Friday, October 26, 2007
Hanging out in Observatory, aka Obz, the Brooklyn (or dare I say, Camberwell) of Cape Town. After the luxury and playing grown-up, we're back to our old backpacking ways, which means we get to crash in the bohemian, racially mixed part of town - a so-called 'grey' area in capetonian speak. After spending ten days in areas that, despite the end of apartheid, remain predominantly white, this is refreshing.
It is striking, to us as naive visitors, how much colour is still an issue in South Africa, even among people of our generation and younger. On several occasions we found ourselves unsure how to react to openly racist comments being made to us unapologetically by white South-Africans. Of course, there is a huge amount of racism in our countries as well, but we are used to at least some level of political correctness, however hypocritical.
According to Allister Sparks, whose book I am currently reading, foreigners make the error of equating the end of apartheid with the civil rights movement in the US, when in fact it is closer to the struggle for nationhood between Israelis and Palestinians, or between Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland. As such, we should be amazed at the level of cohabitation that there is, not criticizing how slowly it is happening.
Nonetheless, sixteen years after the Group Areas Act was repealed (the act that assigned races to different urban areas and the cause of the infamous forcible relocations of non-whites) and thirteen years since Mandela became president, it is still shocking to drive through posh white areas - akin to some of the nicest suburbs of Los Angeles - then turn a corner and find yourself in front of a huge expanse of derelict shanty town - poorer and more shoddy than anywhere I have seen in Kinshasa.
According to our (self-defined) 'coloured' taxi driver yesterday, all eyes in South Africa are turned towards the ANC's elective conference in December, which promises bitter in-fighting. The current ANC leadership has secured its own comfort and forgotten about the blacks in the townships, he said. If the wrong politics are used, South Africa could yet go the way of Zimbabwe.
Thankfully, this seems as yet unlikely from where we are today. Tonight, we hope to visit one of the black townships.
Friday, October 19, 2007
Our thoughts naturally turned to Paris Hilton, the woman whose most selfless thought to date is that she wants to be frozen with her pets, Chihuahua Tinkerbell and Cinderella, when she dies. I could already imagine her posing with the bonobos, all giggly and blond, while the cameras flashed frantically around her. Unfortunately, it turns out she’s already booked for Rwanda. Damn.
Many call it the Angelina Effect, which seems a bit unfair on Bono. Whoever is responsible, celebrity star power has never shown so brightly on Africa since “We are the World” and Ethiopia: Angelina and Brad in Namibia, George Clooney in Darfur, Madonna in Malawi, Don Cheadle in Uganda, Ralph Fiennes in Kenya, Mia Farrow in Angola (and Darfur), Oprah in South Africa…and now, Paris Hilton in Rwanda.
For five days in November, Paris will visit clinics and schools. She claims that she is determined to change her ways and “leave a mark on the world” – but she will be followed by cameras, and the film will be sold as a reality TV show titled The Philanthropist. Puke.
So, who does that leave for DRC?
A quick look at Forbe’s top 100 celebrities reveals that Tom Cruise is still #1 (really?). I’d rather have the Rolling Stones, or even the cast of the Sopranos, given the choice!
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
Oooh, I really like Cape Town - a mix of the Med and California, with a touch of New Orleans, a city nestled between amazing beaches and superb mountains, with funky shops, organic cafes, great jazz, and oozing history. I'm pleased that it's twinned with Nice.
So after four days of pure indolence in Cape Town, we're off to explore. First stop, probably Cape of Good Hope, then Hermanus from where we hope to see more whales.
Heading off - from Two Oceans Aquarium
Monday, October 15, 2007
Saturday, October 13, 2007
F punched and growled his way out of Kinshasa, and I crawled and gnawed my way out. Only fellow Kinois expatriates can really understand.
There was a minute yesterday morning when we thought that extra, desperate hour of work may have cost us our flight out, and we both knew that would really have been the straw that broke the camel's back.
But here we are, and WOW! So far we've spent the morning giggling like lunatics, slightly disjointed and not fully able to interact normally with civilisation yet, but absolutely loving every minute of it. Cape Town, watch out!
Our hotel room
Our breakfast spot
Sunday, October 07, 2007
I got no less than five phone calls checking whether I had been obliterated by the airplane that crashed in
Yet another Antonov fell from the skies over DRC. That’s at least six since my arrival in November 2005, and another four had crashed just before I arrived, making a total of ten dead Antonovs in less than two years. Not bad!
Fortunately, this one was a cargo plane (although confusingly, it appeared to have as many as 20 passengers on board); unfortunately, it crashed in a populated area of
Ten years ago, another Antonov hit a
Another particularly memorable accident happened in 2003 when the rear door of a cargo plane burst open at 33,000 feet, sucking some 150-200 passengers out of the plane. Others survived by clinging on to bags, ropes and nettings as the plane returned to the airport in
The DRC has accounted for over half of all air crashes in
At the risk of being tiresome and repeating for the zillionth time a now-familiar rant, what amazes me is that