The Dilemma of Belonging Somewhere

It has been over a year since my birth country was plunged into a desperate war. When the revolts against the ruling government started, they were only peaceful demonstrations, which were quickly met with disproportionate force. Soon the resistance armed itself and found allies amongst extremist groups, and some Gulf-state governments who were opposed to Syria’s alliance with Iran. The discourse turned ugly. Instead of justice vs injustice and freedom vs dictatorship, we started hearing Sunni against Alawis and their Shiite allies, and “Us” against the”Them”. The morality of the revolution or those who are fighting for it, came under scrutiny.

I for one, was unable to reconcile the aspiration for justice and democracy with the cruel punishment of enemies, or mutilating their corpses. The savagery of both sides intensified as time wore on. And we all know that war is an insatiable beast, and once blood is shed, it feeds on itself in an endless cycle of cruelty and savage retaliation.

I haven’t heard any news about the battle for Syria (or in Syria) in months. I am sickened of body counts,  and it is enough for me now to hear the grim news from my sister. She and her family are fed up with the fighting and just want their old life back. Dictatorship, corruption, and lack of civil liberties seem a small price to pay for safety now. After all this time I see the logic of their argument. And even though I implicitly still support the revolution as a principle I am not sure anymore of the means it employs.

I have left Syria because I had very little in common with the people there. I could neither relate to overt piety, nor to a life of leisure as a socialite. I was often criticized for my  casual dress sense, my inability to apply makeup or style my hair. My sister, in contrast did not have a problem with taking close to an hour “getting ready” every time she wanted to step out the door. Now, she has chosen to wear a headscarf, I think it is easier to just cover up and leave the house rather than get every single hair in place. I have one dry bottle of mascara that I never use, but over twenty years ago, my cousins tried to teach me how to apply, foundation, blush, eye-liner, lip liner, lipstick, and eye-shadow. I think I gave up as soon as that first lesson was through. I could never justify wasting so much time on all this rubbish. Besides, I am happy with the way I look. One of the first things I did when I got divorced was to stop dying my hair. I suffered for two years with my twin stripes, of carrot/aubergine and salt-and-pepper and was thrilled to finally have my natural grey-highlight. Women in Syria would never understand this attitude. They thought I was awfully uncouth when I walked the streets in a T-shirt, faded jeans and hiking sandals. I think they dubbed me as the African savage. Everyone expects an expat to arrive in designer clothes, expensive leather shoes and flawless skin. I only had my casual wardrobe and proudly showed off my arms and legs, tanned by the African sun. After living in South Africa, I became an alien to my country of birth, but at least I had a good excuse then. When I lived there, I tried my best for years. I wanted to belong, but it never worked. In South Africa, I found a place where it was okay to be myself. I belonged regardless of the color of my skin. Most people dressed casually, just the way I liked to dress. Nobody ever asked me what my religion was.  It was a revelation.

I found that I relate to South Africa better than I ever related to my country of birth. I respect and admire the wisdom of its people and the way they transcended their differences and moved along towards a common future. The idea of Ubuntu and the truth and reconciliation speak volumes on the morality of this nation. Yes, there were incidents of bloody conflict, and even the current majority government has made its shares of mistakes and trouble, but none of these come even close to the monumental destruction still under way in Syria.

The nightmare scenario playing out in my birth country does not correspond to any of my views.  I am so ashamed and unhappy about it that I reached a stage of total apathy. Some of my friends write glowing praise of the country they remember, the beautiful Syria, where different sects and religions lived side by side, in peace and harmony. The cynic part of me questions the veracity of such an innocuous image, when the erstwhile neighbors are now caught in an exchange of violence, that causes more bloodshed at worst, or slides into the worst gutter language at best.

