Monday, February 23, 2009

This is Africa

This post is for all those who want to learn what it's like to live in South Africa.

We're officially feeling good and settled here. Ben has been here for always 2 months and I'm coming up on 6 weeks. It's gone so fast and so slow at the same time. In a way I feel like we just left and in another...I feel like we've been here forever. I love it more and more as time goes on. We've met 2 couples (from dance class) that are quickly becoming our favorites (I'm even going to attempt cooking with foreign ingredients tomorrow for them all). We're just having a blast.

We've been keeping a running list of "Things about Africa" of all the differences, new things, weird things, crazy things, etc. Enjoy!

--We went to the temple today finally (it's been closed)! It was so cool. Tiny temple, tiny room with only 2 rows and about 20 chairs. There were a total of 8 people there including us, it was very different! We got to participate for our first time during the session too which was so neat. Loved it. Love that we could literally walk to the temple it's so close.
--Stop lights mean nothing. It is so funny…and quite amazing. You know how you can time the light by watching the other light go red to kind of get a head start?? The second it goes yellow on the other light, it means GUN IT here and everyone goes. Sometimes they take off and it’s still red for like another 5 seconds! I don't understand though because everyone runs red lights too so it’s so dangerous! At night, stop lights mean “yield”….they don’t even stop.
--You can drive as fast as you want.
--The Photography industry is not nearly as saturated as in Utah and California. I started advertising my Photography business on Facebook literally 3 days ago and have gotten 70+ clicks and 6 or 7 emails to do wedding photos! I'm so excited. The weird thing is that they are all like 10-14 months out! Oct is the earliest one! They are on top of things here!
--They don't do engagement pictures or bridals here. All the people didn't even know what I was talking about when I included them in my packages.
--There are big tall thick walls with electric fences and barbed wire around every house and business building.
--McDonalds and KFC are abundant here.
--Wimpy & Steers replace Wendy’s and Burger King.
--The South African British like to add lots of letters to English words, like: honour, programme, theatre, flavour, etc.
--Everywhere you park (and I mean everywhere) there are these guys that “watch your car for you” and you have to tip them when you leave or they chase you.
--Rugbee, Cricket, Squash and Soccer are big here.
--Black labor is so cheap. Everyone has a maid and a cook and a cleaner.
--The only nightlife here is bars and clubbing.
--Things start really early. There are lots of people at the gym at 5:30am.
--But things close super early too (because of crime). Malls (which also means every store) close at 5pm and on Saturdays and Sundays, they close at 3pm. Kinda frustrating.
--There is no daylight savings (we wish there was).
--The Tactical Units I’ve mentioned. There are lots and lots that drive around our area looking for anything suspicious or unusual. They were escorting a couple with a stroller the other night home.
--We live in Jewish central. There are so many Jews in Johannesburg and they’re all very wealthy. We see them all the time.
--Everything is monopolized here. Vodacom is the only cellular service, ABSA is the only bank…
--At every stop light there are 3 or 4 guys with either a garbage sack collecting people's garbage out of their cars, then you're supposed to tip him. Some have a sign that says, “I don’t do crime. Please give me money for food,” or tonight we saw a sign that said, "Aids kills. If one person has it. We all get it. Wear condoms. I need money." Some are selling newspapers or random trinkets (like the other day—combs??).
--Parks are almost non-existent. There are only a couple of good ones in Johannesburg.
--People love that we know some Zulu. They just light up and love talking to us. That’s what we’ve decided we’re going to do if we ever get robbed, start being funny in Zulu! They’ll love us!
--Smoking is huge here. They even allow smoking in the sports centers, like where Ben plays indoor soccer--healthy huh!!
--Food and clothes are so much cheaper here. You can get a pair of good cute jeans for $10-$15 at most stores.
--Electronics however, are double or triple the price.
--There is beautiful foliage everywhere. Huge trees line all the streets in our area.
--The streets are a lot narrower, therefore no one stays in their lanes.
--All women carry their babies on their backs with these wrap things.
--We definitely do not live IN Johannesburg. We drove through there today and it's a whole new world. A world I don't really want to go to again.
--There are actually a lot of albinos. I'd never seen one up close but I've seen probably 6 or so.
--Braai’s (BBQs) are very popular. It’s cool. Everyone loves them and does them often.
--Everyone speaks 4 or 5 languages (dialects).
--Black people walk everywhere. Who knows where they’re going or what they’re doing but they’re always walking.
--There are a lot more whites than I thought. Still only 4 million out of 48 million in all of South Africa (and 8 million in Joburg), but more than I thought!
--There are lots of nice cars. But everyone has hatchbacks. BMW, Mercedes, Audi hatchbacks. (ours is a Honda Jazz hatchback).
--“Box” is a very very bad word here but we don’t know what it means yet. No one will even tell us because it's so awful.
--Everyone knows and cares a lot about America here.
--They haven't discovered 'customer service' yet.
--Their hospitals are very different. They’re not nearly as nice.
--There are malls everywhere and the supermarkets are in the malls. They don’t have store chains or strip malls like we do. Our areas with a Michaels and a Target and a bunch more…they don’t have that. --All of their stores are in the mall.
--The mansions here are amazing. We love to drive down the streets and peer into all the gates to catch a glimpse. And they are only about 3 million Rand which is only about $300,000 USD!! We’re thinking of retiring here.
--They have 2 seasons: winter (dry) and summer (wet).
--It is the perfect climate here. We love it. It’s even better than Cali! It is the hottest part of the summer right now and it stays 70-75. It rarely gets above 80 degrees.
--The taxis are minibuses and are everywhere. They drive around picking up people and squish about 20+ people (black) in them.
--The taxis are exempt of any traffic or road rules. Seriously. They make up their own.
--If you give someone a thumbs up they LOVE you and start smiling and laughing.
--The internet here is very basic and underdeveloped. We can’t access a lot of US sites like Hulu and Google Maps and stuff. Facebook only works now and then.
--The letter Z in the alphabet is called “Zed” here.
--The '.com' in the web address is ''
--Each plastic bag at the grocery store costs you about $0.25 cents.
--Food spoils FAST here. I just bought a carton of milk today and it expires in 4 days (and let me tell you from experience, it really does EXPIRE).
--The African sun is like our normal sun on steroids. It is amazingly powerful. Trying to lay out lasts a few minutes because my skin feels like it's bubbling.
--Street signs don’t exist. It’s so hard to navigate and we would be dead and lost if we didn’t have our GPS.
--The only TV channels we get are all British. E!, Animal Planet, Natio Wild and Soccer.
--South African whites are very hard to understand. They speak very fast, slurred, and quiet.
--The police here set up random road blocks now and then and randomly select 80% of traffic going by to search. It’s kind of scary. They do it to check for drunk driving, drugs, or stolen vehicles.

