Month: September 2015

Why We Travel … Today I’m not sure …

View from restaurant SA

“Ah, this is good”, so Anthony Bourdain likes to say. And yes, South Africa is good.

Beyond waking to pink-striped sunrises, a far-off tractor plowing fields, the sound of sheep in the distance, twice hourly church bells telling, warning me, not to be so lazy, and children playing excitedly in the school yard, I can easily and happily –
• Buy a bottle of amazing local wines costs less than a glass at home (and Johnny Walker is half-price)
• Walk to the cheesemaker for local cheeses
• Discuss with the local butcher the best cuts for a braai
• Snack on biltong
• Buy olives and saucisson down the road at the farm
• Find sample local toffee on every shop counter
• Enjoy the best chicken soup ever at the local café
• Design my own ultra-thin wood-oven pizza on Friday nights…
• And on Sundays, watch the funniest local performance by the only member of two chosen people after dining on the best local Bobotie

Indeed, Bourdain would be happy here, too.

It’s what I’ve grown to take for granted that has been most difficult –

• Finding dry wood for the fireplace to keep the house warm (yes, in Africa!)
• Knowing how much airtime to buy on our pre-paid local SIM cards (and remembering my local number!)
• Using our US ATM and credit cards — Dear Citibank – they don’t work…we should have known…
• Accessing our financial statements electronically – we went paperless, but now, our pins don’t work.
• Paying local bills online with our new Standard bank account – we can’t – because we are foreigners.
• Filling out a hand-full of forms just to exchange a few dollars for rand at the bank
• Explaining why we don’t have identity cards for every new relationship – even for wi-fi at the gym.

And then there are some even more basic needs unfulfilled –

• No window washing fluid for our ever-dirty car windows – how strange, no one has ever heard of it.
• Fresh local milk with more than one week shelf-life – doesn’t milk in NY last a month?
• Finding cream cheese for our hard-won bagels – “creamed cottage cheese” has the consistency and taste of sour cream
• Replacing the gas canister for the stove – which runs out just when we’re beginning to cook dinner.
• Fitting dirty dishes and pots into our small sink – where’s my Miele dishwasher when I need it?
• Getting all our electronics to work with those unwieldy three-pronged wall converters.
• And I nearly forgot TV – how are we expected to watch the Yankees and the US Open in the middle of the night? What, no TiVo!
• And finally- driving on the left has indeed become easier – even at traffic circles – but being a passenger is still a very scary story…for next time.

But I’m not complaining – just sayin’…