Saturday, October 11, 2008

This Is Africa

Since living here in Africa we have adopted the fondly used acronym, TIA, This Is Africa. TIA is used to excuse some of the most absurd, ridiculous and uncanny things that will cross your path in this nation. Happenings that make you want to scream for an explanation, but alas, this is Africa, you most certainly won’t get one.

Explaining the concept, simply does not suffice, but let me allow you into a little of the notion here in South Africa, fondly coined “job creation”. The idea is developed to decrease unemployment, and encourages self-initiative and small businesses. It really is a brilliant ploy, and I believe it is working wonders, the out workings of which make a very interesting city for a foreigner to enjoy. Aside from the commonly seen jewellery and bead making, wire twisting and other colourful crafts, are the ‘street vendors’.

Traffic light intersections are more like a mobile shopping mart. From the comfort of your driver’s seat you can view any array of objects from phone chargers to magazines, belt buckles to lamp shades, all at the convenience of your car window. They are avid salesmen too, very convincingly pleading you to buy these random contraptions you never dreamed of purchasing. Stay here a while though, and your bound to adopt the head down, eyes in the opposite direction avoidance mechanism.

If you ever have trouble finding, or manoeuvring into a car park then South Africa is the place for you. Each public parking area comes complete with car guards, who will not only guide you into a space, but will stay watch over your vehicle until you return, without you even having to ask. All this for a small price of 2- 5rand. Simply because, This Is Africa.

And my personal favourite, the ‘taxi’ ride. Here, the taxi operates much like a bus, travelling between one set location to another. However, the taxi is in fact a small combi-van which can squeeze any number of people inside, and wont move until it is filled above capacity. Despite the seats looking a little worse for wear, many are installed with elaborate sound systems pumping self-recorded African music. The drivers have a destination sign sitting on the dash board, although more often they will cruise around yelling out the open windows. It’s a very lively and claustrophobic experience, not for the faint hearted, but certainly a very popular and effective mode of public transport. When you see where you want to hop out, simply signal to the driver and he will swerve to the side for you.

The weird and wonderful continues in this intriguingly beautiful nation. But, I’ll save the rest till next time.

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