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Michael Paskevicius


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I began my day at 5:30am on Friday.  I had a driver arranged to take me into the city of Johannesburg and get me to the central university.  The reason we had to leave so early was due to the immense amount of traffic that flows towards the city each day.  Due to the crime in Johannesburg, most people live in Pretoria but travel each day to the city for work.  Even as we hit the highway at 6am traffic was already starting to get heavy.  Between Joburg and Pretoria there are numerous suburbs and industrial parks.  We hit heavy traffic as three major highways came together just outside the city.  Opportunistic drivers took the shoulder to avoid the deadlock.

In the city we first arrived at the University of Joburg campus only to find out that my meeting was actually at the main campus on the other side of town.  Thankfully we left early so I was not to be late for my meeting.  Even upon arriving at the main campus we were able to stop and have a coffee in the faculty lounge.  One thing of interest is how many people here drink really bad coffee i.e. instant.  It was nearly impossible to get a good cup of drip brew.

The University of Joburg campus was really impressive.  The school has nearly 50,000 students.  The campus itself is very clean and the various buildings are architecturally beautiful.  My meeting with the MIS officer went great.  She was very receptive to my questions and I picked up a few things that I would like to put into practice at the Polytechnic.

I finished a bit earlier than expected.  This turned out to be a blessing as it allowed me time to digest what we had discussed and tour the campus a bit more.  There were lots of students milling about, and I marveled at the diverse nature of the student body.  There were quite a few students of Indian origin, as well as quite a large Muslim population.  

After taking the tour I got hold of my driver and we met to make our way towards Pretoria to see Tshwane University of Technology (TUT).  Since we still had a bit of time my diver suggested we explore the city a bit.  We went up and down the streets of Joburg viewing the decrepit nature of some of the buildings and the rejuvenation of other areas as the city makes attempts to scramble a decent city centre for the 2010 World Cup.  Joburg reminds me most of Detroit, a city that has been sacrificed for sprawl.  There are many parallels to the Detroit Joburg similarity, both cities underwent severe racial tension and crime, both have magnificent buildings that are now so decrepit and run down it could bring tears to your eyes.  One of the major differences is that Joburg’s run down city centre is a hive of activity.  The less fortunate have taken the city centres abandoned buildings as their own and squatting is very popular.  Some of the buildings do not even have windows any more but you can still see signs of life.  The streets are bustling too.  We were very cautious as we drove to keep valuables out of sight to avoid any opportunists.  I was very fortunate for having been able to see this magnificent city with my driver, while surely tourists armed with cameras and cargo pants would certainly never venture into these parts.  Actually, my Lonely Planet guide suggested not even setting foot in these areas.  

We traveled through the suburbs on our way back to Pretoria.  It was amazing how the city changed as we crossed the Nelson Mandela Bridge towards the more posh areas of the city.  Looming in the rear view mirror was the city of Joburg.  It looked so vacant, yet we now knew that inside it was bustling with people struggling to survive.  

Pretoria central was different that I imagined it.  Bear in mind that I stayed in Pretoria’s suburbs during my stay so this was actually the first time seeing the city centre.  It was more traditionally African than the neighboring suburbs and Joburg.  There were quite a few small informal shops set up on the outskirts and the bus station was teaming with people.  

TUT sits on a hill overlooking the city of Pretoria.  It is a really pleasant view.  Joburg and TUT must be on different schedules as most of the students here were off for holidays or between exams.  Too bad, I always enjoy seeing what the student population is like.   My meeting here also went exceptionally well.  The student body at TUT is also nearly 50,000 yet our budget outlook, management structure, and corporate culture feels much the same.  Since very few students were around after my meeting I had a security guard give me a quick tour of the campus.  It is pretty clear that a great deal of money is allowed to tertiary institutions in Southern Africa, the education levels need to be increased so Universities are rightly treasured.  

Heading back to the guesthouse, Kevin gave me a tour of the city of Pretoria.  Talk about value added.  It was great to have these mini tours between my stops on this day.  He was able to show me many points of interest and give me some history.

Pretoria Day 4
Photos from Johannesburg, South Africa 2006

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