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Global Quest For Local LETS
Copyright � James Taris

27. Marco's Smiley


But who's got the bigger smile?

Russell is probably the most organized guy in South Africa, or so they tell me. So it was quite amusing to see him 'losing it' when he was looking for Marco's African Place, a popular African restaurant in the city center of Cape Town.

He'd done everything right. Booked a table in advance (for 7pm). And left home early with 30 minutes to spare. But did he know where to find it?

"All of the African restaurants are on Long Street, so it'll be easy to find," was his reply. But after our second drive along Long Street (he was looking on the right and I was looking on the left), we still hadn't spotted it yet. And it was already 7pm! After the first drive along the street, he'd stopped to ring the restaurant (at least he'd kept the phone number) but the line was engaged. Finding the address in the phone directory wasn't possible either, because they were no longer kept in public phone boxes because they're a fire hazard. So now he was getting desperate.

Then Russell revealed that his blood-sugar level was starting to get low, and he really needed to eat something soon or else � (he didn't elaborate). If we didn't have some success soon, I could see myself driving for the first time in 10 weeks, since the beginning of my European LETS Speaking Tour. But at least they drove on the left hand side here.

"Let's stop and ask someone for directions," I suggested with a sense of urgency.

So we stopped at a restaurant. Of course they knew where Marco's was. But it wasn't in Long Street. Two minutes later we were there.

Parking is always a problem in Cape Town, but there was a FREE car park just outside the restaurant. Well, almost free. You see, we'd still have to pay the Car Guard.

The Car Guard is a self-appointed person who watches over all the vehicles in the car park so that they're not stolen or tampered with. And it's uncanny how often you have problems with your car when you don't pay the Car Guard. Something akin to trick-or-treat, I guess. So it's just smart to pay the small sum of 5 rand (about 80 Aussie cents) for the peace of mind.

A similar service can also be obtained from self-appointed Parking Assistants. Often, when parking your car in the street, you'll notice someone behind you signalling for you to keep reversing, to stop, to turn left, to turn right. All along knowing that you could fit a truck into the parking space you've found. But don't even think about not giving him his 2 rand for his efforts. Trick-or-treat!

But let's get back to the restaurant �

Marco's African Place is very popular. Zebra tablecloths adorned the tabletops and African waitresses, dressed in long black skirts and bold orange tops, tended to their patrons. And soon after we arrived it was filled to the brim. Later on there was a live band playing modern African music, beautifully sung by a young, very well endowed African woman accompanied by 2 contrastingly thin back-up singers/dancers.

It wasn't long before the dance floor was full. Even though the vast majority of patrons were coloureds, it was a pleasure to see both black and white mixing happily both at the tables and on the dance floor. Apartheid was definitely history here.

But the menu really caught my attention. First of all, thanks to the dismal exchange rate of the South African rand, main meals were only about AUD$4 each. So with an entr�e and a couple of bottles of beer (Lion Beer � how appropriate!), the total bill for both of us was a mere 209 rand (AUD$35).

And what did we eat? Russell had Ostrich Sausages for his entr�e. But the specialty of the night was reserved for me. One of the waitress had read out each of the chef's specials for the night, and described each one in detail, she stopped abruptly after mentioning the last item on the list. A 'smiley'.

"What's a smiley?" I asked Russell curiously.

"I think it's a sheep's head", he replied, almost apologetically.

"Half a sheep's head. You get half," the waitress clarified, so to avoid any confusion.

"Wow!" I responded. "My mum always cooked sheep heads for us when we were kids. But I've never seen it on a menu before."

So I had a smiley for dinner. :-)

This article is taken from the ebook,
Global Quest for Local LETS

About the book


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