Thursday, November 11, 2010

Uncontrollable Rage

After more than a year here in South Africa, one would think that I had developed a tolerance for all of the little things that make life here what it is. Instead, I find myself growing less tolerant as time goes on. When the school staff breaks into song while I am grading papers in the library, I no longer consider it a cultural quirk. I am deeply annoyed by it. When men in the taxi rank decide that I must give them my phone number, I have no patience to smile and brush them off politely. Instead, I am all but quivering with rage. It takes very little to set me off. I called an Afrikaans friend, and when she answered the phone in Afrikaans, as I knew she would, it bothered me. Listening to people speak seTswana, a language in which nearly every word ends in a vowel, can drive me to the brink of insanity. My anger is baseless and aimless. There's no reason to explain it and certainly no appropriate outlet to express it.

This shamed me for a while. I felt guilty about being unable to enjoy some of South Africa's quirkier elements. It seemed like everyone else I knew had managed to make the adjustment and wasn't suffering bouts of fist-clenching anger in response to perfectly innocuous incidents. Alas, things are not always what they seem, and, as it turns out, I am not the only volunteer suffering from the effects of extreme frustration.

On my last trip to Pretoria, I met a friend. We hung out, did the usual things, got caught in a rainstorm, hopped a taxi... and a perfectly lovely day was nearly destroyed by our lack of tolerance for what we should have come to expect.

The taxi stopped so passengers could get out and switch to taxis more appropriate for their destination. We were headed to Bloed Street and it seemed as soon as we were directed to the Bloed Street taxi, it disappeared within the crowded, busy, muddy, rainy melee. Everyone was perfectly unhelpful. My friend and I were separated at one point. Some yelling ensued. All in all it was rather unpleasant, but instead of just letting it roll off our backs, our emotions ran a little high. We dubbed our feeling U.R., which stands for uncontrollable rage.

Hopefully this will subside soon. I think I just need a vacation.

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