Since moving to South Africa we've been catching up on old blog posts and haven't really been posting about what life is like here. We'll try to remedy that in the next couple of days giving you a glimpse of what we have experienced here.
Brief Travel Update
We set out initially on a 9 month adventure with a bunch of questions, like: Can we cut it? Can travel-as-a-lifestyle work for our family? Can we afford to travel? And many others. Once we arrived in South East Asia (Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia, and Malaysia) we discovered that SE Asia was not the place for us, primarily due to the year round heat. We knew we loved South Africa from our 6 months here in 2004, and so we extended our planned 3 weeks to 3 months in South Africa, and shortened our time in SE Asia from 9 months to 3 months. But in the end that left us with 3 months (part of Sept, Oct, Nov and part of Dec) before we return to the US for the Christmas holiday.
Sure we could stay in South Africa until December, but we're ready to move on. South Africa holds a very dear place in our hearts, but it is not home at this point in life primarily due to two issues, Internet and Safety. The cost of transporting a car is reasonable too.
So we've decided to try a couple places in Europe: Sofia, Bulgaria and Lisbon, Portugal. Both claim to have good internet, mediterranean climates and a cheaper cost of living. We fly out of Johannesburg on September 10 and land in Sofia Sept 11.
Life in South Africa
We're living much like we would in the US. We have a minivan (rental) a stand alone house, a great church, and a creche where we have enjoyed volunteering weekly. Except for a couple major exceptions life is very similar to some places in the US.
There's of course the cultural differences, like South Africans drive on the left side of the road, eat a lot of biltong, and call trucks Bakki (pickup) and Lorry (semi truck). Most of this is British and a little Dutch influence. Very few people we meet don't speak English, in fact it's rare for the kids to have heard Xhosa (pronounced KOH-sa) - except for when we're in the townships, and even more rare for them to have heard Afrikaans - except for when we were away from the Cape Town area.
Even the price of goods is very similar. We experienced going to different thrift stores cape town for our thrifting experience. We found life here to be more expensive than it was the last time we were in South Africa. So while it's cheaper than LA, it's much more expensive than in SE Asia.
The Major Differences
Racism exists in the US, but 0utside the US, it's very very different. Here in South Africa, it's just as much about race as about finances. Granted, there are much more blacks who are terribly poor here, but in general there are all races in all financial positions. The issue is the financial gap. Many many many people here cannot afford to buy a pair of socks, or perhaps even food for the day. There are also more Ferraris, Bugattis, Aston Martins, and other incredible cars racing the streets. BMWs, Porsches and Mercedes are common place. We live 10 minutes away from Clifton where Hollywood stars vacation in multi million dollar homes with their own glass elevators and more luxury than I can even imagine.
Yet, a 10 minute drive in the other direction brings you to a settlement/township/squatters camp where hundreds of people do not own property and live on less than $5 a day. (That's less than $1,800 a year... think about how long it takes you to spend $1,800, one month's mortgage and utilities?).
The disparity between the 'haves' and the 'have nots' is constantly in your face. There isn't even a day that passes without rubbing shoulders with some of both parties.
In the US these two parties are rarely mixed together. Rarely seen passing each other on the street or riding in the same elevator. It is commonplace here. If your heart hurts for this disparity then you find yourself in constant pain.
Everywhere we go in this world we watch over our kids as best we can. Shoot, when we lived in the woods in Newaygo we had a tough time letting them play out of sight. And we knew each of the neighbors! While traveling the world we pay closer attention to them. But here in South Africa our senses have to be heightened for their (and our) safety.
We've not (yet) had anything stolen, been mugged or robbed, or car/hi-jacked. But these are all too common occurrences in South Africa. We've been here before and we knew about the safety issues, but we through by now things would be better. Again nothing has happened to us, but the constant looking over the shoulder, and the heightened awareness grows old fast especially when you want your kids to have fun and play and not have to be concerned.
A common thread through all of our journey's have been internet woes and joys. Here in South Africa the internet can be okay as far as speeds go, however it is expensive. The cafes offer free wifi, but with limits of 200 megabytes, and then they charge per megabyte. Every service is capped, and billed per megabyte. So in the two months we've been here we've consumed or uploaded 200GB of data (so far) and that has cost us close to $2,000.
And the stability is weak, some days I can run speeds of 7Mbps, and later in the day I cannot even get the google homepage to load.
South Africa has so many positives, but until they fix the internet access issues (stability and charging per megabyte) they will not be a home for location independent entrepreneurs.
Our Place in Camps Bay
Camps Bay is an incredible place to live, just over the hill from the center of the Cape Town, it has a gorgeous beach, and incredible views of the atlantic ocean (and whales in the wild!) We rented a place here for two months because we got an incredible off-season deal. Most often this place rents for a week for the price we paid for a month. Check the video below to see the walkthrough of where we've lived for the two months. We leave here on Sunday, and we believe we'll never have a view quite as beautiful as what we have here.