For the past week I have been trying to decide on what to write my first team diary entry about. I have been in South Africa for over five weeks now, and am having trouble deciding which, from the vast range of experiences I have had, which to write about.
On Friday (1/08/08) night at about 9pm my problem was absolved as a new event, typical to the South African experience occurred.
I had a good friend of mine, Sanele and some friends of his for my first night out in Durban, they took me to a beer garden, called (rather ingeniously) 'The Garden'. I parked and, as seems customary here, proceeded to cross 4 lanes of oncoming traffic without bothering to use a pedestrian crossing. I approached the bouncers, who stared curiously for a moment at probably the first white visitor for the year and just as likely the last, was frisked for weapons and was in. It was time to absorb my first taste of the Durban nightlife.
I worked my way through the crowd, greeting people occasionally and eventually found my way to some seats from which we could keep an eye on the car. I sat and surveyed the scene, House music pounded from across the garden, people were dancing between tables though most sat laughing, chatting with friends, guys trying to talk to girls, girls trying to ignore the guys. I could have been in Australia if not for the fact that I was the only white person in there, indeed the only white skin I had seen since leaving the McDonalds where I had met my friends that afternoon was that of my own hands as I locked the car door.
After a couple of hours of chatting away to my friends and others I had met there it was time to move to another club, we left and headed for the car buying a skewer of chicken from a street vendor with a Braii (BBQ) on my way out. I reached for my key only to find an unlocked door. I looked closer, the radio was on, strange as it only works when the key, which is in my hand, is in the ignition. I opened the door and soon realised, from the entangled mass of wires hanging from the ignition and the immobiliser that someone had tried to steal the car. While we sat 50m away and in full view of the car someone had tried to hotwire it, though luckily had failed.
Perhaps the most disturbing thing for me is how little I was surprised by the event, after being here only 5 weeks I have come to accept certain realities of living in this country. A fortnight ago I was not surprised as I felt someone checking my back pockets for my wallet as I clutched it tightly in the front of my jeans while in a crowd at an international soccer game played in Durban, and tonight I was even less surprised to see someone had tried to steal my car right from under my nose. Coming from Australia to South Africa is a huge learning experience and one that you expect to change you, it is none-the-less confronting to realise that you now recognise serious crime as a part of your life.
So, imagine my lack of surprise as on Saturday morning as we went to collect the car, Sanele recounted to me how he and the others had been mugged only a couple of hours earlier at knife point, just after they had taken me somewhere to stay for the night.