The beverages of our past times

Maybe it’s the cheap beer, maybe it’s the craft beer, it’s probably the excellent wine and might has something to do with Amarula and Northern Cape Mampoer but you should know South Africans really like cracking open a bottle of something whenever we gather socially. I’m not warning you of stumbling drunkards when you get here – I’m just letting you get a taste of what we all seem to enjoy.

I’m actually not a “drinker” by any stretch of the imagination. At most braais I would rather opt for ginger beer or water but at the dinner table one of my greatest pleasures is sharing an excellent bottle of red wine with good friends. Thankfully living in SA means I have an abundance of excellent wine to choose from. Some is very pricy others not so pricy and other are even cheap but heck knows it’s all good. Not everyone likes what I like but quite frankly we cater to all tastes. Wine is simply in abundance.

Do we drink more than  other countries? Possibly. I don’t think we can challenge the Italians and Spaniards but we probably come in a close third. France may think they’re in with a chance but we simply have so much more at a lot better price that somehow I believe they may have to settle for fourth even though I know their Bordeux is excellent.

So, when you’re travelling through our fair land don’t be surprized that we make a happy fuss over alcohol. Micro-breweries lure you in with free tastings and great grub. Markets have pop up bars and sell various concoctions which you can enjoy in a shady spot. Weddings normally feature open bars and wine farms make you pay for the privilege to  sip their latest harvest – money well spent. It’s part of who we are. So try some while you’re here and you’ll probably want to take a lot more home


Knocking on heaven’s door

Today is a historic day in world history as the world unites to remember one man – Nelson Mandela. Thousands of South Africans are making their wat to FNB Stadium (Soccer City) to share in a tribute to a man who became a guiding light to us and millions the world over. The world watches as international news agencies report on this one occassion. A lot of dignitries, kings and presidents and ex-presidents from around the world have arrived to bow their heads with us. The world is knocking on heaven’s door to pay their last respects. Even in death Mandela has made people put aside their differences to come together for a common goal. A goal driven by respect and love. Where else will you find the USA President on the same program as the Cuban president. There is a message there about putting aside your differences for a common cause. A lot can be achieved when you acknowledge that we’re all just human driven by the same needs and desires. I swear that if the Dali Lama would have been allowed in SA then the world would have ended today because for a few hours the world will be united in figurative world peace. The Christian God foretold that world peace will be a sign for the end of the world and we’re one man short of that. It may have been apt for the world to start and end in Africa. Yes, I may seem a bit dramatic but don’t be distracted from my sincerety. One man has brought the world together in a way that may never be experienced again. Thank whatever god you believe in that you’re on earth today to see this.

Mandela, Madiba, Tata – thanks

It’s a heart moving day in South Africa today. One of our fathers, our stalwarts have passed away and most of us are feeling rather down. I want to walk up to everyone I come across and say “sorry for your loss”. There are few occasions in life where you share a common bond with just about everyone you’ll ever meet and this sad day is one of them.

Every South African shares Madiba. Most of us adored him and even those who didn’t have to admitt that he meant a lot to this nation and shaped the way we came out of Apardheid. Since he was in prison at the time he couldn’t be at the forefront of negotations to end this blemish on our past but it is how he reacted once out that set the scene of how things could be.

As the leader of the ANC millions looked to him for leadership and what a leader he proved to be. He acted with dignity, did not portray revenge or hatred, loved children and loved South Africa. You are not simply an icon because you led a quiet revolution, you are an icon because of how you act and treat others. Because of the messages you send to the world and the fact that the world wants to live up to the ideals you portray.  He led by example and as it was such a good example thankfully millions of people enthusiastically followed.

In many ways he followed his heart and what makes him most important to me is that I believe he represents hte reality that most South Africans are inherintally good and just want to live a happy and peaceful life. We do not mean each other harm and we are willing to help each other if given the opportunity. When you think of Mandela think of all South Africans because his generosity and compassion and love is prevelant throughout out nation’s people.

May the legend live on in everyone’s hearts and in the generations to come because if we can keep our eyes set on his example this will remain a great nation, the nation everyone dreamed of nearly 20 years ago

The dust on your boots and the rhythm of your heart say Africa

South Africans have a rather passionate connection to any “famous” person who has a connection to our homeland. No matter where they reside now or who they assosiate with, if they’ve done someting cool, they are ours. Other people might not know of their connection but we revel in it and we claim them.

A lot of people residing in South Africa are incredibly famous (Tata Mandela, Desmond Tutu, Chris Barnard) but I’d like to look at those that are not living here and who may never have struck you as South African.

Charlize Theron is ours. Dave Matthews is ours. J.R.R Tolkein is ours. Jody Scheckter is ours. Neil Blomkamp and his friend Sharlto Copely are ours. Seether (the band) is ours. Heck, even Kevin Peters who plays cricket for England is ours (as was most of the team at one stage) we’re kinda cross about it but he’s ours.

The list is long and we can tell you all about it. These people are important to us because they have acheived things on a world stage. America and Europe have a lot of people like this but I think we are specifically passionate about this matter because South Africa was marginalised for so long. These people represent who we really are and what we can achieve and as a nation we are proud of it. Even Oprah said a few years ago that she must be Zulu so our qualities must be attractive.

Another reason these people interest me is because they do not shake the fact that they are South African despite the fact that they live abroad.

