September 25th, 2003

Winnah! :)

obra wins the (unannounced) contest for fastest response to my posting. I think he had mail back to me within a minute and a half.

He also thought of something I hadn't...International SMS. And we've now demonstrated texting works fine from T-Mobile USA to VodaCom SA (South Africa).

Wheee! :)

South African Posted Sign #1.

(Alas, I did not have a camera handy for any of these posted signs. Next time, perhaps I'll have a phone with a camera.)

"No Firearms", with a drawing of a pistol and the standard red circle with a red line across it. This sign was part of a neat three-by-two array of other signs (no smoking, no pets, etc.) at the entry to a mall in the small city of Nelspruit.

These signs (without the symbol) are actually reasonably common, as are drop-off points for firearms on entry into various private areas. I don't have one with me so I don't know what the procedure is. Presumably it's like any other claim check arrangement.

I'm wondering if places like Texas have this. I don't think I've ever seen a firearms drop-off point in the States, although the standard Vermont boilerplate sign outside courthouses saying you can't bring in firearms implies that there must be something you can do with them. Then again, it being Vermont, you can probably just leave them in your unlocked car. (Okay, I exaggerate slightly, but not much.)

Thai posted sign #1.

Burger and drink with straw in red circle with diagonal line.

Not much to note except that it's on the BTS Skytrain cars, and that neither hamburgers nor cups with straws are native to Thai cuisine. However, I don't know if a plate of Pad Thai would be quite as intelligible.

South African Posted Sign #2.


On the off-ramp from the N3, northbound, for both the London Road exit for Alexandra (a township) and the next exit (Marlboro Road) for Sandton, the richest neighborhood in the northern suburbs of Johannesburg.

Even the Automobile Association map of Johannesburg has a note next to the exit for Alexandra warning drivers not to use this exit except for access to Alexandra. Apparently enough rich people took the exit (which is in fact a more direct route to Sandton) and got carjacked by armed poor people.

Alexandra is a township where the government is trying hard to turn the shacks into tract housing. You can see from the motorway that they really have built many, many little houses, complete with electricity.

South African Posted Sign #3

"Jobless rate at 31%."

(From a headline sign, posted on a telephone pole, for today's Business Update in the Johannesburg Star.)

(This is the strict definition of unemployment, btw. It does not include people no longer looking for work.)

Okay, back to food.

I haven't posted much about food lately. This posting is an attempt to balance things a bit.

So, a few days ago, back in Swaziland or something, I got a food craving. I get these fairly often, and various of my friends and lovers have found it comical. (At least, they tell me it's comical. Perhaps it's actually quite annoying.)

Anyway, I got a food craving, but it was clear that there was no way I was going to be able to satisfy this craving either in Swaziland, or in Mozambique, my next stop.

I wanted a jiandui. Or, as some Chinese call them, a zhimaqiu (sesame ball). This is a deep-fried pastry, kind of like a donut, made of rice flour, filled with bean paste and covered with sesame seeds.

Where there's a reasonably-sized Chinese community you can usually find a place that makes them. They go stale easily, though, so you can't really ship them. They have to be deep-fried locally, then sold that day.

I didn't think I'd be able to find them anywhere in Africa, really. I was kind of resigned to waiting until I got back to Thailand where I'd just be able to go into Chinatown and find them there.

Then I found out there was a Chinatown in Johannesburg. I drove by it and found it was just a few shops and restaurants on both sides of a single block in the suburb of Cyrildene, and a couple of small shopping malls in the nearby suburb of Bruma.

I stopped in at the shopping malls, which were rather lame, and contained no restaurants other than scary-looking takeaway places. So I drove over to Cyrildene.

I went into a couple of small grocery stors, looking to see if anyone was selling any pastries. Nothing.

I was about to lose heart and give up when I saw a very small pastry shop. Pretty much just an aisle, really. I went in. They had them! They were very small, bite-sized sesame balls, but they did have them. I got two, and a small egg custard tart, for R. 5.50 (about 77 cents).

Yay! They weren't bad, even if they were miniature.

I can't remember the name of the place but I'll post the street when I get a chance to look at a map. If you get to that street you can't really miss it.

There's lots of private security guarding the street, and so the restaurants look safe to eat at even at night.

Derrick Avenue, in Cyrildene...

is where a new Chinatown has sprung up. (The old one, around Commissioner St., in the Central Business District, is too dangerous, and is losing business.)

The pastry shop is on the even side of the street, possibly around number 20 or so. The street is full of restaurants and groceries.