1. People are so creative-I’m impressed with the ingenuity of people to make an honest living. In SOWETO we encountered some of these very creative people. First, there was a gentleman at the Hector Peterson monument who gave tours of the monument square free of charge (no set fee). He told us all about the student protests, the police attack, and the specific students in the famous picture. He also gave us background information on SOWETO itself and helped us understand the significance of the place we were standing. So, that portion was all for a tip. Then he had a digital camera on him with a printer under a tree. He told us that he would take our group photo, if we liked how it turned out, however many we wanted-only 20R each. Then he mentioned that we could shop in the street market across on the other side of the intersection while we waited. So, we get instant gratification with a photo to take with us in our hands, which is such a rarity these days and he cross-promoted his friends. He sold 6 photos to our group and several more purchased trinkets from the vendors. All, very smart. Our second encounter with some good self-promoters was outside of Mandela’s house. As I noted in a previous post the area is quite commercial and along with the commercial buildings are street vendors and preformers. There were a group of about four men just outside of the house who go our attention by clapping, really loudly. When you looked over to see what the commotion was you then realized they were contortionists. I was amazed not only at the positions they could get themselves into but also how fast they could change from to the next. They could bend their legs behind their back and put their toes into their mouths. It was impressive.
2. Honking-There are several different types of honks utilized by the combis (Shared, flat-rate taxi). One-they honk at you while you are walking to drum up business. When I was here before I just assumed it was because I’m so sexy but no. Two-Get out of their way! They have an angry honk and you’d better move because they do not seem to care. Three-Friendly honk deployed between drivers as a sign of acknowledgement. The friendly honk is deployed when they see another combi, a friend driving, or generally anyone they have an affinity for/with.
3. Driving-Just in general this is scary. I have not driven and don’t really plan to while I am here. But being a passenger is scary enough. Evidently, on highways, if it is only one lane on your side people can still easily pass. I’m not sure if there is a sign the driver coming from behind gives the driver in front but our driver would put on his flashing lights and pull over onto the shoulder for the car to pass. It happened over and over again on the way to the lodge today.
4. Hitchhikers-There were a lot of them on the highway between here and Port Elizabeth. They do not just stand there with their thumb out hoping for a ride. No, they stand there with a Rand out showing you that they are willing to pay for the ride. I don’t know what the custom is around hitchhiking but it seemed fairly routine.
5. There are a lot of Americans here too! The Germans stand out because they are not us but there are a lot of Americans here too. I’ve met students from California, North Carolina, Chicago, and then there’s the SCSU crew.
6. People have a very situational relationship with the Rand. If we are out to eat people comment how cheep it is. When students bought groceries, they kept commenting how cheep everything was. As soon as there is something we weren’t expecting, like getting our cell phones we all reacted like we were spending $100 not 100R. All in all it cost less than $20 for our phone with 100 minutes on it but you’d have thought we’d just signed up for an expensive U.S. cell hone plan.
7. Africa Time is real. Over and over again my need to be on time or stick to schedule has been tested and I’m learning to let it go. I learned a phrase “Now now” which I am exporting back to the US. Someone says they are on the way, they say-“I’m coming now now” There is no timeframe attached to that but just that you are on your way or have the intention of being on your way.
We are all still adjusting…the group is still getting along well.