The first time I went to Johannesburg it was during a spring break trip during my study abroad semester. We were only there two days before we headed on to Kruger. I wasn’t impressed. There was no ocean access. The restaurants seemed average. While visiting Soweto was important and memorable, the rest of the city just seemed regular degular to me.
Then, a few months ago, I watched a video of this Youtube guy talking about being robbed at gunpoint in the middle of the night at his Airbnb in Joburg. It was terrifying to listen to. So, in gearing up for our long holiday week in JHB, I was excited to see my #Fulbrightbaes, but wasn’t expecting much out of the city itself.
Boy was I wrong!!
Joburg is awesome! Markets! Rooftops! Art! Cool restaurants! Vegetarian food! Night life! Theatre performances! It truly has it all.
Markets are one of my favorite weekend past times and in Joburg, there is no shortage of them. We visited Neighborgoods Market and Arts on Main. They offered practically the same food/goods but Neighborgoods has a rooftop bar and Arts on Main spills out in the road with stands along the road. There is falafel, fresh juice, baked goods, tacos, and all sorts of amazing clothes/art/etc at both markets. Arts on Main is also in the popular area of Maboneng.
After we visited Neighborgoods, we took some time to go to the museums on the University of Witstrands (Wits) campus. We visited the art museum where there was an exhibit of Alfred Thoba’s work. His work is deeply complicated and could seem offensive to some (although I didn’t think this) as he portrays a lot of sensitive topics. He also painted toilets in a lot of his paintings and we weren’t sure what this was to signify. Our own theories included to show how sh*tty a situation was or he had one painting about diseases and maybe the toilet was to show that a simple, human need such as using the bathroom can cause many problems in SA. We actually met the artist randomly while we were there and talked with him about one of his paintings that showed him meeting Mandela some time before his death.
After the art museum, we visited the Origins Centre. This museum shows the early discoveries of humankind and how they can be traced back to Africa. It has displays on hunting, clothing, time management, etc and overall gives a picture of ancient times. There are tons of fossils and a rock art exhibit. It also shows a great deal about Africa and South Africa today and the tribes and traditions that have shaped the culture. There was one exhibit that portrayed how we are all one. It was hundreds of small papers with different languages written hanging from the ceiling. There were also stories of people telling what their language and culture meant to them. If you are ever in JHB, I highly recommend visiting the Origins Museum.
One night, we headed to the Theatre at Montecasino to see the South African production of Sound of Music. It was incredible!!! The singing, costumes, background, everything was perfect. We were so impressed by the quality of the performance. The venue was located in the giant casino of Montecasino, which has countless restaurants, a movie theatre and other venues. We, ofc, were running late to the production. We arrived at Montecasino but could not find the theatre for the life of us! We were running around following the signs and eventually found it but were about 15 minutes late. The show had just started, but the ushers said we had to wait until the opening number. Bummer! The show was still incredible and I loved it.
The last day of our Joburg exploration was pretty chill. Lara and I got tattoos while the other girls went to lunch at a vegan place. Then, we all met back up at our kick-a Airbnb (seriously this place had a rooftop garden, pool, trampoline, fire pit, guesthouse, five bedrooms, multiple sitting rooms, it was amazing) to get ready for the CHANCE THE RAPPER concert. We were all so pumped, we got there right at the start of the concert so that we could front row seats. Unfortunately, we had bought GA instead of “golden circle” or VIP, so we couldn’t get right up close to the stage, but we got as close as we could.
The first opener was amazing — a local SA artist. The second performer was also an SA artist and great. Then there was another opener. And another. And another. And another. (Shane Eagle, Nadia Nakai and Frank Casino were the openers listed but there were defs more than that) Around 2.5 hours of opening acts, we were all starting to get a little antsy. We had gone to a Techno concert in Dakar and after waiting for three hours, we left because the concert was outdoors and it was cold. We later heard that Techno didn’t go on until 3am!!! We had left at 1am.
I did not want a repeat of that Dakar concert experience, but I also knew that I could not pass up on Chance, no matter how long he made us wait. Finally, at 11pm, after 5 hours of opening acts, he graced us with his presence. He played all the favorite jams as well as a few others and told stories/talked to the audience throughout.
At one point, he asked the audience, “Are you ready for your miracle?” And I was standing there like, dang, I don’t know. What kind of miracle are we talking about here? Will it know when it has arrived? Or will I realize it was miracle many months after the fact? It 100% felt like a miracle when Chance finally graced the stage. It feels pretty miraculous (most days) that I get to spend this year in SA. It felt miraculous when I finished TFA (Teach for America) in one piece. It feels definitely miraculous whenever I can gather with all my SLU (Saint Louis University) babes in one place. I think, my next miracle, will be another adventure. I don’t know what that is yet, but I’m eager to find out.