Archive for the ‘South Africa’ Category

A New Beginning

January 14, 2016
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Fuck you, Santa, invention of the Coca-Cola company… And here’s why.

After everything that’s gone down – previous posts have more than enough detail for public life – I’m here in LA. I stayed. I found a place that I fell in love with, and a landlord that would trust a freelancer who hadn’t worked for a month, and just enough work to pay my rent, while I write, and dream, and pray that my space in this place opens up, soon.

dawn at my house

Nothing can describe the feeling of having a home again, after two months of depending on the kindness of my boyfriend (who thought he was shot of me) and my friends. I woke up at dawn to an unfamiliar sound on one of my first nights here, feeling full of gratitude and snapped this before I cuddled back up again to sleep more.

At first, it was bliss. And then there was Christmas. Like a monster from hell.

koreanchristmaslights

I thought I might never see these trees lit up in Koreatown again. But here they are. I survived another year in LA.

With Christmas came the agonizing sensation that I was supposed to be somewhere else. Something about holidays makes you long for unconditional love, and nothing else is enough, and so I missed my mother, and the plans we had for long swims in Cape Town’s cold, sharky, gorgeous seas, and the chance to see my friends’ new babies and growing children before it was too late, and everybody forgot about me.

I also began to hate my female form, and all the limitations it imposes. As my ex got remarried and began posting honeymoon and wedding photos on facebook for our former mutual friends to “like”, I drowned in self pity, imagining how, next, he would have the babies he took from me, with his new, younger, fertile bride. I would never have a family. I would be alone in this world, without that love, after my mother and father were dead.

The bitterness and neediness engulfed me.

whatdoyoumean

I was sure the answer to this question was “nothing”. I heard on the radio about how old Chinese people who have no families just starve to death. I thought, that’ll be me. I’ll be digging in the trash when I’m 75…

Christmasover

But then I survived Christmas, and New Year came and went, and finally, men from the government began to take down the signs and symbols of my social failure. The bells of joy began ringing again as everybody went back to work.

So, eventually, the holidays ended, and with it, my gloom lifted. Now, I work, and I feel like I’m whole again. I no longer lack what everybody else has. The doors of marriage and kids slamming in my face may be limitations, but they allow me to focus on my art, my writing, and on a last-minute future that means that even if I am left rotting somewhere when I’m 70, tens, hundreds and thousands and maybe even millions of people will have read, watched, or cried over a story I wrote or directed. At least, that’s my dream.

So, what do I mean, in this world? I don’t quite know.

Sure, what we really, really want to mean, is love. Unconditional love. Only this gives our lives meaning, really, and money and fame can’t compensate. We want love, love that would overcome its fears to claim or save us. But if that never comes my way, success of some other kind will have to get me through the night.

And it will get me through the night. So go ahead. Boast of your joy. Post all the engagements, wedding photos, baby pics, back to school pics and relationship status updates you like. One day, when you’re sitting opening Christmas gifts with your grandchildren, I’ll be alone in a hotel room, somewhere far, far away, answering fan mail and weeping with self pity.

But that will only last until about Jan 5th, and then I’ll be fine again.

 

 

Omens, visas and impossible life decisions

September 29, 2015

So, the world’s being weird to me. So weird it’s spooky.

Not quite the dream I had in mind.

Not quite the dream I had in mind.

Those who know me know I call myself an atheist. As in, I don’t believe in a godhead. The idea of a human figure running things is preposterous to me. Any spiritual force able to control and link all the world’s creatures is surely more ambiguous and more complicated than the dude in any of the books.

That doesn’t mean I don’t experience what other people call a spiritual life (I’ve seen a ghost), or enjoy religious rituals occasionally, particularly when it comes to the part where you eat and drink feel gratitude for the good things you have.

Being an atheist also doesn’t mean I don’t believe in forces beyond my control. Recently, I’ve been reminded that I have no choice but to do so, because I’ve felt like the world has been trying to tap me on the shoulder and tell me that I’m nobody. I’m nothing. I’m at the mercy of “It”, whatever “It” is.

I don’t know. I’m probably a pretty shitty atheist.

See, while I was trying to depart the USA for South Africa via the UK, first my sandles broke. Odd, timing wise, but no biggie. Then my other sandles broke, too. Then my car broke. But I found my way to the airport.

