Wednesday, March 26, 2014

South Africa - the outsider's take

I once went to Chile, expecting to be greeted by a llama in a poncho. In its place I found a very modern Santiago, no llamas, few ponchos. This was after having been delayed at immigration as the officials there believed Iceland to be a made up country. Turned out that Chile had recently experienced a bout of illegal immigrants attempting to enter the country with false passports from make believe places. Luckily for me the misunderstanding was cleared up, very much so thanks to Google. Another eleven hour no smoking flights back to the States would have really made my day.

Yet again I am in a place that does not cease to surprise and amaze me. The misconceptions I took along are now laughable.

I am in South Africa, a place so well described by Michael and Stanley that I cannot even hope to add anything to their colorful and descriptive narrative. Instead I am going to mention a few of my touristic and unknowledgeable observations. Sort of a South Africa guide by an idiot. 

In South Africa one needs not worry about snakes if not wandering around in grass or foliage. Except for the lazy snake. The lazy snake is big and fat and does not scuttle away when you approach. It just lies there, in parking lots and on walkways – too slothful to move. In the dark it is easy to step on the lazy snake by mistake and then it bites. And it hurts.

South Africa is home to the most beautiful trees you can imagine.

They have wild penguins here. A bird one usually associates with ice and snow. Not lively green and endless foliage. Here is a picture of me very surprised to see a penguin. Note that the angle of the photo is the result of some odd inclination of my husband to lean the camera to about 45 degrees. I do not have the heart to tell him this is not artistic. Simply strange.

A road sign reading “Robot Ahead” does not warrant the excited anticipation that it gives rise to. A robot is a traffic light.

Baboons have learned that a refrigerator is where it is at. Given any opportunity, they will break in and raid it. Once done they will wreck everything else. Here is a baboon stopping traffic. If you would like audio with the image get someone to scream loudly in your ear in a shrill female voice (mine): "Óli! Shut the window. Shut the window!" We had just passed a sign saying that baboons are dangerous. Then get a man in a more relaxed, yet serious voice (Stan) to say calmly: "Óli, you should shut the window now." Then you imitate a window closing.

The craftsmanship of the handicraft for sale is extremely good. As my husband is obsessed with the notion that we have everything, he filled our suitcases with stuff as we were not going to buy anything. Little did he know. I am going to throw away our clothes to make space.

Prices here are the lowest I have seen a very long time and the quality of the food is exemplary, as is that of the wine. Reading a menu makes you want to laugh. I can only hope I have the correct exchange rate. If not the last laugh will not be mine.

Stan and I outside of a winery - we are very matching sizes for a photograph (as long as I stand in the front)
An Icelandic credit card does not carry much clout here at ATMs. We have once been able to withdraw money. Aside from this one attempt all we get are slips saying that the transaction could not be carried out. We could open up a paper recycling company. Thankfully the stores have no problem.

On Friday we go to the bush, courtesy of Michael and Stanley. We are not guaranteed to see any of the big five. Does not matter. A single lazy snake will be enough to make us happy. Even if we only see trees. South Africa is a wonderland.

Yrsa - Wednesday


  1. Yrsa, I am joyful to know that you and Oli are there and to imagine what is in store for you. PLEASE give us lots of pictures and details. Seeing it through your eyes is wonderful.

  2. I'm smiling ear to ear, and crying out each eye.:)(. How much I wish we could have been there with you guys...if only to have witnessed your and Stan's different approaches to coaxing Oli to close the window. I expect a lot of stories at Crimefest...and Oli's side of the tale.

    1. Hi Jeff - we promise stories at Crimefest - see you and Barbara there very soon :-)

  3. Yrsa, where is Someone to Watch over Me? It's not in my New York library. It seems to be available in England, but not in the States.
    Do you know when it will be available over here? I want to read it, as I do read the Thora series, and I want to read it as one of the Petrona Award nominees.

  4. Hi Kathy D - unfortunately it is not out yet in the US. The ghost story - I remember you - has only just recently been published so it might be a year until it is available in the States. Which will of course be to late for the Petrona Awards this spring.

    regards Yrsa

  5. Hey,A major contributing factor remains that the ANC retrenched the whites with years of investigative as well as detective experience whose minimum entry level was completed school (18 years old) and replaced them with mostly illiterate and semi-literate supporters who climbed ranks at a rate of 3 per year . We have more high ranking officers than any country in the world who , when there were a few low ranking whites left , ask them what they have to do . Another factor is that there are.Thank you so much!!!