Generation Exodus

Even half a world away from the scene of the crime, the legacy of apartheid still haunts South Africa's white expatriates

The red neon of Rio Vista Plaza overpowers the radiant colors of the setting sun. A tiger lurks on a side street, but it's just a mural on an apartment building wall. Here, among the jumbled jungle of power lines and fast-food signs along Federal Highway in Fort Lauderdale, the only roar comes from the traffic.

The yeasty-sweet aroma of tomorrow's Dunkin' Donuts hangs like humidity in the air. One by one, worn-out wanderers return, by foot or bicycle, to a cluster of one-story buildings on a quiet, residential street. Once "home" they recline, half-dressed and half-asleep, on a smattering of battered patio chairs in an Eden gone to seed.

Floyd's Hostel and Crew House, like a number of its inhabitants, is on the down-low. Employees refuse to give out the address over the phone. The street number isn't included in its White Pages listing. Even those living a few blocks away seem oblivious to its existence.

A hostel and crew house, Floyd's is often the first stop for South Africans in search of work in Fort Lauderdale's yachting industry
A hostel and crew house, Floyd's is often the first stop for South Africans in search of work in Fort Lauderdale's yachting industry
The pass laws, which required black South Africans to carry fingerprint and photo identification with them wherever they went, were central to South Africa's apartheid regime
The pass laws, which required black South Africans to carry fingerprint and photo identification with them wherever they went, were central to South Africa's apartheid regime
Named for the inhospitable desert that borders South Africa, Fort Lauderdale's Kalahari Bar is a popular watering hole for new and old expatriates
Named for the inhospitable desert that borders South Africa, Fort Lauderdale's Kalahari Bar is a popular watering hole for new and old expatriates
South African Gus Fabian came to Fort Lauderdale to run Lightbulbs Unlimited, the Fort Lauderdale outpost of his family's chain of specialty lighting stores
South African Gus Fabian came to Fort Lauderdale to run Lightbulbs Unlimited, the Fort Lauderdale outpost of his family's chain of specialty lighting stores

Here, information is granted on a need-to-know basis, and those who need to know about Floyd's are typically not local. Other than a hand-painted sign and the $4 T-shirts for sale, Floyd's doesn't advertise. Yet in certain circles, the accommodations are known worldwide.

Word of mouth draws the international backpacking crowd to this ramble of buildings in a residential neighborhood. The one-story complex is built in the midcentury apartment architecture native to older parts of town. Within such inconspicuous confines, a unique nation-state has emerged. Conversation bubbles in English, Malay, or Portuguese. Borders are blurred so that Floyd's, like its denizens, is neither here nor there.

Among and yet apart from Floyd's ragtag crew of backpackers, yacht workers, and global nomads, a distinct clique has formed. Crowded at a picnic table at one end of the building, a group of twenty- and thirtysomethings refills mugs from an economy-size bottle of red wine, their voices rising in the night.

Some speak heavily accented English, others Afrikaans, a language that in recent years has become increasingly prevalent around here. More than 15,000 South Africans reside in South Florida, the largest concentration in the nation; several local South Africans themselves estimate their ranks to be twice that size. Moreover, it's impossible to account for the unseen population of South African "visitors." Not technically residents, they work under the table and stay as long as their tourist visas will allow -- and sometimes longer. A fortunate few secure jobs on the foreign-flagged vessels that come and go from Port Everglades like shoppers through a revolving door.

Other local South Africans have joined the mainstream. The first South African Chamber of Commerce in the United States was established in Fort Lauderdale less than a year ago, and South Africans have had an impact on South Florida's economy, most notably in the development of Aventura.

But here, smoking and drinking at a picnic table, the newest South African arrivals are still struggling to find their niche. At Floyd's they find a makeshift home and temporary family. The newest, most rootless of their countrymen living in America, they are fresh from an exodus that began at the end of apartheid seven years ago. Many insist that affirmative action, coupled with rising crime and a failing economy, has given them no choice but to leave their home. Most at first pledge to return to South Africa, but as the years pass, many break that promise.

