Greetings from South Africa
Just to let you know, I'm in Pretoria, South Africa, to see the dentist. It looks like I may be here until the end of next week, August 7th, and I don't have much to do, so if you want to write, I will certainly have the time to write you back! The PC Medical office in Tanzania sent me here because the dentist in Dar es Salaam thought I needed a root canal and a crown, and there is no one there who is trained to do these things. The dentist here, however, says I don't need a root canal, YEAH! Only a crown, but it will still take about a week and a half for this.
Usually from Tanzania we are sent to Nairobi, but currently we are not allowed to travel there because of a ban issued by the State Department. Apparently links have been found between the diamond and tanzanite mining companies in Kenya with Al Qaeda, and the British and American governments are making a big deal out of it. People who I have talked to from Kenya think this is all totally absurd, and are pleading for the ban to be lifted because, as one of them said, "the tourism industry has been brought to its knees." British Airways have cancelled their flights to Nairobi since about the middle of May.
Also to let you know, Johannesburg and Pretoria are really not as dangerous as their reputation suggests. I flew into Johannesburg earlier this week, and everyone I have met has insisted on this. However, they say it is still smart to be precautious. From what I've seen so far, nearly everything here is exactly like in America! The only differences are people drive on the left side of the road, have mostly German vehicles: Mercedes, BMW, Audi, VW, and most of the signs are in Afrikaans, that funky language that is the derivative of Dutch. Besides that, Pretoria could be any college town in the Southeastern US! There are tree-lined streets, stylish residential areas, good restaurants, lots of nature preserves and parks, and many young people out and about, riding mountain bikes and walking. This is what I've seen. But from what I've heard, Pretoria and Johannesburg give the impression that this is first-world country, but once you get out in the bush, it becomes obvious that South Africa really is third world. The disparities are enormous! Only about 15% of South Africans are of European descent, yet almost all of them live within the greater Johannesburg and Pretoria metropolitan areas, giving the impression that more than half the population here is white. It is obvious though; that help is needed otherwise Peace Corps would not be here.