A Rainbow Nation…

P:  This one is going to be a doozy.  

South Africa has to be one of the most culturally diverse places that I have ever lived and   some of my friends and family are beginning to wonder  why I haven’t really written anything about this diversity.  They raise an interesting point.   As one of my favourite people in the world delicately pointed out, I have spoken about violence and class but not race.  I have a reason and its not a really good one but here it is anyways.  I  don’t really understand “race” here. For example, should we really be talking about ethnic origin?  By the way, the difference for me is that race is mostly about skin colour and ethnic origin is about culture.   I could be wrong.

P: Why don’t you look it up Lazy?    

I just did and I am basically correct.

P: By the way I like my new bold look.

I’m ignoring you today.

I read terms like “black” and “white” and I think I understand what they are intended to mean. I am currently focused on how the terms mean something different to me here in South Africa than they do in Toronto.

In North America, to me, Black means African American and White means European.

Obviously the terms are problematic on many levels (for example like, what about everybody else)? and I thought they were quite outdated too but maybe not.

In South Africa, there is a third category, “coloured” which I think originally referred to European South Africans (Khoi and San) but may include more ethnic blends.  Whatever its current incarnation, I feel uncomfortable using the term because I understand it to be a derogatory one.   Yet in South Africa many of the white people I know use the term and I see it regularly in various forms of print media as a reference to a large and important segment of the population.  But a quick google search confirms my suspicion: “Coloured” is not a universally accepted descriptor and not surprisingly is contentious.

P:  It’s contentious? How? Where’s the link?

I also feel uncomfortable using the term “black.”  What is black?  I was taking a course in Toronto and queried a woman who was talking about the “black woman” experience.  What is that? Is a black woman from Nigeria supposed to have similar experiences to a black woman from Egypt?  I’m sure they both have a menstrual cycle.   What about a West African black woman experience as opposed to a  woman from Somali Land?  What about a Zulu and the Xhosa — are they to be squeezed into the same category too? Is a Cape Malay from South Africa to be included in this discussion?  How on earth can the term “black” mean anything if it is meant to mean everything?

Listen, don’t get me wrong.  I recognize that there are shared experiences.  I recognize that the purpose of language is to communicate and sometimes in service of communication nuance (or more)  is left out.  I also strongly believe that there are issues of race/ethnic origin that ought to be discussed particularly in relation to violence, economics, natural environments and in the context of place and geography.  I do.  But the terms “Black, White and Coloured” currently don’t work for me.  So in a small, maybe inconsiderate way, maybe racist way, I have chosen to speak and write about race as I experience it.

For now that means this:

I live in a mostly white community where the labour is black.

P: She is very flexible with her proclamations.  (The terms black and white don’t work until they do).

The bulk of the labour that I see, is not white.

The two domestic workers at my house, Lucky and Alamson are Malawians.  They live in a small apartment on the property.   I genuinely like Lucky.   She has a warm smile and she likes my nonhumans.   I regularly buy food from a deli where there is a person in charge who looks to me to be of Indonesian descent and who wears a scarf in such a way that makes me think she might also be Muslim.  For those interested in skin colour, she is dark brown.   In the village at a restaurant my family frequents regularly (like Fukui Sushi on Bayview), the staff appears to be of mixed ethnic origin.  There are blacks, whites, south east Indians, Indochinese and a Croatian woman.   They all seem to be educated — they speak English well (and most certainly at least a couple of other languages); they manage money easily, they engage in small talk in a way that suggests to me they are formally educated.

The gym that I joined is predominantly white.  The hockey game (yep – ice hockey) that we went to see consisted of mostly white players.  At the mountain hike around the corner from us, there are mostly white people walking but by no means exclusively.   At the mountain hike a little closer to Cape Town the demographic is substantially more diverse.  The concertgoers at the concert I attended in Phillipe were almost all Afrikaans Cape Malay. I think.

I realize I have a lot to learn and I look forward to it.  I hope that the people I offend along the way will educate me. Feel free to comment.

 

 

 

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Hostage Taking (not really exactly)

P: The first time was at the public bathroom at Muizenberg Beach.  The bathroom locks from the outside.  Apparently you are supposed to tell the security guy that you are going to the bathroom first so that he can let you out when you are done.  Really its code for slipping him a few RAND.  Everyone has to make a living.  But Dictator Patriarch, accidentally trying to save a buck, snuck in and got locked in.  Captive in a public toilet in South Africa. Priceless.

