This is not a post about the Indonesian port, neither it is a planned tourist trip. This is where the Google showed the nearest shop between Somerset West and Raithby, South Africa. Last night we were the first family to arrive at the Country Guest House under a start lit sky. And whilst our friends were changing flights from Dublin to Istanbul and onwards to Cape Town, we wanted to surprise them with a fridge full of kids-friendly snacks.
And so we asked Google Maps and the Google Maps showed Shoprite. The mobile screen (which I had to grudgingly hold upright to navigate my husband) promptly highlighted a blue line leading to the nearest grocery store. As the line got shorter and our car drew nearer, the name of the village showed up on the right hand side reading MACASSAR, followed by several civic buildings, including the local council, dentist and health centre.
We drew through what looked like a housing estate, not unlike many inner city places in Birmingham UK, into a small market street with an open parking lot. The cash point was right by the grocery store, we saw the machine as we were parking up. It was only when the machine started counting the notes we realised everyone was looking at us. ‘We are the only White people here’, my daughter stated the obvious. ‘This is weird’, she expected a reaction, but everything is ‘weird’ in the world of teenagers and so I pretended to busy myself with a shopping trolley. In the country with a history of forced resettlements, segregation and controlled movements of people we suddenly became acutely aware of the colour of our skin.
We went about our business pretending not to notice the unwanted attention, some of us managing better than others, looking for Pringles, chocolate milkshakes and sun cream, only the suncream was nowhere to be seen. And then that thing happen, (that thing that always happen if you believe in simple acts of kindness), somebody noticed our we were ‘out of place’ and immediately emphasised. A guy stacking shelves left his cans of tomatoes and walked across to us: ‘Looking for something?’, he smiled broadly. ‘We can’t find any sun cream’, I pleaded. ‘Follow me’, he said and at that moment it seemed the odd feeling evaporated. They did not stock much sun cream, he explained, but we found a dusty bottle nevertheless. They did not sell any beer, he added, but the next door ‘liquor store’ did. He located a manicure set that no one has asked for in a while. In the end, we have left the Shoprite with enough baby bells to last us for weeks!
Macassar, I later read, was a village with a bit of a reputation for political action. Situated on sand dunes not far from the popular Strand, its residents protested against relocation of people from the informal settlement Nomzamo into their midsts. They had enough of their own housing and schooling problems, let alone share their place with any newcomers. Macassar, similar to its namesake port in Indonesia is largely inhabited by Muslims with proud history of fishing and boat making skills. The sand dunes, though attracting spectacular flock of flamingos, did not manage to establish its reputation as an attractive tourist destination. Its Pavilion features in ‘the most amazing images of the abandoned beaches in the world’ on Pinterest.
Still, its PEP retail and a clothes boutique (where a young Chinese student was being trained in how to use the till) provide excellent bargain for the fair skinned who are in need of sun glasses, swimming costume or hats.