I watch in horror, while people I once considered friends defend the indefensible, or hurl obscenities and accusations at others for a difference of opinion. For one group I may be classified as an Israeli sympathizer, a tool of American imperialism. While the others would call me a non-believer, and enemy of Allah. Both groups are fools, and again, I find myself unable to relate to neither.  Before the revolution strayed into sectarianism I enjoyed listening to a few secular voices, calling for a civilian rule, under a liberal constitution. Today, these voices are drowned by the proponents of an Islamic State.

My dilemma is that I cannot openly criticize the religious tone of discourse, for fear of offending my religious friends. Besides, I do not want to look as if I am supporting the alternative (the current bloody regime that continues to kill people with impunity). On the other hand I feel that I do not have any stake in this battle anymore because, in all honesty, I neither want the religious extremists to win, nor can I ever accept the criminal regime to stay.  Unfortunately for everyone, these two sides have the best chances, because they have the strongest foreign support (Russia, Iran and Hezbollah – on the side of the regime, and the Gulf States, and the western world, on the side of the armed religious insurgence). This balance of power has so far kept both sides more or less evenly matched, but sooner or later the scales will tip to one side.

I withdraw again to the safe cocoon of African politics. For all its faults at least the ANC is still ruled by a civilian constitution. It recognizes the rule of law, not the rule of God or the ancestors. The more Syria slides into anarchy the closer I retreat into the safer ground of my South-African identity. One post I recently read likened a birth country to a mother, and an adopted country to spouse. So according to this analogy I am an ungrateful daughter to the mother country.

If this were true then I could argue that my mother country never treated me well in the first place, I felt like I was kept by an evil stepmother, who constantly pushed me into things that I did not want to do. My adoptive African mother was kinder and loved me the way that I am, I call her my true mother. Again, this is something else where I differ from the people in my birth country. Belonging to the birth country is not a choice in their opinion. It is a sacred duty. And blind patriotism makes the best fodder for senseless wars.

Sala Kahle Mzansi – Stay Well South Africa

Today we leave South Africa on our very long flight to New York. I spent my last night in SA at my friend’s house. She is also the new adoptive mom of my cat Pete.

The day before that has been hectic with moving stuff and vacating the flight. At least I have 18 hours of doing nothing while en-route to JFK.

I am sending a shout-out and a heartfelt farewell to my beloved home country. Robert and I will come back, in two years. Stay well. Sala kahle my Mzansi.  Thank you for giving me a place to love and be proud of. Thank you for helping me grow up and find my patch on the rainbow. I will always think of the road leading to you as Paradise Road.

The Joy of Places

The clock is ticking and it will be soon time to depart the Cape of Good Hope, leave Africa and the southern hemisphere, and my beloved Cape Town to the Big Apple, the cold north. I have never been a fan of the US but New York is different, it is the intellectual and cultural capital of the USA, and a melting pot of the whole world.

Still I am not sure how I will respond to it on an emotional level. My friend K arrived from Germany last week and we are often with her on her excursions and visits. Throughout that I feel like I am on holiday and appreciate the beauty and special attributes of Cape Town. If I had to describe it in one word I would say it is joyous. This led me to thinking about Berlin which I think offers tons of wisdom but little joy, whereas I can perhaps say that Buenos Aires and Rio De Janeiro could be more joyous than serious. I have no idea whether this perception is true and perhaps I will have a chance to visit these cities and measure the degree of joy myself.

What is your joyous place and what is the word that describes your city?

New Beginnings Beckon

Early this week I stated that my life is on autopilot and there is fair weather ahead. I think I spoke too soon. Less that 48 hours later I get news delivered to my inbox that might bring a monumental change into our lives; a change even more profound than what divorce wrought on almost three years ago. In short, we may be departing the South African shores in the next few months. I have very mixed feelings about this particular development although I worked towards it since June 2009. I have been living in South Africa since 1999 and although this doesn’t seem like a long time, it is still half my adult life, the other half I spent between my native Syria and the UAE. So when I leave it behind I will also leave a huge chunk of life, memories, experiences and very dear friends.  And without a doubt Cape Town will always be the place I call home, and where I shall hopefully return in due course.

