Part 1 – The Overture – Africa Gonna Africa
Arriving into Cape Town International Airport approximately 8 weeks ago, as we stepped off the plane after over 30 hours of travel, a sleep-deprived Lincoln stared around in utter confusion at the sight before his eyes. For months we had been talking about our “move to Africa,” and for months he had been envisioning what life would be like in this strange, distant land. A place only experienced up to this point, on episodes of Planet Earth and the non-Scar-filled scenes of The Lion King (cause let’s be honest, Brave Lincoln can only be so brave). However, as he gazed upon the meticulously clean terminal, full of coffee shops, upscale clothing stores and the oh-so-terrifying moving walkway, all he could utter was “but, when are we going to Africa?” Because to Lincoln, and probably most of those who share a similar vision, Africa was not the depiction currently in front of his very own eyes.
Instead, Africa was an endless continent of grass-filled plains and thatch-roofed mud huts, with zebras, elephants & giraffes wandering along dusty dirt roads, past spear-carrying tribesmen looking for shade beneath a nearby Baobab tree. Africa was Zamunda. Or Nibia. Or Birani. Any of the fictional representations that have come to shape “reality” for so many on what life is like on this expansive continent. A reality, that in reality, is surprisingly closer to that of Wakanda, then its more stereotypical predecessors.
Because, while there are undoubtedly regions of Africa that fulfill the stereotypes of their Hollywood-inspired films, there are also regions that, despite being located in “developing” nations, are surprisingly, quite developed. In almost every country on this continent, you will find joggers & stroller-pushing parents, walking past cafes, restaurants & bars that line the asphalt paved streets. BMW’s and Mercedes will drive by advertisements for high-speed internet, 5G cell phones and 4K TVs. And most strikingly, you will find buildings towering above the horizon, shimmering with glass.
These modernistic enclaves of society feel nothing like what many would expect to find in a developing Third World nation. Instead, they feel, well, they feel developed. Innovative. “Just like home.” Sure the demographics of the population are starkly different (i.e. a significant drop in the MAGA-hat-wearing sector), but everything else is essentially a CTRL-C / CTRL-V from any city in the First World. Hell, there’s even a Zara store in the mall.
And as you browse that Zara store, thinking, “I literally have never been in one of these in my life,” the striking realization that you are in Africa comes crashing back down to Earth. Because as you attempt to figure out what Zara stores actually sell (I’m pretty sure only 19 people on this planet truly know, and 18 of them work at Zara), you soon realize you are surrounded in darkness (not metaphorical, actual). The reason being, the electricity feeding the entire city, just went down. At 2PM. On a Tuesday. And the only person that seems actually surprised by this, is you. Because, at the end of the day, no matter how much "progress" is made in slowly closing that gap between First and Third World, there is always one constant factor that overshadows life here - Africa gonna Africa.
FREE HISTORY LESSON – The original meaning of the term “Third World” was actually based on a designation assigned to nations during the Cold War, based on their support for some good old-fashioned Communism:
With the collapse of the Soviet Union in the 1980s came the non-surprising disappearance of the Second World term, with the remaining First and Third World terms re-designated to now represent overall economic status. Thus, countries with lots of dirt roads became Third World again. And countries with American Idol-esque contests became (or remained) First World.
Part 2 – The Opus – A Solution to Africa-ness
In 1998, a council of experts came together in South Africa and declared that by 2007, the country would not have enough electrical reserve to support itself. Due to the rising population and growing economy, they warned that any excess electrical reserves would be all but depleted within a decade. The message was loud and quite clear. And thus, the government of South Africa did as most governments would do when confronted with such a dire prediction of the future (cough climate change cough) – A whole lot of nothing. Fast forward 23 years later, and South Africa is now 14 years into what has been officially deemed by Wikipedia – The South Africa Energy Crisis.
Despite countless promises to rectify the situation, South Africa has only managed to build ONE fully-functional power plant since this time. And although two other plants are currently “in the works,” they have been wrought with countless claims of fraud & corruption, due primarily to the fact that some dude named Cousin Stan, who knows nothing about building, keeps getting all the building contracts. To make matters worse, the already-existing power plants that have been struggling to support the growing population, are now themselves nearing the end of their lifespan. Thus, thanks to the reduction in supply, an inevitable increase in prices, and of course no foreseeable relief in the future, came the invention that is now every South African’s favorite water cooler topic – Load Shedding.