LAX Departures International

So close, and yet so very far.

Then, they didn’t let me on the plane because I lacked a UK transit visa. And then, just coincidentally, the UK visa site was down, so I couldn’t apply for a transit visa.

As a young twasa and soon to be sangoma who approached me uninvited in a bar once told me, you ignore messages from the spirit world at your peril. Two days ago, I decided to listen to what I think the world is saying. I was going to get a new apartment in Cali, and see how that went for a year or so. If I didn’t, I feared that the next thing “It” would do is break my legs to keep me here.

Of course, I didn’t get the apartment because they don’t take freelancers and I don’t have six months rent to advance the landlord – not after everything I’ve had to deal with recently. That’s the one landlord that replied to me at all. Most just let me twist in the wind.

So I’m back to nowheresville, limboing from day to day, wondering what the hell I’m supposed to do now. The world and people around me seem unreal, and I’m never sure where I’m waking up until I open my eyes and look around me.

this shit is bananas

This Shit is Bananas. No kidding.

lifes_full_of_bumps

Life’s full of bumps. Yes. And oddly, all the images on this post were snapped in the last 48 hours – as if some all powerful force feels the need to state the bleeding obvious every time I round a street corner.

I know things could be worse, so I’m trying to stay grateful, but I feel physically tired and heavy and very afraid right now.

I wrote about UK Visas and Human Kindness  (hint: they’re opposing forces) in my News24 column this week.

Assumption: Jou ma se poes se f*&kup

May 29, 2013

So apparently I stereotype Americans, even when I don’t mean to. In class today I was talking about minibus taxis. My professor said oh, “How many do they carry?” We have a couple at our disposal, apparently.

I replied “Well, about 16 plus people in South Africa and about 12 people in the USA.”

Taken during the world cup, 2010, which explains why there are so many SA flags. I miss the bumper stickers inside taxis. I miss taxis. I miss home...

“Certified to carry 16 passengers or less” But likely to carry more, and unlikely to contain any seat belts. Taken during the world cup, 2010, which explains why there are so many SA flags. I miss the bumper stickers inside taxis. I miss taxis. I miss home…

I had some trouble figuring out why she then went on about how huge South Africans were, because they’re “descended from the Dutch”, leading me to believe that she probably hung out mainly with white South Africans or in the Cape Flats while location scouting in SA.

“You’re generalizing about white South Africans for Dutch descent” I said. I find that a lot of Americans who went to scout the kind of films that were prepared to shoot in SA during Apartheid didn’t hang out with a lot of black people while they were around.

“Well,” a classmate piped up, “You’re generalizing about Americans.”

“Yeah, we’re not all fat.”

What?

It took me a second to figure it out, and explain that no, I mean that in SA we are less concerned about safety and we don’t sue each other all the time. So you can pack more people into a vehicle than you can in the USA. Anyone who thinks South African taxi customers are thin has never ridden with 18 mamas down main road at rush hour. South Africans are not, by any stretch of the imagination, slender.

I can’t win, I swear. I just. Can’t. Win.

“We will no longer accept money out of undergarments”

May 16, 2013

I love this…

In SA, a lot of people keep their money in their bra or panties rather than their pockets – less likely to get stolen that way! It’s not unusual to be in a corner cafe and see an auntie reach into her bra to pay for a half loaf of bread and some milk at the end of a long day.

Which means they have been up til now.

Which means they have been up til now.

So now people who store their money that way will have to remove it and place it in a wallet before entering the store. What’s next? Washing our hands before we touch money? Which by the way, is already dirtier than poo (worldwide). Read this if you don’t believe me.

(Found this sign picture, by the way, on a facebook group I reluctantly belong to called South Africans in the USA. What’s great about this group is it’s really pro-SA, friendly and not full of racists. There’s a theory that South Africans who go to the US rather than just running to the country that colonised SA and messed it up centuries ago are simply nicer people, although I’m told Florida has it’s share of gremlins…)

What do the Cape Town shark flags mean? Nobody knows! Allow me to clarify.

January 16, 2013

I’ve swum in the sea in Cape Town at least once a day since I arrived home a month ago and guess what? I’m still not dead! Not only am I not dead, I still have all my arms and legs.