South Africans in America often have little more than their passports in common. Their numbers include trendy surfer kids from Cape Town and Durban clad in the Billabong-and-Diesel uniform; urbane, self-professed "yuppies" with high-end cell phones and degrees from the nation's top universities; and religious emigrants, too, like the young man who attends Fort Lauderdale's Calvary Chapel and traveled with the congregation on a missionary trip to Russia.

But however diverse their backgrounds might be, nearly all members of this self-imposed diaspora have one thing in common: They're white.

South Africa's white flight has also been a brain drain: Almost half of all university-educated South African emigrants live in the United Kingdom, the United States, or Australia. As a result South Africa faces a severe professional labor shortage. Moreover, recent studies show South Africa's brain drain is worse than its government's numbers indicate. The South African government has launched several programs in an attempt to stem the tide, without much success. Without the carrot of increased salaries, South African emigrants say there is little that could convince them to stay.

"I see no future in that country," says one of those sitting around in the sunset at Floyd's. "A few people cling to a little bit of hope, but I don't think so."

It is this widespread pessimism -- or realism-- that prompts the younger generations to leave friends and family and flock to foreign hostels and crew houses like this one, where accommodations are cheap ($15 to $17 a night) and work, legit or otherwise, is not hard to find. Along with the United States, the countries of Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and Canada are the top emigration destinations. Though emigration was thought to have peaked in the years immediately following the election of Nelson Mandela in 1994, it has continued to creep upward since.

South Africans travel widely, but they do not travel light. Though they come to America to escape the aftermath of apartheid, it is a burden they never truly leave behind.


In the popular imagination of Americans, South Africa is inextricably linked to apartheid (literally "separatehood"), a system that grew out of the area's long history of violent conflicts between its native peoples and European colonists.

The first white Europeans came to South Africa from Holland in 1652, forming the Dutch East India Company on the Cape of Good Hope. In 1806 Great Britain annexed the Cape, eventually seizing control from the Boers, descendants of Dutch settlers, in a bitter war that ended in a 1902 treaty. In 1910 Britain passed control of South Africa to the British and Dutch settlers, who instituted white minority rule.

In 1948 the Afrikaner National Party gained a majority and devised apartheid as a means to maintain economic and political domination over the country's real majority: its diverse population of black Africans. The common practice of racial discrimination hardened to law. The Mixed Marriages and Immorality Amendment acts prohibited marriage and "indecent acts" between white Europeans and nonwhites. In order to enforce such a law, however, race had to be established. This was achieved through the Population Registration Act of 1950. All South Africans were classified as white, black, or "coloured" (of mixed descent).

The Group Areas Act of 1950 established segregation by designating specific areas for racial groups, forcing many people out of their homes. In this way many black South Africans were forced out of work in urban areas and into employment in the mines.

Every black was issued a "passbook" containing his fingerprints, an I.D. photo, and information on access to nonblack areas and required to carry it on his body at all times. According to pass laws, blacks were allowed to live and work in white South Africa only if their passbooks entitled them to do so. Failure to produce a passbook was an offense that almost guaranteed punishment. Pass law offenders were given only cursory court hearings, almost always without legal representation. The odds of being acquitted of a pass law violation were slim.

The Homelands Act of 1951 created four African states to which each black was assigned by the government, supposedly according to his or her ethnic origin. Such assignments were often inaccurate or arbitrary, but the homelands affiliation was nonetheless considered citizenship. Black South Africans were relegated to newly devised, nominally independent states, thereby losing their rights and citizenship in South Africa. Despite such symbolic autonomy, the homelands were still economically dependent upon, and thus controlled by, the white South African government that created them. The Homelands Act continued through 1970, ultimately denationalizing nine million South Africans.

