General observations

Everyone I’ve met has been friendly, polite and more than willing to go out of their way to make sure things are going well for me. They love to entertain over meals, which works for me. The food has been great — lots of grilled meat, vegetables and fruit. Buddawurst here is like bratwurst in Germany. The South Africans I’ve met all want to know if I like their country, which I do, very much.

But it takes getting used to the fact that South Africa is both a first-world and a third-world country. Turning two or three blocks in a city, you easily can walk from one world to another, going from a modern apartment building to a lot filled with shacks. Driving a mile can also take you from a gigantic rolling hill and valley covered with thousands of shacks, to a neighborhood of middle-class brick homes.

Most Americans are more used to seeing the vastness of the South African countryside than European or even other African visitors here are. The area from Pretoria to Johannesburg is large flat plains, then slightly rolling hills. Gigantic boulders dot the plains, along with stands of short trees. The dry season will last a few more weeks here, so right now all the land is brown and dusty. Looking down on Pretoria, which is in a valley, is like looking at Los Angeles on are really bad smog day. When the rains start, I’m told the countryside will completely transform to lush green.

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