Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Outsider in Gatesville

Most people believe and say they are culturally diverse blending into foreign lands and cultures without being afraid or critical. But then again we have so many liars out there. Being culturally diverse only sounds good because you remember you signed the ethics course at work. Sure you work with a smarty box of cultures but immersing yourself on the grass root level is another story. Embracing the uncomfortable social trends and traditions is only part of it. Being objective and holding your tongue from criticism is far more challenging. Others know when you are faking - you don't ask the right questions or allow for proper responses because your impatience and indifference is the white elephant in the room.

This is true for my previous youthful self when I caught myself mentioning how many black and white friends I had, I knew I was a poser. I am now a glutten to learn as much as I can about those around me. And yes, eat any weird shit they put in front of me too.

Golden Dish, Gatesville, Cape Town
I go back to my wife's first trip to SA. I kinda gave her heads up about what Cape Town is about and how to survive the vacation without running to the Canadian Consulate for protection and helicopter emergency extraction.

My wife is extremely smart and well travelled so I did not have to give her the third degree about home. She knows we don't play with lions and some of us don't live in huts. Like I explained to many others, 90% of South Africans have not seen any wild life as most cannot afford to. There is no watering hole near our house which we can just mozy on down to for a quick sight seeing. You wanna see animals then take out that American Express and lets go. Let me tell you folks, we as Africans cant be ignorant to the fact that many first worlders believe that Africans live in the bush, its the most dangerous place on earth and you will die if you drink the water. When you live on the other side of the world knowing anything about Africa is no where near a priority. Often you see Ads on TV collecting money for starving African kids who are living in filth. Because they are played so often people get desensitized to it and this is what they know of Africa. So the ignorance is understood.

She was in deed well prepared. She had a GPS locator, pepper spray, police and CAA contact numbers and knew which side of Table Mountain the house was on. More importantly she knew we drove on the "wrong" side of the road. While she was professionally debriefed about the worldly surroundings there was nothing to prepare her for my FAMILY. There are some explanations too Taboo to attempt so I decided to throw her in the deep end and experience it first hand. Trust me the story that follows is worth a Trevor Noah skit but that story's for another time.

Golden Dish, Gatesville, Cape Town
The Top Ten must see in Cape Town is easy but generic. I have a different Top Ten which smothers and shocks your body with cultural efficiency. This is number one in the experience. On the far side of Athlone lays a buzzing hub of activity called Gatesville. Smack in the middle is Golden Dish. A Take Aways I called home for the last 30 odd years. Open almost 24 hours they serve fast food to the masses. Walking up to the shop I find my wife's grip nearly cutting of my circulation but I quickly realized why. Hawkers shouting at passerby's, people running over the road frantically no respect for cars, police vans racing with sirens blaring,  taxis hooting for no reason, garbage all over the place, criminal looking freaks that just escaped from prison, beggars following you for money, it was a madness spilled onto the street but just another day in the neighbourhood for us locals. What is more clearer than anything is that she's the only white person for miles around. I guess the shouting and raucous noise from hundreds of coloureds are a defense mechanism to keep all others at bay. I am sure this would be intimidating for many.

Then something happened that reinforced my pride about my people and instantly made me burst out in laughter with tears and all. If this happened in any other situation there would be blood and tears but this was just the equilibrium that was needed. Walking hand in hand we passed one of the hawkers selling his fruit on the pavement. It wasn't a second that we passed him that he said (In Afrikaans) just loud enough for us to hear: "Daar loop OJ" (Translated: There walks OJ). I didn't know if my wife would think of the comment but the brazen lack of filter and ignorance was heart warming to me. I was home.

Oh.... my people know when to turn on the magic just in time..........

Friday, 2 August 2013

Ist it Ironic??

At home in Africa one night before I set off on my worldly adventures I was relaxing under the majestic African sky. My head resting on my favourite rock next to my favourite tree while I waited for the cows to come home. The many rolling hills ahead seemed like many beautiful naked African ladies laying on their backs watching the stars and displaying their most precious assets for all to see. The stars were blinding and large against the dark and almost felt in reach. You see when you have no city lights for a thousand kilometers the night comes alive on its own.

