One of the places I frequently hang out on the net is Facebook. It is a social networking site, with many infantile applications, games and time-wasting activities, but for me it is useful for connecting with long lost friends and relatives, as it gives me their latest news, photos or random updates.
Last week I was sucked into a Facebook craze. I filled out names of Five Cities Where I Lived, and was later bombarded by requests to fill in five all time favorite movies and books, five greatest fears, five addictions, five bla bla bla bla bla, and it never ends. Needless to say that I could not be bothered, and dropped out of this FIVE-itis almost immediately, but I had already filled out my five cities. I lived in more than five different cities, from large to small to insignificant desert outposts, so I chose the ones that where important to me, or the ones that presented landmarks in my life : Aleppo the city where I was born; Vienna where I had my first brief -and unhappy- encounter with the western world; Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates, where I lived independent from my family for the first time, and Johannesburg my first point of contact with South Africa. Now I was left with one slot and the contenders were : My current city of Cape Town, Abu Dhabi where I lived as a teen with my family, and East London my second stop in South Africa. There was also Al-Ain and Ruwais in the UAE, but the latter thankfully does not qualify as a city. I left out my current city, because I thought the question was applicable to the past, and chose the place that was most important in my life : East London.
Perhaps I should not be surprised that I received a comment from one of my friends on Facebook. She said : “I wouldn’t tell people about East London”. You see East London is a sleepy hollow, a very laid back backwater town of South Africa. It is neither hip like Cape Town nor Savvy like Johannesburg. It is not even as Cool as Durban or Port Elizabeth. Even its inhabitants jokingly call it “Slummy”, so why should I out myself by saying I lived there? In this age of cyber snobbery where everyone has to be smarter, cooler and more with it than the next Facebook friend.
Now, I really do not care about being a snob. I love the Eastern Cape. I do not find any problem in saying that I lived in East London, and to be more accurate (and even more of a country bumpkin) in Gonubie. It is one the most beautiful places in South Africa and if I wasn’t married to the wrong man I would have been very happy to continue living there. In fact I often think that if it wasn’t for want of good jobs and good schools it is the perfect place to bring up young children.
East London has the distinction of being South Africa’s only river port. It lies between the Nahoon and Buffalo Rivers and has a great expanse of beautiful white beaches and the best weather in South Africa. Its people are friendly and kind and stop to talk with you, and it has a low crime rate. In fact I would prefer living in East London over Johannesburg any day of the year, no matter how cool, hip and with-it Johannesburg was. I guess I am a country bumpkin after all.