Month: March 2012

T.I.A.

TIA. The most commonly used phrase here: This Is Africa. It’s the African lifestyle of community, laidback days and a forever late schedule that make this place so unique. I’m a little over a month in now and I think I have the hang of this place. Thus I have compiled a list of some of the best and worst and just plain differences I have picked up on.

  1. There are 17 KFC’s just in Port Elizabeth. All of them deliver, and many are open 24/7. Who’s the lazy country now?!
  2. I do a lot of walking. It’s about a 25 minute walk to school and people just stare at me as I walk by. It wasn’t until recently that I realized it was because white people don’t walk to school, they all have cars.
  3. Most families here have domestic maids. They get paid on average 7.45 rands per hour, which is about the equivalent of a single American dollar.
  4. If you’re walking cars will honk at you. It’s not rude; it’s a friendly greeting here.
  5. African time is a real thing. It’s called being late.
  6. There are three different ways to say “now”.
    1. “Now” – means in a few minutes
    2. “Now Now” – mostly means right now, but no one here is ever urgent or on time
    3. “Just now” – means within the hour or so
    4. Yes, these are all real phrases. No, it doesn’t make sense. TIA.
  7. People stand in parking lots and help guide you to park your car correctly. They just do it for tips, and are called “Car Guides”.
  8. Convi’s are like community taxi’s. They are big white vans that drive by and sound like they are yelling “down, down” instead they are yelling “town, town”. They will do anything for a customer, including drive backwards on the road to pick you up. They are only to be taken safely during the day and only cost 7 rands (about a dollar).
  9. Chicago has nothing on PE (Port Elizabeth, where I am staying) as the windy city. I haven’t left my room in 4 hours because the wind literally will just push me over.
  10. Air conditioning doesn’t exist.
  11. Americans. They will either love you or hate you.
  12. Free internet doesn’t exist.
  13. Even though English is the official language, most people speak either Xhosa or Afrikaans. I feel like it’s mostly because they know I have no idea what they are saying.
  14. Lions don’t walk down the street here, neither do giraffes.
  15. Their idea of street food is fruit stands.
  16. All common driving and traffic principles are optional, including but not limited to: stop signs, cars driving on sidewalks, speed limits and parking spaces.
  17. You drive on the left side of the road here, so it’s not just in the UK.
  18. It’s rude if you don’t dress decently for class. Going to school is a privilege.
  19. There are three main races: white, black and colored (at home colored people would be considered “mixed” but here it’s its’ own race).
  20.  Fresh bakery bread is cheaper than the pre-packaged sliced version, it’s about a dollar.
  21. Iced coffee doesn’t exist.
  22. EVERYTHING is gated. Streets are lined with fences and just peaking out behind them are houses.
  23. Most students here are locals, meaning they still live at home with their parents. It’s very rare to find a local that lives on their own.
  24. It’s not uncommon to find a local student that has never been to a township in their own town.
  25. Unless you are on a varsity sports team, most people aren’t active, at all.
  26. It takes me 20 minutes to walk to school at a decent pace, on average it takes a local about 45.
  27. Bugs are EVERYWHERE. Get used to the ants, if you leave anything out for longer than 15 minutes than the ants will claim territory on it. Gross.

 

Life here is just a little bit different. It has not been as hard to adjust as I thought. Not having internet and much of a phone is a nice change of pace for a while. You never realized how different cultures are to yours until you dive full in and choose to embrace it. With change comes growth, and Africa you have pushed me to grow more in this last month than I have my whole life. TIA.

Erin.

