What are those minor objects that are accessories to the passing moments in life? They don't stand out in memory because they serve a purpose to a higher need - you don't remember the light switch but you remember the light; you don't remember the faucet but you remember the water. Yet the fleeting seconds it takes to employ these fixtures constitute hours, or even days, over a lifetime.
Coming back to South Africa I am reminded of what life was like here in ways both grand and mundane. Even the smallest of fixtures is a fixture of life. The country has transformed since I lived here but it is reassuring to see that some reference points are fixed in time. Even the faucets are unchanged from those I used in the bath 30 years ago in Zimbabwe.
South Africa is a land of stark contrasts: the old and the new, wealth and poverty, steaming coasts and frigid mountains, creation and destruction. In order to see a difference you need a point of comparison. Electrical outlets are not useful for measuring change across a society, but they are so small and ubiquitous that they are a constant factor across the country and through time. Now instead of powering our small, black & white television they feed sleek, shiny hi-def screens broadcasting Champions League football via satellite. But not when the electrical grid shuts down from power shedding. In the small you can sometimes see the large.