At the moment I am reading a story about an American journalist living in Paris. After 25 years there, she was still viewed as “The American” by some. I’ve only been in South Africa for 4 years and yet I sometimes feel more South African then American. But I know, no matter how long I live here I will always be viewed as “The American” by some.
In these few shorts years, I fell in love here. Got married here. Had my baby here. I have family here. Made great friends here. We bought our first house here. And I am finally becoming the person I want to be, here.
There are days when I miss America and the people there so much it hurts. Especially when I try to speak to my grandma’s over the phone and they can’t hear what I am saying. Or on Tuesdays, the day when Stacy and I use to get into trouble shopping or drinking wine and gossiping. On holidays, when the traditions (or lack thereof) just aren’t the same. When my niece won the state championship for volleyball and I wasn’t there. Or when my brother hosted a gender party for his new baby, I wanted us to be there so bad it hurt.
South Africa is my home now and it has my heart. The difference in lifestyle from the states isn’t as apparent as it once was. It’s my norm now. Only until someone visits does the normalcy once again become strange.
For example, there is no electricity allowed inside the bathrooms. Therefore all the light switches are located on the wall outside the door. How does this make sense? Even as an adult I have to fight to urge to turn the light off on someone in the bathroom. Imagine being a kid?! In our house growing up, if you didn’t lock the door while in the bathroom you took the risk of having the light turned off on you. And now it’s on the outside and no one can see who flicks the switch? Way too tempting. No plugs either, and in older houses only one plug in a room. Where are you supposed to dry your hair?
Stop lights are called robots. “Honey, please slow down, there is a robot up ahead.” Need I say more?
The car trunk is called the boot. Why? You got me.
Everyone has a gate around their house. At first it seems as if you’re in a fancy estate back home. Then you realize it’s for security not privacy. Not so fancy anymore.
When not speaking Afrikaans or one of the many African languages they speak the Queen’s English. And I now find myself using it as well. I don’t stand in line, I wait in a queue. I’ll phone you later, not call.
Everything runs on African time. For example, “I’ll get back to you now, now.” You would think a double now would mean right away, not later or maybe even never. When Johan says now, I ask if it’s the American now or the African now and it better be the American one.
My older sister Natalie is here visiting from the states. It’s fun to watch her get in the car on the wrong side or look for the light switch. Out to lunch the other day she asked the waiter what kind of cheese came on her chicken sandwich. In his heavy SA accent he said, “I don’t know, shall I go ask for you?” She looked at me with these big eyes and wanted to know what kind of cheese was that. My mom and I almost fell out of our seats laughing.
That’s another thing, in the US it’s a chicken sandwich and here it’s a chicken burger. Skip and I have had many discussions about this. Why am I so defensive of it being a chicken sandwich and not a burger? I have no idea…
My sister is here until Sunday. One week is definitely too short of a trip, but it’s been so wonderful having her here and watching her with Ava. I take the best photos on my phone so here they are. I will upload some proper ones later.