Sunday, August 28, 2016

In which we are the attraction

Couple weeks ago we went to the National Zoological Gardens. One of the fun parts of the zoo was that you could rent a golf cart (for about as much as admission for the 5 of us) for three hours. Saved us a LOT of complaining.

As we were puttering around the exotic birds, some teenage students noticed us. They did a double-take. Then they ran over and asked if they could please take pictures with our baby, John-Thomas. For the next 10 minutes, one teen after another ran up to us to climb into and on top of us to take pictures and selfies with us and our golden haired children. We were just glad no one ran off with him (as happened in Abuja).

It eventually got to be a bit too much for my personal space and we politely shooed them away.

As it drew closer to noon, though, over a hundred pre-schoolers and early grade schoolers descended on the zoo. They were all in the same school uniform. For the most part we just moved around and among each other, no problem.

The snake pit was a little weird, though. Dozens of them would flow down to get to the BIG snakes, then scream loudly, about face, and RUN, encouraging us to do our best impression of salmon swimming upstream.

Then a gaggle of kids separated Princess off. They were in awe. They kept petting and stroking her hair. I could see Princess was not entirely comfortable with this attention, but she wasn't freaking out so I took a picture or two of my daughter, the zoo attraction. They noticed that I was watching them and gave her some breathing room.

I was by this point deeply confused. I understood being an "attraction" in Nigeria, where entire schoolyards of kids would stop recess to run up to the wall and call out "Bature!" in hopes I would wave at them. There just weren't many of us in that part of the country But this is South Africa! And the capital at that! There are plenty of white folks here.

So I did a little sleuthing. Turns out, not too surprisingly, that even more than 20 years after the end of apartheid, there is still a fair amount of segregation. There is a map of where the white people are, and there are just large parts of SAfr where they ... aren't. That includes the south side of Johannesburg apparently, which is where these kids' school is located. ``