One thing that really stands out for me in this country, is that there is a sense of community. And it was very apparent to me last night.

Biff has lived on this street for about eight years now. On the day he moved in, I was here and a neighbor called Angie showed up at the door with flowers. I didn't remember that but Biff did, and when we saw her the other day when we were taking the dogs for a walk, she stopped in her car and invited us over for drinks.

So yesterday evening we went next door. (I took one of the pineapples we had bought from the roadside stand the precious day.) Two other neighbor couples showed up as well, and Angie had lovely snacks and the wine and beer flowed. Everyone made me feel so at home and comfortable. There were no airs or pretenses, just honest, down to earth people. But what really struck me is that everyone there looked out for the others on the street, without any expectations. Angie was hilarious with her stories of goings on. I felt like I was in a soap opera and we even came up with a name for it - 20 Leslie Rd, Angies house. But all the joking and carrying on was in such good humor. I can't remember when I was in a situation like that - it is a completely different mind set and something that is sorely lacking in the States.

I must say that I feel that the mood and tempo of South Africa has changed - and for the better. When I was here five years ago, it felt as if everyone was on edge and there was fear in the air. Now, it doesn't feel that way at all. I have had nothing but good experiences with the locals who before seemed to carry a real chip on their shoulders. Of course, a lot of the problems have not disappeared; houses are still alarmed and robbed anyway; cars must always be locked and you have to always be aware of where you are. And, like any other country, there are places where you just do not go. But overall, it feels good.

Prices have risen a lot, but it is still about half what it costs in the States. Some things, like cars and computers and TVs cost the same, but the basics like housing and food are substantially less. For the middle class, salaries are rising and for the corrupt upper echelons, their income has gone through the roof regardless of any standards. For the poor people, times are getting tougher as food prices rise but there is an investigation now into why the prices are escalating and there is a feeling (probably a knowing) that someone somewhere is raking in a lot of money.

Every country has its issues. It's a matter of weighing them against the good that is out there and focusing on that, instead of always looking to what is not "right," and then getting on with life.