Travelling Tuesday: Hole in the Wall

This week’s Travelling Tuesday is another shot from Mark’s library. “Hole in the Wall” is a place on the old Transkei (pronounced Tran-SKY) Coast. It’s now generally referred to as the East Coast, but most South Africans will know it as the Old Transkei.

This shot was taken during a 4 x 4 trip up the Transkei Coast years ago. Mark took this shot as the sun was rising with his grandfather’s old old camera, a Zeiss Ikon Contaflex — it was one of the first mass-produced cameras available in South Africa where you could manually advance the film. So this is a film – turned – digital vintage! The camera just loved to capture colour, but Mark also slightly overexposed it to capture a bit more of the glory of the hill at sunrise.

Hole in the Wall

To give you an idea of the amazing geographical feature which is “Hole in the Wall” and so that you’ll understand why it’s called “Hole in the Wall” here is another shot of the island that you’re seeing in the picture above, also taken by Mark a little later in the morning. Pretty cool!

Hole In the Wall 2

Hope you enjoyed this Travelling Tuesday! May the road rise to meet you wherever your travels take you next! (I hope you’ll come for a visit to South Africa soon!)

Can you speak South African? This lekker Top Ten might help, hey?

Top of the Week to ya! Since lots of folks seemed interested in my last post about South Africa, I decided to write another SA post…perhaps for those of you planning to be here for the World Cup next year! This amazing country is a melting pot of cultures, languages and of course, some delightful idiomatic expressions…which are my favourite things to learn, in any language. If you’ll be here for a visit anytime soon, here is my guess at the top ten most important words for you to learn, which might not be native to your version of English. Now mind you, I am not a South African, but married one, so I must give the disclaimer of saying these are second-hand understandings, with some first-hand opinions added in.

If you want to speak South African, this is a good place to start:

10. Robot – you might picture a metal box of arms and legs that can dance or run the Hoover for you (a la Rosie on the Jetsons), but in South Africa, a robot is a traffic light.

9. Gatvol – Pronounced HUT-vul, when you’ve “had it up to here” or are past the point of being incredibly frustrated, you are “gatvol.” Eish, by the end of that rugby match, I was gatvol with the Cheetahs. Maybe next season, hey?

8. Bro or bru – An abbreviated term for brother which rhymes with “row” or “chew.” Hey bru, it was a lekker party last night.

7. Eish – This term sounds like ‘ace’ with an ‘h’ on the end. It means ‘wow.’ It’s sometimes used in sticky situations: Eish, bru, I’m sorry. I didn’t even know it was your birthday.

6. Eina – Ouch! Or when something is sore. This is a long ‘a’ sound, followed by a ‘nah’. Might be used instead of a southern ‘dern’ when one stumps one’s toe.

5. Jislaaik – This one is pronounced “Yis-like” and means “gee” or “wow.” It’s a useful exclamation for when something is surprising. Jislaaik, those are tight jeans. She must’ve jumped into them from the top of the cupboard.

4. Boerewors – This tasty treat is literally translated from Afrikaans, farmer’s sausage, ‘Boere’ meaning farmers, and ‘wors,’ sausage. It’s pronounced (at my best attempt) “boo-re-vors” with a bit of a trill on the first r. It should be comprised of mostly minced beef, and is sometimes mixed with a bit of pork or lamb. No braai is complete without it! (See Number One).

3. Howzit? This lovely and useful term is simply “How’s it going?” but nicely abbreviated. You can imagine it like a South African Joey from Friends saying, “Howzit, Rachel?”

2. Lekker – You can’t visit South Africa and not hear this term a few times. If something is lekker, it’s nice or good, depending on the context. (Lekker is pronounced kind of like ‘lacquer’ as in the stuff you might coat wood with.) Eish, it was a lekker party until she showed up in her tight jeans. Then we were gatvol and left.

1. Braai — rhyming with “try,” this is perhaps the most important word in the South African English Language. It’s both a noun and a verb. You might call it a barbecue, or “grilling out.” The pastime of the braai is an incredible art — many South Africans are choosy about what type of wood they use, others might use charcoal or briquettes or (less often I suppose) a gas braai. The timing of putting on the meat, the heat and size of the fire, and the amount of wind you might be dealing with are all factors to consider which can make or break the perfect braai. And from my experience so far, a true South African will always say the braai they’re enjoying could’ve been just a little better if they’d just …

I highly suggest coming to South Africa for the World Cup next year, or just for a visit any time! So howzit, bru? Come enjoy some bakgat boerewors at a lekker braai or two! You’ll pass through a few robots, and be here just now, hey? Eish, the trip might be eina, but you’ll be gatvol if you don’t.

