Geez, the TSA is absolutely crazy. Getting to South Africa was no problem at all. They checked my passport and asked if I had any guns and that was it. Before we could board the plane bound for the U.S., our bags were thoroughly searched. We had to remove our shoes and were divided into male and female passengers before being patted down by a security officer of the corresponding gender. Then, when we stopped to refuel in Senegal, security officers from the U.S. came onto the plane to search it. Everyone had to put their blanket and pillow in the overhead containers and hold all of their luggage on their lap. I had just managed to fall asleep about an hour beforehand, so I was extremely grumpy and almost yelled at the security guy when he threw the blanket and pillow back at me when I tried to put it in the overhead bin.
I think that South Africans are more friendly than Americans. Ok, that’s not entirely true. I think South Africans are more friendly than the rich, snooty Americans who can afford to travel internationally three times every year. I can’t tell you how many dirty looks I’ve gotten carrying around my plastic bag full of curios. Haha. Or the lady in the bathroom who gave me a super nasty look when she saw me brushing my teeth but then proceeded to do exactly the same thing! *Sigh.
I’m so glad to be dealing in U.S. currency again. It’s so much easier to know the relative cost of things and to not have to think, “Ok, that costs 50 rand. So that’s about $7. And that costs 15 rand. So that’s about $2. Is that expensive? Am I being ripped off? Would the store down the street have a cheaper xyz? Should I really buy this? Do I need it? Can I wait and buy it in the U.S.? How hungry am I? Is it worth spending 30 rand on a bowl of soup?” Etc., etc.
It was really funny to enter the airport and see all of the “America!” shops full of red, white, and blue t-shirts and flags and mugs and keychains. A perfect counterpart to the “Out of Africa” shops that littered the Jo’burg airport and were filled with drums and masks and “tribal jewelry.” It seems that any country can be reduced to a stereotypical gift shop.
I’m also incredibly glad to be in a country that’s full of people who sound like me. Sometimes I’d get so annoyed in South Africa—as soon as I opened my mouth they could tell instantly that I was foreign. And there was nothing I could do about it! Honestly, I tried as best I could to learn the South African accent, but it’s just too difficult a thing to do in just 2 months. I’m so happy that nobody’s going to look at me like I’m an alien or a freak or a strange sculpture in a modern art museum just because I sound American.