I heart Jozi: Surviving Joburg

2011-05-31 14:44

Having watched the contestants of Survivor SA: Maldives exchange survival tips for the island, I fast realised any place can be hard to survive without a little help from the locals.

And having seen people who aren’t from Joburg fear this big cold city that just loves to swallow you whole when you not looking, I thought I’d share just a few tips on navigating these streets.

When using public transport:
Learn Zulu. It will go a long way in trying to get directions from any Bree Street taxi drivers and will come in very handy when dealing with any altercations. Truth is, though, you’ll find that many drivers actually speak Tshonga, Pedi and Venda, but they too had to survive in an industry run by rural KZN folk who struck it rich when they came to the big city.

Don’t sit in the front seat if you don’t know basic maths. We all know this rule, so you will find no mercy if you mess up. Most taxi drivers make the two passengers in the front count all the money and sort out people’s change. All he’s interested in is getting his total fee. Calculating how much change is needed from a R50 note if two passengers are paying R8.50 for their trip, another R7.50 and yet another R7 because his or her trip is shorter, takes a bit of doing, especially when considering that that is only one row and three more mathematical equations are tapping your shoulder.

Be ready and prepared to either trip or duck. Taxi drivers have a single word that strikes terror in the heart of any criminal. When one shouts “vimba” (meaning “stop”) it’s on! All drivers present will pull out whatever weapon they had stashed behind the front seat and the thief literally has to run for dear life. Your task in such a situation is a simple one. Either trip the assailant or move out the way; you don’t want to be in the way of an angry knobkerrie-wielding mob.

When stopped by any kind of law enforcement officers:
Never tell them that you know your rights (even when their actions are in direct violation of those rights). It will only escalate the situation and it would be sad to land up in a holding cell all because you “know your rights”.

When walking the streets of the CBD:
Know your team colours. The last thing you want to do is walk past a crowd of Orlando Pirates fans whose team has just lost the Soweto derby against Kaizer Chiefs while wearing a yellow and black T-shirt of any kind. We are a soccer-crazed country. Don’t be a casualty of the emotion of it all.

Eat your carrots because 20/20 vision is pivotal. Be constantly aware at all times of what is happening all around you. The lady in front of you may stop to check out what shiny things are being sold on the side of the road, a pickpocket may be reaching for your bag and a car could come speeding past to beat that irksome red robot.

Stick to the simple mission of getting from A to B (with the least amount of disturbance). Unless you are in town to get your hair done, ignore the ladies with their photo albums of the pretty things they could do to your hair. That guy on the corner says “hey, baby!” to every other girl walking past him so don’t pay him attention. Just keep moving.

It’s a fast-paced city. Keep your eyes peeled and move with it. And if you’re trying to find the gems all over the inner city, try the quieter streets further away from the active transport terminals.

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