1. Mountains: Rugged mountains that extend right up to the coast. Everywhere I look in Cape Town or Hermanus, there are mountains, and I love them all. I love hiking in them, I love sitting and looking at them, I love just knowing they're there when it's too dark at night to see them. As much as I love the rolling green hills of Shenandoah, these craggy fynbos-covered mountains have a special place in my heart too. I decided this yesterday when I was standing at the top of Lion's Head in Cape Town enjoying the panoramic view of the city bowl, Table Bay, and the Atlantic coast beaches. Yeah, not a bad way to spend a Sunday afternoon.
2. Fun to pronounce words: Places around here have names like Rondebosch and Bloubergstrand and Hemel-en-Aarde that are just fun to say. They sort of roll off your tongue, and I feel super sophisticated every time I get to say one of these names. Also, South African English has incorporated some words from other languages that are really fun to use. Example: deurmekaar, from Afrikaans, means confused or messed up or crazy. Doesn't 'deurmekaar' sound much more confusing than 'confused'?
3. People: South Africans are a friendly bunch. Everywhere I go, as soon as people hear me talk and identify me as American, they want to know what I'm doing here and what I think of their country. South Africans mean it when they say 'welcome' and 'make yourself at home'. They always walk you out to your car at the end of the night, and they take like half an hour to say goodbye, simply because they like each others' company. This is true of every South African I've ever met, regardless of language or color or culture, and it's one of my favorite things about them.
4. Woolworths: Woolies is like South African Target, but even better. It's the grocery store with the freshest produce AND the department store with the cutest (and very reasonably priced!) clothes. Also, they sell really nice jeans for about $18 that happen to fit me great. A trip to Woolies is very dangerous to my bank account, and believe me when I say that my credit card will breathe a sigh of relief when Woolies is no longer in my life.
5. Fynbos: Move over, peonies. Proteas should be the flower of choice for stylish ladies of the Kate Spade toting/farmers market shopping/pencil skirt wearing variety. The national flower of South Africa is huge, comes in a variety of colors, and grows wild all over the place. Every fashionista should keep at least one giant vase of proteas in her house at all times.
6. The Southern Cross: My very favorite constellation, and you have to be in the Southern Hemisphere to see it.
7. Ginnea fowl: Ginnea fowl are everywhere here, running down the street in little lines, on the side of the highway, sitting in the front yard. Most of my South African friends think it's weird that I like ginnea fowl so much because they're basically a common pest, sort of like squirrels in the US. But they really are the most beautiful birds - jet black with tiny bright white spots, bright blue necks and a striking red throat. I think they're absolutely gorgeous and no one will convince me otherwise.
8. Funny accents: I've gotten so used to people saying 'ba-nawh-na' for banana and 'to-maahhh-to' for tomato that I've come to like it. Everyone sounds so classy!
9. Gas station attendants: South Africa, like New Jersey, has gas station attendants who pump your gas for you so you don't have to get out of the car. But unlike New Jersey, these attendants also check your oil and water level and tire pressure, and they clean your windshield. What now, Jersey?
10. Wine: I will miss paying $5 for a really good bottle of red wine (seriously... good wine really does cost $5!). I'll also miss drinking it out of Hananja's tin cups as we chop to-maahhhh-toes for a salad and chat about grown-up stuff.
OK now go buy a plane ticket and come see this place for yourself!