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In South Africa: Around the edges November 5, 2010

Posted by Jenny in memoir, travel.
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For an introduction about my recent trip to South Africa, go here.

The battlefields, cemeteries, and memorials we visited did not exist in a vacuum. Present-day South Africa thrived all around the edges. At times, the present nearly obliterated the past: the battlefield of Colenso was literally overshadowed by the giant cooling towers of an Escom power plant. (It is very fortunate that most of the important battlefields have been spared that sort of intrusion.) The kids you see in the photo above were watching us as we visited memorials and graves near Colenso: a few minutes after I took this picture, one of the kids did a beautiful slo-mo moonwalk for our entertainment.

We had spectators on the Tugela Heights as well, as onlookers gathered around, curious about this big busload of people that had driven into their neighborhood on some rather obscure roads.

Our audience hung around for quite a while. Photo by Sonja Myburgh.

These onlookers were across the street. Photo by Sonja Myburgh.

I found it interesting to people-watch, even in settings that would seem completely unremarkable to the people who live there. I noticed small differences in the way people dressed, the way they walked, the way they talked.

Ladysmith street scene

By certain variations from American dress—the beautiful pink and orange skirts, the style of the multicolored shirt in the foreground, the ankle-length floral outfit toward the back—I would never mistake this scene for one in the U.S.

Ladysmith had a great wealth of interesting signs for various kinds of businesses. In the photo below you can see part of a sign for the “Chirpy Chick” lurking behind the cannon.

Cannon and Chirpy Chick sign

The lefthand part of the sign features an oval-shaped portrait of a very proud-looking chicken. The righthand part says, “Where price is king!”

I saw many wonderful signs. Unfortunately, it was impossible to take pictures of them from our moving bus. Some of the best ones were:

Bubbles Car Wash (with a picture of a car with bubbles coming out from under the hood)

Telly Doc (doctor with stethoscope to TV screen)

C R A Z Y Computers (the letters for “Crazy” were tilted at weird angles and in several different colors)

Something Tasty — For People With Taste

Royal Hotel — Leaders in Friendliness (the “Royal” and the “Friendliness” didn’t quite go together)

Midnight Blue Adult Shop

These were near Harrismith:

Jumbo Centre (of what??)

Blanket Man

Grand National Liquor Land (with a lot of colorful flags out front)

These were near Kruger:

Awesome Fast Foods

Oasis Car Sales

Supa Car Wash (one of a whole series of car wash places that consisted simply of a tarp stretched over some poles and a bucket that could be filled with water to wash the car)

Buy For Your Lovely Ones (not Loved Ones) (This reminds me of another couple of funny substitutions: “Our new hotel will open in grandiose fashion” in a brochure and, said in conversation, “The impala made gracious leaps.”)

And then there were some good traffic signs: I did really see one for a hippopotamus crossing as we approached Nelspruit, and at the entrance to the Sabiepark Nature Preserve, “No Hooting Please.” That just means “no honking,” but when I started giggling, I had to explain to my puzzled companions that to me it meant “No Scornful Laughing.”

Last, but not least: