California, day one

So I started my morning with coffee, here. It was almost 12 by the time I made it out of my motel. I kept getting woken by sirens last night. At some point, about 20 police cars swooped on someone in South Main Street – yes, I can count cop cars by ear, I’ve lived in Sea Point for two years. And American motels seem to be basically three-story prefabs. Every time someone closes their door, shags or showers, you hear it.


I dread explaining to Americans why this is weird, but ok... Kaffa sounds just like Kaffir, which is a word so rude in Africa, that it's worse than Nigger, because unlike with Nigger nobody even WANTS to take it back. And also unlike "Coloured" which is not actually at all rude in South Africa. Any more than Mexican is in the USA. There... done!


Anyhow, Kaffa’s coffee was good. Very good. Kaffa is actually the name of an Ethiopian kingdom, as it turns out.  When I arrived, someone behind the counter said “You studying at Chapman? Yeah? Oh, they all come here on the first day and ask for Wifi.”

Next stop: the cell phone shop. T-Mobile sorted me out. Damn, Americans in shops are polite, and kind, and helpful. I just want to spend all day buying stuff. Actually, I did. I was very tired of walking very early in the day.


pedestrian crossing

The pedestrian crossings in Orange work very well, but they are slow, and it's hot. I doubt California still has an ozone layer. Notice how someone has scratched the word "ouch" into this sign?


So I hired a car. I could have pretty much BOUGHT a cheap car for what that cost me. It started off as a good deal, but once they’d added tax, optional insurance, and compulsory insurance, I was gasping for breath. They tried to upgrade me nonetheless, to a car that “wasn’t so small”. Their small car, by the way, is a Hyundai Accent, which is bigger than the ones they sell in SA (they’ve never heard of the Atos, or anything with fewer than four doors). It’s actually pretty cool.


Yes, I am driving a car with California license plates.


So cool, in fact, that I went speeding off, and got completely lost. Then I got lost even more, looking for a mall where I could buy a GPS. By the time I found one by fluke, I was almost in LA. Well technically, I was in LA, but it wasn’t LA proper, just an outskirt with a BestBuy. I stopped and got one. More awesome service. I’m not saying South Africans aren’t friendly and helpful, but they don’t act like Americans. Here, everyone seems to believe that everything is better with sugar, and that includes taking your cash.


Is that Tom Cruise? No, but it looks a bit like him. It seems to be a common technique here to hire models who look like big stars for shoots. I keep thinking "Is that..." and then "No." A deal on offer at Bestbuy.


So, with my GPS to guide me and keep me company, I headed home. It’s amazing listening to American music IN America. It makes all the difference. You’ll know what I mean if you’ve ever driven across South Africa playing only South African. The first station I hit on was doing a 70s hour, and in it they included hilarious old ads from the time when the songs they played were charting. Some Neil Young, some Fleetwood Mac… and then I was home. Here’s a picture of my first sunset.


Home is where the DO NOT DISTURB sign is.



7 Responses to “California, day one”

  1. Rosiecheer Says:

    What’s with the stretch limo at the pedestrian crossing?

    • jeanbarker Says:

      khhaaa ha ha. That is a regular car. They’re all HUGE. Seriously, the “small” car I got on the cheapest rental rate is massive, too. I haven’t seen a single car like a hyundai atos – just don’t exist here.

  2. Tweets that mention California, day one « Jean Barker's Sign Language -- Says:

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Jean Barker, Jean Barker. Jean Barker said: Day One in California – as told in sign language. All the weirdness and wonderfulness. […]

  3. Sam Says:

    How controlling am I? I’m concerned about your finances. Even though you’ve always been a hundred times better at money than me.

    Gosh, Piglet. The Great Adventure has begun.

  4. ashlin Says:

    wow Jean! What an awesome adventure!

  5. jeanbarker Says:

    Don’t worry Sam… the thing about a new place is that if you’re settling, you can’t save money, really. You have to pay your schoolfees, and buy what you need. What I spend on the rental car I’ll save when buying one by being able to drive around and be picky when purchasing. And plus, I’m not drinking at the moment, so I can afford other stuff 🙂 At US bar prices that really means something (although tequila and hard tack is so cheap that all those movies about alkies finally make sense to me!)

  6. Hi. I’m The Beach, Huntington Beach « Jean Barker's Sign Language Says:

    […] If you liked this, you might enjoy my previous posts about my first few days in the USA. – Day 1: Kaffa coffee, Tom Cruise, Cats and Dogs. It’s all unfamiliar. – Day 2: Mexico – Just down the road from the Roach Motel – Day 3: Buena Park – […]

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