Friday, August 20, 2010

Signs of the Times (and samosas)

Street signs are changing.

Weather Update
A huge wind came through last night, silencing the frogs and making the old house heave and shudder with each gust.  The windows are made of wood and the doors were over-sanded after a paint job.  As a result they rattle in the frames.

Adding to the sense of being aboard a ship at sea is the fact that two windows in Ansellia's attic room "were allowed to swing back and forward in a wind until they broke off and fell down into the garden."   They have been repaired but not installed so Ansellia's room is open to the elements but for the burglar bars and brown cardboard boxes taped over the hole.

Last night the wind whistled through the cardboard and the curtains billowed wildly.  Ansellia  sought relief in the living room (couch) while Wren and I tossed and shivered and I stuffed bits of clothing and toilet paper into the gaps in the frames (to stop the thudding).

Tonight is still chilly (19C) but not as windy.  I hope it clears before our beach visit next week.

Signs of the Times
We had a quiet day today - visiting Adams Books at Musgrave Center and the playground at Mitchell Park.  I drove Frost and Wren past my childhood home and Mum's house on Essenwood Rd.   Along the way we kept our eyes out for strange signs.  Frost likes this idea because he loves his Signspotting 1 and 2 books and chortles endlessly over them.  He says he has seen one funny sign already:  a question mark crossed out.  He thinks this means "DO NOT ASK QUESTIONS HERE."

Driving around Durban there are many signs of change.  Street signs, that is.  Major roads are being renamed rapidly and local maps cannot keep pace.  All around the area you see signs like that above - the old name crossed out and the new one signed.

Gladys Mazibuko was a trade unionist, community activist and member of the ANC's military wing, Umkhonto weSizwe (MK), helped many comrades escape into exile. 
No informal traders here.

Another sign we noticed was at the entrance to the park.  The sign tells you that no informal traders can do business there.  All around the city traders set up their tables, umbrellas, chairs and/or blankets with fruit, vegetables or other commodities.  Inside the playground, an older black woman wearing a blanket had a huge bag of potato crisps she was selling "under the bench."

Most of the time, this is a legitimate trade, but sometimes the good or service is a piece of theatre, a prop for begging.  Within days of arriving Frost observed that "they have many jobs here that people don't do in America."  

He's right.   Just off the top of my head, here are a couple of  jobs I haven't seen in cities outside South Africa:
  • Car parking guards:  Informally, people take possession of a series of free parking spaces (they can be in mall parkings or open street) and wave you to their open spot.  They gesture as you pull in and then offer to "look after" the car.  You give them R2 each time. Sometimes they wear quasi official looking florescent coats but often they are just some guy waving at you.  Most are black africans but on the beachfront there were a number of Caucasian attendents. 
  • People with rubbish bags at intersections.  I haven't really figured this one out but at major intersections young black people approach your car with large rubbish bags and gesture at them and rub fingers for money.  I guess they are offering the service of throwing away your car debris?  If not, help me guess it.
 I'm not going into the guard dogs again.  They are ubiquitous, loud, gnashing teeth and scary.

Dad plans to take Charlie to the vet tomorrow to get him neutered.  Orion is in opposition and believes we should try behavioral adjustment first.

Visiting Adams
The kids enjoyed visiting Adams Books at Musgrave.  Frost bought a Tin Tin, Wren bought a Postman Pat and I bought a couple of kids books on Safaris and animal identification. Neither of them can identify even the large South African mammals and I was rusty on the pangolin and some of the antelope (aka buck).

I just hope we see enough of them to get the kids excited.

The kids outside Adams Books.
Note:  Wren is wearing Chris's hand-me-down pants!
While in Musgrave, I also visited an Indian supply store where I bought Urud Dahl (for Lauren's South Indian food) and more samosas for Frost.  Frost is living on chicken samosas.  Yes, he wants to be vegetarian but it seems that the only non-spicy samosa is chicken.  I eat the spicy potato ones.  Divine!

Tonight for dinner we ate puri and patha (little fried breads with rolled leaves and lemon) which was delicious.  I have thai raw papaya salad for lunch (because those paw-paws keep staring at me).

Dad, David and I are going for an early morning bike ride tomorrow so I need to get to sleep. 

Frost eating his 3rd samosa.  Spices in the background
include a tub of MSG which alarmed Frost.
Joshua, what are you up to?  I have had very positive response to your blog post.  Can we have another?


Laura said...

I'm enjoying reading about your travels. Definitely some neat things. Thanks for sharing.

tamusana said...

who knew - I lived on Gladys Mazibuko road! (I love the fact that that pic was taken 1 block from our old house. Marriott Rd is SO steep... I believe there was a sign on it that said "dangerous to traffic" or some such.)

Shannon said...

Hi Tam,
I am sorry I didn't take a picture of your old place - no doubt invisible behind impenetrable walls and electric fence by now, if not rebuilt into a mansion :)

The sign about dangerous hill seems to have gone. Perhaps brakes have improved since the 70s.

I am very absorbed with a project at the moment. While in SA Dad 'revealed' he had an old journal written by my Great-Grandfather while serving in the Boer War. It covers a few months while he was in the war in 1899. It is in meticulous longhand and I am trying to transcribe it from the, often faint, carbon copy. I have been wanting a project for a while (that is not focused on kids or cleaning) and am very much enjoying a sojourn as a war historian of the personal narrative.

Hope to catch up soon on your summer (where have you been? What have you done?) and will post more here in the next day or so when Wren starts his new preschool.

"AARGH I banged it in my skull" says Wren, after running into a table. "This adds up to my funny bone and it ends up there."

Comfort needed.

"ow, ow. I feel the pain. Ow."