Saturday, October 31, 2009

Day 18 - Waxhaw

For a moment this morning, I could have sworn that I was back in Burkina. I was just finishing up my shower when, through the bathroom window, I heard a rooster crowing. However, we aren’t anywhere near Burkina. We’re in a semi-rural setting on the JAARS Center near Waxhaw, North Carolina. I thought my ears were playing tricks on me! But when I looked out the living room window of our one-bedroom guesthouse apartment (after getting dressed, of course), there were indeed some chickens foraging for food in the strip of woods behind the building.

A number of things have struck us on this trip through the States. One is that the “green” movement does not yet seem to have made as much of an in-road in the parts we’ve travelled through as we’re accustomed to in Canada. Incandescent bulbs are still the norm (which we’ve appreciated for their warmth as well as their light at times!) and recycling is more of a do-it-yourself-if-you-want-to affair. Recycling boxes are noticeably absent and throwing tins, aluminum cans, and plastic containers into the same receptacle as organic waste and paper in both public and private spaces has not been easy for us after several years of habitual separation. There are places to recycle some of these things, but it means getting in a car and delivering them to a place that usually requires you to spend more in gas than you’ll get back in refunds.

We’d forgotten how friendly service tends to be in the States. Kathy was impressed with this all over again when a friend took her shopping for a few supplies at a local grocery store. The friendliness of the lady at the checkout counter was in marked contrast to what we often encounter in Canada and especially in Burkina. Burkinab√® have the reputation (largely well-deserved) of being the friendliest people in all of West Africa, but this can quickly be changed by putting them behind a cash register or an office desk!

My pet peeve, however, is the new credit card security measures used at US gas stations. Gas theft and credit card fraud has succeeded in creating a level of inconvenience for non-US visitors at these places that has me wishing for the old days of full-service gas stations again. No longer can anyone just fill their tank and pay later. If you’re paying cash, it’s prepaid only, and involves a walk to the cash register and back, and taking a guess at how much gas you’ll need. Over-guessing means a second trip to the register for a partial refund. Under-guessing is okay, unless you have a rental car that needs to be returned with a full tank. It took me two trips to the register and back to make that happen.

Credit cards work too, but not for foreigners like us. Why? Because you have to enter your US address zip code for it to work. Not a US citizen with an address here? Sorry. Do not pass GO, do not collect $200. Go straight to the attendant on duty and prepay there. If you miscalculate and overpay, watch to make sure a partial refund shows up on your card statement.

I’m not sure what the best solution is here, but I’ve learned one thing: always pick the pump closest to the cash register. Unless you really need the workout :)

No comments: