*This one is not a letter to Rian. It's just a random document I found on my hard drive, completely forgot I even wrote this. Wrote it two weeks before I got on a plane to come back to Cape Town from Johannesburg, reflecting on the huge culture shock I encountered when I moved there.
14 March 2012
I’ve been here a month and I still don’t get it. Sitting on a balcony overlooking the street at number 4 Biermann Avenue in Rosebank, the lit tobacco in the pipe I’m smoking is busy dying out. Flashy, expensive cars stop and drive by, each and every one of their drivers probably on their way somewhere, somewhere important very likely.
Everyone in this constantly fidgety town is always on their way somewhere.
Perhaps in Rosebank where I live it’s not as bad, this is where the retired and those newly acquainted with big money reside after all. Hence the fancy cars and the consciously in-tune fashionable attire of people in the street, though from what I’ve seen, I’ve never seen the well dressed Rosebankians walking. Only the posers walk, the dressed up middle class kids that visit Liquid Chefs on a Friday night, spending daddy’s money in the hopes of finding a sugar daddy on the floor of some sparkly, overly expensive club.
Everyone here is always busy and I don’t get why.
Among my group of interns at Avusa, I’ve been dubbed the Leisure Co-ordinator, because of my love of the chill, the hang-out and the I’m-not-doing-anything. The title is just a superfluous one: Poppy is Liquor Administrator and Bianca Office Administrator. But I suppose they reflect a characteristic innate to each of us.
More cars go by, and Lonely People by Dub ‘n Run has its turn in a mix I made.
Jo’burg has lots of those: lonely people. I don’t mean lonely as in longing for company, or wanting affection. No, I just think Jo’burg is a lonely city. It’s so individual-driven. Each and every person on the street, the curator of the Everard Read gallery down the street; the small lady sitting on her recycled beer crate selling cheap cigarettes at over-the-top prices around the corner, she only ever smiles when you buy something from her. Aren’t they all a bit lonely? Aren’t they all trying to make it here? As any fan of American rap music could tell you, they’re hustling.
And that’s exactly it. I feel alien here, I’m not a hustler but I have dreams, and I am determined.
But I’m not willing to sacrifice my interpersonal interactions for what I want to achieve. I know what I want but I’m not willing to become an island just to achieve success when I could take hold of bliss in a collective.
A 23 year old Capetonian cynic I am, I just can’t connect here. Perhaps it’s the lack of a large body of water, the skyline missing a mountain. But something is off here. This town makes me feel uncomfortable. I’ve made friends, and people are friendly: a smile will be returned with a smile, and a hello with a how-are-you but somehow I miss my socially unbalanced home city.
Where race is a determining factor in how people respond to you, where we still live segregated unless you’re from the middle class, only then do we mix, and only then as far as our interest in the exoticness of the other stretches.
I miss it.
It’s a paradox I’m willing to overlook. I don’t deny at all the opportunity that landed me here is a huge one, working for one of the biggest media houses in the country and being chosen as one of only ten interns: heavy.
Two days before I left for Jo’burg my best friends and girlfriend took me to Simonstown to catch some beach side chilling.
“You’re not going to have this in Jo’burg,” Wilton, one of my three best friends told me, “so get as much of this as you can.”
And he was on the money with that. I miss the ocean, and before I turn into one of these damn lonely people, some fresh ocean air is indeed needed.
Only after that, only after will I resign myself to the hustle, the over achieving drug that fuels this town.
I’m going back home in ten days, and I suppose the ocean had better be there waiting for me.
It's been nearly six months since I left Jo'burg now.
And I work right under the mountain.