Maboneng

We've been in South Africa for two weeks now. We spent about four days sleeping, acclimating to the new time zone. The next week would be spent shopping and settling in. And when I say shopping, it's not the fun kind of shopping. Well, for me there is no fun kind of shopping, unless it's done in an art supply store or an asian market. The shopping we did was for groceries, a cell phone for Jordan, adapters (I ruined the one we brought, thanks to my straightener), a rental car, and a GPS. Yeah, settling in takes a full week or so when you plan to stay for a while. 

Now that we have mostly everything in order (Jordan still has issues with his phone and we're still trying to recover our diaper bag from JFK...yeah we left our diaper bag at the airport and survived a 15 hour flight without food and diapers for our babe. But that's a tale for another time), we finally got a chance to explore Jo'burg. Our first destination, the Maboneng Precinct.

Maboneng is on the eastern side of downtown Jozi (another slang name).  Once dangerously dilapidated, it is now teems with everything an artsy, multicultural family loves: creativity, aestheticism, restaurants, coffee shops, bars (for those who are into that), and (most importantly for Jordan and me) thrilling cultural eclecticism and inspiring art galleries!  For people who always have a piece of their heart in Joburg (like Jordan and, coming soon, me) it is also a symbol of hope for the redemption of this beautiful city. 

Maboneng Precinct

To get to Maboneng, take the freeway! Our GPS mapped out a route through downtown, the Hillbrow neighborhood. Locals have told us to avoid driving through there at night, but I wasn't concerned since it was daytime. I even had my camera at the ready to take cool street shots. I thought my husband was just being paranoid.  (He’d written freeway-only directions, but I just wanted to follow the GPS; he later told me he was very angry with himself for not insisting that I navigate.  “Better carsick than carjacked” he said.)  However, I soon found that his worries were valid.  In Hillbrow you are completely inundated by taxis and people. You find yourself in a notoriously dangerous area, where traffic laws are void, surrounded on all sides.  If something were to happen, you’d have no chance of getting away. Jordan also repeatedly told me that he didn't think it'd be safe to have my camera out. I was stubborn, but he was so adamant that I finally gave in.  He told me that people at stopped at robots (stoplights) have had thieves smash their car windows in to steal their valuables.  Plus, you don’t want to be misperceived as just a rich girl who sees the intensity of these people’s lives as a photo op to capture with your fancy Canon.  So it was away with the camera. 

Once we turned onto Main St. and arrived in the precinct, it was a completely different world! I was shocked at how much cleaner and significantly less crowded it was. And it was shocking because Maboneng was just a block away from all the craziness! I thought, "What keeps all the poverty, all the litter, all the traffic out of Maboneng?" It's not like there's gates or authorities keeping watch. Somehow, this little block seemed to blossom like a rose in the desert, and nothing could touch it. 

Jordan had planned out the day here and our first stop was brunch at Eat Your Heart Out, a cafe on the corner of Fox and Kruger Street that served healthy Jewish-inspired food. The design of this little space was too cool. The atmosphere was definitely a place where you could pop your laptop out and get cozy with a pillow, a blanket, and a warm drink. And I mean that literally. The woman at the table next to us was doing just that. (And I took that as a sure sign it was safe to bust out my camera). Each seat was cushioned with a pillow that was stamped with the cafe's logo and each table had a teal plaid blanket. Adorbs huh!? 

Baby boy duel wielding mini Marie Biscuits

After brunch, we headed down Fox Street and we came across this court yard. The buildings that surrounded it were nice restaurants, a design office, and other artsy places. 

David Kurt Publishing lured us in with its printmaking studio, art gallery, and bookstore. Of course we had to spend some time there! I was geeking out over everything in this studio. The gallery showcased amazing prints, printmakers were busy at their craft, and then there was the bookstore. Who could pass up a good bookstore? I was in heaven for sure! But little did I know, my level of geeking out would grow exponentially! In this very building of David Kurt Publishing, we met Anderson Cooper! Yes, CNN's silver fox! Watch the video at the end of the post for the full story.

On to more art! Our next stop was the MOAD, The Museum of African Design. They had a little exhibit on the power of education featuring photographs by Rebecca Crook, Zach Louw, and Sameer Satchu. Their works shared powerful stories of school children from Tanzania.

Our last stop was for some delish braai (South African barbecue) at Sha'p (It's sharp, but written with some coolness). Sharp (pronounced like "shop" in the US) is slang for any positive affirmation; cool, doing good, nice, etc. The restaurant was one of those giant shipping crates and it opened up to the street. Just like all the eateries in Maboneng, Sha'p had a cool vibe. The chairs were made from plastic crates. The African guests ate their food with their hands. We were given silverware, so no authentic eating for us. We'll for sure convert to no utensils sooner or later. For me, it was normal because Filipinos eat the same way.

Jordan has been missing this popular street food since his mission here eight years ago! So it was a big occasion. We spent R70 a plate, which is about $5! Yeah, we got plenty full from $5 worth of food! I even shared my beetroot salad with Anthem and I still couldn't eat my share. And that's saying a lot cause we both have big appetites! 

Sha'p Braai on Kruger Street

Sha'p Braai on Kruger Street

Well, that's Maboneng for you! We'll for sure be back. I mean, we have two and half more months here, so we gots times! There's plenty more restaurants and art to check out, so stay tuned! And maybe we'll run into Anderson Cooper again! Who knows!