As this happens my son has started at a new school. He is now officially a pre-schooler or Grade-R pupil. Initially I had some trepidations about starting him in a pre-school that uses German as a teaching medium, but I always wanted him to retain the connection to this language, and in my mind I wanted the German taken care of at school so that I can perhaps introduce the Arabic. Admittedly, having my child tackle three languages will be a challenge but I feel he has a keen interest and keeps asking about words and their meaning in another language. He often inquires what is this “auf deutsch” or what do you call that “bel3arabi”(in Arabic). He also asks me to play some of his DVDs in Arabic, or German (or even French and Spanish), so I am encouraged about capacity for learning language.

As early as his first day on Tuesday, he already told me that he likes this new school and prefers it to his old school. There are a few hurdles to conquer, though. On the first demonstration of “Play Ball”, one of the extramurals offered, he went into total strike and was the only child crying. Throughout the demonstration he sat glued to my lap and only approached the tasks of kicking the ball once or twice and very timidly at that. I tell myself that I distracted him with my presence and that he will do better next week, but I still worry about his shyness. It is largely my fault, I know. I have never been one for socializing, so he does not get the benefit of play-dates and parties very often. I am hoping this will change with time as he gets into his own character, but if social aptitude is genetic, he will probably end up on the reticent side, because he gets it from both parents.

It breaks my heart that I have to tear him away from the few friends he has. On Wednesday I watched him play naturally and spontaneously with Britt’s little girls, and this is something that had just started to evolve after many months of visiting. I wondered about the adjustment required of him in the future. I keep hoping that it will be easier for him than it will be for me, I know I will pine for my friends here and for my warmhearted Africa.

Music is the Shortest Way to the Heart

Today I was listening on my iPod to an archive interview with Johnny Clegg, one of the best-known cultural and musical icons in South Africa.

The interview sent me back on a journey down memory lane to the time when I first became aware of South Africa. This was in the mid 1980s, and I was a teenager, going to school in the oppressive environment of a small housing suburb located near an oil refinery but nowhere near any naturally inhabited city in the Emirates. Needless to say I had lots of time on my hand and the radio was my best companion, and I followed the British chart shows religiously. My favourites back then were Madonna of course and some other pop groups I am almost ashamed to mention by name today, but I was slowly developing my preference for rhythms and style that were not strictly western.  I remember being charmed by the message and rhythms of songs such as Something Inside So Strong by Labi Siffre; Gimme Hope Jo’anna by Eddie Grant, and Paul Simon’s famous album Graceland.

But it was the dance music of course that got me going best, and still does on those slow days. My favourite was this song by Johnny Clegg, the Scatterlings of Africa which went to become a major hit at least in Britain and other European countries.

Many years later I would meet my ex husband who was heading to this part of the world and I would take more active interest in the music and the culture but I think those songs were the hook that captured my imagination and brought me eventually here. I adore the music, and cannot resist humming along to Shosholoza, or tapping my foot along with the gumboot dance. I am always enthralled by pure African voices breaking out in spontaneous song.  There is a an undeniable magic there, and certainly the millions who were charmed by Waka Waka would agree. It is, after all, the only World Cup Song that became a bona fide hit.

And since we are speaking about music that speaks the heart I cannot resist including another video that came out of the World Cup hiatus, Helele by Velile Mchunu and the Safri Duo; a beautiful song with scenes from the mother city.

