From June 20 until July 1, I was in the beautiful and welcoming Republic of South Africa for the 2010 World Cup. The experience will prove to be unforgettable, and you can expect a hearty, filling meat sauce to cover that plate of spaghetti. For now, I invite you to enjoy a cold beverage, some complimentary bread, and several reasons why I vehemently yell USA! USA! USA! and mean it.
10. Being cankle-free. After a 16-hour flight from Johannesburg to Atlanta, my legs began to grow barnacles. Despite pacing the aisles and conservatively dancing (how do you white people even DO this?) to my iPod in the bulkhead area, I was a statue and needed someone to hit the B button so I could revert back to Tanooki.
But perhaps the worst part of the whole trip were the cankles. Being sedentary for that many hours reinforces my disdain for cats.
9. Being on time. As a millennial, I expect everything to be instantaneous. As an impatient, obnoxious American– gasp! from the Northeast even– I cannot fathom how time can be elastic.
So, you can imagine my frustration in sitting in a safari jeep waiting on permits for 30 minutes, or the 50 minutes it takes to get cold French toast after ordering it in a restaurant, with the only explanation being “This is Africa.”
With regard to being laid-back, Africa even puts LA to shame. Despite being one of the more frivolous time-wasters I know, I found myself checking my watch and tapping my foot like Sonic the Hedgehog.
8. Knowing where I’ll wake up tomorrow. For ten days, I dashed around this beautiful but unfamiliar country, lined by beautiful but unfamiliar landscapes. I ogled beautiful but unfamiliar people and beautiful but unfamiliar animals. It was nothing I’d ever seen or experienced. It was exhausting.
Traveling, in my view, requires a heightened state of consciousness and awareness, and not just for safety or to avoid getting lost. More importantly, it enriches the experience if you’re able to take it all in.
On this particular trip, though, it was hard to catch the beat. We moved around so much that nothing felt like home. I suppose that’s the point of vacation, but still, a part of me craved that spatial familiarity. I like having my bearings.
7. Fixed prices for market goods. Considering how much I dislike shopping in general, I personally don’t want to spend any more time than necessary in a shop. Let’s just quietly exchange and move on with our lives.
6. Runners. I don’t know where these people were. Aside from myself and my roommate Lizzie, I didn’t see any the entire time I was in South Africa. Harder to spot than a leopard. I’m not sure if that or my embarrassing spandex were the reason people stared at me with disbelief.
5. Gmail. OMGMAIL! For this trip, I went completely off the grid. No phone, no text, no laptop, and the only time I went on the internet was at the Jo’burg airport to book a flight to Cape Town. Being so remote and disconnected was 30% cleansing, 30% refreshing (so far we sound like a toothpaste, but stick with me…), 30% adventurous, and 10% frustrating.
I’m glad I did it, but how I missed the internet. The only news I followed pertained to World Cup soccer, which I watched live before racing off to my next adventure. The first thing I did upon coming home and firing up my less-than-trusty laptop (Bastardo III), was click to The Washington Post, where I couldn’t help but announce with sadness (but not surprise), “Senator Byrd died?!”
My only regret is that if only I had stayed off the grid longer, I could have missed LeBron’s Decision.
4. Clean socks. Unlike my sister Jilly, a certifiable Bag Lady, I follow Erykah Badu’s advice and pack light. I never check bags because I’m terrified of them getting lost and having to wait for Jeff or Sven to bring them to me on safari, which happened to new friend Tony.
I lose enough things on my own that I don’t even need help from Qantas or Delta.
However, the drawback to packing light is that my luggage smelled like the last kid in your middle school to learn about deodorant. It was shameful and foul. I wore the same sweatshirts and fleeces on safari as I wore to smoke-filled bars on Long Street. And then I slept in them.
I’m so sorry everyone.
I forgot that if I wanted to run, I’d have to pack extra socks. So, the 10-days worth of socks lasted far less than that. I started guessing which pair was cleanest by touch, not by odor. Again, I’m sorry. My parents would not be proud. Jill, on the other hand, would take no issue with re-wearing socks (or eating moldy bread, thank you very much).
3) Strangers pronouncing my name correctly. Wait, that doesn’t happen here either.
2) Knowing which way to look before crossing the street. I try not to be an Amero-centric jingoist who assumes that all the things we do are correct and the rest of the world is wrong. For example, I think the metric system and measuring temperature in Celsius are far more sensible than America’s comedic and stupid standards of measure or use of Fahrenheit. I’m also willing to admit that reality TV is all our fault.
However, please consider this picture, where red = countries driving on the right and blue = countries driving on the left. And let’s not get cute and pull the “Imagine if Galileo followed convention and believed the Sun revolved around the Earth” card. I’m telling you straight up, blue guys, you’re wrong.
- Countries Driving on the Left versus Right Side of the Road
I’m not dead, but there were several close calls.
1. Corcoran Street family dinners. So, the one thing we didn’t do well in RSA is eat. Our typical food routine was a huge breakfast, linner at 4pm, and a milkshake at 9pm. We didn’t get to Mama Afrika or Moyo. I didn’t try any real Indian or African cuisine. The best I had was this ostrich burger, which was absolutely delicious.
We kind of sucked at eating. But that’s only a fraction of the reason I missed our Corcoran Street family dinners. If you’re not already following my roommate Emily’s blog, (a) what are you waiting for, fool? and (b) I’ll show you a few more reasons. I missed our dinners because I was so hungry most days and wanted this and that and those and like 30 of these little dreamlets.
And, don’t tell anyone or it’ll ruin my street cred; I missed you.