Continental Drift

July 20, 2009

White Walking Can Get Hectic

Filed under: Uncategorized — unaleona @ 9:43 pm

Now that I’ve been here almost two weeks without writing anything at all, I’ve set you all up to expect a literary masterpiece of a blog. Or I’ve set myself up to expect it, which is probably worse because it just means that I continue to refuse to write anything for fear of failure. To break the vicious cycle I’ll begin with an attempt at a physical description. Not of Pretoria yet, because I still am not sure if I’ve been in what counts as the actual city. Instead, I’d like to introduce you to Waterkloof and Groenkloof.

I’m living in the suburb of Waterkloof in a house with this view: IMG_0678

With this dog and this dog: jesse and tatum2

And this dog:cleo2

(and two hamsters two cats twelve fish and some guppies).

During the week, I do get some human companionship from Queen, the housekeeper for the family whose house I am sitting.  She and I get along well and we go grocery shopping together.

I work in Groenkloof (pronounced like a Germanic sneeze), which is two suburbs away from Waterkloof. To get from one to the other you have to go through Brooklyn, which makes me think of home. A little. Brooklyn is home of the Brooklyn Mall which feels gigantic to me but I am assured that it is a small mall for Pretoria.  I am told that people spend a lot of time in malls in South Africa. In that way, I suppose, things are no different from American suburbia…if you ignore the barbed wire. And the two feet of electric fence above the 10 foot walls surrounding the backyard. And the three locks on every door. And the locked metal grates behind the triple locked door. And the security guards with black berets who lock your car behind a fence and look in your hood for bombs while searching the underbelly of the car with a metal detector before they let you enter the office complex. And the fact that if you look out of your fancy car window as you drive around on any of the larger streets, you will never see any white people.

I can’t decide whether this is a facet of South Africa’s status as a developing country–which leads to incongruous juxtapositions of large gleaming buildings plopped down next to roads with no sidewalks, street signs or even grass covering the rocky red soil–or rather a legacy of apartheid, which created suburban white havens that purposely lacked transportation routes to link them with black townships.  Probably a combination of both.  Whichever it is, when I attempted to assert my independence and walk the five or six blocks the USAID office and the nearby Groenkloof shopping mall, I suddenly realized that I was Jaywalking against some sort of invisible don’t walk sign that only applied to white people.

Or rather, Pretoria is a city that is at least terribly inconvenient and at worst completely inaccessible without a car, and yet most of the people who work here and live in and nearby the city don’t have cars.  Although I am a bit isolated here in my car-less state amongst all these Land Rover driving suburbanites, I am lucky enough that all the people I know are people with cars committed to trying to get me from point A to point B.  Otherwise, I would always be stuck as the lone white person walking, and I’d be forced into the dangerous public transportation that the car-less (mostly Black) are stuck with as their only solution.  Don’t worry Mom and Dad, the walking part is safe.

In fact, to answer everyone’s pressing question, I’ve felt incredibly safe so far.  Even though I did set the alarm system off by accident twice on Saturday, which was a bit hectic.

Hectic is my new favorite word, which I have discovered in South Africa means some combination of crazy/cool/wicked.  It doesn’t always have a positive connotation, but its certainly a lot less unpleasant than our version of hectic back at home.  So I’m sorry I haven’t written much since I arrived, things here have been pretty hectic: but in a good way.

tune in next time for wild animals and leona goes to synagogue, south africa edition.




  1. Leona!

    Thanks for doing this to keep us all informed – I love it! I will add this to the list of daily blogs I check. Love the pics and the description. I can’t wait to hear more about the wildlife… my mom lived in Angola (you know, when it was still a *colony*) for a year and told me all about the crazy things she’d see out her window. Miss you!


    Comment by Kim — July 21, 2009 @ 11:33 am | Reply

  2. Congrats! good start. Keep it coming.


    Comment by Paul — July 22, 2009 @ 2:56 am | Reply

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