Since I love making lists, and my last proper list on this blog was posted in May, I thought it would be diverting to list some of my recent discoveries in the form of a comparative analysis with my home country. But instead of slagging off one country as these lists usually go, I'll focus on the good things about both the USA and the RSA. I cannot say that it's worse or better here. What i can say is that it's definitely different.
- Technology. Access to broadband internet in the US is excellent, cheap and ubiquitous. The whole Downtown Fort Collins is rigged up for wireless, as is the whole university campus. On the other hand, I do miss the cellular communications systems in South Africa. SIM cards, GSM networks, number porting between service providers, and consumer choice of handset as wide as you can imagine. Come back Vodacom, all is forgiven! The winner: the USA, by several Kbps.
- Food. US supermarkets are stocked with the most amazing variety of products. From the seventy kinds of peanut butter, ninety flavours of ice cream and thousand formats of Coca-Cola, to the incredible selection of south-of-the-border treats like blue corn chips and chipotle salsa. On the other hand, I miss South Africa's supreme cornucopia of fresh produce: Cape apples, cling peaches, avocadoes by the bag, litchis by the box, papayas from Nelspruit farm stalls, spotless potatoes from Fruit-n-Veg City. Where's a Woolworths when you need one? The winner: sunny South Africa, by a head of cabbage.
- Nature. Colorado is an amazingly beautiful place, sporting snow-covered mountains, valleys covered in pines and aspen trees, and fast flowing rivers stocked with trout. It's a place where you can walk out of your front door and find squirrels and red foxes co-existing in the suburbs. On the other hand, South Africa has a particular beauty all it's own: once experienced it is never forgotten. It is unique and precious; it is the landscape of my spirit.** The winner: South Africa, by a mountain that looks like a table and some wild horses wearing stripey pajamas.
- Society. Americans are easily the friendliest, most helpful people I've ever met. Folks have no qualms with striking up an anonymous conversation on the bus, and everyone seems genuinely interested in where I come from and what I'm doing here. Online purchases are delivered to my door, and actually stay there - untouched - until I return home in the evening! On the other hand, South Africa is the only place where people really know how to do a proper barbecue -it's called a braai, folks. South Africans have a wonderful sense of humour and know how to laugh at themselves. It's the only place where people get what the word lekker means, which says a lot. The winner: The USA, by a white picket fence, patient drivers and a host of friendly store clerks.
So in the end, there is no real winner here. Some aspects of living in a new country are exciting, some are infuriating, some are delicious, some are fattening, some are confusing, some are gorgeous, some are quite scary. But better or worse? Hmm, I just can't tell you yet...
*Ooh, that last part was so twee, I think I just threw up a little as I was typing it.
** Urgh. I think I did it again.