Archive for the ‘travel’ Category

The superbowel… my journey in Koreatown.

February 3, 2014

I felt a rare passion for the game. Rare because I never cared about it before, not because I have a clue what’s going on, or because I care who wins. It just represents something about the USA that I seem to be excluded from and want to be in on.

I have changed, I realise. The last time I was in South Africa, as much as I love my homeland, I felt like I didn’t belong among my pregnant, married, and increasingly suburban friends. I have missed having what they have – I’ll never share it with them… I have missed that bar stool forever. And coming back, I felt… like I didn’t belong. Among my 22-28 year old American friends. Cause I’ll never be that young and sure of myself again.

So I bounced around my apartment reading books with jetlag for a day, then got sick, then went to Sundance, came back still sick, and made plans with a friend to watch the game.

Now. I have this thing that I can’t give up. I should but I don’t. I think it’s a major qualification for MAKING MOVIES, which is my new job, so probably a good thing, apart from the fact that it hurts so bad.

So I googled for a while and found a bar 2.5 miles away and walked there, alone. I thought maybe there, I’ll connect with someone who like me wants their life to explode, who wants to connect, who is a grown up but also can’t stop growing. I set out walking.

The sky boiled with rain above me. As I passed men walking I realised how much the world has changed for me since I was like… 25. I used to know that when men looked at me it was lust. Now, they still do. But is it lust or curiosity? “Why are they so big?” “Why is she still alone?”

Proof that people are assholes. And that dogs are gross, basically.

Proof that people are assholes. And that dogs are gross, basically.

Somebody died at this bus stop on Normandie.

Somebody died at this bus stop on Normandie.

I feel sorry for myself sometimes but wtf. I have slept in worse places, in hotels that offered worse, but never owned a mattress this bad.

I feel sorry for myself sometimes but wtf. I have slept in worse places, in hotels that offered worse, but never owned a mattress this bad.

A hostel / gallery thing of some sort. I wanted to check it out but I think it was closed for superbowl.

A hostel / gallery thing of some sort. I wanted to check it out but I think it was closed for superbowl.

I arrived. It was a bar full of people who were nice to me but hey... they had their friends already. And my team was losing so hopelessly that i left before half time and after a half pint.

I arrived. It was a bar full of people who were nice to me but hey… they had their friends already. And my team was losing so hopelessly that i left before half time and after a half pint. Broncos! Sigh.

Chickens! For some reason there's a display case full of them. My mom eats, keeps and is obsessed with chickens - she even collects chicken shaped things that have some function apart from being... chicken. Is she secretly Korean? Or just a bit creepy maybe. She might be. We are related.

Chickens! For some reason there’s a display case full of them. My mom eats, keeps and is obsessed with chickens – she even collects chicken shaped things that have some function apart from being… chicken. Is she secretly Korean? Or just a bit creepy maybe. She might be. We are related.

Walking home on Western. It's the shortest route. The sunset was a sad one and I felt like the only living girl in LA.

Walking home on Western. It’s the shortest route. The sunset was a sad one and I felt like the only living girl in LA.

The Wiltern. If I have a film company in the US one day, I want offices here.

The Wiltern. If I have a film company in the US one day, I want offices here.

Once were video stores.

Once were video stores. Am glad that was never my dream.

This is like a blast from the past. But in the USA, you can still advertise drugs. A superbowl ad pushes military service and Budweiser. Fucking sinister, in my opinion.

This is like a blast from the past. But in the USA, you can still advertise drugs. A superbowl ad pushes military service and Budweiser. Fucking sinister, in my opinion.

I spotted about 8 coffee places I never noticed before. All within .5 miles walking of me. Google maps sucks compared to actually being there.

I spotted about 8 coffee places I never noticed before. All within .5 miles walking of me. Google maps sucks compared to actually being there. This good, for me.

Some history at a traffic light.

Some history at a traffic light.

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See the guy on the left in the photo? He followed me all the way home. I felt he was non-threatening, cause he kept his distance. I realise now he probably did it cause he thought I was taking pictures of him. But I didn’t even notice him at the time. He’s one of the many homeless people living along Olympic Boulevard, named to celebrate the 1988 games.

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I figured out just yesterday how to sneak on to our building rooftop. Every time I feel sad, it helps to go there. So that's what I did at the end of tonight, and here is what I saw.

