As we kick off 2016 I thought it might be interesting to share a different perspective. You've read post after post describing my experiences and thoughts about living in South Africa, but what about Mr. Deep? What does he think about life in South Africa? What does he enjoy, what could he do without and what really annoys him about his wife? OK, that last question really doesn't have much to do with life in South Africa, but it might be interesting to find out anyway. Or, it might not be that interesting.
Before I get to our Q&A with Mr. Deep, I thought I'd share the reason that I call this blog My Thoughts From the Deep End. First, because when you are a kid, going in the deep end of the pool is a very big deal. Obviously you can't touch the bottom and you have to rely on your swimming skills to stay alive. That is how I felt about moving to South Africa. Very excited but totally outside my comfort zone. I wasn't sure if I'd be a strong enough swimmer to survive. Luckily, so far so good.
Second, on my visa I am listed as a "dependent spouse" which means Mr. Deep is my only reason for being here. As a dependent spouse I can't have my own bank account, my own cell phone account or my own any account and I can't get a job. It means South Africa tolerates my being here because they figure if they ask my husband to leave me back in the U.S. he might not come here and work.
As part of the visa application process, Mr. Deep had to sign a letter of undertaking saying he'd take care of me, his dependent, and see to all of my needs for the entire time that we are here. It's like when you agree to let your friend bring his dodgy girlfriend to your party. You say, "OK, you can bring her but you're responsible for making sure she doesn't go off the rails and if she does, you're sending her home ASAP" So I'm deep-end-ent on Mr. Deep and if I act out, he needs to send me packing to the U.S.A. Thus, the deep end.
An interview with Mr. Deep.
Interviewer: Mr. Deep, you've been living in South Africa for over ten months now. Tell me, what are some of the things that you enjoy most about life here?
Mr. Deep: Most of the time the weather. Despite the recent heat wave we've been having, the weather is usually beautiful. I enjoy being able to see wild animals in their natural habitat pretty much any time I want. I like the fact that we can live in such a nice house for way cheaper than something comparable would go for back home. I also love that beer and food are pretty cheap. I enjoy that we do things that most of the people I work with don't or would not do, like go to beer/music festivals, go on Soweto bar crawls, go to the CBD (Ed - Central Business District) to see an indie movie. Or take my Jeep out for a proper off-road beating.
Interviewer: Why do you think most people don't or won't go to the types of places that you mention?
Mr. Deep: Some have kids/families, so beer fests and bar crawls would clearly not be the first choice for something to do. Some would just not think of going to CBD/Soweto in general. I would guess it is just a cultural thing that we as expats do not have a hang-up with?
Interviewer: And of the flip side, what are some things about living here that you find difficult or that you don't enjoy?
Mr. Deep: The traffic really sucks. Not all of the time, but during the morning commute, a 15 minute trip usually takes 40 minutes. I don't enjoy running into cops looking for payoffs. Also, seeing all the poverty constantly. While I am not quite as overt in my altruism as the interviewer is, I do make it a point to pay the parking guards which many of my colleagues do not do. The load shedding is a pain in the ass and I also don't enjoy losing water for weeks at a time. The air quality also leaves a lot to be desired sometimes.
Interviewer: If someone you knew was thinking of moving to Joburg, South Africa, what advice would you give to him or her?
Mr. Deep: Have an open mind. It is tough to put yourself in anyone's shoes here as you are not from here. I try not to have opinions on certain things here, if you know what I mean. Also, don't believe everything you hear on the crime - just be careful. But car-jamming is real. You should manually double check your car is locked after you click the remote. Third, just accept that the taxis will drive where they want and cut you off. No sense getting mad about it. Unless you have a Jeep and don't mind scratching it. Then you will always win the game of "chicken."
Interviewer: Yes, I know what you mean about having opinions. I once a read a quote that said, "don't judge a book by the chapter you walked in on." So I also keep my opinions to myself because I feel like I am a guest in this country and I know I don't have all of the information and the history. And I agree the taxis are very reckless. You need to be very careful and assume any taxi you see is going to somehow break a traffic law within the next 15 seconds.
Interviewer: You go to work every day. How are you finding your job here?
Mr. Deep: A nice change from what I was doing, more hands on. Although my last role really helped me learn much about one of the company's main businesses and the project turned out to be something really important for management. Now, I am learning a new business and gaining good experience in "non-accounting-related" financial management. We have set up a lot of processes from scratch and I enjoy the entrepreneurial atmosphere. We have a small team that I am one of the leaders of and I feel like more than just a "mid-level cog at McCann." Your fans of Mad Men should get that reference.
Interviewer: Since you brought it up, did you like the Mad Men series finale?
Mr. Deep: Nice way to end the show. I liked it.
Interviewer: What do you miss about living in the U.S.A.?
Mr. Deep: Surprisingly not too much. Proximity to a few people that I care about and wish I could visit more. Friends that did not live close by are still just as close thanks to that interweb thing. I do miss having places to walk or run. This place is not very pedestrian friendly. I do miss my sports and not being able to watch my teams, although this was a great year to not have to watch them, especially the Giants. Ugh.
Interviewer: Does it bother you that your wife is not working? Do you wonder what it is exactly that she does all day?
Mr. Deep: No it does not. She deserves the break. And the interviewer well knows that I have no right to complain even if it did, given my two-year sabbatical a while back. I don't really wonder what she does all day because she blogs about it, texts me during the day and generally keeps me informed.
Interviewer: Does it bother you when you meet new people, introduce yourself as Stephen and then your wife constantly refers to you as Steve possibly confusing your new friends as to what you want to be called?
Mr. Deep: Not really. I think the stigma of the "Don't be a Steve" campaign has disappeared but I still like to call myself Stephen now. I will also answer to Steve. Just not Steven. Not sure how this works, but some people in the office address me as Steven in an e-mail, when the proper spelling is RIGHT THERE IN THE E-MAIL ADDRESS.
Interviewer: Assuming that you only have two years left before you have to leave Africa, what are some of the places you want to visit and things that you want to do before you leave?
Mr. Deep: In no particular order, Namibia, Madagascar, the Okavango Delta in Botswana, Victoria Falls whenever it gets some more water running over it, Lesotho, Mozambique, Mauritius, perhaps a safari on the Zambezi river. I would also like to climb Kilimanjaro as long as I am here. As for other things to do, catch some live Rugby and Cricket, explore some other areas of Joburg and do some more fishing.
Interviewer: Yes, you recently went fishing for the first time since living here. Tell us a little about that experience.
Mr. Deep: We were over at the neighbor's for Christmas lunch. His whole family was there so I got talking with his father and the topic of fishing came up. Next thing you know I get an invite for the next morning to go fishing at the Lonehill Dam. Dam is what they call man-made lakes. I caught some pretty big barbels, which is what they call African Catfish. I seem to remember a blog post about different words they use here. Guess you can add a couple more.
Interviewer: What else do you want readers to know?
Mr. Deep: I am glad I am far removed from that shit-show also known as the Presidential Primaries. U.S. politics in general to be quite honest. It is quite nice to not be bombarded by that stuff 24/7.
|Mr. Deep on Boxing Day with the giant barbel that he caught.|