I had a streak of bad luck during my last days in Cairo which included discovering several thousand dollars’ worth fraudulent charges on my debit card and then losing my wallet. After a last minute scramble, I got my hands on some emergency cash (thanks Mom!) and am back in business.

I was greeted at the airport in Johannesburg by my friend Lourenz, whom I met while passing through Beijing on my way back to Thailand from Mongolia. Lourenz is a student in the captial, Pretoria. I decided to base myself at a hostel there for a couple days and hang out with Lourenz before heading to Johannesburg. Tonight I’ll be meeting up with my grandparents to start a trip around the country, ending just short of 3 weeks from now at Victoria Falls in Zambia.

Pretoria is a university town, and in many ways is no different from most American college towns I’ve visited. There is one thing I noticed right away, though. Every home is a fortress. I haven’t yet seen a single residence not protected by high, razor wire-topped walls. Most have automatic gates with intercoms and guard dogs. I even spotted one with an electrified fence.

I haven’t been made to feel at all unsafe walking around this neighborhood (Hatfield), but Lourenz and a few other locals have assured me that just a couple kms down the road in Sunnyside I “wouldn’t even make it a block without being mugged.”

I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised to find that someone stole all of my underwear from the laundry line yesterday. Great.