ah jozi

Last week I behaved a bit like an intrepid traveller – I caught three flights in as many days, from one end of the country to the other. There was a lot of business involved, loads of socialising, some comforting of distressed break-up victims, being driven fanatically around a strange city and serious weather issues.

On the train going to the airport, I met a woman who knew I was on my way to Cape Town because I was wearing knee high boots with a jersey and scarf in 30 degree heat. So, that set us off on a conversational journey wherein she told me a large part of her life story. In the space of just 5 minutes. When we got to the next station, two guys got on and we all resumed chatting. One immediately began reminiscing about the good old days and how he could put in R5 petrol for a whole week of commuting. He also told us what the cost of a bag of dope was back those days. Too much information when you consider we’d all known each other for less than 10 minutes. It took only those few minutes for the three of us (excluding the dope fiend) to form a common bond, and we carried on chatting during the curiously long walk to the check in counters, all pretending to be shocked at dope-head’s admission he actually bought drugs all of 20 years ago.

On the plane, my new best friend happened to be sitting a couple of rows ahead of me, and so desperate to tell me more of her life story, she made the effort to get up and lean over the two people I was seated next to, to continue chatting.

But you see, that’s why I’m so pleased to be home. That’s the kind of dialogue and level of friendliness you can expect from Jozi. After living out of a suitcase and experiencing the deeply depressing weather in Cape Town (Durban wasn’t much better, actually), arriving back in my city filled me with a joy I’ve not experienced for a long time.

Suddenly I was in love with my city. Even the kamikaze taxi drivers seemed like family – familiar and just so very special (they must be special, because they’re allowed to drive on yellow lines, pavements and the wrong side of the road). The glorious smells of jasmine and gardenia infuse the Jozi air with a sense of hope, peace and promise.

I recently read a book called Johannesburg to Jozi, which promised a celebration of this wonderful city. I was excited to read it and perhaps read some shared memories of life in Johannesburg. But, alas, the contributing journalists either didn’t read the brief or chose to ignore it. Every one of them lumbered straight towards an attempt to show their political correctness and insinuated they’d been on the side of the oppressed from the day they were born. There’s a place for that kind of writing, but not in a book that’s supposed to give visitors to Jozi a real sense of what it’s like now. A real sense of the energy, vibe, pure aliveness.

I didn’t finish the book. Instead, I’m going to enjoy my version of Jozi. What it’s done for me, what I love about it. The nooks and crannies of it, the adventures and close shaves I’ve had. The protection of it. The way I can proudly state I’m a resident of it. Like a familiar face, a long-loved favourite person, Jozi is full of personality and has all the traits known to humankind, so there are bad days and good days, violence and peace, fairness and injustice, joy and sadness. But that’s what makes it so enticing, so interesting, so beloved.

Whether it’s Jozi, [almost] spring or where I am in my life right now (possibly a combination of all three), I can honestly say I’m happier now than I can ever remember being. I feel centred, rooted and deeply contented.

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