Book: The Rowing Lesson

Rowing Lesson, The by Anne Landsman

Betsy Klein is summoned from New York to the bedside of her dying father. The father who is the main protagonists is lying in coma, and already exists only as a memory in the mind of his loving daughter who takes us through his journey from his adolescence in the rural western cape to becoming a man as a student in Cape Town and beyond that to her experience of him as a father teaching her to row on on a river near George.
One cannot help the feeling that these are actual memories from a real life. The first part for me was fascinating as it traced some of South Africa’s history during the great wars. It also drew random pictures of the life of a Jewish family in George. The writer did not shy away from describing the father as he truly was, a lover of nature, a helpful physician but also a stubborn brute with evil temper and embarrassing outbursts. The father as the central character played out his role as son, orphan, jealous brother, adolescent at the cusp of his first sexual experience, student away from and home, suitor, doctor, husband, father, father-in-law and patient. All of his roles were refreshingly real and flawed, his frail humanity showing at every stage.
The book reminded me a collage, a collection of memories with Harold Klein at their center, it was all too obvious that the book will inevitably end with his death, but I was hoping for a more fitting farewell something more substantial. His death when it came was like an exhalation of a final breath, quick, silent and anti-climatic.

This a thought-provoking literary book for someone who wants something a little challenging.

South Africa Has a Heart

A couple of good friends of mine started yet another wave of Afro-pessimist discussions. One of them is a former co-worker who moved here from Germany less than a year ago, and another is one of many South Africans who decided that they had enough of this place and moved to a space in the advanced world, where things run predictably and one is more likely to die old in bed than in a violent crime. Both people, I must say, are very near and dear to me and I understand where they are coming from, but I do not feel that they are judging this place fairly.

I would be imitating the official propaganda line if I say that the world has to judge South Africa by where it used to be a few decades ago, with gross inequalities and tension between the races reaching a near-breaking p0int. I would be asking too much of the world perhaps to judge it not by the yardstick of a Europe whose civilization has been in the making for hundreds of year, or by the yardstick of a North America, or Australia who built their civilization after marginalizing and ousting the indigenous peoples.

I ask people to judge South Africa by its heart, by its people.  The people who are the salt of the earth of this country (and this continent) are not the criminals who broke into my flat and lifted my computer, they are not the child rapists,  they are not the corrupt politicians, and they are not the South Africans who criticize and bad-mouth the country with another (western) passport tucked safely into their back pockets. It is everyone else who lives in this place trying to earn an honest living with a smile, no matter how difficult things get.

I have been to Europe and I always get this cold feeling from people around me. They complain and moan if the bus is late, and quickly start huffing and puffing if another person inadvertently blocks their way in a supermarket aisle.  People are so uncharitable and intolerant of others’ mishaps and of small inconveniences.

Here in South Africa, people are tougher, yet in a way this makes them more human. We tolerate being squeezed four abreast in a minibus. We wait patiently when a person wallows in confusion not knowing exactly what item they are looking for in a shop. We greet each other on the road, and we smile. We start making conversations and getting to know someone after we encountered them once or twice at the same place.

People in this country have a lot on their plate. They fight the daily prejudice, and the crime. They try to eke out an existence hampered by daily inconvenience of imperfect services and over-extended public facilities, and yet they persevere, with dignity and with a smile.

A few days ago I was walking towards the V & A Waterfront. Across the road from the Commodore Hotel there is (or was) a bedsitter of sort, or cheap flats.  On that day I saw the people who lived in that bedsitter. They were strewn on the sidewalk along with all their worldly belongings. There were cookers, ancient fridges, bunk beds, appliances, and at least one battered car.  But mostly there were the mattresses and bedrolls, extending from the wall of the property to block the whole sidewalk.

I walked past mostly black and coloured people of varied ages.  I saw one gaunt-looking elderly white woman in blue jeans cuddling an equally ancient dog. These were no bums or homeless beggars. Most wore decent, but old clothes, and some were passing the time by reading. Perhaps there were a few students from out of town among them.  As I walked along I saw a clutch of them further on talking to a policeman in a patrol car, but there was no trouble, rioting or shouting as you would expect under the circumstances.  When I wanted to maneuver Robert’s buggy past the last mattress, the young man sitting on it just moved it aside. I turned and said: “Thank you”. He surprised me by answering, with a smile: “You’re welcome and sorry for the trouble”.

