Friday, November 23, 2012

Cheeky and Dodgy, education continued 11-23-12

A cheeky monkey

I am now into the fourth day of my South African experience and my education of this country continues.  In the past two days I have learned two new words and how to use them: “Cheeky” and “Dodgy.”  These are very interesting words, which require a bit of instruction to understand.  Monkeys are “cheeky” and a person can be “cheeky.”  Certain parts of town are “dodgy” or a person can be “dodgy.”  The closest I can come to American words are “mischievous” for cheeky and “sketchy” for dodgy.  Other terms I have learned and practicing are: torches, tackies and biscuits.  Flashlights are torches, sneakers are tackies and cookies are biscuits.  Boots and bonnets are the trunk and hood of a car, respectfully. I almost forgot some of my favorite new words, Braai, biltong and voers.  Translation: barbeque, jerky and sausage!  They do not have potluck suppers here, nope, they have bring & braai or bring & share. Pies can be either sweet or savory, but to a South African pie means a meat pie and Guinness is not just for drinking but a flavorful part of a lamb or steak pie.  You will often see me use the word “lekker” in facebook pages; this is a term meaning “awesome” or "very nice" or "great." 
Last night was the first time I flinched while driving around town.  It was after dark and as we turned left out of the driveway I observed a set of headlights coming toward us on the right.  For a split second my heart went to my throat as my brain connected with where I was.  The fun part of riding on the other side of the road as an American is I continue to want to lean the wrong way when we are taking a corner.  When sitting in the middle of the back seat, I simply hold onto both grab bars and swing like a cheeky monkey in the back seat.
Momma & baby with another young monkey
I have not had a problem with accents and understanding people for the most part.  I was challenged the other night when there were around 100 or more people at pie night; all talking at once.  Listening closely was virtually impossible and some folks spoke so quickly I resorted to smiling and nodding as we conversed.  I am learning to identify a person’s ethnic background by their accent.  British South Africans sound British, Afrikaans has a German or Dutch sound, and American, you can tell us a mile away; all we have to say is “hello.”
I am very much enjoying the opportunity to meet and interact with “the natives” here.  Everyone has an interesting story and loves to talk with someone from America.  At pie night people would come in smile, say hello, extend their hand and say, “you must be one of the Americans, nice to meet you.” I am eager to continue to interact with others and learn more about this beautiful country.  I am heading into the Natal “Midlands,” which everyone tells me I will love as it is so beautiful.” I’m not certain when I will be able to post again, but will try again soon. 

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Looks are deceiving 11-21-12

the "Hadeda"

I have arrived in South Africa safe & sound and am spending my second full day here.  In the past 48 hours I have already learned “looks are deceiving.”  The South African morning has been greeted with the familiar cawing of birds; not crows but rather something called a “Hadeda” (pronounced Ha-dee-da) an Ibis with a crooked bill and raucous call.  My original impression of here was it was quite modernized and similar to the U.S. with a European flare.  Other than driving on the other side of the road all appeared to be familiar.  The grocery store has similar items, fresh fruit & vegetables, electronics abound, and everyone has a cell phone.  Traffic is heavy in the city and pedestrians cross anywhere they want.  But it is in the unseen the deception exists.  I was going to originally write about how people are the same all over the world and for the most part I believe we are.  It is in how life is lived out there is a difference. 
Unemployment is 25%, white people make up 8% of the population, and while discussing wages many figures were tossed around, but suffice it to say many South Africans make in a day what many Americans make an hour, while the cost of living (rents, food) is similar to the U.S.   Many houses have security systems, gates and bars on doors and windows; however I have seen this in parts of the U.S.  The difference is in the % of people who within their lifetimes have experienced some form of trauma from violence, which is considerably higher than America. South Africa has the distinction of having the worse drivers around, a fact I can attest to having driven in Pinetown with my friend. I learned that some newborns do not have receiving blankets and are wrapped in newspaper when first born.  I have been told that over the next week I will witness living conditions totally unknown to me, worse than the worst in America.
South Africa is known as the “rainbow nation” due to the multi-national make up of the population.  Here in the Natal province, British culture is pre-dominant, but there is a large Indian (people from India) population.  I was incorrect in thinking Afrikaans was synonymous with white South African.  Correction, Afrikaans is someone of Dutch South African decent while there is British South African, and other African tribal associations all living together in the same area. What is interesting is most people maintain their cultural heritage separate from others, where in America everyone assumes bits and pieces of American culture.  There are 11 official languages with English, Afrikaans and Zulu being foremost. The evening news broadcast extends for hours on end to accommodate the most common of those 11.
I still maintain, every American should travel to a foreign land and learn about the culture in order to truly appreciate what we have.  For the most part we can move in society without fear of personal harm, we make live-able wages, we have good medical care with competent healthcare providers readily available.  It is trips like this one that make me appreciate what I have. 
As I prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving in South Africa, I choose to be thankful for what I have, what I don’t have (violence and squalor) and especially for a wonderful family and close friends. I am thankful for the ability to travel to a foreign land and meet wonderful people, who when it comes right down to it are the same as I am; similar hopes, wants and needs. 

Where I am staying in Pinetown, KZN, South Africa

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Reality setting in

October 2000, returning from Lesotho

I’m not certain how many people believe me to be an “adventurous” person.  I sometimes think I come across with bravado that disguises my real persona.  I am quite a home body when it comes right down to it and if it weren’t for others I would probably be happy as a hermit (at least for a while.)  Fact is reality is setting in, next week at this time I will have landed in Durban, South Africa, ending a 25 hour trip half way around the world.

Many people have been saying to me “you must be getting excited.” Yeah, I guess I am, however I think my excitement will truly hit when my house is locked, my bags are packed and I am sitting in the airport in Boston. The proverbial phrase “the devil is in the details” rings in my ears.  Although my tickets have been purchased for many months and I have been packing in my head, making a mental list of those things I need to remember, this past weekend brought to a head all of the little details I needed to accomplish before I leave.  I was struck by the imminence of my departure when I remembered I must go to the post office and stop my mail.  I had been laying out my clothes, and purchased my travel money card but those had not struck me, no….it was when I remembered having to stop the mail!

"My Giraffe" here's the proof!
I think if I did not have to worry about the little details I would be very excited.  I am trying to take joy in preparing to go but having that joy interrupted by the details.  Oh that I didn’t have to worry about the little things, but its part of the fun now isn’t it?  My intent is to journal here in this blog as well as my Face book page my adventures in South Africa.  I hope to be able to post pictures and write some commentary.  But there again, I’m not real good at details.  I covet everyone’s prayers for the journey there and home again as well as the time I spend with my dear friends.  I am looking forward to enjoying a different culture, rubbing elbows with people of a different land, hearing different languages and partaking of the different cuisine.  Hmmmm, come to think of it, I am getting excited! Given the exchange rate….maybe this and $2.50 will get me a larger cup of something yummy from the Dark Continent.

The pictures included here were taken during my trip to South Africa in 2000.  New ones will be posted as I can!

Zebras in the game preserve, they were illusive little buggers