There are many reasons why people don't want to leave South Africa, chief among them the outstanding climate, the friendly people, and the laid-back lifestyle. But when you talk to anyone who's made their home in Johannesburg or elsewhere in the country and ask them what they'll miss most about South Africa one day, I'll miss Woolies will come up almost immediately.
Johannesburg - I can hardly wait to return to the place where we once lived. I have a hard time imagining how it'll feel. Will everything look as new and intriguing as it did when I first arrived in September 2009? Or will it seem familiar? Either way, I plan to soak it all up like the thirsty African soil after a long dry winter.
There are many people who perpetuate the myth that South Africa is a cesspool of crime and corruption. They want to tell you that you're better off living somewhere in Europe where you're always safe and where governments are beyond reproach. But while South Africa does have challenges regarding corruption, poverty, and violence, it is also a great place to live.
Every once in a while I feel nostalgic about our life in South Africa. There is a long list of things that I miss, from something as small as a weaver bird to something as vast as the entire sky. Here are the things I remember most fondly from our time in South Africa, in no particular order.
The Top Gear Africa Special is the one where Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond, and James May set out to find the source of the river Nile. Their journey takes them through Uganda and Rwanda, and then across Lake Victoria into Tanzania and the Serengeti. They have to rely on pure ingenuity to keep going and adapt their cars to the task at hand.
I'm surprised by the many South African tourism ads you see everywhere. Not sure why it surprises me - after all, South Africa is one of the most diverse and stunning travel destinations in the world - but it does. It always gives me a jolt of pleasure to see South Africa mentioned, and a jolt of regret that I no longer live there. This ad asked: What's Your Big Five?
I am often nostalgic for the long and leisurely coffee mornings while living in South Africa. In part, they were possible because of domestic help keeping care of our houses, but there is another underlying theme: As a general rule, people in Africa have more time than people in the Western world. Which is why people in the Western world fall in love with Africa so easily.
Africa, it seems, was just as determined teaching me patience as I was determined to bend it to my will. Needless to say, I admitted defeat when I realized after more than a year that I was still carrying around with me the same dog-eared to-do list that I’d written the first day, without hardly anything checked off. The curious thing is that I was grateful rather than annoyed.
More than anything else, the Unannounced Playdate is the face of the South African lifestyle. How many afternoons did I spend leisurely at a friend's house, only having meant to drop off or pick up my child, and, after being invited in, whiling away hours with great conversation while nibbling at biscuits and sipping tea? In South Africa, you are ALWAYS invited in, even if you're strangers.
If you have never lived in South Africa, the very idea of a TV License might be a rather alien one. Why would you need a license to watch TV in your very own home? But you do, renewable annually. It's their way of collecting a tax for broadcast TV. Even though you will probably never be caught watching that, and even though you pay a much more handsome fee for cable via Multichoice.