Top 5 likes: (in no particular order)
#1. The great people I've met. This is always my favorite wherever I go. The world is full of kind helpful people and they always make each trip special. For me this always leads to life long friendship. I still regularly talk to my very first host family in Ecuador from 1996! These bonds are unbreakable. If you followed our journey in Germany you may remember our host Thomas. Well we communicate quite often, he just came from visiting AlphaPoppa's parents in the BVI while passing through the Caribbean. He will visit us this summer. Life-long friendships are priceless!
#2. African music and radio shows. I have no idea what they are saying but the music makes you want to get up and dance. As you know I'm a linguist so I love hearing different languages. The radio stations keep it real speaking mainly in African languages not English, and that also is music to a linguist's ears!!
#3. The safari. Mind-blowing! I detest zoos. I'd feel the poor animals are driven to insanity in captivity, and it's just cruel. All experiences with wild life should be done safari style. Maybe we should close all zoos and take the money used to keep them open to send people on safari in Africa. Ha!
#4. The history of South Africa although tragic it is still so hopeful! The people here peacefully overcame Apartheid. They were gifted a humble leader who lived a full life and died honorably as an old man surrounded by family and loved ones. The government and the people work together to right the many wrongs of the past. The government has built millions of homes to house black African who were previously forced to live in shanty towns. However, at the same time, more so in the countryside, people aren't waiting on the government and they are building their own beautiful homes. Yes, South Africa has problems but they are actively being addressed. It seems so hopeful.
#5. Our accommodations at 2B Happy. Yes it's like a peaceful oasis in the middle of chaos but that's really all that matters. The price is unbeatable, it's clean and beautiful with the best customer service I've ever had! If I HAD to stay somewhere else I would choose the upper or middle class section of Soweto. There was busy but felt very safe, people were just walking around smiling going about their lives. The homes were also beautiful.
#6. Yea I know I said 5, whatever... #6 the tourist industry is set up for you to hire a personal tour guide. I haven't seen this in any other place. They pick you up from your Johannesburg location in a car and take you from spot to spot explaining things and answering questions. This is super cool because you don't stick out like on a tour bus full of tourist snapping pictures through the window. Instead it's like being with a knowledgable friend who takes good care of you. I would imagine that this is a great business for locals to start in a high-crime city. All they need it a decent car (not too fancy), good drivers, and flyers at all the hotels and BNBs. They keep tourist safe and make money informing people of their fabulous country!
#7. Yea, I know I said 5, whatever... #7 backpackers. Now you always hear about people backpacking across Europe, but until I got here I'd never heard of people backpacking across Africa. Well they do. Lots of them! Mostly Germans and other Europeans. They just move from lodge to lodge seeing and learning. How awesome is that. From our American perspective it is "too dangerous", "Africa is so dangerous!" We seem to be the only ones who are thinking this. From what I'm being told many countries are extremely safe, South Africa (outside of Johannesburg), Zimbabwe, Rwanda, Namibia, Botswana, and Uganda were some safe places listed in some of the "Backpack Africa" books I've seen here.
Top 5 dislikes: (in no particular order)
#1. The poverty in PARTS of Johannesburg. Not all places are as grimy as the places around our lodge but this part and others like it are a bit much, when it comes to being poverty-stricken. I wish we could just get out and roam around freely to discover. I don't think that's a good idea in this neighborhood. Everything we want to see is outside of this area, so we are just driving through anyway.
#2. There is still racial separation. In all fairness the same thing bothers me about the US so I don't want to point fingers at South Africa without pointing a finger back at us. I see few Afrikaans (white South Africans) in JoBurg. I hear they live mostly in Pretoria (the capital) and other areas they try to keep for themselves. But who am I to judge I teach in a segregated school in the very city that ignited the civil rights movement. 50 years later we are still forcing people to mix.
#3. The other things I don't like have nothing to do with South Africa, like not being able to speak the other 10 languages of this country. I don't like that we don't blend in as well as I'd like. That the weather was cooler than I expected and overcast/ drizzling most days. Or that I didn't make it to the beautiful city of Cape Town. So #3 really isn't a strong dislike that I can blame South Africa for. It is just what it is. And overall our short visit was sweet and fun.
As always the good outweighs the bad. So I must stop here. If I think of anything else I will add it later, don't hold your breath though, it may take me a while ;-)