Saturday, December 08, 2007

South Africa diary, continued.

Some pictures from yesterday's journal entries

The Potholes, Blyde River Canyon

Dancers at The Potholes

God's Window (in the clouds)

Slowly -- very slowly -- settling in. Readjusting to the States. Everything sounds different -- the prevailing language is "American" and despite numerous dialects, there's a sameness to it, unlike all the variations in South Africa, where people shifted from English to Afrikaans mid-sentence, or spoke with the accent and cadence of one of the tribal languages. And since we're not in a hotel, the 'politeness' is gone, not that anyone is rude. Well, of course some people are, but it's not the norm. And just when I got the hang of which way to look when crossing streets, we're back where people drive on the right. Even walking is different--here, it's 'keep right' and the up escalators, etc., are all on the 'other' side. In traffic, I have to remember that the driver is sitting on the left again, not the right.
I can get my usual brewed decaf again. Over there, it was always instant, so I switched to the local Rooibos tea (which I drink at home, too, but it's a standard offering there.) If you'd like to try some, leave a comment today and I'll pick someone and send them a sample.

Saturday 11/17

Frabjous day – no wakeup call, although we’re attuned to getting up relatively early and had to board the bus by 8:30, so it wasn’t really sleeping in. The hotel doesn’t provide washcloths. I like washcloths. The shower also has two waist-high mounted sprays. Downside is, they point right at you when you’re standing in the doorway to turn on the water, and unbeknownst to either of us, that’s the default setting for the pipes.
Note the two nozzles pointing right at whoever's trying to turn on the water.

Talk about a quick awakening. And a wet bathroom floor. The shower is built flush to the floor, too. Took awhile for hot water, but it arrived. The hair dryer, which I’ve learned to look for at the desk, worked only on lukewarm, but was still better than wet hair. And – at last – the weather was what they’d told us to expect. Clear and cool.

Breakfast was similar to the Protea in Cape Town, although they had more cook to order selections. There was a strange juice -- Granadilla – which tasted pretty good, and they had Granadilla yogurt too. I asked Allenby what it was, and he said passionfruit, which explained the slightly familiar taste. Lilikoi in Hawaii. The breakfast room is contiguous with the courtyard, and pigeons wander in and out at will. Flowers in bloom provide a beautiful and relaxing setting.

Our first stop was the ‘wholesale warehouse’ Allenby had been telling us to wait for. “Don’t buy all the stuff at the local marketplaces, I’m taking you to a warehouse where you can get the same stuff cheap, pay by credit card, and they’ll ship it.” Well, he was right about credit cards and shipping, but I regretted not buying more of the local stuff, because the prices were NOT low (maybe lower than places like the Waterfront stores in Cape Town), and there was so much other stuff I’d seen in the local markets that I wanted. We ended up stocking up on relatively cheap stuff for thank-you gifts, and a blown ostrich egg for us, which warranted having them ship most of the stuff back. Because it’s more than we can deal with since we’re not going home tomorrow, or even after the Vic Falls trip, we’re having them ship everything. We’ll find out in about 2-3 months. (Not paying for air).

Group consensus seemed to be that either Allenby or SmarTours had a good arrangement with the store. If nothing else, it does give us a modicum of confidence that we will see it in Florida someday.

From there, we did a history tour, going through the poverty stricken downtown areas, and on to the Township of Soweto, which is not part of the city. It’s predominantly black, although there are no restrictions. I was never much of a history buff, and Allenby obviously was, plus he grew up here, so we saw endless examples of the various income level housing, from mansions to shanty towns, and listened to his repeated commentary on a PA system that was too muddy to understand most of the time. He did tell us that during apartheid he’d entered the area illegally, bringing groups to see it, and that he also trained the first black tour bus drivers once they were allowed to drive tour groups. The limiting factor was that they couldn’t stay in the hotels, not so much that they couldn’t drive a bus.

We saw schools, street vendors selling live chickens and cutting hair (not the same ones, of course, but there seems to be a preponderance of hair styling venues everywhere we’ve toured. In fact, the mall by our hotel had four or five salons, and only one shoe store, unlike US malls.) The construction of the new stadium for the soccer team, the Orlando Pirates (yes, there’s a suburb of Soweto called Orlando—two actually—East and West). Where the Soweto riots broke out. An interesting tour, but it could have been cut back by at least a third.

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