One of the different things about South Africa that Peace Corps Volunteers experience almost immediately when they arrive at site is what I call the “this side, that side” phenomenon. In the South African parlance, the phrase “this side” is used as a relative geographic location meaning where you are at the present moment. “That side” can mean anywhere except where you are at the moment. Let me use an example. If you live in say, Seattle, and a friend comes to visit from Philadelphia, instead of asking your friend “how are things in Philly?” a South African may say “how are things that side?” The tricky part is realizing that “this side, that side” doesn’t just apply to large geographical distances. The following scenario could also apply: Say you are in your family room watching a baseball game. Your friend gets up to use the bathroom and walks past the kitchen to get to the bathroom. You could say “Hey, can you please get me a beer from the fridge while you’re over that side?” I’ve had friends here who after returning from a vacation in Durban or Cape Town have been asked by people in their village “how are things that side?” When the PCV starts to describe his or her experiences in Durban or Cape Town they are met with confusion followed by the question “so you didn’t go home to visit America?” So you see, “that side” can mean across the house, across the country or even across the world.
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