Friday, December 14, 2007

The one-week at home mark

A brief interruption of my journal entries to reflect on the trip. It's taken a week, but I feel almost normal again, whatever normal means. At least I don't feel like my rear end is twenty feet behind me. Chaos still abounds, but it's the everyday level of chaos. The kind I'm used to.

My ‘to do’ lists and piles don’t seem much bigger than they usually are. I decided to sit back and reflect about the things I noticed, both on my trip and then what struck me about being home; the good and the not-so-good.

In no particular order.

Things I noticed in Africa:

That the one thing I forgot to pack was my binoculars, but Dan was busy with his camera most of the time, so we shared without too much conflict.

Driving on the ‘wrong’ side of the street. Glad we weren’t driving. Takes awhile to adjust to small children and dogs sitting in the ‘driver’s’ seat. And to know which way to look when crossing streets.

No big gas guzzling cars. And the busses, both city and the fancy tour busses are manual transmission. I saw more of ‘my’ car (Honda Fit Sport) while we were there than I have since I bought it here last February.

Everything sounds different, even though English is spoken. The accents, the cadences are much more varied over there. Of course, here, nobody asks me where I’m from.

No Internet access most of the time. A true vacation!

Someone else made the bed every day.

I didn’t have to cook or grocery shop. Some hotels had guest laundry facilities, thank goodness.

Huge breakfast buffets daily.

Almost no clocks in the hotel rooms. Only one hotel on our entire trip had a clock.

Haphazard provision of wash cloths, but bathroom towels, even the less-than-plush ones, were twice the size of US hotel towels. Nice to have something that wrapped all the way around.

Having to remember room numbers and how to navigate from bed to bathroom in the dark. Figuring out how the toilet flushed. Adjusting to different beds and pillows almost nightly.

The contrast between city and veld, of cattle wandering the streets, of people wearing bright-colored native attire and carrying loads on their heads. For some reason, I thought that was only in the movies. Becoming complacent about seeing certain species of wildlife. Signs in hotels warning against feeding monkeys.

And, now that I’m home:

No more five-am telephone wakeup calls. Instead, it’s the seven-am roller coasters at Universal.

Brewed decaf in the morning, which wasn’t ever available (see Rooibos tea, below; my switch rather than dealing with the icky instant stuff)

Being able to pee on my own schedule, not the tour guide’s.

Finding the bathroom in the same place every night, and the furniture hardly moves at all (aside from the universal law that says inanimate objects move just enough to get in your way).

Light switches where they belong, in the room where they turn on the light, not somewhere on another wall entirely.

Feta cheese no longer appears on almost everything (although I like it, I think I had enough. Even the Palak Paneer I ordered at an Indian restaurant used feta instead of the traditional cheese.

Remembering to continue taking the malaria pills until the 20th.

No longer living in one room, usually smaller than our master bedroom and only one bathroom. A month is a LONG time to be in close quarters. Thank goodness for the two hotels we stayed in with suite layouts.

The language itself is different, drawing heavily on British and Dutch roots. Some vocabulary adjustments I made:

Bakkie – pickup truck
Biltong – dried, spiced meat (jerky) usually made from game
Biscuit – cookie
Boerwors – sausage, grilled on the braii
Braii – barbeque
Chips, crisps – French fries and potato chips, respectively
Ja (pronounced ‘yah’) – yes – usually repeated. Ja ja.
Just now – Any time from immediately to the next millennium. (You’re in Africa)
Mealie – corn (maize), ground into a fine powder, mixed with water and cooked like very thick grits or polenta. Served as a side dish under many different names depending on where you are.
Robot – traffic signal
Rooibos – (pronounced ROY boss) red South African tea (available here too, usually called ‘red bush’).

1 comment:

Shelley Munro said...

Your post made me laugh because several of the items are the things we say when we get home from visiting the US. I haven't been to South Africa but have seen quite a lot of other African countries. It's funny how tired you get of seeing animals after a while. And the monkey signs - oh, yeah. I remember those. The monkeys are so quick, too. You have to really watch them.

Glad to hear things are getting back to normal.