Uploading pictures won’t happen for a while because I still don’t have internet of my own, for now the little Chinese internet café and I are best friends. It’s actually kinda fun going to the café, there are lots of different kinds of people and it’s an interesting gathering place.

It has been almost a week since I have arrived and I am always surprised at how easily I, and humans in general, adapt to new environments. But that’s not say that I am not surprised or taken aback at some differences. Here are ten.

  1. It is definitely summer here: It is hot, there are thunderstorms every afternoon, people are wearing flip flops, and the sun comes up at five a.m. The landscape is gorgeous and green and lots of flowers and birds everywhere.
  2. Pedestrians do not have right of way: As in, no one stops and you just have to run across whenever the road is clear. I think I have four times the chances of being hit by a car than being shot.
  3. The left side of the road is the right side: This is definitely a former British colony. The cars drive on the left (which makes the above even more terrifying), people walk on the left side of the sidewalk, and riding in the passenger seat is a traumatic nightmare.
  4. Racial lines are still there: Apartheid may be gone but people are still sticking with those who have feathers like their own. I was in the cell phone shop, trying to buy an internet modem and all the black customers went to the black sales reps and the Afrikaners went to the white ones. There was a bit of mixing , but only when forced. And on the square last night, a fight between a large group of burly Afrikaners and a small group of Blacks almost broke out. The alcohol didn’t help but some very nasty racial slurs were heard.
  5. The food is awesome: Not only is it cheap, but I haven’t had a bad meal yet. The fruit is sweet and really fresh. The bread is great and they love to mix genres in one menu. I totally had pub food for lunch yesterday and the stir fry for dinner. Yummy!
  6. Hatfield is a party town: Hatfield, the suburb of Pretoria that I live in- is like Spring Break sometimes. The beer is cheap, the music is loud, and there is too much snogging in public for my taste. The square is filled with revelers every night and clubbing last night I saw way too many South African guidos and guidettes. Gross!
  7. Everyone is very friendly: Everyone I have met so far, foreign or native, has been super friendly, excited to meet me and everyone else and wants to hang out. I have met so many native South Africans- Black, White, Afrikaner- who all are happy to see me and the other exchanges here in SA, studying and enjoying ourselves. They all want to help and teach us about their country. The anthropologist in me is dying of happiness.
  8. People stare when they hear me talk: No one really pays attention to us and we don’t stick out too much in the crowd. Until we open our mouths. On campus yesterday and the day before, no one stared at Krista (a Canadian), Cayci (another Sooner) and me until we would start talking and then suddenly it was like I had suddenly sprouted great purple wings and turned glittery pink. It was a kinda funny and cool reaction. It’s fun to be immediately interesting to people. Now I know how exchange students at OU feel.
  9. Safety is a subtle thing: It’s strange. When I arrived I thought I would feel immediately unsafe, paranoid and cautious everywhere. But the unsafe nature of South Africa, especially in Hatfield is very hidden. I don’t feel unsafe and I get frustrated when I realize I can’t just walk down the street to the internet café by myself. My Dutch roomie and I had to plan to leave together. But you have to- it’s not that you are constantly watching intently or pulling James Bond crouches to peer around corners. It’s a different mentality. One cannot go out alone, except maybe in the middle of day. Going out at night anywhere requires a guy friend. I have to constantly check on my purse and watch who is around me. When you draw money from an ATM you have to watch who is around you and block everything from view and even put your hand over the card slot to prevent it from being stolen. But it almost comes naturally to me. I was surprised how quick I sank into the SA mentality.
  10. I am absolutely, totally, utterly in love with South Africa.
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