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2016 Africa Adventure – Johannesburg, South Africa

September 5, 2016

VF to Jburg map

The flight from Victoria Falls to Johannesburg was only a couple of hours, but to me it seemed a world away from Zimbabwe. It felt like I was coming into a first world city in a third world country.

There is a lot of infrastructure in Johannesburg. Even had Uber at the airport! And my cell phone worked again, although I did appreciate not being so ‘connected’ for a couple of weeks.View into Joburg

I had 30 hours in Johannesburg before I flew home to Seattle. I researched online using search words like “things to do in Johannesburg in one day” and there were so many ‘must-sees’ I had no clue how to narrow things down to 30 hours of manageable.

But a casual conversation with a close friend provided the answer to my dilemma. My friend D’Arcy has been blogging for a while about renovating her 100 year old house in Auburn, WA.  She writes funny – yet educational- posts about all the trials and hassles and compromises that are part of renovating. She made a potentially boring topic about picking paint colors quite interesting to someone who let the next door neighbor pick the paint color for her house (I said “surprise me” and went on a trip). But I digress …

One of D’Arcy’s blog followers is woman who lives in Johannesburg and also writes about renovating her home.  So D’Arcy put me in touch with Jacqui who invited me to her Johannesburg home for dinner. How cool is that?

What was more intriguing is that months earlier I had made a reservation at a hotel in the suburb of Rosebank only because I liked the sound of the name – Rosebank. I imagined Orson Welles intoning “Rosebud.” Turns out Rosebank is where Jacqui and her husband live. Meant to be.

Train sign

Once the driver got into Johannesburg I started noticing the walls. Walls were everywhere, surrounding everything. Around homes and businesses and whole neighborhoods. Around my hotel. Electrified concertina wire was usually on top of the walls.


Security guards were everywhere, too, even at my hotel. Security cameras were on every street corner. Not just one corner, but all four corners. I first thought these must be remnants from apartheid, because I thought apartheid was over. But the cameras and walls looked taken care of; in fact, I saw new walls being built.

Jacqui came to my hotel to pick me up and take me to her lovely home for a wonderful dinner. She and her husband were attentive and gracious to a complete stranger, and it didn’t take long for us to be friends.  It is truly amazing the connections we make because of the internet!Jacqui Wiles

Jacqui is a native South African (she and her husband’s families go back several generations) and I am so glad she felt comfortable sharing what it was like growing up in South Africa during the apartheid era. I realized my knowledge on Nelson Mandela and Soweto and apartheid is from a distance and therefore sparse. Being raised there gives Jacqui a perspective worthy of her residence as she helped me understand the walls and cameras. She also writes an intimate and genuine blog about transitions in the country. This post I particularly appreciated because I am always wondering about unacceptable and acceptable words – and how both keep changing. But I digress again …

And as seemed like the theme throughout my trip, we had a great discussion about Trump! Who we have for president really matters to the rest of the world.

The next morning my mission was Starbucks. I collect Starbucks mugs, but only of the older design. Do not like the new one; the design or the mug. For some reason Starbucks is still making the old design for overseas sale, so I get one when I can. Turns out the first Starbucks on the African continent had opened the day before in Johannesburg – two blocks from my hotel!

My plane for home left at 10 pm, and Jacqui had offered to let me stay at her home for the afternoon and then take me to the airport. I was able to see more of Johannesburg this way, including a nice outdoor café where we had lunch.


Bank sign

Caught my plane home. They sprayed insecticide in the plane as we were taxiing off, and that made two insecticide sprays (normal practice when flying in and from Africa) in 30 hours for me. The flight attendants hold both arms straight up, both hands spraying from bottles of insecticide as they move down the aisles. My 22 hour flight home was miserable. I developed the worst case of hives the emergency room doctor had ever seen. I am not allergic to anything so this was a surprise, and I asked the doctor what I could do in case it happened again – because I will be going back to Africa. She said I needed to get an Epipen. I am not even going to go there with what I think of Mylan Pharmaceutical.

I loved South Africa and want to go back and spend more time there.  Jacqui calls it a kaleidoscope of contrasts. There is so much history and beauty and heartache. I think those three words permeate all of Africa.

And I had a lot of fun!!!

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