South Africa is beautiful. It hurts. It’s nuts. It makes no sense. I’m in love.

Okay so, I’m at a light. A traffic light. A friend is pouring her heart out at a traffic light – in south Africa we call them robots but whatever. And two bakkies pull up. In South Africa we call them bakkies. You call them trucks.And this white ou jumps out of his car in the traffic while my friend is still talking, and the light goes green.

A parking lot with awesome graffitti. Soon-to-be yuppie flats for rich people of all races.

And so my brain goes into four wheel drive to watch this weird miracle in which he gets a rugby ball out of the back of the bakkie. And everybody’s hooting but he doesn’t care, because here in Africa, we have balls “this big”. As big as the situation requires. So he’s parking his car in the traffic. and there’s someone in the next lane who’s stopped too. He has the same car. That might be the only reason. Or he might just be curious. Or it might be the same reason I jay-walk and love it, cause that’s how we roll in South Africa. Shortest route. Most dangerous? What’s the diffs, bro.

The architct of those "tampon towers" killed himself. I nearly rented there. They do mostly suck, specially when the Cape South Easter blows. They literaly sway in the wind and it's strange.

So the one wit ou parks his car in the traffic and this other wit ou with the same car does the same while 300 people of various racial orientations (cause we’re fokken African, so fuck your “nationalities” shit) sit on their hooters or jump the red light to compensate for the delay caused.

Cause that’s our right. Right?

And the wit ou – fat and nothing whatsoever – jumps out of the car and gives the Big Issue vendor guy a rugby ball with stuff written all over it.

A cop car drives past, ignoring it all.

My friend is still talking and I’m still hearing her. We pull off and I look back and I see the Big Issue vendor spinning the ball int the air, the female fellow-vendor asking him questions.

And then the Bakkie Wit Ou explains it to the other bakkie wit ou. And then the Big Issue Guy walks down the pavement as we pull off, tossing the ball in the air while talking to the Mama long after the car moved on. The ball had stuff written on it. I saw signatures spinning.

South Africans are not polite. They are not appropriate. We don’t have time for that shit. What we have to do is too important. But on the streets i’ve experienced such kindness. Like this begger, who came up to me. Unlike American beggers, he was my begger. His life was shit to start with. Anyone who made it to government rehab had better options than him to start with and I was on my way into a liquor store.

“You okay, madam?”
I resisted the urge to tell him to not call me madam. Such suburban vanity.
I wasn’t okay.
“Bad night. I see.”
Okay he’s half the reason for my sadness right there.
So I gave him some money.

My friend pointed out he was just gonna spend it on booze. But I just spent 20 times that on better booze. And I’ve more than once bought a random stranger a tequila in a bar on the basis of a lesser understanding.

In the end, being in a home is the best – the only – thing you want. I guess I’ve realised I have to go home to America, since that is home for a few years, and fight harder for my soul, which will always be here in South Africa. Not always in the big, glorious places, but in the small, glorious places, like the home where they’ve gone to bed, acknowledging that I’m still in another world, and left me online in it.

I love this piece of art, because I know who did it. I think still art is either a challenge, or a ... another kind of challenge. If it's good. I know all the art I've made so far has been comforting. Fitting in. I've done that too much. I respect his art on my friend's wall - her kid's - more than most I've seen. But this belongs to the person I know and is also greater than him. I'm scared of what will happen when I stop fitting in. And excited.

2 Responses to “South Africa is beautiful. It hurts. It’s nuts. It makes no sense. I’m in love.”

  1. Lorraine Hattingh-Spurgeon Says:

    Hi Jean. I am in love with South Africa, my spiritual home.
    I would like to share my latest book, “The Lottery Code” with you.
    It is available for free from
    And has been a phenomenal success so far with over 20,000 hits
    since the beginning of the year.
    I hope you find time to read, and that it makes you as happy as it
    makes me.

  2. Neelan Peters Says:

    Hey, Jean, I’ve been reading your articles on your blog for quite some time and I must say that I’m amazed at your use of humour and satire. I’m busy working on something at the moment and if you have some spare time, please add me as a friend on Facebook. There’s too many Jean Barker’s in this world and it’s extremely difficult to invite you on Facebook. It’s very important …and it could make history in South Africa.

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