Here are a few extra tips for good measure:

  • Avie is slang for afternoon, pronounced “AH-vee”
  • Bakgat - this is an Afrikaans word used fairly often by English speakers. Pronounced “BAHK-hut” with a nice thick ‘hhh’ on the hut. Bakgat means ‘fantastic.’
  • Lots of folks, especially from Johannesburg (also known as Jozi or Joburg), will end their sentences with “hey?” Warning: this can rub off on you VERY quickly. (I picked up this habit when I lived in Scotland and had a roommate from Southern Africa!)
  • Ja – pronounced “Yah” is a common way of saying yes, and people will often start or finish sentences with it.
  • Alternatively, people more often begin their sentences with “No…” in answer to a question, even if “no” isn’t actually the answer to the question, and even if the question is not a yes or no question. So keep listening until you get the whole answer!
  • If you’re teasing the person in the centre by not giving them the ball, you’re playing “piggy” (not monkey) in the middle.

Here’s another great site where you can learn to “speak South African” in preparation for your visit!


The Price of the Peso OR How to make a Dollar Outta 15 cent

One of the biggest challenges I’ve found when trying to get settled in a new country (based on two experiences now) is trying to understand the value of the local currency. I was reminded this morning when Mark and I went out for a cup of coffee. We ordered a couple of pots of Rooibos tea (which I was amazed to see has now been introduced at Starbucks in America! Weird reverse culture shock moment to see Rooibos tea in America and say, “What are you doing here?”) Anyway, I wanted honey with my tea and so requested it. The waitress made an apologetic face, and said it would be 6 Rand. Because I’m not exactly aware of the value of currency yet, and was thinking something like, “50 cents” in my head, I said, “Sure that’s fine.”

Of course, as it happens, after she was halfway across the restaurant, the conversion actually sunk in and I realised what I’d just done and looked at Mark and said, “That’s like a dollar!” And I was totally offended to be paying (basically) a whole dollar for a tiny bit of honey to go with my tea. I wanted to go back and say “Nevermind, nevermind, I’m not paying a dollar for honey! I’ll have sugar!” Mark said, “That’s okay, we’re still learning” and told me not to worry about it. Shocking!

I think the really difficult thing, is not just learning to convert the currency you’re working in to an amount you understand. The challenge is actually learning the value of the currency you’re working in. Although 7.5 Rand = 1 USD in terms of currency conversation today, I think I can buy more with 7.5 rand in South Africa than I can with 1 dollar in the US. And of course certain items are going to be more expensive in one country, for example if they’re manufactured there, than they will be in another. We were looking at camping chairs for our balcony today. Is 120 Rand a good price for a camping/tailgating chair? I think $16 would be a great price for one, but around here it sounds like I should be able to find one for even less.

Buying food is an even greater challenge. Walking into the Pick n Pay is such a daunting prospect that I almost dread making a shopping list and preparing for the journey. The cheap and tasty meals I used to do in Edinburgh are suddenly not the cheap and tasty options here. I grapple with these types of dilemmas at the moment: Why is spicy cooked sausage so stinking expensive, suddenly?  How will I do my cheap and cheerful stir fry without it? The other day I spent ages staring into the butter section looking at choice after choice and examining prices and sizes. Asher was tired of being in the grocery cart, and my brain was fried. Finally, a very healthy-sized Mama came along and stared into the case for a moment before choosing her butter, and I thought, “Well she looks like she knows what she’s doing” so I chose the same one and was on my way!

So the adventure continues, even when it’s just an adventure to the grocery store to figure out what’s for dinner. If you have any tips on the value of the South African Rand for me, they are most welcome. 🙂


Top Ten Things You Probably Didn’t Know about South Africa

Top of the week to ya! If Wednesday is hump day, I’m thinking it would be the “top” of the week –yeah? Anyway. I’m getting settled in South Africa pretty well. It helps to have visited a few times before the move. But I’m at the stage where if I walk out the front door, I’m likely to see something that will surprise me every day. Really fun. It’s good to learn new things.

Here are a few fun facts, so you can join me in the cultural immersion!

Top Ten Things You Probably Didn’t Know about South Africa (Unless You’re South African)

10. South Africa averages less than one fatal shark attack every year. (For humans anyway). I would’ve thought it was more with those crazy breaching great whites!

9. Most shopping malls have a supermarket or two in them, and some other big department stores that have everything from games to coolboxes (coolers) to dishes, food and pool floats. Lots of people get shopping carts from these stores and push them around the mall. I am struggling to get used to getting sidelined by a grocery cart hurrying to a sale at the other end of the mall!

8. South Africa is roughly twice the size of Texas! Yee haw! We have a lot of trails to explore and I brought my cowboy hat.

