Andrea in Africa


So the days go on.   I’m afraid the chronology of this tragedy will be as discombobulated as me right now.

We are relishing the memories.  I tried to make an Andrea meal tonight which was instantly recognized as such because there was cutlery on the table and enough cups for everyone to have some water.  It would appear I have a long way to go. 🙂

Sean and I have been spending our days trying to navigate the bureaucracy of a non resident death in a foreign country, consulates in Rome and Cape Town,  and of course a confused and grieving family in Scicli, Sicily.  All of this is compounded by the fact that such a young man dying unexpectedly warrants an autopsy and investigation.   Somehow between the forms and google translate, the long walks, waits, and drives with Sean, I am comforted.    I think this phase is nearing completion and it has been a relatively efficient process and the long and arduous process of repatriation is underway.

The family might come to stay with us in Cape Town which we are hoping for.

We have had to explain this tragedy to many many people that Andrea has touched in the short time he has been here, from parking attendants to the veterinarian, to special friends and I fear this phase is only just beginning.  He was magnificent.

The setters are lethargic and depressed.

I thank you all for the outpouring of sympathy.  It is especially comforting when we are otherwise so far away.

At some point I will tell the story of what happened.




Psychogeography, the PhD and …

I am excited and happy to say that research on the PhD. is moving along.    I have found and confirmed the three reserves where I will be audio and video recording lions (two in South Africa and one in Kenya).   I went to the first of the three and scouted my first location within.     I have had my first “lesson” on sound recording; Next Saturday I am flying north to meet with a woman who owns the largest cage-free primate sanctuary in the world to discuss a television series.  

I wrote this six days ago.

Three days ago something happened that has left me, us, my family devastated.  I have decided to continue to write.  I hope it will help me to bring some order to the chaos.

Today, I will be brief.  Our dear, sweet, joyous friend from Scicli, Andrea, died in our home very early Saturday morning.   I will post more.   Now I must sleep.

Everyone Has A Gun (and Negligent Parenting)

Everyone Has A Gun and Negligent Parenting



Simon and Annette came to Cape Town to celebrate Kieran’s 15th birthday.  We went for a wonderful lunch after which the kids piled into the back of the bucky (AKA the back of a pickup truck).  You’d think Santa came early.   The next day the kids were still raving about how fun it was to drive from the restaurant to our home away from home (all of about ten minutes) in the pickup truck.

I noted that this was a very positive thing.  It was something that they were allowed to try in Africa that they would never have been allowed to try anywhere else.  I asked them why they thought that was.

“Easy!” they said.   “There are lots of poor people in South Africa who can’t afford their own truck so they all chip in and get one truck that they share.”

Canada on the other hand is “too safety oriented.”

But the best answer was when I asked them about why they wouldn’t be allowed to do this in the United States.

“Everyone has a gun there so it is a way to protect people from getting shot because you are more vulnerable to getting shot in the back, out in the open like that.”

Classic.  Telling.  Disturbed.

The Birthday Boy
The Birthday Boy

Simon: Father of the Birthday Boy
Simon : Father of the Birthday Boy


Annette and Simon
Annette and Simon

Road Trip: Walking With Ostrich

We decided it was time to get out of our neighbourhood and explore so we drove three hours somewhere and landed in the middle of the Karoo.  The Karoo is like a desert with more water.  From what I can see the defining feature is that there are more shrubs than cacti but a real definition can be found here: The Karoo Definition .

The camp consisted of several self catering cottages and was completely off the grid.   We kept the fire going as long as possible.  We did puzzles by dim light.  We played ping pong, darts and pool in the game hut.  They even had a rudimentary 9 hole course which was good for hours upon hours of entertainment.   But the highlight for three of us was the hike.

Sean said it was quite possibly the best hike he has ever been on.

Sean, Coco and I set out for a hike  around three in the afternoon.    Not long after we found the path, we heard a loud clicking sound.  We turned to find an ostrich on the path behind us.


As I explained/made up, most paths in the bush are made by animals first so the ostrich was probably just using the path in the same way that we were — to get somewhere.   It was making an odd clicking sound and stretching out its wings.

An ostrich up close at a petting zoo or an ostrich farm is large, but when it is extends its wings and starts clucking loudly all the while walking directly toward you, “large” doesn’t do it justice.  It was massive.  Prehistoric.  And frightening.  Being the self proclaimed expert on animals, I told everyone not to worry,  not to make eye contact, and to give it room to pass.     I said we were likely infringing on its territory and perhaps there was even a nest nearby.    It clucked and flapped toward us at a menacing pace then gently breezed past us and  plopped itself down on the side of the road.   There was definitely a nest and it was now sitting on it.  Or so I said.

It turned out that the Ostrich would pass by us, flop down at the side of the road, and eventually rest right in the middle of the road.  At first we just watched, not wanting to get too close.  Later, we would tip toe around it.  It would click click click then jump up and trot after us — extending its wings like cormorants trying to dry themselves.    Eventually, we walked with it.

This went on for about 5.3 kilometres.  As we rounded a bend and with civilization insight, the ostrich left us.   Walking With Ostriches.  Wow!

She’s Over It

And why the fuck shouldn’t she be? Predator is BACK. Predator Post. Hello. HELLo.

