Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Things that I keep doing...

Remember when I said that living in South Africa was like living anywhere else in the world, and that I wasn't one of them big expats?

Yeah, I thought you would.

Well, turns out that once I actually exit this here house and go out into the real world - its streets and grocery stores - there might just be a few things that I do that make South Africans think that I am either a) mentally unbalanced,  b) stupid, c) mentally unbalanced and stupid, d) not to be fokked with, or e) an American tourist on her way to a safari.

Us whizzing past the richy-downtown of Joburg called Sandton.

Befitting the above categories, I give you these glimpses into useless expat existence:
  • I often accidentally use the windshield wipers to signal that I am changing lanes or turning instead of employing the actual turning signal. Levers confuse me, and I think they keep changing functions for kicks.
  • I refuse to wear fleece. This one cannot be explained any further. I just don't accept of fleece. I don't.
  • I insist that there are other kinds of coffee than instant. One maid actually laughed when I told her I didn't have instant, because who would ever do a crazy thing like that. Who?
  • I giggle every single time I see the sign by our gate that reads "DON'T HOOT USE MIRCELL". It makes me laugh. Also, because driving onto the estate there's an 'owl crossing' sign. Honest.
  • Sometimes I wear my Birkenstocks with socks. Since mine are of the thong-persuasion I purchased special socks all the way from Taiwan with a separate 'compartment' for the big toe just to wear with my Birks. Don't judge.
  • I sometimes accidentally sit on the passenger seat of the car when I'm out by myself. This always leads to complicated maneuvers that include 'I am looking for that important paper here by the door and/or the glove compartment', or 'I am waiting for the driver of this here car and if he doesn't show up in the next five minutes (signaled by looking at watch and shaking head) I'll have to get on the driver's seat and drive away', that I doubt really fool anyone watching, but make me feel better.
  • I huff and puff every time someone doesn't arrive on time. Or on the correct date. 
  • I hesitate every time I'm supposed to make a right hand turn with the car and occasionally resort to what I call the 'You thought I was going to drive into oncoming traffic, you totally did, but HA! I didn't' -move that involves sudden braking followed by a U-turn like action and some visible shrugging behind the wheel. The move seems very popular with truck drivers. Or at least they smile at the stupid woman.
  • My jaw still drops and I find myself unable to speak every time I complain about service some place and whoever I'm complaining to poses the question: "Was the person black or white?"
  • I chat up the guys at traffic lights who sell things or hand out fliers, and one blind guy called Mike, who knows I'm coming by the sound of my Daihatsu (Although I think he just knows it's me, because I might be the only person on the estate who doesn't drive a huge honking monstervehicle 4x4, or a snazzy Audi/Merc). Me and Mike often shoot the breeze about God and the weather (he doesn't think Google controls it, and is rather baffled by the concept).
  • I have the following discussion, which I can keep looping as long as I say good instead of fine. I don't know what the magic is, but I've done it more than once:
A South African person: Hello. How are you? 
Me: Good. How are you?
A South African person: Fine. How are you?
Me: Good. How are you?
A South African Person: Fine, How are you? 
  • I wear khaki that isn't at all worn. Like, at all. 
  • I pack my own groceries. Or interfere in the packing of groceries, by using such foul language as: "Put more in that bag. I don't need no ten thousand bags," while I can see the poor packer-woman think: "What is wrong with this lady? Does she understand she can carry her groceries home in the bags? Americans are funny. I'm so glad Obama won. He'll make them see the light." 
  • I wrinkle my nose when someone talks of hunting. No, please don't explain to me about killing the meat that I eat. I know there's a connection, but I still prefer to pretend like there isn't. Thank you. Also, all fish are born without heads, because otherwise they could look at you.
  • I go weeks without opening the door to the back yard, which is crazy because that is part of my 'entertainment area'.
  • I think townships have a certain rugged beauty to them.
  • When I say taxi, I'm not talking about a lethal van packed with people, that whizzes by me at the side of the road, going the wrong way, and then cuts me off, I mean a normal car that you can call to come and get you or flag down by just raising your hand, not one that can only be flagged down at certain spots and by using complicated hand signals telling the driver where you are going. I only know how to signal that I want to go downtown, and well, what am I going to do there?
And there are many more examples. I guess I am an expat alright, or maybe I need more South Africans like Molly in my hood. She is one of them cool ones, and hilarious too. You should check out her native's perspective. She is much smarter than I am.
Go read her


LordLynxx said...

Google controls weather. Thats for sure.

What is expat? I don't know this term or it's meaning.

Sarah said...

haha the how are you conversation had me laughing out loud

Anonymous said...

I have, more than once, got into the wrong side of the car and think that someone has stolen the steering wheel.

Our 'how are you' conversations start ok but three hours later when you are asking 'and how is your neighbours aunt's granddaughter' it gets a little annoying. I still think 'he's up to something' when a kind gent wants to help me with my shopping.

From one expat to another - It certainly makes for good blogging material!

monica said...

