So the town where I'm actually based here in South Africa is called Pretoria. Its the executive (administrative) capital of the country (Cape Town is the legislative capital, Bloemfontein is the judicial capital). Its situated in the same province as Johannesburg, about 50-some kilometers north of it. Gauteng is the smallest province in ZA, and it is also the highest populated (roughly 10 mil?), and the best. They're fairly proud of their provinces here, which is kind of cool. (and no, I still haven't bothered asking why its abbreviated Zed-A)

Pretoria is situated in the highveld - well on the edge of it and the bushveld. The highveld is a high (surprise!) plateau area in ZA about the size of Belgium, and Johannesburg is also situated on it. I think Johannesburg is at about the same height above sea level as Denver, and Pretoria's at roughly the same height.

While its got less to see and do than a Johannesburg, based simply on its smaller size, it still feels fairly large and has quite a number of varying neighborhoods to be explored. I'm staying in the nicest one I've seen, to date, which is a blessing indeed - in a complex on a hill on the far western side of Pretoria, and the neighborhood is called Waterkloof Ridge. There are a lot of Jacarandas in the neighborhood, which makes it quite pretty - Pretoria is called the Jacaranda City, in fact, named for the trees that for a few weeks every year have the most amazing purple blossoms you could imagine (pictures on my flickr, soon). They are out in full force right now, so it is cool to be here for that.

Even in the nicest neighborhoods, however, all of the apartments / condos / houses / what have you are all situated within security complexes (read: surrounded by tall walls with electric fencing on the top - often with a night security guard at the front gates, etc.). And there are bars on every window and every door in your place, and that's just life here. You get home, you lock yourself in, until the next morning, when you let yourself out for the day. Its like a self-induced jail, but you just learn to deal with it.

That said it is quite a nice complex I'm in, and when I'm diligent I get out for a run in the morning on the hilltops above the city, which is pretty freaking cool. Still doing light runs because I haven't shaken the plantar fasciitis in the foot, which is now going on 3 months old. I should probably give it a name, since its like a part of me now. I think I will call it Rip. Rip, my foot pain. I miss my physical therapists.

The one big surprise I had about Joburg was that it is NOT a tourist destination. This first really hit me when Brian and I headed to the Apartheid museum - there weren't 25 cars in the parking lot, late on a Saturday morning. When people come to South Africa they go to Cape Town, or on safari. If they see Joburg at all, its only passing through the airport on their way to points elsewhere. And it really is a vibrant city, with much to offer (in a very South African way, mind you).

Pretoria seems a little more laid-back than Joburg. I feel more secure here - a little - not much - sense of less crime / more safety, but its not to be taken for granted. It doesn't feel so oppressively big that you could accidentally make a wrong turn and end up in the wrong neighborhood, whereas there are parts of Joburg where I have done just that. Pretoria feels manageable, which is a nice transition to the country. Not to say that I don't think I could handle Joburg - many people do it just fine...its just that I like it here. That's all.


Anonymous said...

Sweet updates man - the whole experience still sounds surreal to me. Definitely looking forward to more blogging.

As for Zed-A, I think that Zed is a colloqualism for the letter Z.

Back when the Dutch controlled South Africa and Dutch was the official language, the name was something that began with a Z, presumably Dutch for South. After Afrikaans became the primary language, the name changed to Suid Afrika or something like that.

I actually wikipedia-ed that awhile back, because I was looking up where the .za web domain was.

Cheers - T

remmy said...

so i have a student here in shanghai who has to move back home to south africa in december. he said he was from pretoria...didn't remember the name til i read this blog. his family is pretty sad to leave china, but still...small world eh...maybe you'll be neighbors...


Nic said...


So I read your post on the Fab Females blog, which was great, so I surfed over to look at your profile. When I realised you were in PRETORIA I had to read more, because I'm currently considering taking a consulting job there. I'm reading my way through your impressions and it's so useful.

Do you think a single (blonde) white woman would be relatively safe in Pretoria? Would my lifestyle be restricted?

David said...

Hi Nic.

Yes, and yes.

Pretoria's really a delightful town, there are some beautiful neighborhoods to live in that feel, for the most part, quite safe.

The important thing, however, is to always remember that you ARE in South Africa and that crime DOES happen on a much more regular basis here, and at some point - if you're living here long term - there's a distinct possibility that you WILL have some kind of run-in with it.

Living here is about being alert, being smart, and making small concessions that lessen your chances of becoming a victim. You live behind walls with electric fences and bars on your windows, you try to not be out too much at night alone, you learn where to go and where to avoid.

That said, lots of people live here their whole lives and do just fine - there's plenty of single blonde women here (majority of the white women are, btw) who get along as great as anyone in America, as far as I can tell. I love it here and am considering staying a bit longer term myself.

Drop me an email should you care for more info.