Monday, February 27, 2012

New, New, New

After 16 hours on a plane, we were ready to step on solid ground, get through immigration, and meet our driver to get to the hotel for a shower. We made it out to the waiting area in about 30 minutes. Lines were short and our bags were already circulating. Our driver recognized us and after a stop for some money we were off to the hotel – about 45 minutes away since the evening rush hour had ended.

During his descriptions of the area we passed through, our driver said that they think of themselves as a country only 18 years old which dates to the election of Nelson Mandela in1994. Based on what we were seeing, however, one could say it is only two years old. The airport and surrounding hotels, the high-speed rail line we watched speed by us on its way to Pretoria, and much of the road we traveled were built to be available for the World Cup here two years ago. One bridge we crossed opened one week before the games began. 

Our Hotel
 High-speed rail reminds me again of how far behind we can be when it comes to new technology. Traveling at over 100 mph, this train is only matched by the Acela on the Eastern seaboard. I remember that Wisconsin and Florida turned down federal dollars to work on their own versions of this. California is fighting about whether to start the project they have been planning for years. The upside of this is that Washington was able to pick up more dollars for the Portland/Seattle route. 

Our hotel is in an upscale neighborhood next to a huge mall named for Nelson Mandela. We are about two blocks from the Radisson Blu where Michele Obama stayed when she visited. We passed several gated communities. They used to be all white, but now are open to anyone. The division is becoming more rich/poor with people of all races in each group.
Entrance to the Nelson Mandela Center
We were met at the hotel by Jim and Marcia Rinta, our traveling companions for the next 4 weeks. They arrived yesterday so had time to buy wine and glasses for a lovely evening before we crashed. Our first outing will be to visit the Apartheid Museum and have a tour of the area.

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