The day after our arrival in Johannesburg, I asked in the hotel for a nearby post office so that I could send my mother a telegram. Luckily it was not far so I went out walking after breakfast.
I can still remember how I felt, Johannesburg was a swinging town, a very noisy town,
a very modern town, I felt completely lost in this overpopulated town, I walked in a
for me unknown world.
I found the post office and stood in one of the lines.
Everybody stared at me, so I thought that people could see that I was a stranger, until an old African told me that I stood in the wrong line! I asked him why and so he told me that I stood in the “native” line, the so called black line. He told me that I had to stand in a line with the white people. I thanked him and walked away with a red face, I felt very shy and ashamed.
Within a week each of us found a job and we found an apartment in the quarter called Hillbrow. Richard started working for Philips a Dutch company and I started working for the bank Barclays where I stayed two years. I became a “bookkeeping-machine-operator”.
Hillbrow was a very modern suburb, there were international restaurants, café’s and shops, one could buy the newspapers from all over the world. It was all very new to us, it was anyhow completely different from what I had expected.
There were many record shops in town, they played their African music loud and clear and every African who passed those shops started dancing in the streets. Coming from Europe I found this real nice and the rhythm was fantastic, but the white South Africans were used to all this and found it too noisy.
I found a shop where I could buy all sorts of Indonesian herbs, so now and then we ate Indonesian meals.
Near my second job “The Star” the biggest newspaper from South Africa, where I worked 4½ years, was an Indian market, a real paradise for me since I love the taste of curry, gorgeous indeed. The Indian women taught me how to use the Indian herbs for cooking, I wrote many of them down in those days. The Indians were brought to South Africa by the British immigrants, the Indians had a higher social status than the Africans. I am talking of course about South Africa during the time of the Apartheid,
the segregation between all the different peoples.
We saved for a car and so we could see a bit of the country outside Johannesburg.
South Africa is a very beautiful country, it was a country I liked very much, although there some things I didn’t like. I found South Africa a very fascinating country and always that overwhelming rhythm, I can still hear it. Oh yes, I did like South Africa, but I didn’t love the country.
In 1963 my mother came over to stay with us for a year, she fell in love with South Africa, she was completely fascinated by the life in this country although she realized too that it was a dangerous country to live in. One could never go out walking in the streets in the evening, you risked your life.
Not that it was dangerous all over in South Africa, I guess that Cape Town was less dangerous, but Johannesburg was absolutely a very dangerous town to live.
Africa is of course a very special Continent, it is different from any other part of the world, and I am more than glad that I have lived in South Africa, and lived in that swinging town Johannesburg.