You hear a lot about how inefficient things are in South Africa (and you’ve heard a lot from me about the inefficiency of the rental market) but in the spirit of being positive, there are several things I think South Africa does more efficiently than the United States.
1) Grocery Store Lines: Here you enter a single line (they call it a queue) and when you get to the front of the queue, someone directs you to the next open register. This means you always go to the first available register and you don’t have to get stuck behind someone writing a check with 500 coupons. The downside of this queue area is that it is full on both sides with really enticing impulse purchases.
2) Restaurant bills: Here, when a waiter brings you your bill, there is a line where you can write down the amount you want to tip directly on the bill. When you pay cash they are able to bring you the exact change back from the new total. This alleviates waiting for your waiter to bring you back change, and often in denominations you do not want, in order to try and potentially receive a larger tip by betting that the customer will not bother asking for more change (I waited tables and know the deal 😉 ). In South Africa, waiters will also bring the credit card machine directly to the table, which is a fantastic alternative considering the rampant nature of identity theft, and you never lose sight of your credit card.
3) Driving: There are actually ways that driving in South Africa is more efficient than in America (the condition of the roads themselves is a different story with giant pot holes and jagged shoulders- but we are striving for positive in this post :)). A good example of that would be traffic circles, or roundabouts. These are everywhere and it is great to not have to stop at every intersection (although when you factor in the amount of speed bumps the efficiency number goes way down). Also, in South Africa, somehow large and slow moving vehicles seem to actually realize that they are in fact large and slow moving. The drivers of these vehicles help traffic by driving halfway on the road and halfway on the shoulder, leaving you room to pass them. And voila, you don’t have cars for miles behind a slow moving tractor or semi. It is fantastic- but sometimes a little scary when you actually have to pass. People here also seem to understand the rules of 4 way stops. There are not many 4 way stops (hooray for roundabouts) but if a traffic light (called a robot here) is out, people don’t freak out, the police do not come to direct traffic, and their isn’t a traffic jam; it just becomes a 4 way stop. Finally, merging lanes: there is rarely a dominant “this lane ends” situation. Rather, both lanes end and arrows point in the direction of the single lane and drivers are expected to let go of their “Me First” egos and somehow everyone merges appropriately, without the need for a traffic jam. I can specifically think of intersections in America where drivers enter the ending lane on purpose to race to beat beat the other lane of traffic. Or when you can see that a lane is closing for miles on the highway and still people can’t figure out (or don’t want to figure it out) and end up at the blinking arrow nudging themselves into the line of cars where people had to wait patiently for potentially long periods of time. Here in South Africa, even if there is a specific lane ending, people allow you to merge. As I am writing this, it still makes me mad how selfishly we drive in America.
Updates on housing:
Earlier today I put in 4 offers on houses which brings the total to 5 new offers on housing (4 houses have fallen through so far already). I plan to summarize this whole process in one post later on once we have a house and I can show it to you. Late tonight I received word that one owner has verbally agreed to my offer (in budget!) and the husband of another house (over budget by $300/mo) has agreed but is waiting on the wife to agree as well. I do not have anything in writing so things can fall through at any time. We know several people who have had verbal acceptances fall through so for now, we are still crossing our fingers for a signed accepted written offer.
Hayden is doing really well. The things he notices and asks about always amuse me. The other day he asked me why there are so many gates here. I mean, you can’t miss them, but I really didn’t think that he would think anything about it. I told him the gates are for security and are there so that people feel safe. I wonder how he will feel going back one day and living without gates. I also am realizing that Geography is not a 4 year olds strong suit (not that I expected much). Even though we are here, Hayden asks if we are in South Africa all the time. I tell him yes, but I am starting to think that he thinks our houses are where we say we live which is why he doesn’t know where we are. He must think Nanas house is North Carolina and our houses in Kansas and Texas were those respective states. He also asked if we could move Nanas house to South Africa (and I told him I wished we could :)). He has also continued his his pattern of being a serious backseat driver. He tells me I am going the wrong way daily (even when I am not) or that I am driving on the wrong side (and to him I guess I technically am). I really hope he gets out of this phase soon! I should mention here that it isn’t just driving on the other side of the road, it is walking as well- up stairways, down grocery store aisles, you name it! We are literally running into people all over the place!
Natalie is also doing well. We can’t wait to have her in a house so we can potty train her. She has been ready for months! She is also talking more and continues to be very decisive and independent.
Brant still likes work. He leaves early and comes home late but reports he is learning a lot. I’ve been given instructions to try and convince him to write up a little something about what he does all day- so if you know him, tell him to get on it!
And just for fun, I want to point you in the direction of my friends blog- Be sure to check out the slang section where you can learn why you should never ask for a napkin in a restaurant: http://jenniferlbradley.blogspot.com/2013/08/random-fun-facts.html