Officially implemented in 2007 to prevent the electrical grid from collapsing, the notion is simple – To save power, we turn off the power (queue Ted Cruz flight to Mexico). With 5 phases of “severity,” each representing a different % of your day spent staring at the wall in boredom, South Africa is now onto it’s 5th round of load shedding. Which conveniently enough for us, started back up again last Thursday. Thankfully though, due to a very solid learning-curve, the system of Load Shedding has become extremely efficient. To the point where there are custom websites and even an iStore app dedicated to informing residents of various neighborhoods of their impending flirtation with boredom.
With the power cuts occurring at all different times of the day, the loss of power isn’t a substantial issue when it occurs during daylight hours, as Cape Town is flush with outdoorsy activities to occupy one’s powerless hours. However, at night, a whole new can of worms comes out, especially for those of us with smaller version of ourselves attempting to sleep. Here is a look at a nice Tuesday evening for the Soskolne family:
And that ladies and gents, is Load Shedding. A slightly-overworded versing of one of the many inconveniences that come with life here in Africa.
Onto the pics (mostly stolen from Google images):
PRIOR BLOG POSTS:
Year Abroad Intro:
• Welcome to our Newest Blog! Again!
• The Move - Dissected, Probed and Then Probed Some More
• The Voyage (Part 1) - If At First You Don't Succeed, Trying Again Won't Work Either
• The Voyage (Part 2) - The Layover to Rule All Other Layovers
• A Personal Life Update - Establishing Our Shallow Roots
A Guide to South Africa:
• How to be an Expat When You Aren't Technically an Expat
(Part 1 - Bank Accounts)
• How to be an Expat, When You Aren't Technically an Expat (Part 2 - Health Insurance)
• Load Shedding - Keeping the Lights Off in South Africa Since 2007
• 195 Ways to Fight a Pandemic - The South Africa Edition
• Halloween in South Africa - Playing Catch-Up Since 2016
• SnapScan - South Africa's Glimpse into America's Future
• Thanksgiving in South Africa - Where My Turkeys Be At?
• Life at the Epicenter of Omicron - A Different Type of Cancel Culture
• Playgrounds - The Starbucks of South Africa
• Cost of Living in South Africa - An Exploratory Journey of Everyday Expenses
• Namibia Roadtrip (1 of 3) - Driving a Shake Weight to Sossusvlei
• Namibia Roadtrip (2 of 3) - Searching for Souls in Swakopmund
• Namibia Roadtrip (3 of 3) - Getting our Safari on at Etosha National Park
• Weekend Getaway in Robertson - A Trip Down Pleasantville Lane
• Summer Holiday Trip (1 of 3) - Glamping Without the Glam in the Drakensberg Mountains
• Summer Holiday Trip (2 of 3) - The Historical Chronicles of Kruger National Park
• Summer Holiday Trip (3 of 3) - Searching for Whales and Spare Tires in the Overberg
• Visitors Round 1 - The Woodmans - An Expedited Exploration of Everything
• The Great Wildebeest Migration - 15 Years of Waiting Decided in 15 Minutes
• Ngorongoro Crater - A Pre-Migration Layover Inside an Inverted Volcano
• Ndutu - The Safari to Rule All Other Safaris
• Serengeti National Park - Seeking Out Simba at an Abandoned Pride Rock
• Zanzibar - The Island of Sugar, Spice and Most Things Nice
• Visitors Round 2 - Let's Ignore Our Sanity & Do All The Things
• Wild Coast - A Little Tatse of the O.G. South Africa
• Spring Break in September - Just as Strange as it Sounds
• A Day in the Life of a South African Expat - The Visual Edition
• A Wrinkle in Our Spare Time
• Our Final Week in South Africa - A Bittersweet Symphony of Bucket Lists
The Other Stuff:
• This is 40: The South Africa Version