We are now just over a week until I am on my way home. In this entire endeavor I have had to pack multiple times. Packing to come to South Africa to begin with, Packing when I changed accommodations in Cape Town, packing when I moved from Cape town to Hawston, packing when I changed accommodations in Hawston, packing for various Holidays, packing when I moved back to Cape Town from Hawston, and now looking towards packing to leave Cape Town to return to the states. This is a big pack job, because I will have to decide what I want to bring back and what will be left behind. While I am thinking of various possession to bring back, I thought it might be fun to make a list of all the non-material things I wish I could bring back. Things that they do here in South Africa that they don’t in the United States. Throughout my time here I have made various mental notes along the line of “oh, that’s cool, I wish we did that back home” and so I will put them on this packing wish list.
1) Moving over to allow passing. On two lane roads here (one lane of traffic in each direction) it is common practice to pull over to the side (the left here, since the side you drive on is flipped) onto the shoulder to allow faster moving traffic to pass you. You don’t pull over and stop, just move to allow more room for the passing car (the shoulder is usually wide enough to accommodate this, so the car won’t have to encroach upon oncoming traffic). This is a level of consideration and awareness that I feel is lacking from American driving.
2) Use of 4-ways (hazard lights). It is also common practice here to flash your 4-way blinkers to signal appreciation. I have encountered it most commonly in reference to the aforementioned action of passing. When someone moves over to let you pass you flash your 4-ways after completion of the act to thank them. It can also be used as an apology or acknowledgment of a wrongdoing. An example would be if you cut someone off (learned that from an Uber driver after someone cut him off, but they flashed an apology so it was ok). I think that many people in the states don’t communicate properly on the road. This includes simple things like using a blinker to signal a turn or lane change.
3) TEA TIME! Ok, so I love this common practice. Tea, or coffee, seems to be an accepted part of the culture here. At the care center everybody had a scheduled tea break (30 minutes). In the Cape Town office, there’s not a scheduled tea break, but it is common practice to fix a cup of tea or coffee when you come in, and then perhaps get one or two more throughout the day. Typically you bump into one or two people while fixing the cup, and it turns into a social event. I think of this as a replacement for the “water cooler” chat in the American office, or the smoke break for those that don’t smoke.
4) Mentioned in the previous one is the social aspect. This country (at least the communities I have been around) is a very social one. This is something I both love and don’t. I enjoy talking to people, don’t get me wrong, but I am very much an introvert as well. I need my time to be alone and that can be clash sometimes with people here. It is not uncommon (especially in the community I was in) to drop in on other people randomly or planned for tea or coffee and a chat. When I was staying with a family in Hawston, their grown children would regularly stop by every day for tea and conversation. Otherwise, one could just be walking through the community and pass a house of someone they knew and decide to just stop by. In the office in Cape Town, we take a communal lunch.
5) The Food. Once again, it could just be the area that I am in (Cape Town being a major City and the Hermanus area being a vacation spot), but the food and restaurants I’ve visited have all been really good. I’m not talking the chain one or the fast food ones (though some of those are not bad), but the local ones. When Alexis visited, I don’t think we ate at the same place twice, and we enjoyed each and every one of our meals. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like each meal was absolutely stunning, but each one did have at least one dish that we both thoroughly enjoyed, even if what the other one ordered wasn’t good. And with the exchange rate being what it was, meals where we both ordered an entrée, drinks, and either an appetizer or desert were quite affordable.