Your Typical Errand in South Africa

Moving to South Africa, or to Africa in general, and adapting to life there, is most of all an exercise in patience.

The irony is that when you arrive, you are all ready to go go GO! for months you’ve been busting your backside getting visa applications filled out, securing coveted waitlist spots ...  Continue Reading

The Rose-Tinted Glasses of Hindsight

The other day I had to cancel a bunch of services. Electricity, gas, water, that kind of thing.

And no, not in South Africa, but right here in the USA. We had – finally – sold our old house in Kansas, and Noisette gave me a list of places to call to cancel all the utilities.

I groaned. I do not like calling places, let alone the type of places that in the past three years have made ...  Continue Reading

America’s Got Talent, South Africa’s Got Humour

As seen on Africa, this is why I live here’s FB Page

The following is a guest post by Barbara Bruhwiler.

Yesterday we finally found out – here in South Africa – who the winner of America’s got Talent Season 7 was. And while there is also a South African equivalent to this show, called SA’s got Talent, you will find one of the most outstanding talents of the South African people not on TV but in real life, in my humble opinion. I was reminded of this talent as I was leaving a Mr Price store the other day. I was there to return some pants I had bought for my husband a few days previously. As usual, I hadn’t been sure of his size and there was only one pair left of the ones I liked, so I just bought them. It turned out that they were two sizes too big, but thankfully my hubby wasn’t upset with me about misjudging his girth in such an unflattering manner. An entirely different story had I been in his shoes, but I digress. So I took the pants back to the store to ask for a refund. This particular Mr Price store, the one in Fourways Mall, had recently been given a complete makeover. Where before you had to bring a torch to try and see anything in the crammed and dark aisles, there is suddenly space and light. And the tills! What a pleasure. Before there was only a narrow check-out with six sullen employees behind it, four of which invariably chatting on their mobile phones or with each other, but now there is a long counter with modern computerised tills and five employees busy helping clients. And beaming at them. The wide smile didn’t even fade from the Mr Price employee’s face when I explained I was there for a return. A situation like this always makes me feel a bit awkward; I’m almost expecting to be scolded for being so silly and buying something I can’t use, and causing additional and unnecessary work for the shop and the credit card company and everybody. And if you’ve ever lived in South Africa, you might know that returning things isn’t always one of the easiest exercises. When he handed me back my credit card, after what seemed to be the end of the procedure, the shop assistant looked at me sternly and asked if I could do him a favour.  =&0=&

Welcome Home. And Can I See Your Driver’s License?

South Africa is like a jealous lover, making sure I give it my full attention instead of some other country I might take a fancy to.

Because how else would you explain that every time I come home from an absolutely stunning vacation, ready to gush about it on my blog, South Africa throws a story my way that I can’t refuse, immediately diverting  my attention back to my typical Joburg Expat fare? Last time it was my trouble with Telkom and them shutting down my internet for a week right after we returned from Singapore. And this time… Yes, you guessed it – another traffic cop story! Nothing brings you back to the floor of reality after returning from Botswana and your heart full of love for such a magical place as fast as a South-African roadblock. After driving about 20 meters out of the airport parking garage. There is no way you could have gotten your speed up above a crawl or missed a stop sign yet, so you know it is another blatant effort to extort a bribe from unsuspecting tourists who don’t know any better. I actually wonder what would happen if you didn’t actually stop when they wave you over. Just drive on. Would they follow you? And give up their prime location to extort money from gullible visitors? I’m tempted to find out some day. But of course we are good obedient Germans and so pulled over where we were told. The guy was all blustery, imitating what he might  have thought was a threatening American sheriff stance. Noisette handed him his Kansas license. Not the international one, mind you, because that one is expired. And it’s not needed anyway, as I’ve told you plenty of times before. But sure enough, he wanted the international license. Except he didn’t actually know what an international license looks like. He studied the Kansas license for a while, then said in the sternest tone he could muster: “Is this an international license?” I suppose at that point we could have said “yes” and driven on. But we were not at the top of our game quite yet, what with our minds still on a deck overlooking the Okavango Delta watching an elephant splash past us, so Noisette truthfully answered with “no” and went on to explain that the international license was not needed. As coached by me, I might add. “Ah, but then you need a letter from your embassy or something,” the cop countered. You’ve got to give it to them. They are never at a loss to come up with a new story. I’ve been asked for pretty much everything under the sun, including “some coffee” but a letter from the embassy is a first. By that point I had had enough and reached into the glove compartment to pull out the copy of the South African National Road Traffic Act, highlighting the section pertaining to foreign licenses, which I had put in both our cars as part of my Plan B for just such an event as this one. And guess what? We didn’t even have to read it to him. It was the act of pulling out a document and holding it under his nose that did it. I could have used my grocery list for all I know. He could sense that we weren’t going to be cowed and knew our rights. “That’s what I’m talking about,” he said, breaking out into a huge grin. “I told you you needed a letter from the embassy, and here you’ve got it!” There you go. If you’re too lazy to copy the South African National Road Traffic Act, just sit down and craft a fancy letter from your embassy allowing you to drive with your foreign license.  Except next time they’ll probably ask me for a condom.

Narrowly Escaping Jail

I had you with the title, didn’t I? At least I hope so. I’ve been on a mission for good blog post titles.

So I’m happy to report that the traffic cop saga continues. I thought I had seen it all, but the latest iteration was different yet again. I was driving along with my friend, already ...  Continue Reading