Pretoria flats

I was working in Pretoria last week, which was an odd one. It's the first time I've been somewhere and not really seen the place. We were told not to wander about on our own so all I saw was the hotel, the office, the road in between and the mall round the corner. All of which could have been anywhere. I struggled to find something South African and by the end of the week had managed some brinjal and peppadews (nice veg), a pudding that I've forgotten the name of and some biltong which I had to hand into customs. As cultural exchanges go it wasn't one of the best.

Highlands

I've got a penchant for planned cities and administrative capitals (Canberra has a reputation for being boring but I loved it, and Washington has a similar overgrown model village sort of feel) but there wasn't much to recommend Pretoria. There were some nice modernist apartment blocks with great names and lovely signs but beyond that... nothing. It reminded me of Australia more than anything else - same sort of weather, lots of space, similar architecture. I lived in Adelaide for a while and it reminded me of happy times there. It was work so I can't complain really. I've just never had that experience of not being able to get out and get the feel of a place. I was surprised how unsettling it was, feeling sort of trapped and cheated. It was strange to go all the way to Africa and not really find anything different.

That's a shame. I hate traveling for work unless I can experience at least some local culture.

Oddly, I was sitting in a friend's apartment in Venice Beach at the weekend, and out of nowhere started strumming 'No Expectations'. I hadn't even thought of that song for about 5 years. How delightfully synchronicitous.

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