The second time: Sara’s new friend told the two Dictators about a concert being put on to benefit a young fashion designer.  It sounded very Holt Renfrew and they were totally into it until they realized the township where the concert would take place happened to be right next to Mitchel Plains – an off limit area that everyone warned them about.  I (Predator) pushed Herself to go in spite of the proximity to supposed trouble.  I was relentless.  She was being such a baby that when they drove past the place on the first pass she even suggested they call it a night, drive home and go to bed but at that point Sean put his foot down.  They had come this far after all.  I told her to get over herself and to remember that poverty isn’t a crime.

Me again.  I need some way to differentiate from Predator (besides my more refined approach to writing).  Maybe I will use colour.  The concert hall was an old farm house.    At night, it looked menacing with only a bit of light leaking out of a creaky front door.   It sat in the middle of  a dark  field or industrial zone – who could tell? It was pitch black by the time we got there but I knew too well that somewhere, lurking just around any corner, was the forbidden Mitchel Plains.  I was never going to park at the end of the long line of cars only to have to walk across an unlit lot so I suggested we park right in front of the door.  Reluctantly Sean agreed. Once inside, the vibe was immediately friendly and I instantly felt at ease.   This was an intimate gathering of about 100 people.   It was warm and jubilant and we soon saw why — or heard why. There were about a half a dozen performers ranging in age from late teens to mid twenties.  They stepped sheepishly onto the modest the stage.   One said, “I don’t talk too much, I just sing.”  Another, “This is really cool, seeing so many people.”  The next, “Thank you mom for making me come here.” And with enthusiastic and loving applause the first timers belted out song after song after song each of which left us speechless.  Their proud parents and relatives, and their happy bouncing siblings, cheered them on. It was really sweet.

P: I laughed out loud at the Dictators as they tried to keep the beat. HA HA HA HAHAAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHHAHHAHAHHAH. Wow.  And they were in the front row. Too funny.  Why would they choose to sit in the front row? Duh.

It was sweet and awesome at the same time.  I realized, amidst this sea of people, that many of them probably came from that forbidden place around the corner.  I realized that Mitchel Plains is a place with people, most of whom obviously don’t want anything to do with the horrendous criminal acts that take place there.  Before the concert it had been to me, just a bad place to never EVER visit either deliberately or accidentally.  I forgot that dangerous places aren’t  anonymous.  They aren’t faceless.  They are inhabited.  I am embarrassed — it’s not like this is a profound revelation and I feel ashamed even typing such a basic thing down, but there it is.  Apart from the sweetness of the whole event, that’s what I thought.

P: I will say this, even some of her local friends and family were shocked to hear they had gone to an Afrikaner concert in a township.   The Dictators appeared to be loosening the golden shackles that sort of held them captive…

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Predator Has Arrived

GTC
Grand Theft Conscience

Some of you may have had a brief visual introduction to her on Instagram.

Anyways, she has arrived in Constantia and has decided that my blog isn’t worth reading because it is so “blanched.”  I thought she meant as in, “Blanche Dubois” but sadly that is not the case.  And she is such a dominant cow that she won’t let me write any more for awhile.  What follows is Predator Speak. (She thinks she can write but she can’t).  (She has a foul mouth and she drinks irresponsibly).  (She probably smokes too but I can’t say for sure).  (And she litters).

P: Yo.  I read a blog about someone’s extended holiday somewhere exotic where the slaves are all happy and the owners are all benevolent.  I thought I would puke.  Little context here —  Constantia was designated a “whites only” district in the 50’s or 60’s or something. I don’t really care about details so don’t expect accuracy in that regard.  And that was only after it was farmed by a couple hundred slaves in the 1600’s so when you drink the wine from there it is like drinking blood.   And when you love the white town just remember its been white washed.   Just saying.  Yah, I realize there were lots of slaves everywhere and I’m not saying never drink the wine. Obviously.

Sara and Sean have already put there kids in tennis, water polo, horseback riding and squash and fuck, one of them has a personal trainer. Why not try to do something of consequence you upper middle class privileged pieces of white joy.  Ok, let’s just say, maybe take off the sunglasses for a few minutes.

Later.