P: And why the fuck shouldn’t she be?

S: It was a rough start at school but it’s true.  I’m over it.

P: The weather is better except that the houses are not insulated so it’s cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey in the mornings.  Getting warmer every day…

The food is better.  In general it just is.  The breads – she gets a fresh loaf every morning.  It could be rye sourdough, or Farmer’s white, a seed loaf or a baguette. Hot out of the oven at 7am.  Even the bagged iceberg lettuce from Woolworth is better.  It looks better: no wilted brownish edges; it is crispier and it lasts longer.  And now that She has discovered Saturday markets – oh my Lord.   She finally got the shi shi mushrooms – the porcini, from the Mushroom Man.   The Seaweed Burrito Boy gave her a list of where to buy the freshest fish; Fish From Africa in Hout Bay, the best groceries at SPAR in the Cape Quarter.  I thought he was sending her to a SPA.  I thought, well that’s  bold.

The dried out stringy rotten flesh from dead animals that hangs around all over the place – they call it biltong – is probably better than a pepperoni nitrate stick but I’m a Vegetarian Predator.   Wrap your head around that one and get back to me if you must.  Not going to try it.

The beer is not better.  She tried —  a Bees Beer? South African shandy type something that was a craft lager, with fynbos honey, lime and soda.   It was delish.

The artisanal mandarin gin — delish.

Now, for those of you that know her well,  this next one is going to be hard to swallow but it’s true – her house -at least the view, is better.

Here is the view from the toilet this morning.

Yep. Not an outhouse. No filters.

Moving on.

The Accidental End of Summer

It was partly to celebrate summer.  It was partly to compensate for a colossal miscalculation regarding the start of school in Cape Town.

I really don’t know what happened.  We just kept telling ourselves and everyone around us that it started at the end of August.  That date had absolutely nothing to do with any information given to us by the school, or any anecdotal information that reality provided.  It didn’t phase us that our neighbour’s three children in two different neighbourhood schools were all back in uniform.  It didn’t phase us that roads were all of a sudden congested and that there were no longer tennis courts reliably available in the evenings.  Nope.  We just made up a start date that suited us.  Our denial and fake date (similar to what it would have been  in Toronto) was essential  in assuring our children, who generally hated the idea of being uprooted at shunted off to Africa, that there was no need to worry.  At least summer vacation would be in tact.  Then, we reminded ourselves (and everyone around us) of the fiction so many times that it became a truth.  Then we believed it.   It didn’t matter how many people remarked on the unusual start date.  We smiled smugly and said, yeah.  That’s why we picked this school for our kids.   And so, with just over a week to go before the actual first day of school, we discovered the Truth and in addition to all of the regular stuff you have to do to get ready for a new school year, we had to break it to the kids that we made a mistake.  Not to worry, we quickly added, we would compensate with a Week of Yes.  They took it very well.

We went to movies, played tennis, gin rummy and backgammon.   We (they) ate at Burger King.  And then they thought it would be great to go to Sun City.

It had been over 20 years since apartheid ended.   We found a last minute deal.

Sun City is Atlantis on steroids– a ravenous world of consumption: gambling, shows, water rides, extreme sports, animals, safaris, golf, food, drink, more and more and endless more.  Neither the staff or the patrons were white.    We had a blast.

We rode ATV’s.


The manufacturer label clearly said NO ONE UNDER THE AGE OF 16 but we did it.   NO PASSENGERS EVER but I rode with Coco.  And it was ok.   We didn’t go as fast as everyone else.


They triple tubed.


We hung with fake animals, and captive ones and raced these dune buggy things.


But honestly, I am starting to feel sick to my stomach about this choice to move to South Africa.   I love it here.  But what do I love?   The residual infrastructure of apartheid that keeps me on top of the back side of Table mountain enjoying the view while I sip local wine from waterford?     I had a flash of panic tonight because Andrea came home and left the front door unlocked. And then there is the issue of the gate.  The gate still doesn’t electrify properly.   My children only know that a vague generic malevolence lurks and that they need to be conscious that there are desperate people “out there” and there are people who might harm them.   WTF have I done?

We go to Hockey.  It is fun.


It is an olympic sized rink in another alter universe also oriented around a casino.  The kids have a great time.   The boys are playing in the under 16 category which challenges them and Coco is playing with boys which she finds challenging so everyone is pleased.

But I can’t shake these thoughts and I’m back.  This time I’m thinking about the people I met in the settlements around Durban while researching  waterless toilets.  I’m thinking about the people of Kibera that created a dual purpose soccer field and buffer to the N’Gong River.  (The soccer field, created and maintained by the community, meant that people weren’t able to set up informal housing on the river banks which meant that the river had a little section of relief from people. When there is no infrastructure for water, or for waste, the people do what they have to do.  They use the river as a sewer).    I shove the thoughts away.

And then we had the first day of school.  Everyone was happy at drop off, looking forward to new people, new sports, and maybe even some new friends and two out of three of them were very discouraged at pick up.  One was in tears.  He wishes we could be a “normal” family.  He “doesn’t like his life anymore.”  I sing them to sleep and wonder about my fictional dates and my fictional life and WTF?

Where is Predator?

Sorry to be so morose today.


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.