But blacks had resisted white minority rule from the outset. In 1919 the seven-year-old African movement known as the African National Congress (ANC) led a strike campaign against the passes. In the 1950s pass laws were expanded to include women, and the power of the South African government grew with the passage of the Public Safety and the Criminal Law Amendment acts in 1953. This legislation allowed the government to crack down on protests by declaring states of emergency and enforcing severe penalties, including fines, imprisonment and whippings for protesting the government and its laws.

Such harsh laws were met with reinvigorated opposition from the African National Congress, which had emerged with new militance after a period of uncertainty. The ANC's Defiance Campaign marked the start in 1952 of a popular resistance to apartheid acts. Much like the sit-ins then being organized in this country, blacks, "coloureds," and Indians ignored the "Whites Only" and "Europeans Only" signs common in businesses, post offices, and restaurants. In 1960 police opened fire on a crowd of 15,000 blacks protesting the pass laws, killing 56 people and injuring nearly 200. After this watershed event, known as the Sharpeville massacre, the ANC was banned and went underground, galvanizing supporters and setting the stage for decades of armed resistance.

Thousands of black activists were arrested or fled the country, forming an opposition in exile. Those who stayed were forced underground as liberation movements were banned by the government. At the same time, the South African government's military was reinforced and unleashed ever more invidious repression. ANC leaders called on residents of black townships to resist white governance, plunging the already chaotic enclaves into violent anarchy. In an effort to gain control, the South African government twice declared a state of emergency. Meanwhile the South African Defence Force raided ANC strongholds and enlisted the aid of rebel bandits from Mozambique and Angola in an effort to weaken ANC's allies.

Bolstered by popular support for the ANC both inside and outside South Africa, the government was forced to lift the ban on the ANC and its affiliated organizations in 1991. A year later Nelson Mandela became the ANC's president, and the organization lead reform negotiations with the government, which ultimately resulted in the nation's first democratic election in April 1994. The ANC won those elections with 62.6 percent of the more than 22 million votes cast. ANC leader Nelson Mandela was inaugurated as president of South Africa on May 10, 1994.


Fort Lauderdale's Kalahari Bar is named for the 190,000-square-mile dry basin that spreads across parts of Botswana, Namibia, and South Africa. Billed as the "only authentic South African bar in the U.S.," the small watering hole is an inconspicuous oasis for South Africans far from home, improbably tucked into a cluster of shops on a side street near the intersection of Federal Highway and NE 45th Street. Next door is Meal in a Pie, a South African-owned shop that sells traditional meat and vegetable pastries along with prepackaged South African specialties such as canned curry and Ouma Rusks (thick, dry biscuits often eaten for breakfast).

Outside the Kalahari, a huge black satellite dish and a smaller white one sit together on the low-slung roof at the rear of the building, like desert flowers tilting toward the sun. Inside, the Kalahari's walls are painted a deep shade of coral. On one wall hangs a zebra hide. Behind the bar, above stepped rows of liquor bottles and a mirror, three flags are unfurled. On the far left is South Africa's flag. On the far right is Australia's. In the middle is the old South African standard, which flew during the years of apartheid.

A smaller, green-and-white flag, which is the banner of Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), also hangs. Like the old South African flag, the Rhodesian one represents the era of white colonial power and segregation, and its presence likewise suggests sympathy for that government.

Here an irreverent South African may tell the joke about what his country's current national colors represent. The punch line goes something like this: The yellow stripe that creates a triangle in the left hand side of the flag is an electric fence, keeping the black from the green, which represents the nation's agriculture.

"This is not a very politically correct bar," laughs the bartender, Phillip, a 28-year-old white South African with a shaved head. Phillip's liberal views have often clashed with those of his fellow South African expatriates. Though they maintain a veneer of cooperation, he says politics divides the area's South Africans.