I was so blown away by his polite answer, because it was so free of rancour and so incongruous with his desperate situation. I  had to ask him then what was happening there, and as I expected they have been evicted from their lodgings. The young man did not seem perturbed but rather optimistic that the policeman will solve the problem. I keep thinking of these people now and hope that they have been sorted out. That man, and the way he behaved is in a nutshell the people of South Africa. The way they react to dire problems with patience, dignity and humor always amazes and inspires me.

I once spoke to a friend of mine about South Africa, why I love it.  There are many reasons, but mostly because it is a place that challenges you, and surprises you. Sometimes the surprises are nasty, but most of the time they are little gems of wonder, wisdom and learning.

South Africa makes you face your own prejudice and challenges it. You cannot hide behind the familiarity of your comfort zone, be it country, colour, race or sexual preference, and then glibly make a judgment on this country.  To those who question whether South Africa is capable of hosting the World Cup I say: Didn’t Mexico host one successfully ? Didn’t Greece pull off hosting the Olympics, with a balance book worse than South Africa’s?  What I would like to know the REAL criteria that makes these two countries better than  South Africa.

Yes, perhaps I am wearing rose-coloured blinkers, but I am optimistic that this World Cup will work. It won’t be spectacular, groundbreaking or breathtaking, but it will be an African World Cup, for All Africans to be proud of and for the world to enjoy.

This is the link to the article my friend mailed me and which was referred to in this post by my friend the Baron.  One of the commentators inspired me to write this. He reasons that it is the responsibility of the world to assist in making this World Cup work for South Africa and thus give hope for the future of the continent,  because South Africa its  only beacon of hope. He said: The world cup is the symbol of the future for this country. If it is pulled from [its people], whatever investments exist in the country will be pulled out, whatever skilled people remain in the country will surely leave, and Africa will go to pot”. I think his opinion has merit, and I also believe that true aid is teaching Africans how to do things, not to throw money and food at them. The world however prefers either to do the latter, or to watch from afar expecting us to burn ourselves down anytime.

Here are all the other reasons why I love South Africa ( I will be adding to this list as I remember things).

1- It is the rainbow nation. Nobody here is too foreign, and no religion is too exotic .  Most people accept you for what you are.

2- I can wear shorts and sandals almost year round.

3- I do not own mittens, gloves, or long underwear.

4- I can see wild animals in their natural habitat.

5- I can get my documents certified for free at the police station.

6- I don’t have to see the face of one corrupt political leader or another whenever I open my wallet to take out paper money. Our money has the faces of the big five (African wild animals: Rhino, Elephant, Lion, Buffalo, and leopard).

7- In South Africa you can install prepaid electricity meters, where you can really watch your electricity consumption.

8- South Africa is ranked 35th out of 178 countries for ease of doing business – ahead of places like Spain, Brazil and India.

9- South Africans are creative, resourceful and artistically inclined – you can enjoy the creative energy everywhere. There is amazing music, literature and visual art produced here. This apart from the traditional and innovative arts and crafts you see in market stalls.

10- It is God’s own country, stunning in every way, with amazing biodiversity and most wonderful vistas.

11- Chocolate marshmallow Easter eggs, Chutney, and the plethora of tastes and spices from all over the world.

12- The abundance and variety of local fruit and vegetables: Avocados, mango, litchi, papaya and pineapple are a few of the popular ones, in addition to all types of other fruits I am used to in the northern hemisphere. No wonder South Africa is one of the largest fruit exporters in the world.

13- I can easily get and afford efficient household help.  I try not to abuse the privilege by offering decent working conditions and wages.

14- The music, the spontaneous rhythm that comes out of people at every possible occasion. There is nothing more moving than strangers singing together in perfect harmony that comes out of the joy of the occasion, completely unrehearsed.  Even the demonstrations and strike become a song-and-dance affair. After all, we are the people who made the toyi-toyi protest dance famous.

