Saturday, July 07, 2007

Rich and I stayed in Durban for 6 nights. The first 4 nights were with the Armstrongs in a posh oceanfront flat that had been leant to us by family friends. What a treat. The last 2 nights, we stayed with the ever-entertaining Worthingtons and their 5 yellow labs(guard dogs? I think not). We had dinner out every night with a different set of friends or relatives. I really enjoyed meeting the people who I'd heard so much about. It was an in depth introduction to a new city and to the Armstrong's roots. Rich and I both felt our speech being affected by South African English, but the full-blown accent would not be easy to pick up or even imitate, though Rich has come out with some good efforts.

What I noticed first about Durban was how pleasant it is. The people are welcoming, the suburbs well taken care of, the beach extends for miles and the climate is perfect. But then we started to notice the 10 foot walls, with razor wire or electric fences, armed response alarm systems and guard dogs. We noticed how circumscribed the middle class white folks were in their daily activities. So, Rich and I decided to go on a tour, with a Zulu guide, of Durban's townships. We drove through miles of slums in various stages of poverty. The government has provided housing over the years, but the demand far outwieghs housing stock and often people live in squalor. We saw where Gandhi settled here to practice law and refine his philosophy for two decades. It was a real eye-opener, even if those eyes were safe in a moving car.

After the township tour we returned to the "safe" part of Durban and continued our activities. There were several times during the week in which we suddenly found ourselves in the wrong part of town. And as the only white folks, we were scrutinized, and thankfully, left alone. I am not sure what the solution to South Africa's many issues are. I admire the people who are working towards improvement. There are lots of them working very hard, but as we've seen, they have a big job in front of them.

Rich Armstrong
Sent from my Blackberry

1 comment:

Mila said...

Hey guys!
Looks like you're heading to Namibia next and the Skeleton Coast. I visited there with my G-ma. It was very eery to me. Can't wait to hear more about your trip! Travel safe. Love, Mila