Scary stories from a lovely place
Apparently over the weekend in Australia a news program of questionable quality aired a story about the dangers of visiting South Africa for the World Cup. This doesn’t in the least surprise me. I have seen many a news story and blog post about how South Africa is too dangerous for overseas tourists to visit for the World Cup. Just google something about the World Cup and danger or crime and you will have the choice of many dramatic articles and sites to read through – a warning though, most are sensationalist and full of statistics that need context. After reading a few I got really upset and googled ‘nice things about South Africa’ to comfort me. To the people who were planning on come but are too scared – your loss!
Sure, Jozi is a dangerous place to live, I have never denied that. But it’s not Mogadishu. We’re not in a war zone here. My day is full of normal things – I drive in downtown Joburg, I even park my car and get out and walk around, I buy things from street vendors, I talk to strangers, I go out at night. Just the other day I was in downtown Joburg renewing my car registration. Once complete (it didn’t even take that long) I bought a chargrilled mealie from a guy on the street. To do so I had to open my bag, find my R5 and hand it over. The fact I did this shows just how normal life is here. Indeed, the mealie seller looked more scared than I did. I’m not sure he was used to young, white girls talking to him so politely.
On visits home in the last few years I have encountered many a guilty expat South African with a library of horrifying stories they want to acquaint me with. I’m not sure why they do this. Part of me thinks they feel guilty for leaving. They temper terrible stories of being robbed and living with security that rivals jail by lamenting the friends/parents/relatives they left behind and now miss desperately. They will also relate their many complaints of how expensive Australia is, how they can’t afford domestic help now and a list of the other things they miss about life here.
I have also experienced Australians telling me the stories their expat SA friends have told them. Again I’m not sure why they do it, but it smacks of guilt to me. When my friend Kylie moved to South Africa in 2006 I visited her church on what would be her last night there. Afterwards a man spoke to us and blurted out a story his neighbour or workmate or dog had told him about a woman who used to live in South Africa and had been raped. The story fizzled out as we didn’t give the reaction he wanted, so he climaxed it with “so that will probably happen to you!” Thanks very much. It didn’t happen to Kylie, though she did get two cars and a wallet stolen.
But such crime also happens in other countries. Nice, friendly countries like Australia or England. It’s all about chance metered with wise decisions and, if you believe in it, God’s providence. Another thing I don’t understand is the people who are too afraid to visit Joburg and enjoy all the wonderful things here will happily go on tours of Asia, America or Europe and drink a lot, sleep with strangers and call it a blast. Surely that is dangerous?
Crazy things certainly do happen here. But if and when I do move back to Australia it won’t be because of the crime, and I will miss it desperately here. As I have written before, we South Africans need to tone down our crazy stories because it’s unfair to Joburg for that to be its only reputation. Maybe in June I will write everyday about how normal and boring my life here is. It will go something like this – woke up, made the bed, ate oats, walked to the supermarket, met my friend, played tennis, cleaned the house, cooked supper, ate supper with friend and husband, went to bed. That’s what happened yesterday anyway. Or maybe I will write all the exciting things happening around the World Cup and make everyone who decided not to come feel bad.