My Journey to the South Africa

A doll that I bought in Johannesburg.

What do you think of this doll? Each small stone has different nice color and two "eyes", pupils of which will move when we shake it. I found this doll at a souvenir shop of the hotel, where I stayed in Johannesburg. At the first time when I saw this, I was about to laugh there, because it was quite humorous for me. When I took it in my hands, their eyes moved, which made me laugh again. I think that this small doll brings us funny feelings. I also think that each small stone might imply different races of this country.

Needless to say, formerly the South Africa was well known as a notorious state where racial discrimination policy, Apartheid, was enforced. However after the long turmoil and struggle this policy was lifted in 1994. Mandela was elected as the first president of the new South Africa. Since then the South Africa started as a democratic country.

I visited Johannesburg in 1998, when it was just after this democratic revolution. It was still the time when the social chaos hadn't been dissolved. Many poor people started to rush into the centers of big cities for getting jobs, which made the social securities worse and worse day by day.

My friends recommended me that I should not walk in the downtown area. He said to me jokingly, "If you would walk alone in this area, let say, within only 100 meters's walk, you would be assaulted by armed robbery more than two times." So I passed through the center of Johannesburg by car. I was a bit nervous when the car stopped at the traffic lights several times. But nothing happened.

In the car, I carefully observed the downtown area. We passed by the most prosperous street. There are many pedestrians in the street. However people's cloths seemed to be not so kept clean. There are many shops at the both side of the street. But the windows of most of these shops are roughly closed, using dirty veneer boards. In front of these closed shops, peddlers opened their market. There was a hotel in a skyscraper, which seemed to be a newly built one. However it has already been closed a few month ago. My friend said that a Japanese sightseer met a gun- armed robbery in front of this hotel in daytime only a few months ago.

The old Chinese proverb says that a clever man will not approach to some danger. So I asked the driver to leave from this area soon. Then I came back to a suburb area, where big shopping centers and office buildings were scattered here and there. Frankly speaking, I have another reason that I went to this area.

On the flight coming to Johannesburg, while I was taking the served meal, I suddenly felt discomfort in my mouth. I didn't know what it was. At the next instance, I heard a noise in my mouth, when I was taking some food. I thought I bite some small stone. When I took it out. I was so surprised.

It was my artificial tooth! I have several artificial teeth, made of porcelain. One of them dropped. I was at a loss how to treat it. I had to keep travelling until going back to Tokyo after 10 days or so. It meant that I would be on a trip without this tooth during this travelling period. Maybe I couldn't enjoy any dishes or might give strange impression to the people to whom I would meet from that time.

Therefore just after my arrival at the airport of the South Africa, the first order to the driver was taking me to some dentist's office run by a talented dentist. He took me a large shopping center in a very modern building. Many families were there for enjoying shopping. The board showed that there is a dentist's office at the first floor. I went up by an escalator.

There was a corner where clinics were gathering. When I went into a dentist's office, I found that there were several patients, such as an aged woman, around 12 years old girl accompanied by her mother and others. It was not so crowded as a dental office in Japan. As the appearance of this office was modern and the people seems to be decent, I was at ease.

After waiting for 20 minutes or so, my name was called. I went into the dentist's room. He was middle aged man. With smiling he asked me what happened. I, with a bitter smile, showed him the dropped teeth. He soon understood the situation and said, "Don't worry." He solemnly wore a rubber glove and started washing the teeth. After finishing it, he said again "Don't worry.".

He made me looked up and cleaned my mouth. I smelled the bond, then he pushed me the teeth with heavy power. I felt as if my mouth was about to be broken. A few minutes have passed. He asked me to bite a cotton. Then he said, "Don't worry.". Oh! This was third time that I heard today from him.

After thirty minutes, He let me go "Your teeth is all right." This was the first words from him that I heard except "Don't worry.". I paid money in the local currency, but it was not so expensive. The charge was only US 20 dollars. For me it was very funny to find the dentist only saying "Don't worry."

(November 21, 2000.)


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