I recently posted the following picture on my Facebook page, because I thought it was funny:
But then the post took on a life of its own. A South African living abroad took issue, thinking it might not even be from South Africa (which I admit may very well be true!) and made South Africa look bad. In response, many of my readers chimed in with their own views on such humor and whether it is demeaning or not. Most agreed that it helps, rather than hurts, to share humorous facts about a country, whether they are all that accurate or not. I for one like to draw in people with funny pictures on my Facebook page, in hopes that they then are encouraged to read the more serious stuff I've written about South Africa over the years.
More importantly, many readers chimed in with their own anecdotes, some of them involving undergarments, and some not.
One reader, an American currently living in South Africa, reported buying a newspaper just a few days before and her change being pulled out of a "Joburg bra," as she phrased it.
Another reader had spent long expat years in Mali and confessed to always keeping money in her bra. It was part of the cultural training, of sorts. She still finds it a very practical storage location when short of another place to put her cash.
Now I'm sure the sign above was probably not taking aim at bras, primarily, but OTHER undergarments. And I can see how somebody finally decided to put it up, if this was indeed a recurring issue at that store. But before we condemn people carrying stuff in their underwear, let's remember that some of these places are not sanitized Main Street USA but rather dangerous and ridden with pickpockets. Actually, those can be anywhere. When I was touring the Louvre last summer with my kids - apparently a haven for pickpockets - I confess I temporarily shoved my iPhone into an undergarment of mine while being pushed around in the throng of people wanting a glimpse of the Mona Lisa. And it was not my bra.
But lest you now accuse me of too much potty humor (guilty as charged!), here is a story that doesn't involve any undergarments at all.
One reader told me they had a handyman that worked for her family a few years back. One day, his car was stolen. Eventually after much drama he retrieved the stolen car but the tires were gone. Good employers that they were, they helped him replace the tires, after which he came up with an inventive new security system. It involved drilling a hole through his bedroom wall to the outside, and his plan was that each night he would tie one end of a string to the car parked outside, feed the string through the hole in the wall and tie the other end to his big toe. She says they worked hard to eventually talk him out of his plan and potentially losing a toe while he lay sleeping, and that thankfully to this day he still has his car AND his big toe.
With that I'll now leave you to contemplate your own stories of life in Africa or beyond. Do you have any to share? We'd love to hear them!