Wednesday, March 26, 2008

To Pretoria and Back Again

Last weekend we had four days off due to the Easter holidays. Luckily for us, Botswana hasn't gotten to the stage of politically correctness for religious holidays to be renamed for seasons of the year, so we got a few days off of school and I got to take a nice trip with my friend Julia down to South Africa.

We chose Pretoria mainly because it was within a half-day's drive, contained many shopportunities, and was safer than Johannesburg. I am a bit embarrassed to report that we spent the majority of our time there in one huuuuge shopping complex called the "Menlyn Park Mall" where we had our hair cut, saw several movies in the cinema, ate at lovely restaurants, and shopped 'till we dropped. But as much as this seems counter to my normal mode of living, Botswana has changed me! I now appreciate the availability of clothing stores, music stores, decent cinemas, etc. And I am happy to report that my wardrobe is now replenished and no longer looks shabby and worn out. Since I really have worn my clothes into threads, it was about time for some new ones! Now the only problem is finding someone to help me hem a new pair of trousers (yes, I said trousers. You have to be careful here because 'pants' actually refers to underwear!).

We also hit a craft market on sunday morning, which was intended to be a brief stop on our way home. Unfortunately for us, we arrived back at the car after a lucrative circuit around the market to find the car battery completely and utterly lifeless. Now, normally this is no problem.... but Julia had only recently purchased the car (it's rather old, a '96 Corolla) and we discovered that there were no jumper cables in the spare tire. Well, what did we do? Of course, there were two or three oh-so-kind parking attendants who were only too willing to look at the engine and look speculative while telling us absolutely nothing.

One point for South Africans, though, is that two nice men stopped their cars/shopping trips to take a look at the car. The first man tried to be helpful and pulled off the lid of the fuse box to have a look--after which he said it wasn't our battery at all, but a burnt-out fuse. This may sound like good news, but on Easter Sunday there really isn't a prayer of finding a repair shop open in the whole of the country! So we trekked down to the petrol station on the corner to search out a few new fuses (with our fingers prayerfully crossed) only to find that they didn't have the right ones...which was the start of our next adventure with a South African who took a look at the engine/fuses/battery and declared that the fuses were fine and the battery's voltage was fine (he actually carried a toolbox with a voltmeter in his car!) but he couldn't speak for the current. So it was either the battery or some wiring problem (which you can imagine wouldn't get fixed on Easter Sunday). Hence our second trip down to the petrol station for jumper cables in the hope that the battery was only run down.

Our third adventure with nice South Africans involved another car who we stopped to ask for a jump. We maneuvered the car into range of the cables, connected the leads, and turned the key.... to find that the car was still completely dead! But to forestall panic (I already had the travel guide and my phone out to call the backpacker about further accommodation) the nice guys who owned the other car told us to just give it a minute. We waited, and waited, and turned the key again.... and bingo! The car starts up and we're off to Botswana without switching the car off for anything!

It's funny how we had such a great trip, yet the most memorable part will probably be that interesting hour where we were stuck in the parking lot with a dead battery. But sometimes it's situations like that where you really learn about a place's character! I'm not sure whether people would have been so friendly if not for the rather ridiculous image of us as two young blondes getting help from two rather shabby looking car-guards. I suppose that I will never know... unless I end up in that situation again, which I hope I don't!

1 comment:

Dad said...

Sounds like you should have bought the tiny white van. Time for a trip to Tlokweng Road Speedy Motors!