I figured out just yesterday how to sneak on to our building rooftop. Every time I feel sad, it helps to go there. So that’s what I did tonight, and here is what I saw.

Total walking today: about 5.2miles. Whenever I can, I walk. I see the world differently that way.

When all else fails, work. That’s my plan and I’m sticking to it.

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Sundance night one – and check out the fluke celeb snap in my failed selfie!

January 20, 2014

A beautiful but long long drive landed me at the fest 35 minutes before “A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night” began.

So beautiful.

So beautiful.

A very sexy black and white film by loveable Iranian hipster girl Ana Lily Amirpour, who name checks Die Antwoord while wading through the usual lame audience questions.

I would be so proud of that as my first movie. And sundance. Jeez. So many film lovers in one town. All lit up and overpriced but worth it.

An SA filmmaker friend is here and though both exhausted we popped in on the kcrw Music Cafe. While trying to sneak a selfie of Francois and I accidentally captured Vince from Entourage. He’s right there behind me.

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See in the back? That’s Vince! Adrian Grenier I mean. I’m not the type to take celeb pictures and so on, but am pleased I didn’t delete this.

The road to Vegas is Paved with good intentions

January 19, 2014

I’m sitting at the bar in my off-strip hotel – a Best Western dressed as the ‘Mardi Gras’ but hey, it was cheap. I didn’t know you could smoke indoors in Vegas. It’s a bizarre sight to my googling post-regulation eyes.

I can’t gamble because I don’t know how to. So I threw money away on the LCD slots. A few dollars.

On the way here I saw …
…A huge donkey pump drilling oil in a graveyard
…Towns with welcome signs bigger than they were
… How I’ve changed since the last long drive alone

And such unimaginable beauty in the dessert dollying by, which was unexpected because Vegas.com derided the drive as boring, scenically.

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Abandoned. There’s a lot of these – you could see them as evidence of failure, or proof of someone’s dreams lived out. A story in every one.

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I’m on my way, apparently.

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Leading up to this: a series of quoted 10 Commandments on signs.

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Guff. Aware. What does it mean?

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I am happy when I am traveling.

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This is not ugly.

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There’s a weird glow in the sky opposite the sunset that’s just as beautiful.
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Vegas. Aaah. LIGHTS. It’s hard to describe until you’ve driven in off the darkening desert into it.
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Now this is sorta ugly… I fed all my $1 bills into it and won nothing. It happened so fast, I was amazed… haven’t gambled since I was 12, when I had to drag my parents away from the slots in a Sun City in Lesotho. They let kids wander around in the casino back then.

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What I don’t want to become. This tiny little lady was drunk and crazy and feeding the machine, feeding the machine… she is about 60 and I swear everybody in here is chain smoking. I didn’t know you could still smoke indoors in the USA, but in Vegas, everything goes it seems. People bring their tiny dogs in too.

I feel so strongly for this Land after three years here. I realize I’ve become sorta American. And yet not quite. And when I’m home not quite there either. Perhaps I’m destined to really belong nowhere.

Having planned to simply stop and sleep in the cheapest place possible, I wound up having a couple of beers, throwing about $5 into the slots and ordering some food from the restaurant (which, like the hotel, is pretending to be something it’s not – the menu is clearly Chili’s). Anyhow, it’s bedtime soon. I can’t wait.

Nieu and old and new Bethesda

December 29, 2013

Being on holiday in South Africa is a chance to open your eyes, open your mind, and sometimes escape your worst fears. Of course, not everybody gets that.

It's hard to tell what century it is from here.

It’s in the middle of somewhere beautiful.

It’s hard to tell what year it is in Nieu Bethesda, at night. It’s starlight – bright bright stars like you haven’t seen for years. But in the day it’s differently populated, by latter-day hippies. The township and the town intersect much more than in most small towns because it’s all so close, and the houses are close to the same size. Easy to see why lefties love it there. There’s a gentleness to it. You can sleep with your doors open and mean it.

Or – you can if you leave your fears behind you.

I’d come freshly inspired by an amazing experience in Cape Town – read the column on News24.

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This is where my bag went missing. Each of those little white dots is a minibus taxi that arrived / left full of strangers.

My mom and I took long walks around the small town, looking at things, talking about the year gone by, sliding around in the mud from the afternoon rainstorms. And we saw two sides of the town.

Honesty shop - you go take what you want, and put your cash in a tin by the door.

