1. Television commercials. I had forgotten how thoroughly American commercials have been sanitized to reflect the dominant cultural mores. South Africa has the occasional quite interesting commercial (see above), but more often they're just bizarre, which is still a fairly effective way of catching your attention. American commercials are, on the other hand, simultaneously bland and irritating.
2. Public transport. Out here in Colorado I have to drive everywhere. As I've said before, the South African public transport system might be a bit uncomfortable at times, but it is still remarkable in its reach, cost, and speed. Even a town the size of Cortez would have taxis leaving in several different directions at least once per day back in Mzansi.
3. Dynamic governance. Clearly America has a bit less overt corruption (though South Africa has far superior financial regulatory bodies). But coming home I can't escape the feeling of creeping political decay. When I went to the airport to catch my flight home, I caught the newly-opened Gautrain. Putting aside the question of its value as a project, it was clearly quite the achievement: clean, fast, efficient, and cheap. That, combined with the monumental feat of logistics accomplished during the 2010 World Cup, make for a country that, despite its many flaws and relative poverty, is clearly capable of vigorous action.
Meanwhile, in the mightiest empire the world has ever known, where real borrowing costs are actually negative (meaning people are paying the government to take their money), we're arguing about whether to save our largest city from a hurricane. It's infuriating, but also just completely pathetic. This is not how a great nation behaves.