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Pretoria Wisdom
by Jonas Persson

Our two weeks in Pretoria has thought us many new things: how to tell time in South Africa, the main ingredience of Lichtenburg-coffee, how chicken feet taste, and how to ride a mini-taxi after dark.

As a Swede, I hold punctuality to be a virtue. If the local bus is scheduled to arrive at 11.23 A.M., the least you can expect is for the bus to arrive at 11.23 A.M. This is not how it works in South Africa. As far as I can tell, time here is something surreal- people have heard of it, but few really know what it means (I’ve had people tell me what time it is by first looking at their watch-less wrist and then clearly making something up). Another way of looking at it is that South Africans have a somewhat more “relaxed” time concept than the average Swede. This stress-free viewpoint has lead to certain additions to the South African language of time. The result is three ways of saying the word “now”. “I’ll see you just-now”, is equivalent to, “I’m going away for a while and I’m not sure I’ll be coming back at all today. See you later.” Instead, by saying now-now, you shorten the time you’ll be back till somewhere between 10-60 minutes. The only way to actually express that you want something to happen NOW is to say right-now, which still most likely includes a delay of at least 10 minutes. As a Swede I find myself with two options; I can either let this bother me to a degree of insanity, or I can try to adjust. I’m currently uncertain of which path I’m on.

Since Pretoria Zoo has two breeding centers in addition to the inner-city zoo, Katie and I decided to visit one of them, Potgietersrus, for a sleep-over. With us on our visit were the director of Pretoria Zoo, Willie Labuschagne, and some of his staff. I assume Katie is going to write something about the function of these breeding centers (she might already have ;), so I’ll just skip right to the evening events of what I would like to call “an evening in Katie-heaven”. It started with a night-drive spotting roan antelope and giraffe while discussing the politics of South Africa. In the middle of our drive, we halted to make a campfire and munch on some shish kebab under brightly shining stars. Sitting there, under the Southern Cross, Derrick Moodley, manger of projects, decided to pick Katie’s brain, and asked the fairly general question: “What do you think of Pretoria Zoo?” Katie was unstoppable! This is what I love and admire her for. For 30 minutes she had her audience enthralled in the world of zoo architecture. The discussion was wrapped up with Willie Labuschagne giving a fascinating summery of the past, present and future of Pretoria Zoo.

As the shish kebab had been a starter, our healthy appetite led us back to the house and a real South African braii (BBQ). The night was ended with story telling and Willie’s specialty: Lichtenburg-Coffee. I can’t tell for sure what is in the Lichtenburg-Coffee, but a close guess at the (secret?) recipe would be as follows. 2/3 whiskey, 2/3 coffee and a scoop of icecream. This math might not seem to add up, but as Sven, a family friend, always says: there is a way - use a bigger cup. Hence, the Lichtenburg-Coffee is served in really big cup... As Katie and I decided to be wise and share a cup, we apologized for being dry, and got the up-lifting reply that “no, no, there has been some really dull people in this place before you.”

To top off our visit in Pretoria, we have tasted chicken feet. Our new friend, Karabo, invited us to her home for some traditional African food. On the menu was chicken and pap (corn made into a firm porridge). What made this meal extra special, besides the wonderful company of Karabo and her family, was that we ate ALL of the chicken. The intestines tasted like liver. Hence, to someone who’s raised on liver pâté, they qualify as being quite delicious. The chicken feet was, however, somewhat more troublesome. Resembling a tiny hand with claws, I decided the best tactic was to close my eyes before I started bravely nibble a little on the top. Not without some pride, I looked at Katie daringly, and watched as she chomped off a toe and chewed on it. I quickly tried to think of a way to out-do her, but then decided to let her win- this one. The dinner as a whole was terrific and before we knew it, it had gotten dark out. Since Pretoria Zoo is located in central Pretoria, and Karabo lives in a township about 20 minutes away, we had to travel back in a mini-taxi, after dark. Mini-taxis take about 16 persons in a small van, and it is how most people get around, especially within the townships. Nevertheless, being white and not familiar with the system, it can be dangerous. After some hesitation we decided to trust Karabo’s judgment, and the fact that the driver agreed to drop us of right at the entrance to the zoo. Everything went fine, and the people in the taxi were helpful. Still, I wouldn’t recommend travels of this kind late at night.

To conclude, I would like to inform you as a reader that I’m currently in Kruger National Park waiting to go for a sunset safari. After Kruger, Katie and I are headed for Madagascar, of which I hope to tell you more about just-now.

Copyright © Jonas Persson 2005

Read by Andrew Hunt

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