06 Aug

So, it’s taken me a bit of time to put up a new post because my internet has been absolutely incorrigible this week.  Also, I don’t have any exciting stories to tell, so instead it’s going to be a collection of observations I’ve made so far.

First, language.  English is the generally used language in South Africa, but it has its own special brand, like British or Australian English.  First of all, the accent is amazing.  I guess most people who haven’t heard a whole lot of the South African accent often mistake it for Australian, but it’s really quite different.  It’s this amalgamation of British, Dutch, German and African English accents that turns into this amazing, and for an American, sometimes difficult to understand accent.  If you’ve never heard it, go find a video or something, because it’s pretty cool.  And no, Leonardo DiCaprio in Blood Diamond does not count.

Some of the words or sayings that South Africans use are also British.  There’s a lot of “bloody” and “cheers.”  Also, cookies are biscuits.  Sidenote:  Something new that’s been introduced to me here that is generally consumed at teatime are rusks.  They are these delicious, crispy bread items that taste like an American biscuit but they’re crumbly and slightly sweet and I will never buy a box of them because I will eat the whole lot in one sitting.

Then you get more specifically South African words.  Traffic signals are called “robots”.  This was super confusing the first time somebody told me to “turn right at the robot.”  Uh…I’ll keep a look out for one?  Trunks of cars are “boots” and a glove compartment is a “cubby”.  You’ve already learned about a braai and boerwors.  There are a lot of intriguing sayings as well.  A common greeting is “howzit.”  People also say “shame” a lot, but it’s not like “for shame” or “you should be ashamed,” it’s more kind a sympathetic expression or like “that’s a shame.”  Another good one is “just now,” which does not mean immediately.  If somebody says “I’ll get a drink just now” it actually means they want one in a little while, not right away.  That one was confusing. Also, there is “is it.”  It’s used here like we use “really.”  For example, if I said something like, “the reading for the class today was really boring” the common response is… you guessed it, “is it?”

I know there are more that I can’t think of, but those will have to come later.

Next observation: Sauces.  Every kind of food you eat here can come with a sauce, and that is the preferred way to eat things.  I know certain friends and a certain sister (Jeni, Brenna and Emma, I’m looking at you) that would move here in a heartbeat simply for the plethora of sauces that would be readily available to them.  Thus far, I’ve noticed about four main sauces that seem to be ubiquitous.  There’s the pink sauce, which is kind of like thousand island, but better.  Then there’s usually a chili sauce available.  The next to are ketchup and mustard…kind of.  They call this tomato sauce ketchup, but it’s not exactly.  It’s more viscous, and it has an extra sweetness to it that’s very good.  The mustard, at least that I’ve been offered at takeaways so far, is more of a honey mustard.  I haven’t had any yellow or brown mustard yet.  I look forward to exploring more and more sauces in my time here.

Final observation:  Music.  Well, singing.  People break into song pretty easily here.  But it’s not in an obnoxious theater student kind of way.  Though don’t worry, my dorm is full of theater students, so I still get my fair share of a Glee/Beyonce/Obscure music theater song medley being performed unsolicited in the hallway.  I’ll never escape it.  Anyways, back to not obnoxious singing.  There have been a couple of protests on campus the last couple of weeks, which are apparently pretty standard.  There is picketing and yelling and vuvuzelas, but there is also singing.  The songs vary, but they’re all African and everybody knows them and can sing along.  One of the more popular songs that I’ve heard is a folk song called Shosholoza, which funnily enough I already knew (thanks Palatine Children’s Chorus).  People were happily surprised when they found out I was familiar with it.  The singing has always sounded beautiful, even when it’s a group of rowdy students.  They get it together, and they’ve even got harmony going on.  It’s awesome.  Last night, there was some kind of choir outside close to my window and I got serenaded for an hour with more African music, which I’ve always found to be some of the most beautiful music that was out there.  Maybe not everybody experiences random bursts of song in South Africa like I have, but I hope it doesn’t stop.

That’s all I’ve got for now, hopefully exciting things to come.

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Posted by on August 6, 2011 in Uncategorized


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