Occasionally, I feel the need to remind myself that I live in Africa. It would be easy enough to only go to the malls and drive from one friend’s house to another and never really encounter true African culture. South Africa is certainly more westernized than the surrounding countries, but once I depart the city the Africa I came to experience is there, waiting for me.
Here are some things I’m learning about South Africa.
1) If I want to do anything in town I should probably get there before five o clock otherwise the chances of anything being open go down to almost nil [except the bars of course and the movie theater that’s an hour away and they’re only open to about ten or eleven]. I used to think that this lack of nightlife was because people get up so much earlier here than in the States, which is partially true, but the real reason is that its really too dangerous to stay out after dark and year round the sun is gone by six. This is a difficult thing for a girl who used to work at a twenty-four hour Starbucks. I’ve tried to suppress the night owl within me and not get too terribly angry when people call me at ungodly hours of the morning, constantly reminding myself that This is Africa. Not really working so far, but I’ll keep trying. Everything is a process.
2) Gas [about $6/gallon], cars, books, and electronics are much more expensive here. Movies, restaurants, amazing wine, are all cheaper. Probably something to do with importing, but I’m not positive.
3) If you want something done in a timely manner, you should probably bring your husband [which is bad news for me]. Women haven’t quite received the level of independence here than we have back home.
4) If someone says they’ll be somewhere at ten and they show up at eleven, you grin and remind yourself that TIA. Time is not a commodity here.
I am constantly trying to stop myself from comparing Africa to the U.S. There is no comparison. Africa is Africa and I wouldn’t have it any other way, no matter how frustrated I get. I know this is a normal reaction for an American girl in Africa and I’m trying to get beyond my own stereotypes and expectations, both of the culture around me and those I place on myself.