Thursday, 13 November 2008

'New Sandals'

11 / 10 / 8

Today was a good day off. In the morning, I went to buy two bus tickets to get up to Pietermaritzburg, about 80 km from Durban. There we will interview Kadir Hassim, another signatoree.
After buying the bus tickets, I ventured into town. My goal was to exchange Sterling for Rand at the nearest Currency Exchange. As I was walking there, I realized that I did not have any form of ID on me, so there would be no way that I could exchange my money. So, I decided instead to have a wander around the two markets on the West side of Durban – the Victoria Street Market & the Warwick Triangle Market – my goal was to find sandals made from recycled automobile tires (a bit of an obsession on my part, I will admit – I already have one pair from Malawi, which I wear everywhere).

I start to hunt out shoe stalls in the Victoria Street Market and am quickly told that the ‘Zulu’s sell them at Warwick.’ Having skirted around that market a couple of days ago, I decided to dive it. It was an intense place, sounds, smells, the bustle of people – everywhere. Similar to the teeming markets of Malawi or Ghana. After a few more inquiries, I was directed up the stairs to another part of the market. I sure I must have been a sight, walking up to shoe stalls, pointing at my tire sandals and asking where I could find something similar. But no luck…….

But what I did find was an amazingly dense & overwhelming potion section of the market. Everything that one needs to cure all sorts of diseases – from herbs to fish and reptile skins to little refilled Smirnoff Vodka bottles filled with a mysterious black liquid. Well, it was quickly clear that there were no sandals in sight, but since I was already within the bustle, I might as well enjoy it. Entering one of the many narrow passageways, is like navigating through a rushing river (although a fairly small & safe one – don’t want to over-exaggerate my adventures). But once you are in, you don’t have much chance to ‘window shop’ as there is always someone behind you wanting to get by. And being over-cautious, I think that they might either be friend or pickpocket. So, with one eye (and hand) on my wallet and the other having a look around without being to obvious (other that the fact that I am the lone white guy within this whole witchdoctor potion area), I carried on. I can’t say that it was necessarily enjoyable, but it certainly was fascinating. I will never get bored of navigating in a world like this one.

After being spit out of the passageway and slowly recovering from the commotion and still no joy for the tire sandals, I started to walk away from the market – but stopped at one last shoe stall to test my luck.

‘Well,’ they said, ‘we don’t have them here, but the Zulu’s definitely sell them along the beach.’

Ack! The beach……. ‘Okay,’ say I and head towards the beach – a good 45 minute walk. But, as it was a day off and I wanted to see the city, why not…. So, off I went and sure enough found what I was looking for at the beach. The unfortunate thing was that I had seen these exact sandals in the market, but for some reason didn’t think that they were what I was looking for and for all of my inquiries; no one seemed to think they were what I was looking for as well. Ah, well, the beach IS beautiful and I was planning to head there anyway- and trying to buy anything at that market did seem daunting.
I plunked down my money and was now the proud owner of TWO pairs of tire sandals – though truth be told (and if anyone in Malawi is reading), I liked the ones that I got there better and could ALWAYS use another pair or two (size 10 by the way). They look a better quality and the fact that these were made from rusting nails didn’t do much for me (but since I have my tetanus shot, I bought them anyway).

Mission accomplished…….