The excitement of downtown

I could start this post with ‘I can’t believe I didn’t write in December 2017’ but that would be so¬†last year!

December came and went with its exciting fabulous flurry. The city emptied a little less than usual with more Joziburgers realising that this city is actually quite amazing when you take away the crazy traffic, rage, queues and intensity. I had more glimpses of the city and its history with a walk downtown to see arcades, the revamped Gandhi square and some fantastic revamped buildings.

I am ashamed to admit that I knew nothing about the 10 year revamp going on downtown. My days of getting the number 19 bus from Berea to visit my sister who worked in town are but distant memories. Yet, there they were stirred up and gloriously bringing tears to my eyes when the brilliant light of the summer sun shone

down on me on the old Vanderbijl Square. I was ready to embark on another adventure exploring my own back yard on foot. What a pleasant surprise and happy experience. We were treated to witnessing the unfolding of history.

 

 

 

I am no history buff and I really can’t remember detail but I will never forget walking down

the steps on the old United Building society to the unlit skeletons of days gone by. What a privilege to bear witness to almost unhandled relics of a century gone by.

 

We walked a short distance towards the tallest building in Africa, the Carlton Centre and all around me, I could feel energy, pulsing and happy. It may have been my own, or the expectancy of the holiday season approaching but I felt like a kid in a candy store. Clean, well managed buildings and streets with people greeting us happily as we walked on by without purchase.

 

 

The tour ended spectacularly 18 floors up above the city, with the unmatched view of life every direction I looked. Remnants of gold mines reminded me of why I was actually standing there, a century later and appreciating a view that none of the original miners would ever dream of being able to see. What a fabulous day!

What a glorious city. Heart Jozi!

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!