Tuesday, January 31, 2012

I Can Do Without Internet, A Car, TV, or local Friends, but Not All at Once.

This is the conclusion I've reached after about two months in Cape Town. All to say, we'd love phone calls, Skype conversations (once we have internet), letters, emails. We really appreciated the Christmas e-mails and cards in a special way this year.

We've been largely without internet except for sending and receiving email, because Telkom, the monopoly phone line provider, is, well, a monopoly. Lack of television and car are by our own choice, but our ability to get beautiful places is seriously curtailed, and I feel dependent on the kindness of others (my parents and siblings). I'm getting to the point where I feel too pregnant to bike, particularly with Noah in the back, which makes the prospect of the coming year (with a non-biking newborn) seem even more isolating.

Telkom is hopefully coming this Thursday, meaning we may have internet as soon as Friday. We'll see how we feel with internet, and based on that decide whether to find a way to get a car. A friend prayed for appropriate transportation for us, which suddenly made me want to pray for supernatural provision. Which is not an underhanded attempt to get you to give us a car but rather just to say, asking God for provision helped me look at our problem in a new way. I felt quite passionately that we should go without a car, and so I need a similarly passionate sense that yes, for now, a car is a good idea.

In the meantime, not having a car helps me to see my neighborhood differently. It's much harder to see run-down and trash-filled streets when it's hard to get away from them (they seem earthy and interesting when you're just driving by). I walk down the street- 100 year-old semi-detached houses on either side of me, and a crystal-clear view of Devil's Peak and Table Mountain in front of me, and the fact that there's a strong community doesn't make the trash and broken glass and trashed cars and people asking for money any less alienating. Rather than being diverse, the neighborhood is divided by blocks. Our block is largely white and some coloured (our unfortunate word for mixed race), but a few houses down begins a totally coloured Muslim neighborhood, and a few blocks beyond that, a largely black South African and Congolese area. I walk around a lot, which seems to help me imagining the transition between communities not being so awkward.

Thanks for your prayers for us, and for your support in other ways. I think we're hugely blessed to be here, and I'm still dreaming big, even if the dreams take more than my lifetime.


CB said...

Not having a car is hard! I've refused to get one on principle as well and have mostly loved it and been happy with the decision and how it changes the way I live in the city....but as I get more pregnant, I do admit it's also less practical in a range of ways. In addition to a cooperative bank, perhaps we should look at starting a South Africa branch of zipcar! No car and no internet seems very isolating...but that doesn't mean people are thinking of you any less often :)

Concrete Gardener said...

More pregnant??? Congratulations!

Yes to zipcar, although the amount of trust involved with zipcar seems more logistically challenging here. Do you have any business people friends who would consider such a thing?

Linda said...

Would recommend the car, even if they are big petrol eaters/environment polluters. It's just very hard to get around SA without one, unless you're happy to take Taxis.

Cheapest option would be a car auction/market, not sure what you have in Cape Town, but if you go this route take a car expert with to check out the more important stuff. Oh, and obviously make sure the licence is valid and the car isn't stolen.... Unfortunate but true..

Easiest and safest option, but more expensive, is a 2nd hand car dealership. They'll also sort out the motor loan for you if you need one.

CB said...

Hmm....let me think of business people friends. Nobody comes to mind offhand, but surely someone must know someone....It might be a longer term solution; in the meantime, taxis really are great :)

And yes, one of these days I'd love to compare notes about navigating south african prenatal care...what a learning curve I'm on!

Concrete Gardener said...

aaah taxis. I was fine with minibus taxis (though I wouldn't call them fantastic) but again, once Noah was in the picture I didn't feel like that was a viable option for us. And with a newborn, definitely not. I think they're fairly safe for shorter distances for adults, but I don't feel super-safe on freeways, most of the time. After so many years in the U.S. as a public health person, I'm also really indoctrinated as far as car seats go (though I don't subscribe to some of the car seat age stuff), so once you add toddlers, or worse, and infant, they're an absolute no-go.

Caitlin, you'll have to tell me about your prenatal experiences so far (and what kind of care you're going with). I'm with a midwife, with a government hospital as backup in emergency. Which I am happy with for a second child, but I may not have done for a first.

Sarah P-J said...

Hi Jo - just a thought. I've seen a lot of your posts complaining about Telkom's monopoly. Have you tried Neotel? It's substantially cheaper than Telkom. I have a prepaid Neotel phone that cost R300, and R100 credit lasts me almost 2 months, and I do quite a lot of local phoning (it's 7c per minute).
Also, instead of expensive Telkom internet, have you considered getting a relatively cheap 3g dongle? Again, I operate off one of these for all my home needs and the total cost of almost unlimited internet and phone calls is minute compared to what Telkom would charge for the same thing.
And the best thing: it's all instant. You literally buy your phone and it works.
Just a thought - but I don't think it's fair to say that Telkom still has a monopoly here as there are definitely far more options than there were a few years ago...

Concrete Gardener said...

Sarah- There are no options if you're operating a business, as Eug is. The cost of internet using a 3G mobile connection is prohibitive if you're transferring large files over the internet.

We looked into Neotel, but again, the ONLY way to get unlimited internet is to start with Telkom, at least for line activation, which is what has taken over a month. Neotel is great if you're a moderate internet user. We're using MWEB for actual internet service, but we had to go through Telkom to start with.

ems said...

Hi Jo

We love not having a car (I know, it's not SA and we do have our zipcar equivalent here, how else we would manage I do not know). We regret not having a car (and a cell phone and a TV) for about 3 minutes a year, ok maybe a little more in icy wintertime. However, we need to go on some substantial road trips and for the first time ever, renting a car for that long doesn't make as much economic sense as buying one. So we're buying one (used but dependable and with good resale potential). And then we're going to flip it as soon as we're done with it.

Also, I tried sooo hard in NZ to bike with wee man in the bike trailer when he was tiny. Apparently it is possible to do safely (maybe?) but it requires the purchase of some obscenely expensive touring bike trailer with all the bells and whistles. But even then I worried about the exhaust which a cycling friend insisted was no different than inside a car (I'm not so sure). I even tried rigging up the car seat in the bike trailer.. Total disaster, I found myself perched on the side of the road with both of us crying. You really, truly do have to wait for almost a year before you can safely ride a bike with a baby. Maybe maybe a Cristiana bike would work but I have my doubts.

So, I guess what I'm suggesting is: while wee blob is very wee, would it be so bad to buy a car that you are committed to ditching as soon as it's not uber-inconvenient to do so? I hate being a sell-out!

Concrete Gardener said...

Thanks for your comments Em- they came at a moment that we were again without internet, so finding them was super encouraging! I think I'm with you on your strategy around cars.

Our thought is that we'll get a car for as long as we're settling our house up and have a tiny blob, and perhaps evaluate our need every year or so? It's hard to change course, but it makes me feel safe in the changes we make (that we stick with things only as long as they feel right, and we're not tied to a miserable existence) so I think it works.

ems said...

And just imagine how different the world would be if EVERYONE used a car ONLY when they absolutely had the need - NEEEEED, not want.