My local touring continues

In recent years, I became adventurous. I think mostly due to the fact that I am less afraid. Is it age? Is it life experience? I’m not sure, but I do know that my younger years of traveling was kind of wasted on my youth. My TV outside broadcasting job took me over the length and breadth of South Africa but my chronic anxiety prevented me, unknowingly, to fully appreciate the opportunity.

The good news is, that is never too late. I breathe- therefore I am!

I was shown the exact mechanism to reignite my sense of adventure in the form of tourism in my city- the Johannesburg Heritage Foundation. A brilliant start to develop my love affair with buildings.

Yesterday I explored the footsteps of Gandhi. Who knew? My history knowledge is abysmal but I am loving this awakening of discovering my heritage. Plus the added insight and delight of the architects creations in our very young city. 13 decades. Only 13 decades of construction and creation.

The natural beauty is also intriguing. 3000 years of rock. This beautiful Witswatersrand ridge cuts through the otherwise flat landscape creating spectacular views and left behind a deep vein of gold. Crumbs from nature which resulted in this modern city. A vast canopy of trees blankets the wide horizon and standing on the ridge I realised that I wasn’t looking at the city in 360 degrees, I was opening my skull to future adventures.

Bring it on!

Jozi adventuring

All my young life, I was fascinated by Chinese people. I first saw them in our small town’s Catholic Church. Sitting quietly in mass, I remember wondering where did they live and why were they here. Being a curious immigrant myself, I was always fascinated by the tales of ‘how did we get here?’

I was painfully shy though and would never dare venture over and create a dialogue or possible friendship. This curiosity stayed quietly unexplained until recently. I had the chance to go exploring ‘Chinatown ‘ in Johannsburg with a guide and a local Chinese resident.

Our Chinatown isn’t like the classic town of other large cities with lots of bustle, restaurants and markets. It may have been like that in yesteryear. But today, it is a small area with one main towering, almost tatty, majestically Wilhelm Pabst-designed building. It is surrounded by empty parking lots, once sites of schools and houses but now only hold echoes of the community long gone.

Instead in my Chinatown, I encountered the gentlest elder, in Mr Walter Pon who graced us with stories about his family, his ancestors and his history. He gave me a glimpse of a life lived under restrictions and constraints yet he seemed to bear no malice towards anyone. I marvelled at his graciousness.

We ate a traditional meal served with gentle tea and then followed Uncle Walter as he showed us three buildings in an attempt to describe his almost 80 years on the planet. He spoke passionately about the club which held together the community and his passion for his culture yet talked with sadness of the brain drain, which includes his children and siblings yet he steadfastly remains a proud South African Chinese citizen.

I can’t possibly hope to fully understand a community based on a very short visit but I do know that Uncle Walter is an example of how to survive a life of immigration, hardship and exclusion with grace, dignity, pride and class that I can strive for. If I manage a tiny bit then I will have lived a life well lived.

Can’t wait for my next adventure!