Wednesday, 22 August 2007

South Africa - Impressions

These impressions are from my trip to South Africa in March this year, after 8 years out of the country living in the UK and Australia, with very few trips back since leaving. Travelling with an Aussie also opened my eyes to a few things I used to take for granted.

This sign tickled me, although it probably shouldn't have!

1. I'd forgotten how many people are black. 90% of the population, so of course, but it always surprises me.

2. Oh cool, I can still understand Afrikaans! Can't speak it any more, but I can read it and listen to it... excellent, that's going to help.

3. Ooooh I'm jetlagged, that's a first for me in SA. And hungover bleah. Note to self, drink less on the "short" long-haul flights, you don't have enough time to recover before landing!

4. I'd completely forgotten the beggars and hawkers at every street light. They totally freak me out... get away from my car dammit! Lock the doors please honey, and don't make eye contact.

5. Space. Lots of space... even though the towns have a spread a lot in the time I've been gone. I miss space, Sydney is so cramped.

6. Secure estates - clusters of townhouses and flats enclosed by walls and guarded and patrolled - are a good idea. If I ever end up back here that's where I'd live.

7. Eish the accents are strong. Do I sound like that? Gawd. And m'Lord has picked up the "Ja" habit in under 24 hours... heh.

8. Hey they've done away with free plastic bags at the supermarkets! What a great idea, we should do that in Oz and the UK too.

9. Damn, I keep forgetting to bring my plastic bags to the supermarket, now I have to buy some more. Bugger. I wonder if I can sell them when I leave?

10. There are no bag packers in the supermarket anymore. That must be because they don't give away bags now... I hope they all found work - there were always dozens of them.

11. Stuff is so cheap! Not as cheap as on British pounds, but still very cheap. Wow, I can really spoil myself with a fab bottle of wine.

12. I can't remember which is a fab wine any more. Oh that's annoying.

13. How come you guys still use corks in your wine bottles? How quaint. Now I have to buy a bottle opener - I used to always travel with one but I'm out of the habit.

14. Biltong! Beef, buck, ostrich, dry, wet, spicy, plain, sticks, slabs, chips - oh how I have missed you! I can get you in the other countries but not in any variety... I could eat you for every meal and in between yum yum yum.

15. I don't remember the dried fruit squares being so sweet. Yuck. And that koeksister has given me a sugar headache. Pass the biltong please.

16. Where'd the good looking men go? When I left here at 27 the men were gorgeous, now they've all gone balding and/or fat. And not just fat, but with that potjie hanging in front, oh that's not a good look. The young men are stunning, but my age range - just depressing. Sigh.

17. The black people are so much friendlier than they used to be. The older folk still have that wary air about them, but the youngsters are bright and bubbly. I think that's wonderful, it bodes well for the future.

18. Even the whites are a lot more positive than they used to be. Although they do talk about crime rather a lot... Mind you, I remember living here and how you could never let your guard down, so it's a constant niggle.

19. Crime actually does seem worse now, and people are far more barricaded than they used to be. Most of my friends have electric fences as well as the usual bars, alarms, gates and dogs. Oh and armed response. I do not miss living like this!

20. Let's walk down to the waterfront promenade and find a restaurant for dinner! Oh hang on, it's dark, we can't walk after dark. I know it's only a few blocks away, but trust me, you don't want to walk around after dark. Let's stay in and see what there is to eat here - oh look, biltong!

21. Why does every country have it's own way of offering coffee? I'd forgotten the "hot-milk/cold-milk" thing, and it totally foxed m'Lord when he asked for a "flat white" and no one understood him! At least "cappuchino" seems to be universal!

22. Aargh look at all those men in the back of that pickup! That's so unsafe. Especially belting down the freeway like that... that's just wrong. I used travel around like that as a youngster, and thought nothing of it.

23. I'd forgotten the Cape Town thing of moving onto the hard shoulder at high speed to let faster traffic pass. Oh I don't like that... but I don't want to speed either and they're right up my tailpipe and it's horrible. It's particularly nasty in the rain.

24. I'd also forgotten that everyone speeds. We don't speed in Oz - I think I've lost the knack. No, maybe not ;-)

25. The black taxi minibuses are insane! Look out, he's going to cut in front of you at 100km/h and come to a complete stop without indicating! And then pull out suddenly without indicating. No don't shout at him honey - they're all armed! Well, probably, there are a lot of gang wars to do with the taxis... just don't, ok?

26. Oh look, a "hijacking hotspot" sign. That's new, how nice. And the one next to it says do not stop for anything, not for an accident, not even for a police car. Yeah, sometimes the police cars are fake, and that's how they get you... clever eh? Not sure how I'd like to be driving away from a police car that was trying to stop me... hmm.

27. I used to go walking on Table Mountain all the time, but now they say it's too dangerous. Walkers are being mugged a lot, especially on the routes I'd particularly like take m'Lord such as Skeleton Gorge, even when they're in a guided group! That's really irritating.

28. Those aren't "Blacks", those are "Coloureds". No they're not the same, and no that's not derogatory. They have a different heritage, from Malaysian slaves and the San, the original inhabitants of the Cape, and they'll be upset if you call them black. Well I can see the difference. And those there are "Indians", who are Muslims, and are descended from another group of slaves. The "Blacks" arrived later, travelling south through Africa. Why is that confusing?

29. Since when did we have shark watches on Cape Town beaches? I spent my childhood in that water thinking there were no sharks, and now you say there were?! Do you think they are a problem now because of the Great White cage diving in False Bay? I completely disagree with cage diving - teaching a shark that "boat+splash = food" freaks me out as a scuba diver who jumps in from a boat.

30. m'Lord is of normal height here, and a "medium" whereas in Oz he's tall and "large". He tried on a large t-shirt and was swamped in it, very funny. And I'm suddenly short and petite... makes a change from feeling like the incredible hulk elsewhere.

...more to come

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