A little background about Johannesburg and the neighborhood in which I’m currently living.
Joburg is located in the Highveld at an elevation of about 1,740 meters or 5,700 feet. This, my dear friends, is quite a difference after living in New York City. The air is a bit thinner and it takes some time acclimating to it. Expect some setbacks if you go running (like wheezing and gasping and not being able to run for as long or as far as you’re used to).
The climate is considered semi-arid with warm, dry summers and mild winter days with temperatures that drop in the evening. Also take note that since we’re in the Southern Hemisphere, the seasons are reversed. While my friends and family suffered through mountains of snow and bitterly cold temperatures this past January and February (and even March!), it was a lovely 25-28 degrees celsius over here. (Minus a couple of weeks where we went through a very abnormal rainy season.)
You’ll find most people living in the suburbs surrounding the business-oriented city center (also known as the CBD, or central business district). I’ve read that most expats find their home in the north, a well-developed and affluent area that has many neighborhoods offering a feeling of safety and comfort to counteract all of the negative and “scary” things you hear about Joburg. My husband and I are living in the south, however, in his childhood neighborhood called The Hill. The south is full of older, residential neighborhoods, and The Hill is one of them. It is appropriately named for the hill on which it sits. (Side note: running in this neighborhood is excellent for hill training.)
The south has its rough edges, and it most certainly doesn’t have the glossy feel that you’ll see in the north, but we’re still in a perfectly nice neighborhood. Yes, there is electric fencing, and we have padlocks on the security gate of our front entrance. No, you don’t want to walk around when it is dark, and yes, you still need to be aware of who and what is around you. But, I have gone running by myself, and although I don’t stray too far from home, I’ve never felt terribly unsafe. My husband keeps telling me that I’m as safe as I want to be, which I suppose is true for anywhere. Don’t be stupid, don’t be flashy.
But what if someone wants to hold me up? Mug me? I worried.
Then you just let them pat you down and take what they want, he replied.
Oh. Good to know.
But that is just one aspect of living here. The crime, while prominent, is highly sensationalized in the news overseas, and it isn’t fair, because there are plenty of positives about this country that are overlooked. There are so many expats who come to live here and love it, and I am determined to become one of them. The weather is generally gorgeous, and the rumors you hear about the African sky? They’re true. The sunsets are vivid and expansive, and the blues in the afternoon sky seem enhanced. The people are friendly and welcoming with a good sense of humor, and if you go to the right places, there is one hell of a wine selection for incredibly affordable prices!
I’m excited about starting a new life here, and that I’ll be getting out of my comfort zone. I’m already learning to be more patient as I adjust from the everything-available-at-your-fingertips-24/7 lifestyle of New York City, to the more laidback (and sometimes frustratingly inefficient) African way. I’m slowly trying to learn not to fight it, and to instead, just go with it and accept it as the way of life here.
TIA. This is Africa.