Tale of Two Cities


Well fed and feeling pretty happy, I arrived at Johannesburg once again.  Except, everything went smoothly.  The customs was extremely fast, and within 10 minutes of getting off the plane, I was in the Gautrain.  Named after the province, Gauteng(pronounced Hauteng), the train is really modern, nice and fast.  However it’s quite expensive for African standards, but it sure is cheaper than taxi.  Actually, due to growing problem with vehicle hijacking, people rely on the service of Uber now in Jo’burg.  It is quite a pain in the ass for me because I don’t like using Uber and my app doesn’t really work for some reason.
Well, it is not a problem for me, I know the metro system well.  I got off at the Park Station, and went on to take the metro train to Maboneng, which is geographically named Jeppe.
The metro provides a stark contrast to the Gautrain.  The Park Station and surrounding area, including Jeppe, is considered inner city.  So it is considered the ghetto of Jo’burg or with a fake brandish of finger pistol, Jozi.  The metro train ticket office is lined with people, begging for money so they can take the train home.  All of the passengers are black African.
The waiting area is messy and unorganized.  I had to ask around a bit before I found my platform.
The train is just a thin metal rectangle that fits people.  The doors don’t close.  Sometimes the train only slows down at stations, so you have to jump off a moving train like in the Divergent movies.  As the train moved along the tracks, I saw police trying to get rid of some homeless squadding on the rails outside.
The train is also slow, but Jeppe is close.  I got where I wanted in no time.  United States is well known for its gentrification projects.  When a shitty neighborhood gets gentrified, first thing they do is chnage it’s name.  Jeppe is a connotation to some of the shittiest squatter areas, so now it’s known as Maboneng.
When Nelson Mandela became the president, white folks fled Jo’burg fearing repercussion for the many years of apartheid from the black folks.  Many buildings became deserted, and therefore, people with low economic profile, just came and squatted in.  Many people tried to stay, but with the increase in crime, they were forced to leave.  Jeppe was one of these areas.  It was bad, until some rich land owner decided to make this a gentrifying project.  He hired security guards, he hired artists to paint buildings and murals and graffiti.  Soon, all the tired old buildings sport fancy restaurants, bars cafes, and apartments.
Technically he didn’t kick anyone out of their property, because no one really owned any property in the inner city, but I doubt he created any local jobs either.  The people who work and hang around in Maboneng are very different than people who live three blocks away.  One minute there is a bunch of well dressed hipsters, next, after the divide line, poor people selling corn on the street.
To be honest, the restaurants do have really good food, but the price is Western and I crave huge servings that they aren’t providing.  From Tanzania to South Africa is like living through the inverse of Heart of Darkness where things go from crazy to orderly.  However, I was eating chicken whole for two dollars worth back then and now for eight, I’m getting a fancy looking leg and a wing.
Things are really easy in Maboneng.  Drink beer, all kinds of beer, there is alot of craft beer.  Watched Arsenal blow a good start and lose to Barcelona in the Champions league.  There is even a gym built on a side walk complete with four punching bags.
Apart from the inner city, there is Sandton, where mansions with security after mansions with security lined on the street.  Nice five star hotels and other nice buildings are also in this neighborhood.
Little bit below Sandton is Rosebank where I spent a day while waiting to get my Moçambique visa.  Rosebank looks alot like Sandton, except there is zoo, and a park, and a mall where I chilled in the air conditioned niceness while I waited for my visa to be ready.  The area is really nice, and a more white congregated neighborhood.  The food is alot cheaper than Maboneng too.
I took the train home after getting my visa, only to find the metro isn’t running from Park Station to Jeppe that day.  So I took my own inner city tour that day and walked back.  With my passport in my pocket, I was ready to protect it with my life, but of course, nothing happened. People say it’s dangerous and scary walking alone in inner city Jo’burg, but I thought it looked just like the rest of Africa.  The poor areas people don’t have too many choices for weapons, they’ll jump you with a fork if they see you alone, but not much else.  In the rich neighborhood with security systems, people organize hijacks with guns and plans, that’s scary.
I hadn’t seen much rekkis or minivans in South Africa yet, and they run in the inner city.  Everywhere.  The street is shit, the road is terrible.  The traffic lights don’t work.  In Rosebank, everything works and people follow traffic rules, and it was absolutely impossible to find a rekki.  It’s crazy how much disparity is in this city.
That night, I didn’t want to bullshit around for another night so I took a night bus to Maputo.  I love night buses because it’s my transit hotel room.  Lay there and sleep then you wake up and you are at your destination.  Buses in South Africa is really comfortable double deckers and I had a good sleep, until I got to the boulder.  The stamp out and then stamp in process took 10 minutes, then everyone waited an hour for the bus.  Then I went back to sleep.
Arriving at Maputo I can instantly feel the heat.  I don’t like heat at all, but I’m excited to speak Portuguese again.  Maputo is smaller than Jo’burg, and way nicer than Dar.  It’s not a bad city at all.  Walking along the street no one howled at me with stupid comments and buy this and buy that.  Everyone just go about living their lives.  The buildings are less beaten down but the plastic sign boards are back.  This time, it says Vodacom everywhere, not coca cola.  Vodacom is the biggest telephone service provider.  Kids wearing Vodacom gears sell minutes and data on every street corner.  The side walks here are miserable excuses.  Dirt roads parked full of cars.  You have wade through a maze of cars to get to the other side of the block.
I liked Maputo alot until I got hungry.  First, most banks use this ATM interface that requires 6 pins which I have less.  I couldn’t draw money except with Barclay.  Then, there aren’t many restaurants that I can find and I walked all over the city, from independent plaza to the waterfront.  I thought moçambicano food will carry the distinct brasilian and Portuguese flavors, so I had to try something authentic, but fast food.
However, except, expensive places, I didn’t find any cheaper options.  Even the restaurants in the market isn’t so cheap.  They have fish market where you buy fish, bring to the restaurant and they cook for you.
The food fell below expectation, as well as the beers here.  Dois M and Manica are sorry excuses for beers, as sorry as Brahma.  Got some shrimps and other sea food at the market restaurants, but the large quality I craved again eluded me.
The money I took out disappeared really fast just from finding good food, so I had to go very far to take out money again. I wouldn’t mind staying in Maputo and just speak Portuguese, but walking miles to take out money, to eat, then take money again in the blazing heat isn’t a good way to live.
I talked to some brasilian who is studying lusophono economics there and he mentioned the priority of feeling safe. He said to get an apartment, he had to pay alot, about 600 dollars a month. He said that was the cheapest and I laughed because if he really wanted cheap, he could have rented like a normal Moçambican, because I doubt everyone in Maputo can afford 600 dollars a month homes. Then he said it includes a maid that get paid 400 meticais a month for cleaning and cooking for him all the time. I didn’t feel like talking anymore, 400 meticais is about 8 dollars. 600 dollars to rent an apartment, but 8 to pay the maid that cooks and cleans everyday.
I liked Maputo, but I was ready on my way to Tofo.


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