First, I want to apologize for my use of the word sissy. I am sure it is a derogatory word that should not be used.
The reason I need to use it is that here there is an actual phrase here, "South Africa. Not for sissies." The first time I heard it was when Gavin, our guide at Madikwe said it. It means just what you think. That in order to live here you need to be patient, you need to be flexible and you need to be strong.
In some ways living here is ridiculously and almost embarrassingly easy. Especially for me because I don't work. I will quickly, to avoid annoying you, list the ways that living here is easy. First, to us as Americans it is inexpensive. Housing, food, wine, hotels and many other things cost must less than what we are used to. I am careful not to go on and on about this because to many people who live here the devaluation of the rand is making it more and more difficult to make ends meet, but if you are from America and you come visit, you will be shocked when you order a glass of wine and it costs less than $3.00 USD. Second, it's warm and the sky is almost always blue. And there are palm trees. Even in winter when it was chilly it was nothing like the tundra where we used to live. Third, we live in a nice house. In fact, it's the nicest house I have ever lived in. And someone comes to clean it for me twice a week and someone else comes to work in my yard/garden once a week. If we were living in America these luxuries would not be possible.
I realize that paragraph was irritating. And the good news is that's the end of the cushy life talk and I am instead going to instead focus on the ways that living here is not easy. Living here is challenging in ways that I've never experienced before.
I wrote before about load shedding. That's when the electricity is purposely cut off to save the entire grid from going down. That's hard. But the good news is we haven't had load shedding in a while, over three months. The latest problem though is a severe lack of water. For two weeks Mr. Deep and I had no running water in our house. About 75% of the time absolutely no water came out of the tap at all. Sometimes, there was enough to brush your teeth or hand wash dishes or flush the toilet. But in two weeks there was not enough water to take a shower, do laundry, run the dishwasher or water the yard/garden. While we are having a severe drought, the reason for this situation is we have very old infrastructure in the underground pipes around our neighborhood. This scenario might push some sissies over the edge, but we dealt with it o.k. It was not the end of the world. We showered at the gym and we drank bottled water. Not to say we weren't annoyed but we handled it.
The other thing that is hard is seeing destitute people every where that you go. South Africa is one of the most economically unequal countries in the world. It is not unusual to see a man in tattered clothing, without shoes, with a bucket hand washing a Mercedes or an Audi that is parked in front a large and beautiful home. It is not unusual, when stopped at an intersection to see people begging in the streets, pointing to their mouths to let you know they are hungry. There are also hundreds of thousands of people who work every day and earn a living yet they are still hungry and many of them live in the kind of place that a lot of us wouldn't want our pets to have to sleep.
But the saddest thing of all is much more personal. I found out last week that the 2 year old granddaughter of Christine, the woman who works for us, might have kidney cancer. That type of devastating news isn't specific to South Africa. Any family anywhere in the world could receive that horrible information. And many have. But the day that I heard it, when I was sitting in my waterless house, having recently returned from a Christmas party where Diepsloot kids in torn uniforms with missing shirt buttons chose to put the Christmas Happy Meals that we handed out into their school bags, because they might need the food more later than now, that was the day when I had to try really, really hard not to be a sissy.
- American Expat
- Hello and thank you for taking an interest in my blog. This blog tells the story of some big life changes. First, my husband and I have just moved to Geneva, Switzerland for a few months following a few years of living in Johannesburg, South Africa. The two places could not be more different. I'm excited to share our adventures, challenges and insights with you! My thoughts and opinions are my own.