I mention this because I’ve asked a few of my friends, many of whom are regular beach goers, what the flags mean. They all agree that the Black flag with the white shark means a shark’s been seen in the bay. The others… they’re not sure really. They all agree the red one means danger and the green one might mean there’s a shark. They’re all understandably confused, because the flags are stupid. They make it look to anyone driving by as if Cape Town’s sea is infested with great whites. In fact, it’s not nearly that dangerous.

This is one scary flag. What does it mean? Answer: NOT that there is a shark in the water.

This is one scary flag. What does it mean? Answer: NOT that there is a shark in the water. It means that visibility is poor and the shark spotters can’t guarantee they’ll see it if it’s there. This is the case most of the time.

Now you know.

sharksouthafrica1

Okay, apologies for the poor color. South Africa has always been rather bad with colour and don’t care for it much, so the sign is a little faded. A GREEN flag is the best. It means it’s safe to swim and the shark spotters up on the mountains will probably see the sharks in time to sound a warning. The BLACK flag is second best. It means they can’t see for sure, but they probably will. And the RED one is actually not the end of the world. Means there’s a shark cruising around in nearby beaches. WHITE is bad news. That means there’s a shark. Don’t swim. Even if only out of courtesy to the poor shark spotters, who hate it when you die cause then people think they didn’t do their job in time.

When they see the black flag – or any of the flags with sharks, my friends do one of two things, assuming it means “there’s a shark and the surfers are only out there because they wanna die”:
1. Turn round and drive home.
2. Drive to a beach that doesn’t have shark flags at all. Cause what you don’t know won’t hurt you. UNLESS IT’S A FUCKING SHARK. Duh.

sharksouthafrica2

A fun sign explaining surf etiquette to beginners and Ubuntu to everybody. Muizenberg has some great waves, but is also known to be a beginner’s beach. It’s the best place imaginable to learn to surf, and well-serviced by the shark spotters, who have a great view from their station, high up on Boyes Drive. The water is also warm. I’ll never forget my final sunset swim with my mom, the clean white foam, the soft salty light.

Signs of South Africa

January 11, 2013

South Africans aren’t rude. We’re just overly familiar and brutally honest.

It has been an insane year in SA. And WTF is now in the actual dictionary (the Oxford is always a few years behind - they'll catch up one day soon)

Newspaper posters on the lamp posts: It has been an insane year in SA. And WTF is now in the dictionary (the Oxford is always a few years behind – they’ll catch up one day.)


We tend not to respect celebrity for its own sake. We tend not to respect authority for its own sake, either. After all, Apartheid used to be law. Nowadays, driving over the yellow line is illegal. Anyone here never done it?

The upside: Cars don't have to sit behind you on a single lane highway for 3kms. Downside? It's illegal? Upside? Nobody cares.

The upside: Cars don’t have to sit behind you on a single lane highway for 3kms. Downside? It’s illegal? Upside? Nobody cares. Downside? Over 1200 road deaths this holiday. Upside: Fast traveling and fun times.

Cape Town is famous for the fact that you can come here and… be completely ignored no matter how famous you are, except maybe if you leave the city or want to fuck girls from Camps Bay who wanna be famous too. Colin Farrell spent lots of time here cause he could walk around without his sunglasses on (not that he did, his eye would hurt, cause Cape Town parties hard and drugs are fresh off the boat). But mostly he was here cause Capetonians think they’re special. They’re like, “Oh, you’re Colin Farrel? Really? Well fine, but I’m from Cape Town.”

Celebrity Rehab? Come here and get sober. We don’t care how who you are, or how wasted you are.

I think these signs from all over South Africa exemplify this point. We’re special. We get to say it like it is. Take…

OLD AGE

So I took a tour of an old age home, looking for a friend of my Mom's who she hadn't contacted in a while. She was freaked out - being about 24 years closer to death than I am. But this sign in the complex made her laugh.

So I took a tour of an old age home, looking for a friend of my Mom’s who she hadn’t contacted in a while. She was freaked out – being about 24 years closer to death / urinating on herself, than I am. But this sign in the complex made her laugh.

And laugh again.

And laugh again.

And this is what you get - I think this is a lovely way for an old age community to remember you. I think it's okay to laugh in the face of death. Perhaps it's even essential.

