Amazing Day: Amazing Cultural Exchange

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.

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Building where Steve Biko was held in Port Elizabeth

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.

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The Indian Ocean at Port Elizabeth

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.

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