Monday, July 26, 2010

First Impressions

Over the last few days we have had some opportunities to explore the surrounding areas of Johannesburg. We actually live in a suburb of JoBurg called Edenvale. It is a very strange area as it is newly developed with nice condo complexes and homes as well as new shopping areas, restaurants and a mall but right next door is an industrial area and a large hideous power plant (this picture is from the view of a nearby restaurant and shows our condo community with the lovely power plant in the background-Trent says it reminds him of The Simpsons).

Everywhere you go there are people standing in the middle of the street selling things such as sunglasses, socks, stuffed animals, really anything you can imagine and they come right up to your window and pretty much beg you to buy from them. During a 20 minute drive we told about 15 vendors "no thank you" and one even chased the car to the stop light still trying to get us to buy his Adidas socks! It's a bit upsetting and slightly annoying but its something you must just get used to. What I don't think I will ever get used to is the "shanty towns" (spelling ?) which is where the poorest of the poor live. Their "homes" are literally plywood shacks and there is garbage everywhere. It makes you very grateful not only to have a real roof over your head but to live in a country, while not perfect, seems to provide better for it's people. I spoke with a "white" South African extensively today and listened to his view on the politics and mentality of this country and the "black" population. From his perspective it is not an issue of superior/inferior but of a weak government and the unwillingness of a large population of people to put in the work and effort needed to better themselves and grow with the changing times. There are two sides to every story and I plan to get a different view as well before I form my own opinions :)

From what I have seen so far it is very pretty here; however, it is very dry and everything is dead. In the Spring (which begins in September) it rains quite a bit and from what I have been told it will become very green. I am anxious to see this as presently I feel like I am somewhere between AZ and the Big Island. There is a nasty haze over the city which I would love to believe is fog but is actually pollution. There is a lot of people living here and from what I can tell so far "eco-friendly" is not a familiar term in this part of the world! Recycling seems to be a foreign concept and it makes me very sad to throw away my "Coke Light's" (that's what they call Diet Coke) and water bottles into the garbage. I wish I could donate all my cans/bottles to the people living in the "shanty towns" and they could earn 5 cents a can like in Hawaii but here the cans and bottles aren't worth anything :(

They drive absolutely crazy here and although there are rules of the road they don't seem to apply to anyone! Pedestrians do not have the right away and you will get run over if you try to cross the street! Trent has become accustomed to the driving here and has learned to drive like a South African. I have to close my eyes half the time in order to avoid being a back seat driver! I am happy to report it is the law to wear your seat belt here and we are all still alive!

The highlight of the whole trip to date was our visit to the Lion Park and the Crocodile farm. At the Lion Park they have a small section that has gated areas like a zoo and in one section you can actually go inside and pet the baby lions. You can also feed the giraffe's which was a fun but gross experience. Their tongues are like a foot long and they wrap their rough tongues around your hand to bring the food to their mouths.
The kids loved it and the giraffe's were very pleased with their snack. After we left the "zoo" section of the park we got in our car to drive through a small preserve to see an actual lion habitat. What an experience! This picture is the first lioness we met and as you can see she is in a position to pounce, which she did the minute our car got close to her. Photobucket
She jumped on our car and even chased us for awhile! Although, we were safely enclosed in our little car it was still a frightening experience and the kids wanted to leave immediately! We drove around a little longer and saw beautiful lions that were not nearly as threatened by us in fact they didn't even budge when we came near. Unfortunately, we had to drive by the nasty lion again and sure enough she attacked us the minute we passed her! I attempted to get video but when she jumped on the car I freaked out and missed the photo op! After we left that section of the park we drove through the calmer side of the preserve and saw zebras and antelopes which was nice but not nearly as exciting!

On the way home from Lion Park we stopped at a crocodile farm! I held a 10ft Burmese Python!
Aiden and I both held a Milk snake, baby crocodile and a tarantula! We also saw giant crocodiles that were large enough to eat us. Our guide was very informative and it was a fun little tour. Trent kept a safe distance from the reptiles and we were unable to convince him to touch even the harmless ones!

My dear friend Molly, asked some very important questions that I thought I should address for everyone's benefit! They do have places to get pedicures and although, the only beauty salon I have seen so far is for individuals with a different hair texture, Trent assures me that their is a white girl salon nearby! The food here is very fresh and is not full of preservatives and hormones! So things go bad very quickly but the flavor is better. There are a lot of the same foods here but many things have different names, especially the candy. M&M's are called Smarties and Whoppers are called Whispers and they taste a lot better! They call zucchini, baby marrows and BBQ sauce (which is on everything from hamburgers to steak) is called Monkey Gland, appetizing right? The menu's are full of things I have never heard of such as Rocket (which I just learned is a type of lettuce) and my pancakes came with some kind of Greek yogurt instead of butter. I still have a lot to learn before I can eat comfortably! When I made a grocery list for Trent he just started to laugh. Not only are many of the items I requested non-existent (i.e. baked tortilla chips and Kraft Macaroni and Cheese) he would have to go to 3 different stores to get everything I wanted because the stores here carry specific things.

Sorry for the wordy post! Everything is so foreign and new to us I just have to write it all down! What an experience. I am still a little anxious about the prospect of "living" here, but I definitely recommend this place for a visit! We have an extra bedroom!!

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