Sunday, August 21, 2016

Pretoria reminds me of

The streets of Brooklyn, Pretoria
Pretoria reminds my kids of Santa Barbara and Texas: palm trees, jacarandas, decorative cacti, and homes with plenty of vegetation ... and brown grass.


Pretoria reminds me of Los Angeles.
Growing up in LA, one of the things I remember best is the bars on the windows. People were afraid, so they put iron bars on the windows to keep out violence. Here in Pretoria there are bars on the windows and 6-10 foot tall walls surrounding most properties with electric fences that beep during the night and guard dogs.

Even the university is guarded by walls, electric fences, and guards. You have to swipe an ID card to even enter university property through this full-body turnstile that is slightly less wide than I am. Not to mention me+backpack+computer bag!

Course, having been (politely) mugged just next to one of these tall walls, I guess I can understand it.


Pretoria reminds me of Denmark. I was a missionary in the former-East Germany for two years and I got to know xEast Germany pretty well. When I arrived in Denmark for the first time, someone asked me how I liked it. When I said it reminded me of East Germany, I think they got a little offended. The thing is, having only lived in East Germany, I didn't know what was a) uniquely East German, b) uniquely German, c) European. Arriving in Denmark I began to see that some of what I thought was uniquely East German was actually similar across Europe.

I lived in Nigeria for three years and I got to know Nigeria pretty well. I even finally got to the point that I could start to make a guess based on facial characteristics whether someone came from the north, southwest, or southeast part of the country - not bad for a Bature. Coming here, all my rules of thumb have been shot down. I've got students from across southern and eastern Africa, separated from my Nigerian students by 3-4000 miles and they (almost) all resemble my Nigerian students on one supposedly-defining characteristic or another. My Ethiopian students do look decidedly different from the others, but I don't have a large enough sample to distinguish the other countries. Pretoria reminds me how little I know about what I knew.


A few things that seem unique but that just be because I haven't traveled enough:

Sidewalks are on the inside of the road, so there are grass and trees separating pedestrians from cars. I like it.

The food you buy at the supermarket will go bad within 1-3 days, yes, even with refrigeration. Sell by today, use by tomorrow. And they mean it!

The gelato down the road is not as good as Italy's, but mighty fine nonetheless.
My Hello Kitty ice cream (hey, I was on a date with my daughter) had clearly been thawed and refrozen a few times and was US-style, but Princess' ice cream at least still had the star-swirl pattern in it.
(The only time we tried ice cream in Nigeria, it was unmarked vanilla and had been thawed and refrozen to the point of inedibility.)

Parking attendants at malls/plazas help you back out of your parking space safely.