There's so many more we've thought of when we weren't near the book. We'll probably be doing this again in, I don't know--6 months or so. I can't believe we're going to be here as long as we are. It just feels like a vacation!! Well, the weekends do. I have got to find myself a job. This week I'm going to volunteer with a non-profit teaching kids math. I'm excited!


Anonymous said...

So I don't know what my computers problem is, but the background never totally loads on your blog, so all I see is flowers and I can't read the words! Thanks for all the great comments you guys leave for us, I love to still feel connected even though you are so far away!

Steve Hull said...

Hey guys, your list was super interesting! I read it and thought of my first few months in Bolivia. I have to say, the next time you write it will be much more challenging because so much of this will be completely normal to you by then.

Hey Jenna and I went in to S.F. yesterday and had a lot of fun. I remembered Ben saying the Federal Reserve was 20 feet from Embarcadero, and IT WAS! Anyway, be good and keep in touch!

-Steve & Jenna

Anonymous said...

PS- I just looked up your blog on Clark's computer, and it works great. My computer is a 6 year old piece of you know what, it can't quite handle all the Garrison excitement!

Sara said...

It sounds like you guys are having such a blast!! It makes me want to move there, especially as America's economy seems like it will be the same as Africa anyway!

Rachel said...

that all sounds like such a fun adventure!! i love you have started a book like that, what fun memories!

Unknown said...

WOW-Africa sounds so interesting. Kinda a little scary :) Way cool experience you are having. Seriously once in a lifetime thing. That is so great about the wedding industry! I am glad business is going great for you. utah is WAY saturated! Loved this post though-love learning all this stuff :)

ps. Sorry It has taken me so long to get back to you about lens. I think the one that is my FAVORITE...especially for weddings is 85mm L. It is a fixed lens but it is so sharp! Love it. I also use my 18-55mm L for wide angle. I dont have a HUGE zoom lens like the 80-300mm, but maybe you would like it for all your safari stuff :) Let me know what you get...I love to hear!

Tammy said...

It looks beautiful! Thanks for taking the time to post all of this. It looks like you are having so much fun. I am so jealous. I show Dave all your cool pictures! Africa is on my list of places to visit now.