A Look at the Portuguese World

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The south belle

Written by  yvette vieira fts antoinette van dikkenberg

This is only the beginning of a rtrip thru one of the most beautiful countries in the Southern Hemisphere. Do not be scared by pacient with me

I always thought that when I arrived in Africa the air would smell different from all the places I've been to, but I was wrong, there was a certain humidity in the air, but Cape Town like any other city in the world suffers from the same global problem, road pollution. Just outside the international airport, on my way to the center of the city, I immediately find myself in one of the many boroughs, the so-called townships, which swarm in the various parts of this metropolis and do not think that despite the negative image the authorities are crossing their arms, on the contrary, the local government, even within the limits of these temporary constructions, builds social housing to house the thousands of families that converge to this part of the country.

With a population estimated at about 3,740 million, according to the latest census of 2011, this city has slower population growth compared to Johannesburg and Tshawane, according to the latest human development index. The document also points to the second lower value of unemployment among young people, Cape Town still performs well in terms of better income per capita and lower wage inequality. These numbers put it on the list of the best places to live and work, considering that the current unemployment rate in South Africa has been around 27.7% since the first quarter of the year, against 26.5% in the three months However, not everything is a sea of roses, the metropolis presents a 40% increase in homicides, twice as much compared to other cities, violence that comes from the organized gangs that exist in the zones most impoverished of the city, the townships, which sow terror and death among the local population.

But do not think that with these data I intend to dissuade the reader from visiting one of the most beautiful cities in the world, on the contrary, the Cape is one of the safest South African cities and enjoyed by tourists from all over the world. I want you to have the perfect idea that we can enjoy idyllic scenery and breathtaking landscapes, but with the right precautions. And I'm not just talking about humans, there are "other dangers" in the form of non-rational animals, such as monkeys! True, there are several warnings for not feeding, stroking or opening car windows to baboons, one of the most dangerous species in Africa that can be seen on the roads along the coast at the end of the day. And seriously, one of these adorable animals can simply bite you, rip off, or dent parts of your vehicle in a short time, and if they accidentally get in the car, you have to run and call the authorities.

Life in a city like the Cape differs greatly from European urban living, for a very simple reason there is a different notion of space. We, in general, live in Europe in a space already limited by time and geography, I mean that everything has been built for centuries and as such, there is not much more to expand. In Africa, although there are mountainous areas, the plateaus give us a notion of infinity, our gaze is lost and in terms of construction the dimensions go far beyond what can be seen and acquired in Europe. The houses are villas that have at least 3 bedrooms, a garden and a swimming pool. There are apartments, there are skyscrapers in Cape Town, more in the center with a greater emphasis on services, but people in general live in the vicinity.
The suburbs are considered cities because of their size when compared to their European counterparts, where yu can see doors and windows with bars, electrified walls, or private surveillance paid by the residents are mostly visible.
There are numerous privileged zones, due to their location some are more expensive than others, where a house can cost on average over 2 million dollars with areas never less than one thousand square meters and in which usually are ºclosed condominiums which can only be accessed by invitation of the residents, because there is surveillance at the gate and surroundings and where the identification is so sophisticated that it passes through the fingerprint recognition of the residents, at the entrance.
Almost everyone has their own car, there are public transports, but they are inefficient as far as schedules, area of coverage and those that exist are unreliable due to constant malfunctions and also for personal safety issues. The metro train, which I found strange, serves only the poorest population, but does not cover the needs of citizens in terms of traveling to the center of the city.

 

The most used transport by the working population are taxis, which has nothing to do with the European version, or the Uber, are vans with 12 to 16 places that they are exclusively dedicated to an African public, because they pass through the townships. The mode of access to these means of transport is at least unusual, the taxis have a kind of reviewer who shouts the name of the area where they are going and people with only a signal have them stop and go wherever they are, even if there are marked stops, it does not matter as long as there is a halt, or a place to stop, anything is possible. These vans cause numerous traffic disturbances, using the craziest maneuvers, from passing three consecutive lanes, getting thru the line of cars almost by force to beat the traffic, but contrary to what was to be expected the South African drivers are so accustomed to all this that it is not a problem, by which I mean that almost nobody uses the car horn (a phenomenon to which Portuguese drivers are not indifferent) and there is not even a lot of road accidents. One of the main reasons for this almost English impavity, as I discovered later, is that the vast majority of vehicles have no insurance, are quite expensive even well above average compared to the European standard and as such the drivers are very attentive to the road, because if they have an accident they have to pay for the damages caused in their own vehicles.

These vans are so essential to the townspeople, and I'm not just talking about Cape city, that on the days I was there they decided to activate a two-day strike that was scary and totally disastrous in just 24 hours, thousands of people could not to go to work, several public and private services in the city were limited by lack of personnel, or simply closed, those who otherwise managed to commute to their job, at the end of the day they were on the edge of the freeways waving money, which a vast majority were women, to get some form of hitchhiking near the area where they live without any luck I should add, because people, in general, do not stop to help out of fear, even if they pay you. At the end of the day, the discontent was so blatant that some of the cars were burned up, there were confrontations with the strikers, the companies were forced to call off the strike and throughout the night they were forced to collect thousands of people who were still traveling the roads to get home and this was only in Cape Town. It's the strength of numbers!

Another aspect to take into account and which I have never before considered in my life, although in our country is no longer a very distant reality, is the problem of water scarcity that is extremly severe.
Africa has been the scene of one of the worst droughts ever, which has been going on for 4 years, due to the "el niña" phenomenon, with the level of dams reaching historical numbers of around 38%. To address the problem the South African government has imposed a series of laws restricting to the use of water in the cities. For example, it is only allowed to spend 87 liters, per day, per person. Can you imagine how much this is? Of course not, because although we all know that water is an essential good, as there is no shortage in Portugal, we do not reflect much on the subject and spent what we want, after all we paid the bill, right? Let me clarify does not matter how much money we may have, we can live perfectly without many of the innovations of modern life, or even without electricity, but we definitely cannot survive without water!

In order not to exceed this number imposed by the authorities and can result in very heavy fines, families cannot water the gardens, unless they use the used water from washing, or the dishes machines and many people do, I guarantee . They pour less soap and divert the tubing to a tank after each wash, well thought out, right? The swimming pools that everyone has in their homes and I speak of the middle class, should not be filled. Therefore, the existing water in many cases is constantly cleaned with equipment and products to prevent the creation of greenery. The baths should be restricted to a shower of 2 minutes each, but only for you to have an idea of the expenses of which I speak, according to Vimagua, a Portuguese company of quality and environmental management, on average one person in a bath of immersion uses 260 liters of water, while in a shower of only 5 minutes it spends about 25 liters. Do you now understand the two-minute rule? Now imagine doing it efficiently when we are used to spending without thinking, it is a real challenge in such a short time, especially when washing long hair. Discharges from the flush toilet should be as scarce as possible because each flush represents 20 liters of water. Imagine, bathe, go to the bathroom, cook, clean the house and all this with only 87 liters per day, per person? All this made me think about how privileged we are and how we should rethink the way we use drinking water in our country. And with this first impression on the beautiful Cape Town I leave you until the next chronicle there is more to tell.

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