Dave Matthews “found” himself in Virginia USA but he was in JHB last night talking in a South African accent and was supported in concert by the great Hugh Masekela. Charlize (Reindeer Games) and Sharlto Copley (Elysium) couldn’t help but offer up Afrikaans as forgein languages when given the chance. Neil Blomkamp used JHB as a backdrop for the stunning District 9 and had a South African flag stuck on Sharlto’s helicopter in Elysium. J.R.R Tolkein used Elephants and Hyenas as inspiration in Lord of The Rings despite the fact that he hadn’t been here in almost a lifetime.

My point is that South Africa is within them. They don’t always shout it from the rooftops and may have left to find a better life but the identity still seeps through at the most unexpected of times. I bet you Charlize and Sharlto swear in Afrikaans. Kevin Peterson probably misses outdoor braais under sunny skies.

These foreign South Africans prove you can live wherever, and do whatever, but you can still value where you come from and how growing up here impacted on you. The Southern tip of Africa is a special place and once you’ve lived here you’re not likely to forget it.

Your name is what? Your name is who?

I am lucky enough to work in a very frank multi-racial, multi-cultural department at work. There are four of us and we have great discussions about what it’s like being white or black or coloured and what makes us different and what makes us the same. We learn from each other and I don’t know of a time when any of us have taken offense.

So, it was no surprise to me when my one black colleauge recently decided to ask a coloured temp (let’s call her Jenny) what her heritage was. The conversation didn’t start so frankly but evolved from some curiosity as to whether ot not Jenny was of Zulu decent and could therefore speak Zulu.

My colleague is not Zulu so I don’t know how this came about. I would never have even considered that Jenny might be Zulu because she’s coloured to me. Most coloured people in South Africa are decendents from coloured people and therefore don’t generally speak an African langauge and also don’t associate with a specific ethnic heritage.

Trevor Noah, our most famous coloured person at present, is an exception to the rule. He is Xhosa and European. He speaks Xhosa (along with a lot of other languages) fluently but don’t use him as an example as the norm by any means. He happens to be a good example of someone who speaks frankly about  race but this is not about him. Don’t think about Trevor when you think about coloured people in the context of this blog.

Jenny says she is “everything.” She means it. She simply is.

The next questions is “What is your surname?”. This might seem like a strange segway but your surname can often reveal a lot about you in this country. Her response “The surname I currently use is Kings. My dad’s surname is Blikkies” And there you have it. No matter what you look like and what you speak you can only be coloured with a surname like Blikkies.

Blikkies in Afrikaans for tins/cans. Yup, that can be a surname in this world of mine. I’m not sure why she goes by Kings but I think it has something to do with tins/cans being your identity and probably the fact that it’s very defining in terms of being coloured.  Jenny doesn’t consider herself coloured. You don’t reply “everything” when you’re coloured.

This may seem a stange thing to write about but seeing this all play out in front of me made an impact. This curiosity around whether or not one person was one thing and then turned out to be everything you expect and somehow nothing she considers herself as fascinates me. What I did learn is that Jenny is South African and that’s what’s important.

I met a king

It’s a long story but I had to go fetch a courier parcel for work the other day. It was an important parcel which had been back and forth across the country (and possibly Swaziland) for over a month. So, when I heard it was in JHB I told the courier company to hold onto it and I’ll come pick it up.

Little did I know I would enter the twighlight zone in doing so. The courier warehouse is number 146 Such and Such Rd which is right next to number 15. Cuase that’s normal right? I have to go through three gates to get in while a very friendly very apologetic security gaurd had to search every part of my car. I’m not sure what on earth I could be smuggling into a courier depot but there you go. He did at least say ” you look veyr nice today” which is very sweet but does allude to the fact that he may have seen me before – which he hadn’t.

I eventaully end up at a deserted collection counter where someone finally spots me and ventures around a corner to find the correct person to assist me. Out comes a man with a toilet paper crown. Yes, a toilet paper crown wrapped around his head. I initially though it may be a bandage but as he got closer I saw the toilet paper bows that decorated his headgear and realised it truely was a crown. He too was very friendly but I had to wait while he went on a mission to find my poor parcel.

So I waited and this gave me a chance to look around the warehouse. It was practically empty except for a few empty cages and what looked like document storage along the one wall. There was also a lonely conveyor belt, being manned by one guy who constantly scanning or doing something to a single box as it came round him time and time again. I’m not kidding. One man, one box, Box goes round, man points scanner at it and then steps back. The same box, the same man, another motion to scan. ANd it was all strangely quiet. This carried on for several minutes before the man  switched off the conveyor and left the lonely box just there. Twilight zone.

Eventually toilet paper crown guy brings me the box which looked like it had been to all corners of the universe considering how damged it was. But the contents was okay. SO after much signing and refering one waybill to the other to prove it was all the same package he loaded my car and off I went.

Back at the fort entrance, another security gaurd checked my smuggling finesse the first one stood in his little hut pounding his heart with his hand while looking in my direction with fluttering eyelids. I smiled sweetly and got out of there as quickly as I could. Back past number 15 and back to reality.

Why am I telling you this? Well, because I don’t think there are many countries in the world where every one you meet at a warehouse is impossibly friendly and can get away with flirting with the customer and wearing toilet paper crowns. It’s a testiment to the wonders that are my country. We honour our people and we let you wear a crown if at all possible. 

It was probably his birthday and I should have asked why he was wearing a crown, but at least I have immortalised this moment in writing.