I have had many a reason to laugh since I have been on my big trip.
One of the biggest reasons I have found was the things that us South Africans moan and whine about, saying that we are going backwards, when in fact you get to a first world country and discover it has been happening for many years already!
Take for example a couple of things in the roads systems back home, eTolls and the “Public Transit Lane”.
In South Africa we recently had one city put up a bunch of Toll plazas that merely have electronic scanners that pick up a little electronic transmitter that is in each car and charges a small amount each time you pass through a toll. At the end of each month the roads department will draw the amount that you owe directly out of your bank account. When they implemented this in Johannesburg a few years ago there were major protests, and as far as I know they still have many people protesting this fact and rebelling against it. Meanwhile this is a standard feature of the big cities (especially NYC) across USA, on many on the interstate and big city highways I have seen this.
The Public Transit lane is a lane that is particularly cordoned off with signs and specially colored road markings, normally next to the “fast” lane on the freeway that is reserved for busses, taxis, and other public transit operators. This was implemented around 2010 in the big cities around South Africa, and hit much opposition. People still regularly voice their disapproval of it and outrightly disrespect it by driving illegally in this lane. But, yet another thing that is a standard and has been a regular in most larger cities and most interstate highways & freeways for as long as anyone here (I have asked a few people about this) can remember is this “transit lane”.
I found it both fascinating and hilarious that people really think that Africa is going backwards when its actually moving forwards…. according to the messed up views of the world around us anyway.
There are a number of unexpected things here though.
The first thing that struck me truly unexpectedly was the amount of nationalism and flag flying. Back home, almost none has a flag flying, except government buildings, international companies, and the occasional hotel. But here, every second house has a flag flying. If its an american flag with the 50 stars, or a sports flag, a random flag with birds or flowers, or even personalized name flags, many homes have flags flying outside.
Another unusual thing that struck me is the pride people here have in gardening. They only have a few months of suitable weather for flowers and decent gardening here in the north and they take advantage of it. From the houses with immaculate gardens in the yard and on their verandas (porch), to the busy city streets with hanging petunia baskets. It has amazed me.
There have also been many things I had expected very wrongly.
- Airports are not that scary.
- New York City isn’t that big – but it is more intriguing than I thought it would be.
- Not many Americans are as uneducated as what we see on reality tv.
- Everyone notices my accent but assumes I’m from Australia – Ok that one I am used to because even back home in SA people think I have an Aussie accent.
- If you know where to shop, things don’t have to be too expensive.
- There is practically no public transit system the moment you get out of the Big Apple.
- Its not really difficult to drive on the “wrong” side of the road
- Their cell networks stink (especially T-Mobil)
- Having free wifi almost everywhere is amazing
- They turned literally everything into a drive through. Everything! Bottle stores, Pharmacies, ATMs, and of course fast food, even a drive through drop off for donations to the goodwill shops
- They really do make everything BIGGER! The secondhand stores are the size of a PickNPay hypermarket.
- Walmart is cool, but Dollar General is better.
- You will walk! A lot!
- Summer time is really really hot!
So I wrote this post back in the USA a month ago and forgot to publish it, oops. Anyways here it is.