Perhaps that's why, on rugby night, Phillip is not among the standing-room-only crowd of 50 or so mostly male and nearly all white South Africans. They've come together around a big-screen TV to watch the Sharks, a team from one of South Africa's provinces, play the Brumbies, an Australian provincial team.

Through the open back door, a few people can be seen milling about in twos and threes. The back half of a dented green pickup truck, painted with the name of the bar, has been converted into a grill. They are having a barbecue, or in South African parlance, a bri.

Those outside have apparently given up on the game, and for good reason. With just minutes left on the clock, the South African team is behind, 36 to 6. When the match ends, the crowd clears out, and only a stalwart few stick around to drown their sorrows.

"There should be more, shouldn't there?" states Alfred, who wears a black embroidered Sharks cap. Though he is not from the Free State, the Sharks' province, he says he supports the team in America, at least. Alfred says he hails from the northern province of Transvaal, one of two original states formed by the Boers. He's dating himself: When the provinces where renamed at the end of apartheid, Transvaal became Mpumalanga.

In a way Alfred's use of the old name is appropriate. More than beer and bri, the Kalahari Bar serves nostalgia, an image of South Africa not as it is but as its South African patrons would like to remember it. Talk of politics is not especially welcome here. Peter, a 22-year-old South African, shakes his head when asked about his homeland. Staring at the leopard-patterned tabletop, he peels the label from his bottle of Budweiser. "There's all these problems," he says, exasperated. "Just leave it."

Peter and his 30-year-old brother, Jackson, don't want anything to do with South Africa. There is little future for them there, they say. They don't want to suffer for a system of oppression that wasn't their fault or worry what white flight will do to their country's economy. Tonight South Africa's Sharks have lost, and over a row of empty beer bottles, a white South African forfeits his birthplace to blacks.

"They want [South Africa]," Jackson says, "they can have it." Then he breaks into a self-conscious laugh and adds, "We [whites] will build it back up when they're through with it." He laughs again and throws his hands up in a "what the hell" gesture.


In 1995 the new South African Government of National Unity convened a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to address crimes committed by all parties during apartheid. The TRC is much like a war crimes tribunal, except that in this instance the war took place between the South African government and its own people.

Its findings are appalling. In one particularly shocking case, which required two years of investigation and depositions to complete, government officials and contractors testified to a comprehensive program of conspiracy, massacre, and sabotage. University and research scientists were lured with large sums of money and benefits (and in some cases, later threatened and coerced) to develop an arsenal of drugs and poisons later used by the government for biochemical warfare against black communities, activists, and those considered enemies of apartheid.

Operatives for "Project Coast" poisoned water systems in townships, weakening and sometimes wiping out whole communities. Cholera, botulism, and other diseases were spread through the food and water, and projects were undertaken to control the fertility of black women. In addition Mandrax (Quaalude), Ecstasy, and NGT (new generation tear gas) were either purchased or manufactured for the purposes of crowd control and manipulation. The TRC found that South Africa's surgeon general was aware of such crimes but failed to oppose them, and further, approved the budget for such research projects while advising their cover-up. The whole of this program was sponsored by the apartheid South African government and its military with tacit international cooperation and support, the report concludes.

Such extreme depravity is hard to fathom, especially from a Fort Lauderdale barstool. So when the topic of conversation turns to Project Coast, Herman du Plessis sits expressionless.

"That never happened," he says flatly, his blue eyes fixed in a flinty stare. "Not against our own people. There's no way that could ever happen."

The well-documented murder programs, which made international headlines, don't register with du Plessis. Indeed the story was barely a blip on the American media radar, and du Plessis suggests Project Coast is propaganda: "You should do some research and get some unbiased information."

Du Plessis, who has worked as an engineer on a yacht for a year and a half, hasn't come across Project Coast on the online African news sites he reads regularly. However, he is familiar with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which published the report.

At this connection he looks embarrassed and relents. "If it did happen, it only happened as assassinations," he allows, "not in a mass way."

