I could not decide what to write about for this blog and frankly my writing skills have never been my strongest skill set. After wondering what I wanted to talk about, I finally decided to write about what it’s been like living in the heart of Johannesburg. The good, the bad and the scary parts. Things that I will never forget from my experience in this city for the past year, and how and why I have come to appreciate what I have experienced.
Before moving to Joburg I wasn’t sure what to expect besides an occasional mugging and a few stabbings. I was scared, but obviously not enough to bother with finding another place to move to outside of the city. Once I actually moved to the city, it was nothing like I expected it to be at all.
I realised that there’s a lot of perks to living here. For example, I have never seen a place before where you can buy almost any fruit for R1 except right here in the middle of the city. And it’s always much fresher than the fruits you would get in the shops. This made eating healthy really easy for me being on a student budget with no family support.
Everything I need is always only a block or two away. This makes it very convenient since I don’t have my own mode of transport. Nothing is ever too far from a bus stop if I need to go further for anything else. My favourite thing about living in the city is the vibe of the people. It is a bit of a paradox, having to live in a seemingly “depressing” place, and yet somehow people always find something to do to make living there better. From performing and dancing on the side of the roads to lighting up fireworks at midnight once a month.
The perfect stage
Weekends are the best time to be in the city – that is, if you’re into seeing what goes on behind the scenes on the sets of adverts and movies shot in the city. Every weekend without fail there is a group of people blocking a road to film. I have seen them film commercials for the new Ford sports car and Nike’s new shoes. It’s always exciting watching these ads appearing at the cinema because I was there, I saw the hard work that was put into a one-minute ad. My best experience in the city was when they blocked off about five blocks to film what looked like a post apocolyptic zombie movie. The city was decorated to look as if you were in the “I am legend” movie with a group of extras dressed as zombies randomly roaming the streets.
Survival of the fittest
It is however not always so great living in the city. The city teaches one to be grateful for what you have and to never become complacent. I once walked past a homeless man sleeping on the side of the road, a few minutes later I returned, only to find that the man was carried away in a body bag. When it first happened it shocked me. I thought about it a lot. Here I was walking past someone without realising he was actually busy dying. Now it’s a “normal”, almost daily, occurrence to see someone being carried away like that. At times it feels like too many people are losing their lives in the city, but this is only because of the high population rate compared to the relatively small area where people are living. And then of course there’s the crime factor.
None of this has however put me off to move out. I have been mugged and even managed to escape an attack with a few bruises on my ribs. But this city is magical at night. I take walks at 01:00 in the morning to McDonalds or just to get some fresh air. There’s always something interesting to see. The way the buildings light up at night, the way the court house is transformed into a golden light, or the people who come out at night. A lady who is singing her lungs out in the middle of a four-way stop, just because her voice echos beautifully throughout the city, or a man roller skating by himself through the roads of the city wearing an anonymous mask – these are some scenes you won’t easily find elsewhere that time of night.
I’m really glad that I get to experience it all. Walking at 01:00 in the morning, the city is at its most peaceful peak. Chances of getting into danger is then at its lowest, I guess because criminals like to take advantage of chaos and at this hour there is no chaos to take advantage of.
If you’re ever up for a bit of an adventure, move to the city for a few weeks and get to experience everything from the good to the bad and the ugly. Things can be extremely bad, but fortunately there’s always a tomorrow with the promise of something good in store.
by Marco Fernandes