Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Some Reflections

I am home; of course you all know that by now!!! But when you are away for several weeks, for some of us it can be a matter of hours, when you begin to miss the “comforts” of home. For me I think I missed the coffee maker!!!

COFFEE-In South Africa, coffee is not the same as here and while I think a huge percentage of the population drinks it; they have gone from brewed (filtered) to instant!!! YUCK. So DH had some coffee in the condo, which I drank the first day or so without question… since I was still recovering from the flight. By the third morning, I noticed I could barely choke down a second cup, so I read the can… coffee and chicory. I asked DH about it, and he said he got tired of always having to buy a jar of coffee and just bought the biggest can he could find. Now he is back to drinking Nescafe from smaller jars. In addition, you use an ‘electric kettle’ to boil the water in. Efficient and fast, but instant is instant.
So when you go out to eat and want coffee you have to ask for ‘filtered coffee’ or you might get a cup of instant. Now, those of us here in the US are always complaining about how strong Starbucks can be… well they’ve got nothing on South African ‘filtered coffee’. WOW is that stuff strong!

LAUNDRY- All the washers I saw were front loaders, but I didn’t go into 100 homes, so I could be wrong, but they were small, very small compared to mine at home and the laundry appliances are located in the kitchen. I think I mentioned in a previous post that doing laundry is a bit different too. Dryers, at least in the modern age, in South Africa, do not vent to the outside. They have a mesh over the same area, on the door as the Frontload Washer has window, and that is the lint filter. After doing several loads of laundry in one day- I would have to say it doesn’t catch enough lint. The surfaces in the kitchen were all lightly coated with fine lint and I am sure it’s not so good for the lungs.

GROCERY STORES- are an interesting place to visit. There are about 4 or 5 small stores for every Superstore, known as Hypermarts, (sort of like Super Walmarts, Super Targets, Meijers or Fred Meyers). The small neighborhood stores aren’t like our grocery stores at all. Maybe only 2 choices in any product category, and NOT one of everything under the sun, provided by every company, take for instance canned tomatoes, only 2 facings on the shelf and only one size can… and only the most popular type/flavor. Just the basics... but just about everything you could need and if one store doesn’t have it, they are close enough to check another. I think I mentioned once before, that the ‘malls’ here, have grocery stores in them. Not just the local strip type malls, but the indoor mega-mall too. Well the malls are different as well. None of the Anchor Store stuff (JC Penney, Sears, Macy’s, Nordies, etc.), just lots of stores name brand and mom and pop type, although ‘indoor mall upscale’. But the oddest thing is seeing the grocery cart going down the middle of the indoor mall or waiting outside store that forbids the carts, with groceries in them! Oh, and another thing from the grocery, (and sometimes other stores), is if you want your groceries bagged and you didn’t bring your own, you have to pay for a plastic sack!!! We need to do that here! It would make more of us remember to take a recyclable bag to the grocery, or to at least reuse the plastic bags. It is so interesting to watch plastic bags being pulled from purses and pockets at the check out! I shop at an old fashioned grocery, and ask for paper whenever I shop there, I recycle them in the back yard, but I’m thinking the next time I visit Walmart…. I’m taking some old fashioned brown bags. They load better, stand up better and they don’t say Walmart on them!

CARS- were another very interesting thing to see. Of course just about all of them were right hand drive, only a few exceptions, were really old classic American cars (Camero and a Mustang leap to mind). There were very few large cars; the Chevy Malibu was a luxury sedan… and many manufacturers I have never seen… TATA is one…and they weren’t very big, Gonow, and Chana and more. Some odd names too, for instance a Volkswagen van called a Caddy, talk about an Oxymoron… a Getz that I never did figure out who manufactures and a Jeep Liberty, under the Cherokee label (can’t quite figure the reason for the change though). Almost all the cars are manual shift and very small. The small cars were so small that the rear passengers were sitting just forward of the rear axle and there was maybe 12 to 16 inches to the reach hatch behind the seats. NO room for luggage! So we, the USA, has a long way to go for efficiencies in vehicles to catch up with some of the other countries. While the passenger cars are small the ‘big rigs’ are HUGE and have more than 18 wheels, much larger than US 18 wheelers.

HOMES-are surrounded by tall thick fences with an array of electrified wires above that for a foot or two. Most fences are 10-12 high. The property becomes a compound, everything of value is inside the wall, and the gates are kept closed. Even in some of the poorest areas, there is a compound like feel to homes. If you live in an upscale area, you also have a guard… at the gate(s). Many have large dogs too. Whole neighborhoods are wall to wall, not house to house!!!

HEAT- I did not see central heat or radiators, or fireplaces most homes, and again I was only in a few. South Africa is in winter now (opposite the seasons in the US), and the few times we ventured inland from the coast we experienced winter. Not as extreme as in Chicago, but cool enough to make me wish I had a heavier coat and some warm air moving about from a furnace! Durban on the coast experiences similar temperatures to the San Diego CA, weather…. Warm in winter and a bit warmer in the summer, although we have been warned that is also very humid. As long as we are talking about heat, one thing the South African’s know about is HOT water. The water from the tap is hot enough to scald! It’s a good thing if you are into long hot showers.

I am back into the domestic life, darn… and I will have to consider cleaning my house next week. I gave it a thorough cleaning before I left…. So I wouldn’t have to face house cleaning right when I got home. Axel is doing really well. I had to discontinue the oral pain meds because he was feeling too good and as long as he has 14 inches of staples, he can’t play too much or too hard.

No pictures in this post... I just didn't get around to taking pictures of the cars... although I really wanted a picture of a VW Caddy....

More Later!!!


  1. I"ve loved following your blog about S Africa Beth. So interesting to see it from an American point of view. There's been quite a bit of talk about charging for bags in the grocery stores here in Denver and in my King Soopers they have signs reminding you to bring your bags into the store from the car. I actually have enough bags for most weeks - some from when I lived in Atlanta nearly 20 years ago.


  2. Hey Sis!! Welcome home!! Hahaha!! and Aldis does charge for bags... and they don't bag your groceries for you!!



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