Honesty shop – you go take what you want, and put your cash in a tin by the door.

The shop is guarded only by this terrifying dog.

The shop is guarded only by this terrifying dog.

And then there was this ugly-ass house. Even from a distance, you could tell the people who built it didn’t understand where they were.

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Why did they make a double story – ruining the next door neighbors’ view – when there’s so much space to build?

We went in for a closer look.

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KKK overtones. Ugly. And as another resident says: “So unnecessary.” Not surprisingly, this brick box full of fear belongs to people from Joburg who, to the locals’ relief, only come to town for a few weeks a year.

 

For every sad story, there's a happy one like this.

For every sad story, there’s a happy one like this.

For every extremist with a gun, there's a tannie with ostrich feather dusters who appeals to your better nature.

For every extremist with a gun, there’s a tannie with ostrich feather dusters who appeals to your better nature. A photo from a coffee stop in the Karoo… Translation – “God says: You may not steal and that is that! So eat and drink, look and dig around and pay and drive safely on with a clean conscience. Amen! Amen!”

South Africa has been good to me. I know not everybody has it so lucky. But I wanted to put it out there, over the chorus of whining from homesick, paranoid expats all over the world. I’m in my happiest place on earth.

Florida: Hell’s waiting room?

November 17, 2013

I nearly studied Screenwriting in Miami – having lived in Durban, KwaZulu for four years and remained homesick for it all my life, I romanticized the sticky air, the warm sea, the art deco buildings. I imagined myself drinking large cocktails and doing Cuban dances while a deeply-tanned man licked sea salt off my neck as the sun set, and holidaying Hollywood stars (mostly Michael C Hall) roller-skated past on the promenade.

Doesn't it look just like Durbs, only sorta glam?

Doesn’t it look just like Durbs, only sorta glam?

I’ve always wondered how life would have turned out if I had gone there instead of to nearly-LA. And recently I found out when I visited a friend who’s there, attempting to pay back his crazy-ass student loans with a job he landed.

As the plane touched down… GU-GUNK… the muggy half-light seemed full of promise. Or was it foreboding? Didn’t look like much, but my friend picked me up and I comforted myself that Miami Beach would be totally different.

The Motel was a slightly decayed art deco building only a block from the beach. Of course the booking site never mentioned that they were doing street work right outside it… or that the mattress was so old that you wound up rolling into the middle during the night – I guess the elasticity does get eroded by years of semen stains. But maybe they could replace it every eight years? Every 20 years? And with it, the almost plastic comforter.

What I realised quite soon was that mattress, smattress. What kind of moron comes to Miami to sleep? Miami is all about the party. The hotel offers a drink special of $20 for all you can drink, as long as you only drink Bud lite. That’s $20 per hour. Unfortunately I couldn’t take advantage of this dodgy bargain as I am going through a dry patch. A swim in the sea was the highlight of my day. But it doesn’t touch Durban’s South Beach for beauty or brains, or waves. Limp about summarizes it.

I went swimming. It was okay, lonely but okay. For some reason everybody there prefers to look at the sea and pose near it.

A lot of seagulls, and they aren't camera shy.

A lot of seagulls, and they aren’t camera shy.

Seeking food, we went exploring. Pizza. Pizza Pizza. Some chicken.

For some reason, things in Miami are often called "Duck" something. Like this Miami Beach fried chicken place. It should have been called Salmonella Something. Notes piece of chicken on shoulder.

For some reason, things in Miami are often called “Duck” something. Like this Miami Beach fried chicken place. It should have been called Salmonella Something. Notes piece of chicken on shoulder.

And Cuban Food. Which for some reason costs three times as much in Miami, Florida, as it does in Orange, CA. Running from the main drag, we ate outside at David Cafe (bill, for so-so entrees and a soda, hit $45 once the compulsory tip was added). While we ate, a drug dealer and his bashed up helper did business from the garden patch, for some reason bothering to pretend they were looking for their keys and continually finding them and losing them again. A homeless man who seemed to be their buddy sang for us for a while, and said it would take a dollar to make him go away.  Whatever. I was enjoying the entertainment – you can’t be fussy in Miami.

I tried my best to enjoy it. Usually I can amuse myself anywhere. We went to an art museum. It was nice. Small. But nice. Nice enough.