And this is what you get – I think this is a lovely way for an old age community to remember you. I think it’s okay to laugh in the face of death. Perhaps it’s even often fucking essential.

DEATH

We dare it. We double dare it. We’re not like Americans; scared to venture from our car to our apartment if the “air” isn’t already on on a hot day. Sweating never killed you… except when it did.

Okay, it's unlikely that today's cell phones could cause a gas tank to explode... but it's still annoying to the petrol attendants when you use yours. Same reason why they pretend it's dangerous on airplanes BTW.

Okay, it’s unlikely that today’s cell phones could cause a gas tank to explode… but it’s still annoying to the petrol attendants when you use yours. Same reason why they pretend it’s dangerous on airplanes BTW. “If you use your cell phone now, nobody may ever talk to you again.”

Now actually, lighting a cigarette at a gas station is actually genuinely stupid. If you do it while you're on your cell phone you will also be sneered at while you die.

Now actually, lighting a cigarette at a gas station is actually genuinely stupid. If you do it while you’re on your cell phone you will also be sneered at while you die.

WE DON’T CARE WHO YOU ARE

Aaaaand back to that.

Real reason for this sign: Grapes close to the road get covered in dust and are hard to make wine with. Other reason: People who live on farms feel free to drive really fast and ignore speed limits and this farm is surrounded by other farmers.

Real reason for this sign: Grapes close to the road get covered in dust and are hard to make wine with. Other reason: People who live on farms feel free to drive really fast and ignore speed limits and this farm is surrounded by other farmers.

Enterprising South Africans in “Cuteness for Sale”

January 4, 2013

In the last few weeks, bad and good things have happened. Six people died: in Poland drinking infected vodka, in Pakistan in a bomb blast, in SA trying to get jobs – the 1300 people selected from thousands of applicants for jobs as Traffic Cops were asked to run 4km in 30 minutes in hot conditions. Six died of dehydration on the spot. One killed himself because he wasn’t picked. Another died later in hospital.

We’re certainly not lazy out here. And we’re good at finding new ways to make money, whether that be making Christmas trees out of wire or baskets out of plastic bags or … exploiting cuteness.

This is genius: Get customers at your restaurant to pay to feed your livestock for you! Later, you can eat the livestock.

This is genius: Get customers at your restaurant to pay to feed your livestock for you! Later, you can eat the livestock.

Relatively cute bunnies. Who's not going to pay R2 (USD .28c) for a child's smile?

Relatively cute bunnies. Who’s not going to pay R2 (USD .28c) for a child’s smile?

This tiger's like "I am going to fucking kill you if you make me stand on this boat for ONE more minute while you paint me." Accidentally hilarious art for sale in the same coffee shop.

This tiger’s like “I am going to fucking kill you if you make me stand on this boat for ONE more minute while you paint me.” Accidentally hilarious art for sale in the same coffee shop.

And a giant pineapple? Yes, that's a great idea. It's surrounded by pineapple fields and if you wanna pay R10 you can climb up to survey the fields, or watch a video about pineapple farming. They also sell juice, jam, t-shirts...

And a giant pineapple? Yes, that’s a great idea. It’s surrounded by pineapple fields and if you wanna pay R10 you can climb up to survey the fields, or watch a video about pineapple farming. They also sell juice, jam, t-shirts…

Donald Trump, asshole extrodinaire, lurks in a corner of a pharmacy in California, representing a very different kind of enterprising.

Donald Trump, asshole extraodinaire, lurks in a corner of a pharmacy in California, representing a very different kind of enterprising.

Safe to love, not safe to love…

December 29, 2012

So we are clear: I don’t write about signs because I’m too stupid to realise that if I just posted pictures of cute animals I could have much more traffic to my blog.

It’s not like I don’t have ACCESS to cute animals.

See?

That’s a Cow and Calf in Nature’s Valley. Cute, right?

 

Og Moma! "Stay away from my baby" says that eye.

Og Moma! “Stay away from my baby” says that eye.

And here’s a ginger cat that will only drink mineral water.

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This kitty at Wild Spirit Backpackers only drinks from the spring water tap. Such a clever kitty.