Du Plessis is wearing a blue bivouac sweater and jeans, standing in a wide room paneled with varnished wood the color of cognac. The back room of the Quarterdeck Bar on 17th Street is crowded with yachties who have gathered on this chilly Thursday night in January over cheap bottled beers served in plastic tubs.

He is pale-skinned and baby-faced; his hair is cropped close to his head in a military-style haircut. He seems to know everyone but waves them away, takes a sip of draft beer, and continues.

"I think the whole problem with the government of South Africa is the ANC," he says, referring to the majority party of current president Thabo Mbeki. Though the ANC won the 1994 elections with 63 percent of the vote, du Plessis doesn't take that as a mandate from the South African people and resents that it paved the way for changes to the constitution.

"It's sad," he says in blanket reference to the nation's state of affairs. "The government, which happens to be black, wants to solve problems the African way, which doesn't work. There's only one way to run a country, which is the way Americans run it. They are not implementing the government in a westernized way."

He points to Mbeki's much-publicized statement that HIV does not cause AIDS and laughs derisively. "That is not a westernized way of thinking." Moreover, he notes, most of South Africa's AIDS sufferers are black: "It sounds wrong," he says, leaning forward to finish his sentence, "but [Mbeki's] killing off his own people."

Mbeki's "people" are not in attendance tonight. Of the South Africans who come to America to work on yachts or anywhere else, few if any are black; blacks rarely set foot in this nautically themed chain bar. Like the yachts they work on, the crowd tonight is uniformly white. By contrast, in his homeland, du Plessis is a minority.

"There's 7 million whites and 42 million blacks," he says. He contends affirmative action cost many of his friends their jobs, replacing them instead with less-competent black workers.

"They get on the job," he says, referring to blacks, "and in six months they're out on the street again."

Du Plessis says he made the equivalent of $8 a day as a civil engineer in South Africa, a circumstance exacerbated by the nation's relatively high cost of living, skyrocketing utility rates, and affirmative action. "The consumer is screwed," he says.

Still, he goes on to describe the grandeur of the South African landscape, its wealth of natural resources, and why he believes South Africa is the best nation in the world, full of gold, diamonds, platinum, uranium, and oil and dotted with cosmopolitan cities, beautiful beaches, and friendly people. He would go back if he could afford it. If du Plessis won $10 million today, he says, he would go back tomorrow.

"You've gotta remember one thing," du Plessis says urgently. "What we're coming out of, you have no idea."


"South Africans will always tell you everything is OK," Lauren Pannicco says a bit testily, "and that's a lie."

Pannicco and her boyfriend, Gus Fabian, are both South Africans and business owners. She owns Serenity Day Spa on Sunrise Boulevard in Fort Lauderdale, he owns Lightbulbs Unlimited on Oakland Park Boulevard. The two met five years ago at Zan(Z)Bar, the now-defunct South African restaurant on Las Olas Boulevard. They were brought together in part by their liberal politics.

Pannicco stresses that most South Africans don't share their views. Most, she says, are racist: "Ninety-nine-point-nine percent."

Because of such a difference in politics and cultures, South Florida's white South African community is hardly close-knit, and Pannicco says the bris once held by a local South African organization were called off for this reason. "We don't have anything in common."

The sponsoring organization was South Africans in Florida -- SAIF. Both laugh at the acronym's double-entendre. It is called that, Fabian says with a chuckle, "because we're here, safe."

Such functions aren't so much social events as networking opportunities, anyway. "There aren't friends," she says of the local South African scene. "There are contacts."

Fabian navigates the couple's silver Mercedes SUV into the driveway of their Sailboat Bend home, and the moment Pannicco gets out, she is grabbed by a young Haitian boy named Kevintz, who hugs her legs in glee. He has been waiting for them to return, hanging out with the other neighborhood kids in their house. The couple made a point of living in this economically and racially mixed neighborhood. People say Sailboat Bend is "cleaning up," Pannicco notes with a grimace. "What they really mean is going from black to white."

