It is a first for me to drink beer out of a milk cartoon but this is no ordinary beer or experience. Just around the corner from 8115 Orlando West, Nelson Mandela's home, is “The Shack” a local watering hole.
Initially, I am in search of food but for some strange reason I am drawn to “The Shack” and the blaring music coming from it. Here, I soon discover I can get a more people to people encounter of Soweto. A brief inquiry and I am a bit disappointed that no food is available; only drinks.
Guess, it’s time for “pork chops in a can”, Soweto style.
As often the case, my beverage of choice is a local brew. I am surprised when the bartender of sort questions my request and summons help.
He returns with a colorful green, black and brown bowl along with a milk cartoon.
Given the choice I take a seat at a table where a few men are already drinking and having an engaging conversation.
A few minutes later the conversation stops and one of the gentlemen focuses on me.
With a stern voice he addresses me and tells me he has a problem with me sitting at the table. This makes me a little uncomfortable until he tell me the reason why.
He jovially questions, “How can you sit at the table and not introduce yourself”. I am embarrassed by my action but his laughter breaks the ice and let's me know my sin is forgiven.
However, I have made another mistake but this time it is only in my head.
The beer I have purchased is not my beer it is a communal beer to be shared from the same bowl by anyone in the bar that wants to partake in it. Now made as commercial beer, Jo burg Beer originally started as a home brewed beer made for special occasions like weddings and graduations. A process that at home can take weeks to complete.
With a pink milk consistency the beer is non carbonated and has a heavy taste. For me, this makes it more of a sipping beer which works well with the on going conversation. Between sips formal introductions are made and I think “Ja-bo-low” has now taken a liking to me.
Ja-bo-low, a Zulu shares with me about local Zulu life and traditions. For him, even as a father himself, his father is so respected that he cannot slaughter an animal without approval from him. Furthermore, if he shows his father disrespect his brothers would take him to the woods and “fix” him. I like this particular Zulu tradition and think it should be exported.
Our conversation eventually shifts to food. Although he has to pick his mother up at 7pm, Ja-bo-low offers to take me for a true local dining experience. With our beer finished, I am glad we are driving and not walking to dinner.