A Shark In Space

Framing by sara marino

BROUGHT TO YOU BUY NATURE and a nature faker

Why South Africa?

Many people have asked us why we chose South Africa for our final sabbatical and the answer is fluid.  Here are some of the reasons that stand out to me today:

  1. Initially, we were thinking of South Africa as a departure point for more further afield adventures.   We thought that on school breaks we could venture to Windhoek, Namibia, or Maputo Mozambique.  We planned on side trips to Madagascar and possibly Uganda — all of which seems more possible when you are in this neck of the world.    I still expect to travel to some of these places but what we are finding, slowly, is that there is so much to discover right here, right around the corner.   Which leads me to number two …
  2. The city, and perhaps the country, is so culturally vibrant that it is difficult to describe.  The visual art, dance, music, film, puppetry, movement, food, crafts, markets  — it is stunning.  I wonder if I am just more open minded and that is why I see it everywhere here as compared to elsewhere.   More than one person has suggested to me that the “vibrancy” I describe is partially a result of a proximity to death that is absent where I live.   Which brings me to another point altogether — the violence, which I want to discuss.

As we have moved in and are trying to move on, we are out and about more — venturing further afield, and even going out at night.   At no point do I ever feel like I am in Toronto in terms of safety.  I am aware at stop lights of people outside of my car and I am on the look out for suspicious activity.   I am afraid of a “smash and grab” or worse.   When I pull up to my new home, although it is not in a gated community it has a gate.  I look around before I open it and I wait for it to close before I continue up the driveway.   We alarm the house at night time (and set it off by mistake almost every day).   We park close to buildings that we plan to enter (groceries, or movie theatres) etc.  We haven’t returned to Hout Bay.    That said, we have hiked up a mountain on a trail even though we didn’t see other people.   (I did check with a couple of sources about this particular hike first — something I would never do in Toronto.  I would just hike it).   We  walk around our big dark yard with the dogs night.   We do a number of things that less than ten years ago I really wouldn’t have thought possible.  I am learning so much.

 

IMG_6623Peace 🙂

 

Camping South African Style

July 8 – 10th, 2017.

From the Hermanus Golf Club we caravanned across beautiful farmland to a park that I don’t think I would have ventured to by myself.

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Annette, Simon, Luke, Kieran and their friend Daniel took us to De Hoop Nature Reserve.   We stayed in self catering cottages – each with three bedrooms, kitchenettes and they had HEATED mattresses.  Yah, not really camping and I liked it anyways!

De Hoop Nature Reserve is at the southern most tip of South Africa where mountains and dunes meet the sea.  There is a staggering amount of wildlife.  The boys thought the eland – the world’s largest antelope (think moose meets elk) were hysterical.  Leo wondered aloud about the “giant hairy ball sack” on its neck. Nice. There were ostrich, zebra, dassies, and baboons.  The baboons were problematic.

Coco squealed with fear / joy as she watched one break into Janet and Rob’s cottage.   I think Janet was in the shower (paralyzed by nudity and fear).   Simon, charged in running after it carrying a dishtowel (or maybe a doily) like a matador and screaming like a banshee and the baboon was scared sh*tless.  Literally.  Fortunately Rob documented the mess (see below) before he cleaned it up.  Then to make matters worse, another baboon scoped Simon’s pad and whilst he was away, dashed in, grabbed a loaf of bread from Annette and exited the rear window.  Skillfully,  the Aylward/Marino clan managed to keep the non humans at bay — probably because of all of our bickering.

Baboon Poo.

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We had a braii – which is a South African version of a bbq – lots of meat and Annette made a spectacular vegetarian dish too.   The kids stayed up and roasted marshmallows and everyone was content.      The next day was a hike to the aquamarine beaches on this part of the Indian Ocean and tall white sand dunes for as long as you can look.    I have seen beaches and dunes before but I think I am on the cusp of an epiphany and just realized it this weekend while whale watching from those dunes.

Every year over a hundred Southern Right whales can be seen just off the shore between May and October.  We saw many.   It was spectacular to see these animals — not from a tour operation, but from a respectful distance somewhat afar.  It was very un-National Geographic.  I liked how I felt with this distance between us.  The majesty of the whale seemed more in focus to me than ever before.

I’m still trying to upload photos from the dunes but here is what I have so far …

DeHoop Nature Reserve