I've run off to South Africa the foreseeable future (up to 90 days). I bought a return ticket but it’s anybody’s guess as to whether I’m getting on the plane next week. That’s for two reasons. One, I like it here. There’s a similar vibe to what Brooklyn seemed like based on Spike Lee movies (especially "She's Gotta Have It" , one of my favoirte films) from the 90s. And Two, I’m completely stressed in New York for reasons I can’t yet disclose. (I will say it has nothing to do with my relationship, since that’s the automatic assumption whenever a woman says she’s stressed.) I can say it seemingly requires me to give up my first-born (that would be this site). And figuring out how much to give of who I am to become who I think I might want to be? Well, that ish is stressful. Calling where I am a crossroads, would be accurate. It wasn’t until I was here for a week, and coming to after a nap on a Durban beach (where I burnt the hell out of my face to the point it looks like chapped lips) that I realized this whole adventure is quite Chappelle-esque. During the Season 3 taping of his self-named hit show, he flipped, ran off to South Africa, and when a Time magazine reporter caught up with him, he was in this country’s version of Vegas with an actual beach. What’s at stake for me is nowhere near $50 million. But the stakes are high for me. I get why Dave ran and how he ended up here, specifically. This isn’t some third –world country. This is a creative’s haven/ heaven.
Anyway, I leave New York on Dec. 28th, arrive here at 10AM on the 30th after a 13-hour stopover in London and an 11-hour flight from the UK to South Africa. That first day is a blur. I hit a braai (like a BBQ) that night, met some cool people and managed to last until 10:30 PM before I zonked out. (Two weeks later, I’m still jet-lagged.)
The next day is New Year’s Eve. I don’t recall what we did that day other than eat and hang out and debate which parties to go to and in which order and who’s driving. Oh, and nap. It’s the same thing I’d be doing in Brooklyn.
Around 9, I get all dolled up in a gold and silver halter-ish dress, and I realize upon leaving the house that I am completely overdressed. But it’s NYE and I like to sparkle, so….
My host, Stephie. and I go for dinner with her friend at House of Baobab, a West African spot in Maboneng, around the corner from her house. I order jaloof rice and fish to which one of the her friends says, “you’re in Africa, be adventurous.” And I remind him that I’m from America, jaloof rice is adventurous (and delicious). He concedes.
The restaurant, one of the few open in the area (it’s like the entire city of Jo’burg goes on vacation from Dec 25- Jan 7), is empty except for us. All the action is outside in the streets. A restaurant across the way is having a braai in the streets and blasting music. An unseen group of people are yelling “woo hoo!” outside.
“White people,” Steph's friend deduces.
“I guarantee they don’t have shoes on,” I quip.
Some things don’t change, not even on the other side of the world.
After dinner, we head upstairs to “Living Room”, a rooftop lounge that looks, well, like a really fancy, really large living room. There’s a view of the Johannesburg skyline with its iconic Telkom Tower and the scenery rivals that of Atlanta, Chicago and yes, even New York.
The DJs play dubstep and I notice the white people actually have rhythm. We are, after all, in Africa. Oh, and the white boys have major holler. I’m headed either to the bathroom, or the bar – drinks are R40 (ie, $5US) here— and a tall, broad white guy, says, “Hello, Sister! You look lovely tonight?” Word?
Approaching midnight, I get my first (and so far only) pang of homesickness. It’s a bit of tradition to guess which song will play as the clock strikes 12, and I know at whatever houseparty I would have been at in Brooklyn—a bourghetto mishmash—it would be “All Gold Everything.” I would have been backing it up on CBW to “popped a Molly I’m sweating Woo!“ and toasting expensive champagne in cheap red cups with friends. They won’t be celebrating the NYE for another seven hours.
I pull out my BelleBerry—yes, it’s back—to check the time. 11:59. The DJ is playing Outkast’s “SpottieOttieDopaliscious” (aka “Damn James”). I don’t need my watch to know when midnight hits. DJ Fonque drops the sickest beat I’ve ever heard, a dub-step mash-up that, combined with copious amounts of rum & Coke, has me dancing like I’m 22. Sparklers emerge from, like everywhere.
Everyone has one but me and I’m mad I missed them being passed out (or bought?). Friends and randoms happily toast and double-cheek kiss anyone who they can get their hands on. It’s beautiful people and a beautiful night. But it’s the Johannesburg skyline that takes the clichéd cake.
There are no official New Year’s fireworks in Johannesburg, but the entire skyline has lit up like giant fireflies are attacking the city. It. Is. Beautiful. And I am so glad that I am here, bringing in the New Year in Africa. A year ago, I was anticipating my first trip here, a trip I’d been talking about one-day making since I started my blog in 2006, and couldn’t figure out how or when I’d get here. But I made it. F***ing finally.
It’s my second trip in 2012. It’s been alternately the most fun and the hardest year of my life. I’ve never struggled like this. I’ve never lived like this! I bite my bottom lip, dreaming of what’s to come, hoping 2013 will be better.
To be continued....