If chicken’s feet, assorted livers and instant noodles are what you’re after, then my local Pick n Pay has it all. If, however, you want a loaf of brown bread, orange juice, or any kind of vegetable, then you might be stuck. I don’t have anywhere else to shop (except the overpriced hipster Neighbourgoods Saturday market) so I’ve tried to adapt my diet, although I’m still struggling to work out how to make a balanced meal out of what’s sold in the supermarket. Fortunately, the Pick n Pay Liquor next door is better stocked, and you can pick up a bottle of Gordon’s, tonic water and two bottles of acceptable wine for less than a tenner.
Seeing as eating out is so cheap, I sometimes wonder why I bother trying to cook. On campus it’s possible to get a large meal for around R25 – a bit more than a pound – and you can get a three course meal with wine in a good restaurant for a tenner. And the quality beats anything you’d find in the UK for even double the price.
The Johannesburg winter is dry and sunny, while the summer is hotter with afternoon thunderstorms. I still can’t get used to the fact that every day here is cloudless. So far the highs have been between 20 and 25 degrees, so although it’s cool in the shade, it’s hot in the sun. It’s worth putting on Factor 30 if you’re going out for the day (at least if you’re ginger like me). The only downside to the Johannesburg winter is the lack of daylight – it’s dark by 6pm now, and only gets light around 6:30am. The early sunset means that evenings are cooler, and I’m glad I brought a jacket. I tend to take a long lunch break to make the most of the sunshine, and work more in the evening when it’s dark. I’m not sure this working pattern suits me, but I seem to be genetically programmed to head outside at the slightest sign of sunshine, so I’ll have to make do.
The thing that has made me happiest over the last few weeks is finally managing to sort out some kind of exercise routine. A month back I started running with Varsity Kudus, a Wits running club that is also open to alumni and locals (and visitors). Training is Wednesday evenings at 6, and there’s a choice of 5k, 8k or 12k, or sometimes further. I’m determined to finish the 12k before I leave, but it’s tough with the hills and the altitude. There’s definitely a motivation to keep up with the herd – alone in the dark isn’t where you want to be in Joburg. People here are keen on their distance – a lot of people train for the annual 90km Comrades Marathon. I’m not that fit, so the only other training I do is the Saturday 5k Parkrun in Delta Park.
More about this some other day...