Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Marrying Africa

Sometimes I want to marry Africa – and sometimes I want to break up with her.

Over the past 6 months I slid into “America Mode” and now I am hitting reset - as a mother myself, constantly telling myself to “Embrace Mother Africa” for all that she is.

She is beautiful...absolutely breath-taking.  Living on the tip of the continent next to two oceans (the Indian and the Atlantic) truly is stunning. Our visitors are always amazed and delighted at the gorgeous scenery and heart-stopping views. She can get pretty cranky sometimes...but she sure looks good!

This is a hike about a 10 minute drive from our home (our house is down there somewhere)

The view Jensen and Karl and looking at (in the photo above)

She has her own way of saying something.  I’ve noticed my English vocabulary slipping back to my Capetonian lingo.  For example – I find myself saying to friends... “I am keen to get your details to get something in our diaries, but it’s been hectic! Shame!” (Translation: “I want to get your phone number to get something scheduled in our calendars, but it’s been crazy busy.  So sorry!”). She certainly has a way with words!

Great to connect with friends at my "fallen pregnant" baby shower

She has her own schedule.  A small, but busy road here has been under construction for over 3 years.  I have to stop myself from saying “In America...this would be done in 6 months!” Stores close early – so don’t try to run out for milk at 5:30 pm on a Saturday!   

Me looking hopeful that maybe they finished the road construction near our home. Not so much...imploring myself, "Embrace Mother Africa, Julie. EMBRACE HER!

The upside is that the waiter never rushes you at a restaurant (you always have to ask them to bring the “bill” – don’t say check or they look confused) and most people are flexible on deadlines. Just like you should never rush a woman when she’s getting ready to go out...Africa cannot be squeezed into my tidy little American schedule of zip, zip, zip!

She has her own style.  A home that may be similar to yours in the US as far as size and price range – will not have screens on the windows, central air or heat, a basement, or outlets in the bathroom (don’t even think about shaving or straightening your hair in front of your bathroom mirror). 

The architecture is unique and charming! She has an alluring style of her own that cannot be bothered with small inconveniences like accessible electricity or flies in your mangoes.

She has her own way of doing things. You need to pay a bank fee to make a DEPOSIT, tip a man every time you back out of parking lot (he'll motion at you enthusiastically to help you avoid hitting another car - this is surprisingly helpful as I am quite awkward in my big-diesel-stick-shift-drive-on-the-left-side-of-the-road truck), pay $150 to fill up your gas tank (instead of $50).  

However, it should be noted you can renew your home electricity credits with your cell phone in seconds (comes in handy if it’s 9 pm and your kids are screaming in the bath tub because they are suddenly naked in the dark with all the lights out in the house). They are NOT a big fan of running out of electricity.

Happy bath smiles (lights are on!)

Living in Africa is like a marriage – once you take the plunge, it’s never a good idea to make the Classic Marriage Mistake: attempting to change the other person to make them more like yourself. 

I want to fight the urge to be critical of her inefficiency and appreciate her for what she is – amazing, unpredictable, and irresistible. Bottom line – we are thrilled to embrace Africa, our calling and its people.