Wednesday, May 23, 2007


The nearest internet cafe (if you can call it that) from here is a 2-boother inside a grocery kiosk, the other side of the taxi rank - about a 7 minute walk towards the mountain. I decide to try this first.

Taxis (minibuses) are still the most popular form of public transport in South Africa. The local rank is still divided up (a throwback) - on one side, taxis service the black townships of Khayelitsha, Nyanga, Maccassar, Philippi and Gugulethu. Over the railway bridge, taxis run to the so called coloured areas of Bonteheuvel, Mannenberg, Athlone and Heideveld.

The small internet booth is run by a woman from the DRC who informs me that she doesn't know anything about the computers so not to bother asking. I pay my 5 Rands (about 35p) for half an hour to find that the dial-up is slow and pages take ages to load. After about 10 minutes (of my half hour) the owner tells me that she needs to close up. She waves her hand impatiently - telling me that I can come back later and finish. I make a mental note not to return.

Next I try the internet cafe owned by 3 Nigerian brothers further up towards the main road. Sandwiched in between 2 of the 50 or so local hairdressing salons, this 15 booth joint is packed and noisy. Across the road, kwaito booms out of speakers set either side of the doorway of a plastics store. Outside, taxi drivers shriek at passers-by; 'Wynberg, Claremont, Claremont Wynberg!' I pay my 5 Rands and take a seat in between a student surfing Oprah's site and a Ghanaian woman who joggles her young son on her knee while speaking to relatives in Accra via video messaging. (If you want to road-test the most ingenious uses of new technology - try any big city in Africa). There are now 47 unopened messages in my inbox but the server is slow and it is hard to concentrate. There's a message from the producer in Cannes but I can't open it. On the PC screen of the adjoining booth, is a jerky 'frame grab' video image of the Ghanaian woman who sobs into webcam, 'We both miss you so much.'
I make a mental note to come back only if I have to.

I practically sprint the two miles along the main road to a state-of-the-art internet cafe in a copy shop. Here everything is broadband and flat screened. The sofas are bright and colourful. I zap through my emails in 8 minutes. The meetings in Cannes sound positive. My half hour costs R4.

I make a mental note to come back (that's when I have to).


potdoll said...

Glad the meetings in Cannes sound positive!

loved reading this post!

i hate internet cafes. once i was in one and someone must have looked over my shoulder and copied down my email address. then they emailed me. and they were in the same room as me, asking me to meet them outside. i had no idea who it was cos it was such a weird address. that was CREEPY.

Far away said...

Hi Pots, that is very creepy - ha!

far away said...

BTW back to normal dsl service right now yipppee

Anna said...

Very funny tale of woe! All internet-junkies (like me) can relate - all too well! And thanks for the cultural insight.

Best of luck with whatever is going on in Cannes for you. I really hope it works out for you.

far away said...

Thanks Anna -
it's the project I mentioned here: and elsewhere.

I'll update when/if things become more solid!