Rebuilding Foundations

An exploration of international development work in Africa

Some Positive Aspects

Without a doubt, commuting via minibus taxis is inconvenient.  In the mornings, I get off at Braamfontein Centre, which is a 15 minute walk from my office building.  In the afternoon, I have to walk to the Bree Taxi Rank; it’s a hot, busy, crime-ridden 30 minute walk from my office.

Besides the walk to Bree, though, I like taking the minibuses.  It’s great to start off my day with a brisk walk!  At 8am, the bright sun is warm on my skin and the sidewalks are relatively empty.

Furthermore, in the afternoons I usually walk with at least one other person from my office.  I’ve heard more gossip during this past week than in the last four months!  Our receptionist is especially chatty.  Occasionally she’s start a story then gasps, “Oh no, I have such a big mouth!”

“Don’t worry,” I soothe her.  “Who do I have to tell?”

Then she’ll continue with her latest juicy tidbit.

In addition, it’s interesting to see the culture differences between winter to summer.  When I first moved here and took minibus taxis, it was winter and most of the people were inside.  Now that’s it’s summer, however, there are more people hanging around outside.

 A couple days ago I stopped to watch a group of amazing dancers that had attracted a significant crowd.  I think they were doing “gumboot dancing”: a style that emerged among the mineworkers during apartheid.  Unable to talk to each other because of their white overseers, black miners established a language communicated through stomping their feet.  Over the years this evolved into “gumboot dancing” which includes not only boot stomping but acrobatics as well.

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I never would have seen that on my usual drive!

Plus I just like to talk to people.  I like to listen to conversations and see strangers interact, even if I don’t understand the language.  I like how helpful people are to me.

My first morning taking a minibus to work, I hailed one down and said that I wanted to get to Hillbrow.  One commuter inside explained that I could get to Braamfontein and either walk or take another minibus from there.  When we got to Braamfontein Centre he ushered me off the bus then pointed out the direction to Hillbrow.  “It’s 10 minutes,” he said.  “Or you can take a [Metro] bus, but I don’t know how to catch those.”

“Thank you!”

There are more anomalies in my day now, and that makes it all the more exciting.  For example, yesterday another white person got in my taxi.  In a business suit.  Want to know the most amazing part?  From his accent I could tell he was Afrikaans!  The whole experience blew my mind.

Does it really matter that my commute is 40 minutes longer each way if I get to see a big Afrikaner squished in a minibus taxi?  Nope.  Totally worth it!

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