Although yesterday (Wednesday) was technically my first day in Durban, after going to the Woolies (Woolworth’s, the more expensive but better quality grocery store) for food in the early afternoon, I slept most of the rest of the day. Today (Thursday) was my first full day around the city. This morning around 9:30 I went with J, my landlady, to a local art gallery and café to meet up with her friend N for some coffee. Both J and N are immigrants to South Africa, entering the country from Scotland and Bulgaria, respectively, about two decades ago at a time when immigration (at least from certain areas) was more encouraged by the government. The gallery also housed a fair trade shop, which reminded me a bit of being back at 10,000 Villages in Champaign. Most of the crafts were from within SA, but they also had some items from various artisan groups in other African countries. I bought a wonderful beaded doll made by Monkeybiz South Africa, a group that supports craftwork made by disadvantaged people in the townships of Cape Town. The practice of beaded crafts predates colonialism in SA, unlike most needlework crafts, which arose amongst women after its introduction by (mostly) British missionaries (more detail on needlework and British missionaries later). After the gallery J took me to a shopping mall to obtain a cell phone to use while I am here. They are pervasive in Durban so I was able to find one for R350. Unfortunately I can’t use the phone in the US so as much as I can save it as a souvenir or possible future use here or in Europe, it will likely end up adding to the technological waste-pile, even after disposing of it “properly” (as in, not just chucking it into a trash can).
In the afternoon I visited the University of KwaZulu-Natal, which is located along the same ridge where I’m staying. The view of Durban’s harbor was so beautiful from outside of the library - it is cluttered with industry compared to the wide, empty expansiveness of the beaches but Durban's port is one of the ten busiest in the world. The sky was so blue and everywhere the verdure landscape filled my views with intense greens. There are dandelions here too! Since their bracts are shaped differently from the species I am familiar with, I had to take a picture. At the university I visited the library and spoke to the very friendly officer in charge of the special collections whom I hope to see again in the future after I have set up my affiliation so I can use materials there. For the rest of the afternoon I sat at a table in the library and looked out at the view of harbor as the sky darkened somewhat (thunderstorms were predicted but never arrived – only overcast skies and cool winds that made the walk up the ridge a lot easier). I read some of Modikwe Dikobe’s poetry (from Dispossessed) and then started a novel, Second-Class Taxi, by Sylvester Stein. The latter was one of the first satirical books written about apartheid; it was first published in 1958 but promptly banned in SA. I’m reading them in context with Mike Davis’ Planet of Slums and will have much more to say about this soon.
After the library I walked along the ridge and passed where I am staying to walk down Moore Street to the Glenwood Shopping Centre. I browsed a fabric store (nothing caught my interest and I’m still a bit confused at how to order fabric here anyway since it’s certainly not by the yard) and then shopped for some food and supplies to take back home at the SuperSpar grocery store there. I still haven’t tired of wandering the aisles of the local grocery stores to note the persistence of originally US brands of foodstuffs and also to note differences in food tastes. I knew things were going to go well culinarily speaking when I spied the Russian rolls behind the bakery stand. It’s a hot dog baked within a seasoned bun that has melted cheese on top – and all for less than $1 US! It was so savory and made part of a great dinner. I also discovered something else that I am looking forward to trying – “Mince Mate” – much like “Hamburger Helper” except you “just add mince,” which is seasoned textured vegetable protein. The produce here is so fresh and very reasonable compared to the US so I bought mangoes, nectarines, sweetcorn, and baby marrows (squash). I caught the Mynah bus back up the hill (public transportation in Durban is not ideal so I am lucky to be staying right next to the Mynah line, which runs from Entabeni Hospital on the top of the ridge where I am all the way down to the beachfront, where I will be working). Tomorrow I spend my first day at Create South Africa’s offices where they store the archive of cloths. I look forward to writing about it afterwards – so far as I know now, I will be photographing the cloths for my research use but also assisting in editing the English translations associated with the cloths.
As much as I am here in Durban, I wish everyone I know in Urbana to be safe and well with the impending snowstorm that has been predicted for Friday.