A really bad maze. Only a drunk person would get lost there. But I guess it is Miami. Mazes are meant to be thoughtful but this one was just... I don't know. A bad wave.

A really bad maze. Only a drunk person would get lost there. But I guess it is Miami. Mazes are meant to be thoughtful but this one was just… I don’t know. A bad wave.

My favourite artwork sums up Miami - consumer culture dressed up as something more.

My favourite artwork sums up Miami – consumer culture dressed up as something more.

I realised that Miami reminded me not of Durban, but of Sambave, a tiny seaside hell hole in Madagascar my ex and I got stuck in once when a political crisis caused the government to close all the airports for a few days. Overcast. Lots of prostitutes. A faint air of desperation.

Maybe Miami wasn’t for me? Next stop, the Recovery Capital of America, Delray Beach, where there’s an AA/NA/CA meeting every hour in about ten locations simultaneously, and everybody is either using drugs, trying to stop, or making money out of health care benefits.

Surprise surprise, Delray Beach was even more depressing than Miami, and unwalkable to boot – there really aren’t any motels in Delray so I was stuck on a highway near Boca.

Florida is full of little land-ghekkos. They run around with their tails up. I get it. I would too. They're my favourite thing in Florida.

Florida is full of little land-ghekkos. They run around with their tails up. I get it. I would too. They’re my favourite thing in Florida.

This is the promise, I guess.

This is the promise, I guess.

I walked to the beach from my hotel on the highway. On the way I crossed a river and saw people fishing and some birds.

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jeanbarker_bocabeach

Boca Beach… looks okay. Once you’re in the water it’s awesome.

Here is why they rarely swim. I call them cowards - the water was warm and the currents were nothing. Pussies. No offense to vaginas, which rock. Colloquial intentions only.

Here is why they rarely swim. There are meant to be bluebottles and jellyfish and sea lice – terrifying in theory.  I call them cowards – the water was warm and the currents were nothing. Yes a few bluebottles but that’s called nature, idiots. Pussies. No offense to vaginas, which rock. Colloquial intentions only.

Boca Beach, where most people seem to BYOB their beer of choice, Coors. I saw a dad finish of a few before taking his daughter swimming.

Boca Beach, where most people seem to BYOB their beer of choice, Coors. I saw a dad finish of a few before taking his daughter swimming.

I couldn’t help thinking how much more interesting the least interesting suburb in Joburg, or Belville, Cape Town was than this place. Then I discovered that everybody there knows someone from South Africa. And they’re very concerned about our crime rate.

Look where the orange is from.
 Look where the orange is from.

Turns out Florida is a prime destination for White South Africans who left after Apartheid ended. It’s also where Americans go for cheap labor (yes, you guessed it, mostly black or at least whatever they don’t consider to be their people) and where you’re allowed to shoot someone for knocking on your door while being black.

A lot of wealthy, seniors retire to Florida – it’s a prime place to die. I ask, why bother? Just skip the line and go directly to hell.

florida-birds-leave

3.30pm. It’s not raining but the birds know it’s time to leave.

It’s a weird thing to say, but being in Florida reminded me of how I felt as a kid in South Africa when it was still apartheid. Except without the youthful endorphins. I will never be back if I can help it.

American Airlines supports war

November 7, 2013

Being pro-war (usually phrased as ‘behind our troops’) seems profitable – tire companies, airlines, ice cream companies … They all think it’s good for their image or their business.

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This isn’t something I’ve noticed outside of America. Yet it’s absolutely the norm here to encourage kids to be heroes for the cause of “freedom”.

The Cruel Smell of Roses

October 30, 2013

Whenever I feel sad and lost and lonely in America, overwhelmed by questions like “Why do they stir their coffee with straws?” or “Why do they think ‘In God We Trust’ is not religious?” or “How is my money worth 60% of what it was when I got here?” I go for a walk around my neighborhood. It’s my alternative to buying a bottle of red wine and drowning my sorrows, because when I’m sad, I don’t know the meaning of “a couple of glasses to relax”.

It smelled of bath salts I bathed in once, when I was 15 and I accidentally went on a date with a preacher's son. True story.

It smelled of bath salts I used when I was 15 and I accidentally went on a date with a preacher’s son. True story.