 I dreamt one day of leaving the village and travelling to various countries and looking at these same stars. I guess I believed and hoped that no matter where I am that when I looked up I would still be the same African guy which distance and time cannot change. The world might be huge and daunting but my mind created a little space inside it just for me to enjoy the stars whereever I was.

Where would I go first. I have heard tales about Canada and always wondered how green it was on the other side. Maybe the humans there pissed Gatorade on their lawns and therefore the green, green grass. Made sense because at home there were constant ads about  Canada Green lawn seed. Just had to be greener. All I know is that they speak English & French, lived with Eskimo`s and could ice skate. What more did I need to know. They must have some travel restrictions though because with all the snow there I wondered why they all didn't just move!! Maybe one day they will all be allowed to get passports and leave.

Some only speak one Language!
Fast forward almost a year and my dream came true. I met a real live Canadian for the first time. She had fluffy hair maybe red, brown or auburn. Not sure which one as my excitement got the better of me. She did have rosy red lips, the big red leaf on her shirt and she spoke like an American. It took a while to convince me she was a Canuck but she did show me her passport. By the way I learned never to call a Canadian lazy. They don't like the word. Well there she was. I found one!! Hoping she would make one of my fantasies come true I asked her to speak dirty to me in French and to my shock and horror she told me she doesn't speak the language of love. Was this her way of blowing me off. I really only wanted to hear the accent. Cant believe it. She told me she does not speak French and there are more of them who don't. Its just this type of false information we get fed back home by SABC. Anyway I got over this setback and my search for a French speaking damsel continues.  The Canadian and I got to know each other and we actually became friends.

She looked like this!!
I soaked up as much as I could from this foreign lass. Alexander Keith is not everyone's neighbour. Tuuk is not the same as ``Tuuk you for a fool``Ice skating is for men as well. Canadian women love South African men. Yellow snow is for the guy shagging your wife.

We bonded like any Moose Girl would with her African King (insert song ``He's not heavy he's my brotherrrr....``) Okay, the Irony of it all started off on a lovely evening. Work was good and everyone was excited. Tonight was skate night. Moose Girl wanted me to go party and ice skate. Two words you should never put together. Why would a grown African man with perfectly fine western made leather shoes want remove them and stand on a large sheet of ice. Oh no ....wait for balance on the ice they will give me to wear female looking boots...... glued to knives with the razor part on the ice. Like this idea wont fucking kill me. Now if you don't like me, then say so. Don't try and convince me to kill myself. Have some back bone.

I just said NO. This is not happening. You cant tease me and I don't need your approval for any of my decisions. Leave me the hell alone. You want to show off with your sophisticated friends who can skate since they were in the womb. I don't play that. Go off and impress your other third world friends who have never seen a frozen pond. I don't need to be objectified with your skating charm. What a nerve. She always did things like this but my ignorance did not always let me down. Like the time she impressed upon me the miracle of doors which opened automatically. Whenever we would go to the restaurant the doors would slide open because of a sensor. But for her sake I still had to act surprised (being from the bush and all) because I didn't want her to feel bad because she was so proud of these first world trappings. Once again I digress and on with the story.

Apparently to help you balance on ice!!
It was not 30 minutes later when I heard the dreadful call siren. ``Alpha, Alpha, Alpha.........Studio B Ice Rink`` This means medical emergency someone fell on their ass thinking they could skate and broke the bum bone. Hahahaa. I was right. The ice is no place for me. I hope its one of the flashy Canadians who like to float like butterflies on the ice shoving their skills in your face. The smile on my face was priceless. For once in my life I was not peer pressured into doing something and I stood my ground. It was a good day for me.

Unfortunately for the next week I had to nurse and care for Moose Girl because she was the one who broke her ass on the ice. Not only was her ass sore. Her ass first warmed the ice to a liquid but by the time the medics came her jeans was frozen onto the ice and she needed to be ripped free of it. How ironic Ms fancy Canadian Ice skater. How ironic. I better stop here before I say something embarrassing.

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