Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Ends of the Earth -- Destination #10: South Africa


The Earth is more or less a big, blue ball, and balls don't have ends.

Nevertheless, we speak of the "ends of the Earth," and when we in the West speak of the "center," we're usually not referring to the Earth's core. The United States, after all, is "the most important country on Earth." Everywhere else is only important in terms of its "distance" (physically and otherwise) away from us. (I don't actually think the U.S. is the center of the world.)

I have a special love for the ends of the Earth; in my imagination at least, I picture worlds much different from the one I live in; sometimes I hope I never have the chance to visit any of them, because I don't want to be disappointed to find out that "there" is very much like "here."

If I had the means to visit the ends of the Earth, here are the ten places I would visit.

What ten "ends of the Earth" places would you like to visit? Leave me a comment. 

Destination #10 -- South Africa

Traveling to Cape Town from Minneapolis isn't a straight shot. A typical round-trip ticket might cost over $2000, and before you can fly south, you must first make the connection in Chicago for the flight to London.

All told, the time in the air is around 20 hours, with the touchdown in Cape Town scheduled for arrival two days after takeoff.

Friendly Planet offers South Africa tours  (13 days from $3299 out of JFK). Their itinerary includes time in Cape Town, Johannesburg, and Kruger National Park.

What is South Africa like? According to the famous speech once delivered by Robert F. Kennedy
perhaps not much different from the U.S., really. The current population is 50 million, and whites are the minority at 9%. English is the official language, but ten other languages also have "official" status. Approximately 80% of the population claims Christianity as its religion, while 15% claim no religion.

If I spent a week in South Africa, I would be interested to find out how the locals perceive their sense of place in the world. Do they pay much attention to current events in the United States? How do the people there get along with each other in post-apartheid South Africa?

I would love to visit Nelson Mandela's jail cell. I would also love to visit the locations where District 9 was filmed.

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