I moved from Pretoria to the busy streets of Hillbrow in Johannesburg. The tall and scattered buildings make the place look alive. The population is what makes me love this place, as it has a mixture of different races, cultures and friendly, foreign people.
Within the first month of staying in Hillbrow, I started job hunting. Hillbrow has the best and most popular malls nearby and the central business district is within walking distance, which made life easy for me.
The first friends I made were two Nigerian boys, who were my age and also stayed in the same building as I did. I stayed with my uncle in an apartment, which we shared with a Zimbabwean couple. There was never much for me to do, so I was always looking for an opportunity to make it in Johannesburg.
One day while I was doing my morning chores, I stood at the window and looked down at the busy streets. Cars were hooting and everybody looked busy as they were running about their daily lives. While standing there I heard a beep on my phone – it was the sound of an email notification. The email was from a recruitment agency that asked me to come in for an interview. I had dropped off lots of my CVs at different companies and had also applied for jobs online.
Hearing this news, I quickly went to the bathroom and filled a tub with water. As the water splashed into the tub, so did my thoughts. All I could think about was if I was going to be the perfect candidate for the position and if they would like me. I did everything I needed to and left for the designated address. It did not take me long to locate the address, as I was already familiar with the places around me.
A gentleman in formal clothing, who looked very neat and presentable, greeted me. He sat behind a desk in a rather empty room that looked like an office. The sound of the door banging bombarded the room, leaving a very loud echo.
I sat down and the gentleman explained that I was supposed to pay them a consultation fee and administration fee before I could be entered onto their database. I was very desperate for a job and I asked if I could bring the money the next morning to which he agreed. I was told I had already got the job and all that was left was for me to pay the money and I would be given the contract.
I left the office feeling very excited and decided to take a taxi back home as it had become too hot for me to walk. I got into the taxi where I sat in the back seat and opened my window to let the air in. The taxi was empty and I sat looking out the window. There was a boy in the taxi who looked younger than me, but he was very dirty and looked tired from the sun. He sat at the taxi door and asked people for money as they got into the taxi. I was really touched by him and dug in my pockets to grab all the coins I had to give to him. There was a lady who was sitting in front of me, who gave me a look, which showed she was not happy about me giving the boy money. After a while the taxi was full and we left.
Later, the lady explained to me that the boy uses that money to buy cough syrup. I remember smiling and saying, “At least, he remembers to take care of himself.” Little did I know, that cough syrup had become the new alcohol to the youngsters of Johannesburg. They would drink it and get drunk.
I then took out my phone to text my uncle and tell him about the interview and the money that I needed for the contract. When I was texting him the taxi stopped at a robot and in a heartbeat a tall, dark and skinny boy snatched my phone through the window, just as the robot switched. I shouted for the driver to stop, but he would not stop in the middle of road, as there was traffic. I watched the boy disappear into the crowd with my phone.
When I got home, I explained everything to the lady we stayed with. She was not surprised and told me about other incidents she had heard of. This is when I realised that Hillbrow is a very dangerous place.
Later on my uncle came home and better me feel better after the horrible day I had had. He gave me the money that I needed to go and pay the agency.
The following day I woke up early and went to go and pay the money. When I got to the place the gentleman was there already and I paid him the money. He told me to come back tomorrow at around 10am and to be dressed in all black, as I was to start training.
When I got home I ironed my black attire and made sure that I was all ready for the next day. Everyone in the house wished me the best and I was very excited.
That morning my alarm went off, but I was already awake, as I did not want to be late for my first day. I was so excited and could hardly eat. I made sure that I had sorted everything out before leaving the house. When I got there it was still very early and I sat outside waiting for the gentleman to come.
I sat there for almost two hours until I finally heard footsteps coming up the stairs. I stood up and made sure that I looked presentable, but it was the security guard with a piece of paper. He stuck the piece of paper on the door of the gentleman’s office. The paper read: “AVAILABLE OFFICE TO LET”.
I was amused when I saw this, as I knew the office belonged to the agency that had given me the job. The security guard explained to me, that the agency had moved out of the premises the day before and left their keys.
He went on to explain that he had always suspected that they were scammers because they had not lasted a week in the building. Now, I had no phone number to contact them on and realized that I had been scammed, so I walked back home.
There is a game shop next to our flat and I went inside to watch some kids play pool. I was feeling very stressed. Two guys came over to me and offered me some bron cleer – the cough syrup. I stood up, looked at both of them and walked away.
Since then, I have never felt safe in Hillbrow and have soon learnt that the population in that area has led to lots of criminal activities and ignorant beings.