30th May 2015
I see Oscar has left some “travel tips” in my absence. Helpful, not. But it did get me thinking about our trip to Durban.
Having left South Africa 2 years ago, I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about coming back. I missed it so much for nearly a year after we left, despite loving the anxiety-free lifestyle of Australia. But I’m back, and the last 24 hours have been a running reminder of what it is that is great about South Africa. I thought I’d share. 🙂
1. Road rules
Although more accurately – lack of road rules.
Don’t stop at red lights, particularly at night, just slow and go. Bakky, aka ute, trays are perfectly good methods of transporting as many people as you can squeeze into them. Walking by the side of the highway is perfectly acceptable, as is crossing from one side to the other. (And if there’s a bit of a hold up on your side, then driving across the central reservation and doing a U-turn is also fairly commonplace). And whilst Australia has drive through liquor stores, the stores just come to the road in South Africa, with vendors keen to sell any manner of wares. I know this is completely against the grain, particularly working where I do in my real-life paid day job, but there’s a little bit of the rebel in me that salutes the South African devil-may-care attitude.
South Africa really gets it. Go into a restaurant anywhere, and first of all, there’s none of this having to go up and order at the counter. Nope – the order comes to you. Then the staff will genuinely try to help you out. Like the waitress in Jo’burg airport who noticed we were looking a bit twitchy and came to check everything was fine. We’d miscalculated how long we had to connect to our next flight and were getting jumpy that our breakfast wouldn’t arrive in time. But she chivvied the kitchen and got us our food. And it was still delicious.
But it’s not just the customer service you get when you go out as a paying guest. South Africans will always invite you into their homes and give you not just a meal but their friendship. We talked about it over dinner last night. It was mooted that the difference is that South African houses are always immaculately well kept and the ironing gets done by someone else, so here, people actually have time and inclination to entertain.
OK, I know this is a bit random, but I’m a gap-toothed sort of girl! South Africa understands that toothpicks are one of life’s necessities. And you never finish a meal without being offered a refresher towel too. Which is jolly handy, as I am the adult responsible for a major league muck-magnet. Herbert seems to be doing a great job of resisting any attempts to de-savage him, and rarely finishes a meal without leaving a clue to his most recent meal on his face. Can anyone tell me why, at 12, this is still the case?
4. It’s day, then it’s night; there is no inbetween
I’d forgotten how quickly day turns to night. No fabulous strip tease like we get in Australia with the sky putting on a spectacle each morning and night. Nope. It’s daylight, then it’s not. Or it’s dark, then it’s not. Bang. The sky did try to colour in a pink line this morning, but the sun was too impatient to wait around for long. I wonder if that’s what informs the South African attitude to life. You’re alive, then you’re not. No point worrying too much about all that safety malarky like the western world in its attempt to deny death its place. No man, death happens and when it does, that’s when the spectacle happens. (A lot of effort goes into funerals over here. And attendance is all about respect. When I was working over here, the unions wanted to introduce funeral travel allowances. Fact).
5. Mrs Balls Flavour Crisps
In fact, just Mrs Balls chutney. On Vetkoek. Vetkoek! Why exactly has this delicacy not escaped beyond the borders of South Africa? A doughnut with a savoury mince filling, which just needs a dollop of Mrs Balls chutney to transform it from delicious to sublime. But also on crisps (chips). It’s delicious!!! Plus, I haven’t even mentioned droëwors or biltong. Nom nom nom!!!
OK, so this appears to be all about the food. And I haven’t even been for my little run!!
And it excludes any mention of wild beasts. (The sort that are marginally taller than Oscarmort, albeit he thinks he’s that big, and has a similar level of ferocity, as well as the sorts with the wrinkly skin). Which I’m destined to go visit in just over a week. Woohoo!!!
So, if I miss the plane back, remember, it was an accident, right?