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a weekend on the farm

When I came here looking for an authentic African experience I didn’t expect that to lead me to a farm. Little did I know a huge percentage of the population in South Africa lives and works on a farm. So this past weekend the school set up a trip for a few of us to visit the frontier and stay with local families. After a five hour car ride, three stops, and the last two hours being on a rock road, not even gravel just straight rocks and potholes, we made it to the farm. After a warm welcome including sandwiches, coffee, tea, and cake, we were off for the real work. First up was herding sheep. Who knew sheep were so fast and agile? They certainly outsmarted us international students and we were quickly on to the next adventure. All seventeen of us piled in the back of a white pickup truck and headed down the mountain to the waterfall. It was such a beautiful drive to get there. The scenery was breath taking. Between holding on for dear life and dodging massive thorn trees over hanging the road I was trying to snap as many pictures as possible to capture the beauty. We had a short hike down to the river and there stood this beauty.

Ryan, Matti, me, Shannon

Matti, Me, Shannon, Aliza

Situated between the two families properties was the waterfall so they technically owned it. Unreal. After a quick dip with my waterproof camera it was off to the next. Milking cows. We not only had the chance to milk them, but we drank right from the cows utter. Which mostly meant Marnus (owner of the farm) shot milk into our mouths and mostly all over our faces. It doesn’t get any fresher than that! And despite the warm temperature of the cream, it was just so delicious.

Our busy afternoon ended in a classic braai bread, corn on the cob and wine out by the fire pit overlooking the river. We all sat around enjoying the scerenity for a few hours because they don’t serve dinner until at least nine on the farm. But no matter how long we waited for food it was always beyond worth it. First dinner consisted of chicken, wild rice, potato wedges, and my favorite, pumpkin cornbread. Yummy!

 

Day two:

Why we picked the room right beside the roosters nest is beyond me. Hello, 4 am wake up call! It’s actually pretty impressive that every morning, regardless of what season it is, their roosters wake up at 4 am. Why they couldn’t train them to get up at 7 is a different story, but in any sense it was an early morning. Piled into two trucks this time we headed up the mountain for some incredible views and a strenuous hike. The last mile was straight up hill and it was a race to the top. The first boy and first girl to reach the top were the winners. Competition on my mind and I was off. Ryan and I were the first two to the top of the mountain and therefore winners! We enjoyed some truly breath taking views and even spotted some monkeys playing at the top.

After a picnic lunch we headed back down for some R&R. We were greeted with coffee, tea and cake (I could seriously get used to living on the farm) and enjoyed the afternoon basking in the sun by the pool, playing tennis, watching cricket, and taking walks through the garden. We soon got a tour of the game room, which was instead filled with all the game François had shot. The room included a giraffe, zebra, kudu, springbok, wild boar, and many more. We also got a tour of his person safe which was filled with guns. I didn’t even know people had walk-in safes, let alone for their guns. But after all the shooting talk it was out turn to try it out. We headed out back to the barn and learned how to shoot. I wasn’t so bad making it just outside the bulls-eye, up and a little to the right. I’ll take it.

Up next was easily one of the greatest meals I’ve ever had. I wish I had taken a picture but I’m not even sure if it would have done any justice. First up was the freshest, juiciest steak ever. They might have even slaughtered the cow out, back which is why the dinner took so long to prepare. Sides included: spicy pasta salad, potato casserole, cornbread pudding, roasted veggies and homemade bread with fresh apricot jam. I’m drooling thinking about it again. It was incredible. After dinner we grabbed spotlights, jumped back in the trucks and wandered the fields on a night game drive. It’s definitely harder spotting things at night but once you catch their eyes in the light they glow, it’s really cool. But no, we didn’t see much, the experience it’s self was so fun though. And the stars, ah! They were incredible. I thought you could see more stars here than at home to begin with but out in the country side there were billions. It was unreal how gorgeous the night sky was.

On our last day we were off for one last hike and waterfall excursion. This one was different because you come up to a river that splits the mountain in two but there are no banks on either side. It’s like someone just sliced down the middle of the mountain and then threw a river in there. The only way to get to the waterfall was to swim. Despite the freezing temperatures a few of us jumped right in. I’m in Africa, why not? Another reason I was thankful for the waterproof camera so we could actually capture the day. A beautiful day swimming and we were headed back home.

 

It was such a fun weekend, full of firsts. We left with open invitations to return as friends next time and I cannot wait to go back.

Erin