So instead I walk around, smelling the roses. Orange is flat – it’s a lot like the Cape Flats except the streets are cleaner, there’s no crime, and the low-ceiling, two bedroom houses cost about R3-5million each. The smelling the roses thing started because I wanted to see which ones had a smell, and which ones didn’t. Then it was supposed to cheer me up.

sign_parkingwitch

Got to admit, this was sorta cute. A witch above my least favourite parking sign, which over the years has cost me about $120 in fines. In the USA, you actually have to pay your fines or they put you in County Jail eventually. No wonder their prison population is growing so fast when they criminalize you for being disorganized / poor.

creepycat

A black cat crossed my path. Literally. And it’s got a really weird eye.

But my rose smelling thing always backfires. there’s something about the smell of roses that makes me terribly sad, these days. And it doesn’t help that it’s Halloween. I know it’s supposed to be fun, but the macabre shit all over the place just freaks me out. I don’t get it.

I find this in poor taste. But then again, I'm not American. I think the alienation this makes me feel is scarier than all of it.

I find this in poor taste. But then again, I’m not American. I think the alienation this makes me feel is scarier than all of it.

I can’t wait til it’s over and Orange can start redecorating for Christmas instead. The out-there Christianity is tiring at times, and the carols drive me up the wall, but at least they’re not terrifying.

Who is the elephant wo/man?

September 12, 2013

Santiago Canyon is sort of urban greening… A walkway and bike track along a dry, polluted river bed.

I don’t walk it for it’s natural beauty, I walk it because there are no stop signs or traffic lights. And sometimes for the graffiti – like this.

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See the elephant. Middle, slightly to th eleft? Above it, the cars roar along the freeway. In the magic hour sun, it has a weird, messed up beauty.

Are you the artist? Every time I see a new elephant I wonder how I could meet you. Maybe I’ll paint my own…

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Kids come here to smoke weed and other stuff. It the recent drought has dried up all the mucky water and it smells like rotting algae.

This is my favorite.

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See the new one? One the storage unit. It’s Red, which is new. The others were all blue.

God. I miss Sea Point promenade.

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I know this looks pretty in the picture but it’s not, not really. The water is rancid. Even the ducks seem to have left for greener pastures. The river was dammed years ago so it doesn’t flow anymore.

A great day / night; an imagined life

June 15, 2013

YEAH I’m using pretentious punctuation. I had one of those days where you imagine a life, with someone, and it seems perfect. Hell, it was perfect. Here’s what happened.

He went for a job interview and I wandered around a shitty area. Beverly Hills ubertown, where it’s totally fine to treat people like shit if you’re rich and famous. Not accustomed to normal hours, I found a 2 hour parking spot to sleep in. When he was done with the interview he understood how I felt about THIS.

Beverly Hills is a segment of a town where fame is everything. So in a health shop window: Whacko Jacko. The guy you worry about when it comes to health. Also featured in their creepy security cam footage: Kate Moss.

Beverly Hills is a segment of a town where fame is everything. So in a health shop window: Whacko Jacko. The guy you worry about when it comes to health. Also featured in their creepy security cam footage: Kate Moss.

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The protesters are clearly crappy at the internet, or else the internet is unwilling to lose advertising. Charlotte Olympia is a footwear brand that must cost a fortune, cause a coffee is ridiculous. The only complaint I found online was re. a broken heel.

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Another protest. Organized labor in America is a small crowd compared to where I’m from. But I’d be scared too. McCarthyism is alive and well.

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Funny, cause as cool as people pretend to be they still eat here. Fakers, more like.

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My cohort, who I can’t really call a date since we’ve both remained single on FB for 3 years and this is 2013, said there was a Banksy near the theater where we had decided to go watch docs. Turns our the owner of the building painted over it. So I just kept walking around the corner and found this.

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This is a great picture. I don’t care who it’s by. I love to surf. I know this moment even though for me it’s with foamies on a boogie board.

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Two cool doccies for $8? I’m in. For my SA readers, that’s less than the normal ticket price for two films. At Quinton Tarantino’s theater. No quibbling.

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At the New Beverly (by Tarantino) the drinks are between 1-3 dollars and the popcorn too. Best of all, the butter is real. Real butter on movie popcorn. THAT’s America.

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Took this the same night. Stopped dangerously. 40mph to 0 in 3 seconds, then a reverse. What is it? TELL ME.

The films were amazing. Find them. Watch them.And also, I couldn’t help wondering how my life might be if I lived with him and we went there. If we just went there a few times a 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.