Pannicco and Fabian spent their entire high-school careers in segregated schools, but with liberal, politically oriented families, they knew of apartheid's evils.

"We always knew that was going on. My family was involved in the ANC when it was still underground," Pannicco says. "When we were growing up, [apartheid] was an impossible reality."

Miraculously, adds Fabian, "All the things we always wanted have now happened."

Neither came to the United States for political reasons, but Pannicco says staying here is in effect a political decision. "I left because I was 19 and adventurous. Now, as an adult, I would never raise children in South Africa. But then there's the thinking that you should go and help," she says.

"That's how I feel," Fabian agrees. "If [whites] want to live there [in South Africa], they have to sacrifice." Fabian, for one, never wanted to leave South Africa. He left reluctantly to help build his family's business, a South African-owned chain with 11 stores in the southeastern United States.

"I felt I was staying [in the United States] and helping. And that's how my parents feel."

Nonetheless, coming to Fort Lauderdale was an awakening. He was shocked to see homes without bars on the windows. In South Africa, he notes, "People there have been conditioned to accept how they live. The kinds of things you deal with there and accept are unbelievable."

There are other surprises, here, too, he says, like the number of white Americans who come into his store and make racist remarks, assuming, because he's South African, he'll agree. He tries to disabuse them of this notion politely; "Lauren's more up-front."

Pannicco doesn't accept the excuse that South Africans were oblivious to apartheid. "A lot of people didn't know, which is the fault of the parents. Most people just grew up with their blinkers on." Still, she adds, "It doesn't take a brain surgeon."

Change will come only among younger generations, she says. The older folks? "These are people whose blood is racist. They lived and breathed it. They'll never lose it."

In fact Pannicco fears the continuing influx of her countrymen will augur a rising tide of intolerance.

"They're all racist, all of them -- unbelievable hatred. I'm sorry, I meet them right here in Fort Lauderdale, and I want to be sick," she says, her voice thick with disgust. "Don't bring your racist selves into my new home."


Peter is sitting at Floyd's Hostel, dreaming of the Kalahari Bar. A fair-haired 23-year-old with the broad build of a rugby player, Peter is somewhat reserved, but when he talks of watching a South African rugby team in a South African bar, drinking Castle, a South African beer, his face breaks into a grin.

Growing up in a farm town an hour inland of Durban, Peter had a relatively sheltered youth. He's adventurous nonetheless: He'd never seen snow, but that didn't discourage him from taking a job as a ski instructor at Mount Snow, Vermont. In four days he learned to ski, then taught others for $7.50 an hour.

He modestly downplays this accomplishment: "To teach someone to ski is not hard at all," he says. Now that it's summer, he cleans and repairs yachts out of Fort Lauderdale.

In gym shorts and a New Balance T-shirt, Peter calls to mind a young Woody Harrelson. He has just finished an accounting degree but couldn't wait the three years it would take before becoming eligible for transfer from South Africa to work as an accountant overseas. "I decided to clear the mind and come over here," he explains. Still, he feels a little guilty. He is one of many educated, would-be professionals the South African government would have liked to keep from leaving.

As a result, Peter says, there's a stigma to fleeing his homeland: "People frown upon you when you leave."

Nonetheless, on the yachts Peter works on here, he meets many other South Africans. He counted 160 of them working at the ski resort.

Among them was a balding 32-year-old named Jan. He operated the ski lifts, a job he remembers as easy but monotonous. "It was a way to get into the country," Jan says with a shrug. A former manager at a major bank in Johannesburg, Jan was frustrated after a robbery at the bank and two carjackings: He lost a BMW M5 (a sports conversion of the car) and later a one-year-old Opel Kadett.

