow.  By six A.M. I am asleep in a very comfortable bed in the Romance Suite at the Happy Backpacker for 20$ a night.
          I awaken by 9, jetlag a myth to me, and wander the streets of Yeoville, the only white person, and in almost complete comfort.  No one stares.  Many of the women are exceptionally beautiful and sexy. There are a dozen hairstyling salons in a six-block area, as well as hair braiders on every street, often braiding in teams of two or three.  There are no cafes, no coffee shops or teashops.  There are busy Internet Cafés.  I ask a woman reading a one block long community bulletin board mostly seeking rooms and roommates if there is anywhere I can get a cup of good coffee and she says, “My place,” laughing and touching me on the arm.  There is a one Kentucky Fried Chicken, one McDonalds.   There are bars, liquor stores, convenience stores, electronics stores, and banks on every block.  I wander into the public library, which is dank, empty, and has few titles.  There is a park filled with men in animated conversation and one busy ping pong table with not very good players.  Small children carry smaller children.  Women carry infants in backpacks made of blankets.  There is a Reggae band playing in a garage in someone’s back yard that I wander into and listen along with two dozen other men.  The band is good.  Everyone, and I do mean everyone, is smoking marijuana.  Vendors line the sidewalks selling trinkets, vegetables, watches, shoes, and one seller of roasted grubs.  I buy a banana, peanuts, a roasted ear of corn. A few school children appear in green sports jackets and white shirts.  A preacher in a suit holds court outside a bar.  A poster on a pole advertises penis enlargement cream.  American rap music is heard on radios in passing cars.  I sip a draft beer at an outside bar and watch the world go by.  This world, I expect, looks just like this every day.  Friendly, but not engaged with strangers, and somehow almost blasé, sans hustle, sans speed or urgency, just what goes on … and goes on … and goes on.  I buy three eggs to boil back at the hostel, a pack of crackers, and teabags. Yeoville is clearly not a tourist destination and I can’t imagine ever being drawn back here.  Still, it has served my purposes, and I look forward to moving on.

The streets are filled with people under a South African sun

 ... reading the classified pages ...

... reading the classified pages ...

 ... and even a rainbow ...

... and even a rainbow ...