Things I miss from the United States

If I were writing about the people I miss from my move away from the United States, I would never stop writing.  The same is true of what I would say about the special properties of my home country.  Today, though, I would like to speak of just a few items and services that stand out in my mind as key absences in South Africa.  These are the things for which I feel the greatest ache:

National Public Radio
If you have left your car radio set to NPR for most of the time you’ve owned the car, you probably feel the same affection for it that I do.  I enjoyed the coverage of events around the world, the nonpartisan coverage of political debates, and the silliness of “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me,” and the sublime “This American Life.”  In South Africa, the South African Broadcasting Corporation is an agency of the national government.  SABC produces four television and nineteen radio stations to serve the public interest.  SAfm is one of its English-language radio stations, featuring programs that are something like what one might expect of NPR.  It’s not the same, though.  Sadly, it appears that SABC may reflect the attitudes of the ruling ANC party rather than playing a more nonpartisan role.
When I want to buy a power adapter for an obscure electronic gadget, I am accustomed to surfing over to eBay to find thirteen people in the United States who are selling just such an item.  Shipping to South Africa, however, prevents purchasing from eBay from being financially viable.  Having acquired a replacement battery for my laptop during a recent visit, I was sad to discover upon returning to Cape Town that it cannot be charged.  Returning it to the vendor now that I’m at the bottom of the world is out of the question.  Here in South Africa, I can use Gumtree, but it’s more similar to CraigList than to eBay.
NewEgg and Amazon
I can hardly count the number of items I purchased from NewEgg and Amazon over the years.  NewEgg is an ultra-responsive service for the purchase of computer equipment, and I think Amazon is already known to people all over the world.  While the United Kingdom variant of Amazon will ship some items to South Africa, one can expect a heavy surcharge from shipping.  Alternately, one can use a reshipper service, much as one can purchase IKEA furniture in cities that do not yet have a local franchise.
Saltine crackers
I must admit that this one blind-sided me.  From time to time I crave the crunch and salt of a saltine cracker.  I have assumed that any grocery in the world would stock a box with four long stacks of these crackers.  Sadly, I am mistaken.  Perhaps I have looked in the wrong places.  Instead, I have begun adjusting to Provita MultiGrain Crispbread.  They’re very nice crackers, arguably a much finer product than a basic saltine, but they seem more at home in a hummus dip than dropped into soup.
Large bags of potato chips
To continue on this theme, I struggle with the size of potato and corn chip bags.  If I purchase a “party size” bag of Lay’s potato chips at Walmart, I expect something like sixteen ounces of yum to greet me when I open the bag.  By contrast, the largest bags of potato chips I find in South Africa are generally 125 grams, or only 4.5 ounces!  I know that Americans have a reputation for being overweight.  Perhaps my expectations about junk food allotments explain one part of that reputation!

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