Wednesday, September 4, 2013

SA: My Digs (the Pauper)

I stayed in two very different places during my Johannesburg trip, which I've designated "pauper" and "princess." Here is the first of the two. For the conference, I rented an efficiency dorm room in a gated university compound. My building was named “Stimela” for the train that brought blue-collar workers from around southern Africa to work in the diamond and coal mines. It was a short walk from the conference venue, and several of us graduate-student types trekked over together morning and night.

The kitchen came stocked with pots, dishes, and utensils (mostly one of each). On the counter you can see my new blue gel heat/cold pack, which I was able to boil on the stove and re-use on my aching back. The bed had wool blankets on it, which I needed the first couple of nights, because I couldn’t figure out how to work the room heater under the window.

If you are a long-time reader of this blog, you are probably familiar with my fascination with everyday technology. This is what a wall outlet and plug look like. I had done a little research before my trip and learned that South Africa uses M-type plugs. At the airport in New York, I tried to purchase an adapter but was told my “universal” adapter would work. It didn’t. So on my shopping excursion the first day I made sure to find one at a convenience store.

This was breakfast every morning: mango juice, yogurt with strawberries, a hard-boiled egg, and a wheaty roll. I had bought a small jar of Marmite to wet the roll, figuring it was an authentic local food. Spreading it before I tasted it was, as a friend would say, a poor life choice. What a vile, wretched, smelly “food” product! It was so gross that I had to scrape it off the roll in the picture and dunk the bread in the yogurt the other mornings. I don’t know how anybody can stand the stuff. I left the jar in the cupboard, hoping the cleaning lady would want it. Blech!

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