“I am very type A. I will leave this country as one cool lady or very medicated.”
I’m taking a quick break from my Kilimanjaro Diary because life has a habit of continuing and throwing new stories at you that must be told.
The above quote is from one of my readers who, having recently arrived in South Africa, is struggling with the typical moving-in and getting-settled type chores, such as waiting around for contractors to fix things around the house “just now.” Haven’t we all gone through that. And haven’t I written tons of posts about these Welcome to Africa stories.
There is a lot of wisdom in her words. Most people – especially Americans, a people known for their can-do-let’s-tackle-it attitude – arrive here with a long list of to-dos in their hands and a travel itinerary in their heads. If we can only get past the one, is their thinking, we’re finally off to do the other. Except you will get nowhere with this kind of linear thinking here in South Africa. We went on our first safari when our house looked like a war zone from the container shipment just having arrived and literally being dumped, upside-down, in our house, and we never looked back, getting to see the most exotic places in Africa while my original to-do list is still lingering somewhere on my desk, unfinished.
So, it’s very true – if you have a type A personality, life in South Africa will either make a total convert of you, or you probably won’t much like it here. Most people end up becoming converts, to the extend that almost no one I know wants to go back to where they came from. The prospect of hustling around like a hamster all day, trying to out-busy the next person, is simply too depressing.
Hakuna Matata, Life is Good.
I’m not saying you’ll find yourself sitting under a tree smoking dagga after living here for a few years (although it doesn’t sound so bad, to be completely honest). But you will have become SO much more relaxed. About everything.
Phone lines not working for a few days? No worries.
Power outage? Let’s go meet friends for a coffee (or have dinner by candlelight, courtesy of Eskom).
Store is out (has been out for months) of a key ingredient? Eat something else.
Haven’t received mail in months? Who cares, mail is overrated anyway.
Leaking roof and flooding in your garage? It will dry again.
No gas to be found on the coldest winter day? Go running, it will warm you up. Or go to bed early.
Robot been broken for weeks? Doesn’t faze you, really. Fourway stops work almost as well.
Guy in front of you at the hardware store taking ages to decide? You’ll glance over his shoulder and see if you can help, and next thing you know you’re planning his new kitchen layout with him.
Standing in the long-awaited shower after a week on Kilimanjaro with only a cold trickle coming out wondering what else might possibly go wrong, at which point the power goes off and you’re standing in pitch dark (as recounted by my friend)? You start laughing uncontrollably because this is hilarious and life, really, is good.
Living in Africa will infuse you with a healthy dose of humor, if you’ll only allow it. You will laugh about things you used to frown at, you will forgive where you used to hold a grudge, and you will find beauty in everything, from the toothless smile of the street vendor to the fat bum on the sidewalk in front of you blocking the way.
Even so, certain events still have the power to tax the patience of those of us who think we’ve mellowed out sufficiently to deal with any typical African day.
Just wait till you tour Alexandra with me in my next story.