We thought it was finally time to catch up and write about what Southern Africans obsess about. As always, these are based on our short time in the countries, and may have little or no relationship to what you think.
Madagascar- A dead currency. The country got rid of the Malagasy franc in 2007 and replaced it with the ariary, which is worth 5 times more. However, nearly everyone still quotes prices in the old currency, as though you can still pay in it. It would be as though you went to Italy and everyone was still quoting prices in Italian lira, but you never really know. So, someone says 1,000 when asked a price. Is that 1,000 of the old currency or the new?
South Africa- Named Routes. Every road seems part of some touristic route. If we lived in South Africa, our driveway would probably be dubbed the "Andyandtara.com Driveway Route" by the government. It would come complete with nice signs. At one point we were driving down a tiny dirt road that no one uses and it had a huge sign saying something like "The Bob Robertson Mountain Route" and we just laughed.
Zimbabwe- Bartering. Because the Zim dollar is catastrophically worthless and people haven't fully adjusted to using dollars and rand, many people are still happy to trade. How much is that souvenir? "$10, but I'd rather trade it for your shoes." I was very tempted to trade the sunglasses that I bought for $1, but I really didn't need any of the junk they were selling...
Botswana- Urinal cakes. Tara has to take my word for this one. Every urinal has no fewer than 50 small urinal cakes, most often in a rainbow of colors and sometimes in a variety of shapes (cubes, round, thick, thin, etc.). All the bathrooms smell very nice.
Namibia- Germans. Sure, it was a German colony, but so were lots of places. Only Namibia has kept alive everything from German sausages to sauerkraut. Any German would feel right at home speaking German and many of the towns look like small German villages.
Lesotho- Walking in the road. The people of Lesotho don't really seem to understand cars. Because they see so few, they have the belief that the roads were built exclusively for them and their livestock to walk on. This proves problematic if you are going down the main road at 60 miles per hour at night, come around a turn, and discover a huge group of people right in front of you.
Swaziland- The King. Though most famous in most of the world for choosing a bride from a parade of topless, dancing teenagers each year (Google Reed Dance if you want to learn more), the king of Swaziland seems revered by all within the country. Let us know if you figure out what he does other than waste the country's money.
Mozambique- Male and female symbols. This sounds weird, but many places in Mozambique use the biological male and female symbols. You know, the little circles with an arrow coming off, like you might use in a biology class or the 1970s. We always had to do a double-take and figure out which was the right one to use.
Malawi- Teaching the language. In most places, people act as though we should know the local language, even when it is only spoken by about 100 people. In Malawi, they don't expect you to know it, but they always wanted to teach us. At least 20 people tried teaching us greetings for different times of day, but all failed.
Zambia- Coming to America. We had kids as young as 10 and adults well over 50 asking us how to get to America. At least we could tell the kids that they should study hard and maybe get a scholarship to an American school. The best we could come up with for the adults is that they should thinking about trying to get to an easier country like South Africa (even though South Africans mostly hate other Africans coming to their country).
And that ends another fine addition of obsessions. Hope that you enjoyed it!