Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Malls, Malls, Everywhere

When I lived in Boston, I lived across the street from one mall and a block away from another, and I worked across a fake pond from another mall. In Chicago I'm not as confronted by malls on a day-to-day basis, but there are a staggering number of places to spend money in a very short distance from me. I thought I'd get away from that by coming to Africa. Not exactly...

Since Johannesburg CBD (which basically means 'downtown') is less than safe, good old white flight 15 years ago led to an emigration to the suburbs. As a result, virtually anywhere you would go to buy something here is located in a heavily fortified, enclosed mall. Restaurants, grocery stores, clothing boutiques, barbers, department stores, etc - they're all in a mall. You go into the underground guarded parking garage and come out and you're suddenly in an area that you can hardly tell is enclosed and guarded by walls and barbed wire and armed guards. Basically, instead of the government securing the whole city, private companies built little secured privatized areas and then developed little towns inside with self-supporting economies.

The closest one to me is literally two blocks away - Killarney Mall. It would be really convenient if not for the hours. The grocery store closes at 7 on weeknights and 2 on weekends. The rest of the shops are worse - most close at 5 on weeknights and don't even bother opening on Sundays. But, when things are open, there is a lot of commerce going on.

The place we end up going to most often for dinner is Melrose Arch. It's all of 5 minutes from the office or from the apartment, and I can get to it without a GPS. All big plusses.

There is also the recently renamed Nelson Mandela Square, featuring a 50' tall statue of the man himself in the middle of the square. This one is 15 minutes from me. There's also Rosebank, which is 10 minutes from me, which is actually two malls in one.

So yes, there are plenty of malls around. I cannot escape them, even in Africa.

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