LOL,the funniest of all.You made my day, i was feeling sort of gloomy but after reading this i feel sparky.
The conversation part takes the cake!
I can identify with the right hand turn thing considering the fact that i am a new driver.

Polly said...

Nice one. The windshield wipers thing explains a lot. I never thought of it but now I know why female drivers in the UK don't use indicators - they clearly do, but they use windshield wipers instead for the flicking orange lights. It might be the colour thing, orange is SO not the new pink.

Socks with Birkenstocks... I am somewhat shocked.

histreasure said...

the conversation made me laff out loud..totally reminds mo of my yoruba brothers here..
and d grocery packing..haha..you sure do have a way with words..nice one

Laila Of Course! said...

AHAHAH. "Good, how are you?" "Fine, how are you?" "Good, how are you?"


Extranjera said...

LL - Google controls the universe actually. Weather-control is just a sub-branch of a bigger op.

Expat is a person who gets paid shitloads of money to tell everyone else what they are doing wrong in a different culture. Like a modern colonizer.

Sarah - Thanks. I wish it did that to me too.

ED - My problem is that instead of thinking someone stole the steering wheel I realize what has happened, but am too embarrassed to admit my mistake, which just leads to further embarrassment. Usually. I don't learn.

Monica - Great! Glad to have made someone's day!

Polly - Unfortunately, I don't think the windshield wiper thing has anything to do with my gender. I think it has to do with the fact that I can be very stupid. I don't think that's dependent on gender. Case in point: George W.

Histreasure - Yup. The conversation can go on for forever, and if it happens to take place over the phone, even before you know who you're talking to.

Laila - Thanks! Glad to have made someone laugh today!

kristine said...

brilliant post. you are a star.

An Open Heart said...

Oh, the joy of reading your blog...somedays I cannot even put it into words......

I'm Kim, by the way said...

I suppose it's weird that all of this makes me even more interested in visiting South Africa.

Esmerelda said...

I love it. I wish I could have the "How are you" conversation every day, it would be better than what I normally have with non-ex-pats. We Americans are glib folks.

And no judging about socks with Birkenstocks? Impossible. I'm judging. What next, you ask for world peace?

Molly said...

Hee hee, laughed all the way through the post going 'Yup, uh ha, yes, gotcha, ditto, you betcha' - you really seem to be having quite a quintessential SA experience!
Though obviously we're also waaaay deeper and more interesting than that (cough cough) :)
Thanks for the shout-out, guess I better actually post again sometime!

Not So Glamorous Housewife said...

You know, fish don't have soals either. That is why it is ok to eat them.

Andi Marie Smith said...

Birkenstocks with socks...this world is amazing.:)
Don't we all tend to contradict the cashier or bagging person when we are getting groceries...It's just sooo dificult at times not to ya know.
and I didn't know about the fishes.
Love your blogs lots!

ollie said...

I'm enjoying all these words. I just started doing the same thing as you (I guess) only about New Zealand...keep up the good words.

Chewbecca said...

I have worn socks with flip flop for years and my family still makes fun of me. I am so glad to find that someone else does this. I own a thousand pairs of ugly toe socks as a result.

Chris Hoke said...

The coolness of owning the tabi socks nearly outweighs the un-cool of wearing said socks with sandals.

And the whole getting in on the passenger side and then pretending you're waiting for someone is just too hilarious and cute for words. My goodness, that's wonderful.

Extranjera said...

Kristine - Thanks so much. I do like them pats on the back. (Though watch the hair, it's getting dangerously long)

An open heart - Thanks so much! Luckily I can put it into words, even the inane things. Am best at the inane things.

Kim - Weird, yes. But most welcome!

Esmeralda - (Why do I keep writing Geraldo instead? Weird.) I can have the gueards at the gate call you instead of me and then you can have the discussion with them for several minutes. Not kidding.

Molly - Way, way deeper. Thus the point in your direction.

Robyn - Yup. They also dont have bones or anything other than sweet delicious fish meat. They're just clumps of braized fishiness swimming in the ocean. We're so lucky everything we eat comes pre-dead.

Andi - Birks with socks. Yes.

Ollie - My camera's also named Ollie, although he lives here in SA and not in NZ.

Chewbecca - My toe socks are cool. (or perhaps I'm not cool. Dunno.)

Chris - What you mean by 'nearly'. I think you were looking for the word 'completely' instead. Yes?

Fidgeting Gidget said...

I love the thought of toe socks with Birks. I am one of those people who still wears Crocs from time to time (and yes, I've worn socks with them), so I understand how some people scoff at other people's choices in footwear.

Lynne said...

I loved this post! you made my day when I really needed a smile!
One of your best.

Extranjera said...

FG - Although i cannot condone the crocks, I hear ya!

Lynne - Aww, thanks so much!

M.J. said...

I lived in Costa Rica for about 6.5 months and in Guatemala for 1.5 months--no matter how internationally privy you are, you can never be a local. It's just the way it is.

SkyeBlu said...

Hunh? So you mean ordering special socks for my sandals is odd?