Every time I come to Jozi I have a small internal tug-o-war. I love this city of my birth and growth, almost as much as I am deeply rattled by it. I have written about this before.
I love my family and friends here, and it is a different love from my close and loved ones in Cape Town. I can’t explain why, but it is.
I love the winter here; the clear, dry, frosty mornings and the ridiculously warm and sunny days, where the sun sets (and rises) too early. Don’t get me wrong; I love Cape Town winters equally, where I worship the wet and green, and light fires and make sure my windscreen wipers work.
I love the energy that people talk about here in Jozi, and the suburban relaxing that happens on the weekends. I love driving past my own haunts, and saying the names of the streets in Yeoville out loud. Kenmere, Dunbar, Fortesque, Cavendish.
It is also true that I wish there were more street lights; Orange Grove is scary and dark at night, and the Uber driver who took us to visit our friend seemed nervous about stopping outside his house. I am left deeply uncomfortable by a new style of begging here, where street beggars kneel or lie in the road in between cars at robots, taking it to a whole new extreme. I am shocked by how flippant the response to crime here can be, with friends being carjacked, and aquaintances having their phones stolen off them in mid-conversation.
I hate seeing buildings that I remember in complete shambles or ruins. I miss an accessible Hilbrow even though downtown is unrecognisably regenerating. I sometimes feel like Joburg is Cape Town in reverse.
I am drawn to and repelled by this place for totally different reasons from being drawn to and repelled by Cape Town. Every time I come up here I want to live here again but can’t wait to get back home, I want to do things here, and then remember that I do them at home, I am tugged.
And now it is our magnificent little niece who draws us here with the most powerful heart magnet. Sometimes the love for the small people of our family, who are all away from us, and not in Cape Town, pull our hearts out of our chests and drag us up country, away from our first loves, our furry animal babies, who we pine for and panic about every time we are away from them.
Like I said. Tug-o-war.