And here’s a lonely calf whose momma has been taken away…

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Free range. But lonely! Don’t get too attached though.

Awwww. CUTE. This little calf hasn't figured out that it can't have it both ways and keeps trying to scratch its own head with its hoof while drinking.

Awwww. CUTE. This little calf hasn’t figured out that it can’t have it both ways and keeps trying to scratch its own head with its hoof while grazing.

What's for sale? Is that a real kitty?

What’s for sale? Is that a real kitty?

It's a real cute kitty! In a basket. I have no idea what we did with these before we had the internet.

It’s a real cute kitty! In a basket. I have no idea what we did with these before we had the internet.

Awwwwwww…. cute. And with cuteness, of course, comes Jean Barker’s Little Lecture on Hypocrisy, customized for your displeasure.

That calf won’t have her momma for long. Even on a nice, organic farm, the male calves get taken away and fattened for slaughter, and the females get weaned and turned into milk cows asap.

Thinking about this, I realized why most Americans (as the most extreme example – it’s a general western thing) mind so much if you kill a dog and don’t give a fuck if you torture, and then inhumanely transport and slaughter, 10 million cows a day to McDonalds, Burger King and In ‘n Out: They / we maybe, have been taught that it’s safe to love dogs because they won’t be farmed for their meat. And cats are also Safe to Love, because although cats would happily farm humans for meat given half a chance, we aren’t going to eat cats, because they taste like crap. Same reason we don’t eat penguins. Dogs survive by sucking up big time.

And they know it’s unsafe to grow emotionally attached to a cow or a chicken or a pig (or allow your kids to) because that cute cow is gonna cop it. Self interest, as usual, explains our so-called morals.

So Americans call the Koreans and Chinese barbaric for eating dog, or become furious / feel nauseous when they see Cheval on the menu in France. Why can’t people see past the things they’ve been taught to feel and realise that feelings are not an indicator of right and wrong? Does the fact that I can love dogs AND consider eating them make me a psychopath – or the only sane person I know?

 

Alcoholic slush puppy at my favourite movie theater.

December 19, 2012

After America’s family-friendly diet of fat and corn syrup and fake sweetener at the movies it’s good to be back in South Africa, where The Labia, my favourite little indie cinema, is screening The Oranges, that doccie about Sushi, The Hobbit (yeah, odd), and various other more indie films whose names I don’t remember but am smug to say I can pronounce. And in in case you’ve had a stressful day, or a great day, you might want to add a shot of vodka to your slush puppy – which is what we call those ice drinks here in SA.

Celebrate the results of the ANC's internal candidate election of Ramaphosa for Deputy with this cooling summer cocktail and a pretentioius movie from France. Ah, the pleasures of being a member of the African bourgeoisie.

Celebrate the results of the ANC’s internal candidate election of Ramaphosa for Deputy with this cooling summer cocktail and a pretentioius movie from France. Ah, the pleasures of being a member of the African bourgeoisie.


Rock on, my homeland. Also good news in the political arena. Although Zuma’s back for another term, which I’m sure he’ll use to consolidate his theft of millions from South Africa’s poor, there’s a chance Ramaphosa will be our next president, in 2019. He may not be perfect but he’s got to be less of an embarrassment than the guy we got right now.

How does the South African Winelands crisis look from the USA?

November 16, 2012

We don’t hear much on the news about South Africa really. The USA isn’t fighting a war there and we don’t produce anything they really need.

Except, possibly, great wine with a different swing to California’s good stuff.

This billboard is all over Los Angeles. “What can one person do?” Well, not everything, guys. Time to start doing a bit of the heavy lifting ourselves perhaps?

So what a pity there’s the possibility of international boycotts after the international community discovered just how little workers on farms earn?

I wrote this article about the issue on News24. Now, I know some people really can’t afford to pay more than minimum wage. I also know a lot of people who could pay workers more per day and employ them fewer days, or who can afford double what they pay, and still under-pay.

It’s not a question of whether or not the wine industry can afford to pay more than it does. It has to. End of story. If it doesn’t, the international community will stop buying our wines.

Anyhow, we’ll see how it goes down. I am almost certain I’ll get the usual death threats – hopefully from angry white people who’re too lazy to carry them out.

The image South African Wine wants.

The image South African wine is in danger of getting.