There are many more reasons but to sum up most of what I read and feel, I can say that South Africa is real, passionate and challenging.  Living here has an element of adventure, as you are experiencing a place that is evolving and trying to find its place in the world. So if you like your life predictable, and safe you may want to stay away.  South Africa, like its mother continent,  is wild, passionate and surprising and it takes a free spirit with tenacity and tolerance to understand and embrace it.

Make Your Choice:

5 Reasons Why South Africa is Not Ready for World Cup 2010

5 Reasons to Stay in SA & 5 Reasons to Leave

24 More Reasons to Stay in SA

One of the best reasons sums it up

Update: The Cape Argus ran a story about the eviction on Portswood Road. Here is their update. Unfortunately there was no happy ending for the people involved.

The eviction might have been one of the results of moving Somerset Hospital (A government hospital) from Green Point. This move is most probably motivated by the business potential of the building and area of the hospital, which is very close to the V&A Waterfront. I bet it would be turned into a hotel, making money for big business, at the expense of the weak and poor as usual.

Thoughts on South African Politics

This weekend was a busy weekend for us here in South Africa, because we witnessed the inauguration of our fourth democratic president, Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma. Some radio stations called him the fourth democratically elected president, which in my opinion was slightly inaccurate since the third president (Kgalema Petrus Motlanthe) did not come into power as a result of a national election.

I was part of the election process on the 22nd of last month.  I voted for the first time in my life.  In my country of origin there was no point taking part in a referendum – it is a one party state with presidents chosen for life (and then passing the presidency on to their progeny).  So I had a certain pride in making my mark here in my adopted country.

The process went on as expected with our ruling party the ANC (African National Congress) taking over 66% . Further results show that opposition parties are a fragmented lot in this country; the biggest is the DA (Democratic Alliance) receiving 16.75% of the votes followed by the new party COPE (Congress of the People) which took 7.5%. The latter party was formed by disgruntled members of the ANC who did not approve of the current leadership and went into opposition attracting a few Mbeki loyalists.

In this fourth democratic election there were only a few surprises. The ANC has lost some votes to the opposition (they came just short of a two-third majority), and the DA won absolute majority in the Western Cape Province. We now have a new Premier in the Eastern Cape : Helen Zille , leader of the DA, who was previously the mayor of Cape Town – I only found out recently that Ms Zille was an anti-Apartheid activist during the seventies, and  famously uncovered the circumstance of Steve Biko‘s death when she worked as a journalist for the Rand Daily Mail. The victory of the DA in the Western Cape is important because it is the first time any party manages to wrestle an absolute majority from the ANC in any of the nine provinces.

The elections had their serious moments and their really strange ones. Here in the Western Cape I saw election posters for the Cape Party, whose major objective was to declare the Cape independent (A republic of the Western and Northern Cape) – They got 2552 votes in the provincial elections, according to these results,  accounting for 0.13% of the provincial votes.

For me these elections and the subsequent events threw my adopted country in a positive light.  Despite all the negative hype about corruption and rape charges and the controversy around the person of Jacob Zuma, he has made all the right noises so far throughout his inauguration and cabinet selection. He is reaching out to South Africans of all races, and vowing to build the economy and combat poverty and disease.

Yesterday I listened in to the President’s announcement of  his cabinet selection. I noted that he formed a new ministry for Women, Children and People with Disabilities. To lump women and children together with the disabled may seem strange in other parts of the world, it may be b even unusual to single all these out as a separate category from the general population.  However, this is a testimony of how much work is still needed before real equality is achieved in society.  Our new president has charmed the majority of the population in this nation, and he is working on winning even his most bitter detractors, but how much he will achieve remains to be seen.

I can already see one bright spot though. News readers around the world will no longer have to wrestle with the name of our new president.  Although former president Kgalema Motlanthe is not completely out of the picture, he is now our deputy president.

Cyber Snobbery

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.