7. English is one of 11 official languages in SA. The list also includes Afrikaans, Xhosa, Zulu and Sesotho. Well, you may have known that if you read this blog the other day. There are five languages in the South African National Anthem.

6. Pic-n-Pay, a shoe store in the States, is a supermarket here! I especially like the Greek Yoghurt, and that you can buy milk in plastic bags instead of plastic cartons. (see example, below)

5. While South Africa was constitutionally obliged to fight with the British in WWII, the Prime Minister, Barry Hertzhog, preferred to either remain neutral, or be Pro-Axis (as in, fighting against the Allies.) Hertzhog was deposed, and Jan Smuts returned to power as Prime Minister, and declared war against Germany. He fortified the country against sea invasion because of its strategic positioning. The leaders of the Ossewabrandwag, a pro-Nazi South African movement, were jailed for the rest of the war after committing acts of sabotage!

4. Cape Point, near Cape Town is not the most southerly point of Africa, as is often thought. That accolade actually belongs to Cape Agulhas, which is 90 miles/150 km east-south-east. Cape Agulhas is also the generally agreed upon spot where the Atlantic and Indian Oceans meet.

3. J.R.R. Tolkien was born in Bloemfontein. (That’s the writer of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, in case you were born yesterday!) And that’s Mark’s hometown!

2. There are six unique floral kingdoms in the world, one of which, the Cape Floral Kingdom, is only found in the Western Cape Province of South Africa. It has 8,700 plant species, and 68% of them are only found in this tiny bit of South Africa!

1. The world’s first heart transplant was performed in Cape Town, South Africa, by Dr. Christiaan Barnard in 1967.

So here’s to learning more about a great country with a lot of heart! whaa-wha-whaaaa… 😉


Storytime: Arriving in Cape Town

{The Bear, unsure of whether he wants to leave the comforts of North Carolina behind…}

Flying from Johannesburg to Cape Town was a peaceful two hours. Looking out the plane window, you first see the clay-red rooftops of the houses in Joburg fading into the distance, along with the tall shiny buildings of the city centre, the phone lines, and the blue of the backyard swimming pools. And then sometimes, for as far as your eye can see, it’s just this clay-red-brown earthy colour in every direction. It is beautiful. Lots of people say it’s Mama Africa’s red dust. Once it gets under your skin, into your blood, you always want to return. At some stages the clouds might space out below you like the circles on a Twister game. Perfect little round pillows stretching into the distance in white cotton rows. And you see mountains, one after another, some rough and rocky, some green and lush and verdant, and you wonder if anyone knows the names of all of them.

Then the wilderness turns into busyness again, as you arrive in Cape Town. The cape flats that sit behind the mountains of Cape Town stretch out for what seems like ages. The mountains are so beautiful you want the plane to slow down so you can stare at them a little longer. And then as you fly in, you often get to see Cape Town’s famous Table Mountain and the range that runs, and spills into the beautiful blue-green water. The beauty here is unmistakably wild — it’s hard to explain what I mean. If you visit the Lake District in England, it is also beautiful, but it seems tame. There are cute bunnies and ducks and swans and signs to beware of squirrels crossing the road. Here the mountains just seem so vast and expansive and rugged and rough — so beautiful you want to get closer, so rough you’re not sure you’ll do well on the climb. And the road signs don’t warn you about squirrels.

Our arrival at the airport was relatively uneventful. We picked up the rental car and the nice gentleman who helped us pack up the car taught me a few things to say in Xhosa (thank you and God Bless You). I absolutely struggled to convince my tongue to make some of the sounds he made, and I still don’t have it! I took his picture and thanked him for being my first friend in Cape Town. Then we were off to find the accommodation we’ve booked for the next three weeks. You might feel like this place is just like North Carolina, or anywhere you might call home in the states. Then you pass Khayelitsha, a huge and sprawling township of tiny shacks squished beside each other, with their four walls made of tin roofing, almost built on top of each other. You think about what it must be like to live there. You’re traveling at sixty miles per hour and the shacks seem to be never ending. As they’re sprawling along beside the highway, it feels like they’re running along with you, and then off into the distance. I remembered that the gentleman who helped pack our car lives there. And we wondered how we might go about arranging an opportunity to give people there shoes.

This is Africa. The beauty is great. The need is great. Our God is great. We hope He’ll let us be a part of what He’s doing here.

We’re currently staying in rented holiday accommodation while we look for a place to live. I think we have found our place to live now! I’ll share pictures as soon as I can and it’s for sure! Getting set up in a new country is challenging, but God is making smooth paths for us. Not having a credit history around here makes making anything happen a bit tough, but it’s coming together!  Thank you for your prayers, for your encouragement, and many of you, your financial support. Without it, we couldn’t be here!

{This lovely gent is writing down a few words for me in Xhosa!}