Friday, July 6, 2012

South Africa: Johannesburg

This is the first in my series of travel writing posts about my trip to South Africa. Exciting!

After a 14 hour flight (my first international flight ever), we landed in Johannesburg. There wasn't much culture shock at first, because all the signs on the airport walls were in English and Kelly Clarkson was playing on the radio. Looking back, I'm thankful for this, because it helped ease me into the whole cross-cultural experience.

The first place we went was the Voortrekker Monument. I was a little too in awe of South Africa (or what little bit I'd seen from the bus window on the drive over) to pay much attention to what our tour guide was saying, but our professor (who is originally from South Africa) is distantly related to Piet Retief, a South African leader who is recognized in the monument.

On the steps of the Voortrekker Monument in Pretoria
From there, it was time to eat! We headed to Harrie's Pancakes, which isn't a typical breakfast-y diner joint like it sounds. South African pancakes are more like fluffy crepes filled with either sweet or savory foods. I ordered a coffee milkshake (one of South Africa's greatest inventions) and a bobotie pancake. I chose it because it's what Glen (my professor) and Jenna (our other co-leader) ordered, and since they were the only ones at my table who had been to Africa before, I figured they knew what they were talking about. Bobotie is the national dish of South Africa, and it's mincemeat (some type of meat, raisins, almonds, and a variety of spices) flavored with curry. It was delicious and super filling; I could barely finish it. Since we were all so full but still wanted to try a sweet pancake, our table of four split a black cherry pancake with vanilla ice cream.

Bobotie pancake and coffee milkshake

We drove back to Johannesburg and spent the rest of the afternoon at the Apartheid Museum. I'd learned a bit about Apartheid in a theater history class my freshman year, but I still wasn't completely sure what it was all about. This museum told me everything I need to know. Every inch of the walls was covered in photographs, plaques, and TVs playing video clips of racial segregation in South Africa. So much violence and hate and anger, it was astounding. The museum was like a maze, and I meandered around with the rest of the group for a good two or three hours.

The segregated entrances to the museum based on what your admission ticket says

Outside the museum was a beachy setup with tall grass and dunes. Some of us finished looking around inside the museum earlier than others, so we took lots of fun pictures!

The first of many South African sunsets

After that, we headed to Shoestring Backpackers (Backpackers are South Africa's version of hostels), which looked like a huge house with lots of bedrooms. The owners cooked us dinner (South African barbecue) and I settled into my first ever bunk bed (top bunk!) and fell asleep in South Africa.

Hopefully this was interesting. More will come soon...this was only day one!


  1. I love that you're doing posts about this. Can't wait to read them all!

    (Also - too cool that KC was on the radio at the airport!)

    1. I thought of you! Oh, and I listened to KC's new album on the plane ride home. Each seat comes with its own touch screen TV with movies, TV shows and music, and her album was one of the ones available to listen to. I was having a dance party around 4 AM! :)

    2. How cool is that? It's almost (but not quite!) enough to get me on a plane ;-)

  2. Pancake is not really the kind of food that I usually eat, but South African Pancake’s awesome! Yeah, I enjoyed it, especially the fresh fruit fillings. It’s mouth watering, and makes me hungry when I think about it…: D I know how you feel. I fell in love with the jungle, their food and the magnificent scenery.


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