Taking Stock of Our First Six Months in South Africa – Patience, Gratitude, and a Bit of Potty Talk

As the date of our first home leave is drawing close, I feel compelled to reflect on our time here so far. It always amazes me how fast you DO end up settling into a new routine, which, all things considered, isn’t much different from your old routine. It’s just that in-between stage that is so unsettling, where you gather documents like crazy, set up new accounts, find new places to shop at and people to be friends with. So it is not surprising, reading  back over my blog so far, that I seem to have engaged in a disproportionate amount of griping, to put it mildly, about all the things that have gone wrong or inconvenienced me in one way or another. To the uninitiated, it may sound like South Africa has the worst bureaucracy (it does) and that there are power, water, and phone outages every day (there aren’t). But let me now tell you about all the things South Africa has going for it.

Friendliness: You won’t spend a day here where you won’t be greeted by dozens of strangers with a wide and sunny grin. They all seem genuinely happy to see you. Just going in and out of our security gate every day earns me happy waves all around, from people with fairly monotonous jobs ... 


From Babbalas to Yebo

Having been in South Africa for 4 months, we have greatly added to our dictionary of South African expressions, so here is Part II on my Language entry (click here for Part I):

=&0=&A hangover =&1=& – Dried meat, like jerky – grows on you! =&2=& – That which goes on a braai (a really long coiled-up sausage) =&3=& – Gosh/bummer/ouch/no way – fits in most “welcome to Africa” situations =&4=& – Answer to Howzit (I’ve often felt a bit awkward when I only say “good, thanks” and then get “good thanks” back automatically, even though technically I didn’t ask “and you?”) =&5=& – How are you? =&6=& – Oh really? (which sounds funny to us in a dialog such as “I’m planning to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro,” and “Izzit?” as the response) =&7=& – Afrikaans for yes =&8=& – Technically this means soon; but in reality not very soon at all, definitely not immediately, might not even be today =&9=&Uniform (athletic) =&10=& – Tangerine/clementine =&11=& – You’re kidding/really – hard to translate but used often, like when you’re telling someone an endearing story and they cluck sympathetically on occasion =&12=& – Team =&13=& – Patio =&14=& – Sneakers/tennis shoes =&15=& – Zulu for yes

One last thing on language: I’m very impressed what an effort South Africans make to pronounce words correctly, as opposed ... 


The Language(s)

The official South African language is English. This is good news for us. Although I have to say, I’ve blended in better as a German in America than I have here. Just last week, I entered our real estate agent’s office, and was told how funny it was that “only people with accents” had come ...