The night ended with two teachers and two Peace Corps volunteers walking through the McDonalds drive-thru. It was that kind of day. Rewind sixteen hours earlier and I found myself riding through Port Elizabeth as the sun rose over the ocean’s shoreline. The destination for the morning was the Wezandia African Market, which was a let down as it was akin to an antique/craft mall hell, but I put my brave face on and descended into those depths for the hour. However, I wandered around the area and took in the building that Steve Biko was tortured in before being sent away to his death. It was a tough moment for the country’s history and a tough moment of reflection.
We next headed to a northern neighborhood of the city to visit another “market” but this was more of a functional, day to day street with electronic shops, halal meat vendors, grocers, and clothing stores serving the “Colored” community. I picked up some fresh vegetables for the week, spoke with some of the locals, figured out where I can get my hair cut, and got some top of the line fish (Hake) and chips. Success!
More grocery shopping ensued though. I landed at the local Pick ‘N Pay to finish picking up food for the week. Outside of the essentials, I splurged and picked up a pair of ostrich steak burgers to hopefully throw on the braai, or grill. Success again!
My day was just beginning though. Next, a few of us walked a block from the hotel to the ocean to check it out.
After stepping foot in, we were lured away from the shore by familiar beats and ended up seeing the last of a dance performance by a group of young teenage boys, sponsored by their church.
Sounds like a full day? Wrong, the day was just warming up! I next found myself with the rest of the group at The Boardwalk, a Sun City development, that has shops, restaurants, bars, a casino, and a live singer/dj duo performing for the patrons (Every other song was a Whitney Houston number.) So it was turning up to be an interesting night. After dining at El Grecco, we made our way to Barneys, a beachfront, drunken frat-party bar. After assessing the situation, we found ourselves at Coco del Mar, a restaurant/lounge. Enter the Peace Corps volunteers. We struck up a conversation with them about life in South Africa, their opinions and perceptions of the country and its’ people, and life in general. After a lengthy conversation and dusting off of dance moves, the three remaining NEH fellows all realized we did not have the buzzer/keys to open the electric gate to get back into the hotel (security is REAL here!) These twisted events are what led us to walking through the McDonald’s drive-thru and, I think on a larger level, a meaningful cultural exchange.