After 11 years in the banking industry, Jan quit his job and set out for America surprising himself with his swift decision. "If you asked me a year ago if I would leave [that] country, I would say no. I'm too much of a conservative, a patriot."

In fact Jan, who wears a faded purple, waffle-weave shirt, proudly tells of the two years he served in the South African Defence Force, then a whites-only army that enforced apartheid. He was a signal man and worked with the Rekkies, an elite unit Jan compares to the U.S. Marines, only tougher.

Jan served in South Africa's war with Angola. The army has since integrated, though the change has not come easily, and it has been hard to shake the quintessential image of an Afrikaner drill sergeant. "The army," Jan explains, his English heavily accented with his native Afrikaans, "was the heart of apartheid."

Despite or perhaps because of this Jan does not regret his service: "Afterward you can always talk about it," he says. "You can be proud."

Peter just shakes his head. The South African government ended conscription before he could be called, which is fine by him. He's seen enough violence in the midlands where he lived: "farm killings," in which families are murdered for their land, livestock, and belongings. "Murders in our local paper make the fourth page," he says with a bitter laugh. "They have a column for all the people killed during the week and over the weekend."

As bad as it is, Peter contends that the image of urban violence in South African cities like Johannesburg is motivated more by money than race and is largely overblown. "You really get used to it," he insists.

"That's the thing," interrupts a longhaired man named Jorg, "It is that bad, but you're used to it."

Jorg, who wears a tank top and silver hoop earrings, is a South African of German descent. He is also the most liberal of the three, having attended a private integrated high school populated in part by the children of black diplomats. For years he played in reggae bands and later ran a nightclub in Cape Town and visited his black musician friends in the townships.

Frustrated after looking for work for six months, he sold his car and bought a plane ticket to Fort Lauderdale. During the past decade, the South African unemployment rate has hovered near 40 percent. Jorg heard things are different here. He hopes to make enough money working day labor to return home and start a business.

"I'm an African," he says, tucking his hair behind his ears. "Africa bites you. You go to the game farms," he says wistfully. "You smell the rain, the thunderstorms."

Besides, Peter interjects, "Even the United States has apartheid. You look at a country like Germany, they started two world wars, they're still paying reparations. What are the Americans paying to the American Indians?"

Such a comparison is common among South Africans when talking about race and segregation, as if America's segregated past rationalizes the evils of apartheid. Jorg and Jan are silent, but Peter lowers his voice and continues, "[Americans] strung up niggers for years and years," he says, implying that such violence didn't happen in South Africa.

But it did, Jorg interjects angrily: "They pulled off [blacks'] skin while they were still alive! That shit happened!"

Chastened, Peter looks down at the table. Scarlet creeps into his already ruddy cheeks. "Well," he says softly, "I was on a little farm."

Jorg continues, now riled up: "I was shopping on Church Street [in Cape Town], and I saw dogs let loose after blacks. I saw a woman being beaten by the police with sticks."

Peter shifts his weight and checks his large sports watch.

"There's a lot of that stuff. It makes you mad," Jorg says. He fidgets with a wood-handled steak knife, digging its tip into the table. "I had a maid. She was with me for 20 years. I loved her. She was like a mother to me. When you see that...." He trails off, shaking his head.

"We had the same maid for 14 years," Peter adds, brightening. "And they're good people."

Peter's maid lived ten minutes from his home, in a township he rarely visited. "Sometimes," he concedes, "just to take her home."

"To buy weed," Jorg teases.

Straight-faced, Peter reddens again: "No," he says soberly, "I never did that till I came here."

Though they stay up talking late into the night, Jorg gets up the next day at 4 a.m. in order to be first in line for the pickup trucks that drive by the hostel, gathering day laborers. By daylight Jan is back at the table, eating a bowl of runny oatmeal. He wouldn't end up working that day. "I had everything going for me there. Now," he says ruefully, "I sit at the side of the road waiting for day labor."

At 8 a.m. Jorg is still out front, waiting.

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