Wednesday, September 17, 2008


This Is Also Africa.

As much as I love and appear to be giving my mental health to this country, region, and continent, there is one aspect that hurts and frustrates me to no end…

It is the minor unnecessary scam. The short-term trick to make a Rand/ Pula/ Dollar. Rather than long-term great service, trustworthiness and reliability that will bring people back again and again, and make them thousands of Rands/ Pulas/ and Dollars.

One week of incredible experiences from Madikwe to Gaborone were left tainted with the “This Is Also Africa” aspect.

- When you stay at a 5-star hotel and find that R100 of yours and R200 of your boyfriend’s is snuck out of your wallets on the first day.
You sigh. And plan to email management rather than make a hype and spoil your incredible holiday.

- You ask for the bill for your two nightcaps and the chaaaarming smiling waiter says, “Not a worry my friends, it’s only P(ula)45”
“Do you take credit cards?”
“Uuuuuh, no, well, see the machine is in that other bar across the expanse of a hall and it is quite a problem. You can just give me the cash and I’ll ring it up.”
But you push it because you don’t have any cash on you… And suddenly the bill arrives for P36.00 as well as a portable credit card machine.
You sigh. Pay the P36, no tip. And decide it isn’t even worth the energy to complain.

- For a lazy sunny afternoon drink, you ask what the white wine is at this backwater restaurant. You are given a name of a farm you actually know quite well back from Stellenbosch days.
But then two glasses of some bizarre bottom of the barrel liquid arrive. You bypass your waiter and go to the bar to ask if the bottle perhaps was opened last week…year?! …. And you are greeted to a tipsy charming manageress who tells you that, Oh So Sorry! No, we actually have TWO white wines by the glass… Did you want the more expensive one?
So you sigh. And rather order a closed bottle. Of what does not look like it was brewed in the dusty back garden (Don’t mess with a wine snob!)

- When you ask for this bill – you are charged for the two glasses of petrol AND for the bottle. And the bottle has suddenly increased in price…
“Oh so sorry” the now-drunker manageress slurs and eyelid batters… “The price has changed, you obviously had an old menu…. Pay up. But we’ll let you off the two glasses”.
You sigh. Wait till she goes back to the table of conference men and her own wine, and make the shaken young waitress charge you menu prices.

But all is done in charm. And not too much fuss is put up when you reveal the scam, just a dropped lip of sulking. Which…at the very least… beats Eastern Europe’s hard unfriendly side when you rebuff their scam.

Africa. Kinda like me. She might seem so. But actually, She ain’t at all easy. Or cheap.

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