Suid Afrikak

I thought moving to Pretoria would be boring, but this is great! Uncle Bob Mugabe is staying at the Sheraton Hotel, just over the road from us, spending his stolen hard-earned wealth, while expat Zimbabweans protest around the Union Buildings against his every breath. At the same time South Africans attempt to tear down a statue of Paul Kruger. And somewhere in the background, not receiving much attention, are the new, private jets that our selfless leader has purchased, for the good of South Africa. Who needs schools and clinics when you have a private jet?

We don’t need people to be educated and healthy. We just need them to be alive and gullible enough to place a “X” next to the face that blurts out the most appealing promises, no matter how ridiculous or impossible they really are.

South Africans are proud of the democracy that has been built over the past twenty years. However, those people do not understand the term “democracy”. South Africa was not a democracy pre-1994 and it is not a true democracy now. Argue all you want and you will still be wrong. Google it. For those without access to a computer; don’t worry, Jacob promised to fix that.

The removal of statues has become a circus. It has also become a racial issue instead of a moral one. White people protect the statues because they feel it is a part of their heritage. Black people want to remove the statues because of the oppression that those people caused or were a part of.

Fair enough. Cecil was an arsehole on a good day. Historically, he is unpopular with the Afrikaners and the Blacks. People have now invested time, effort and faeces into removing an inanimate object that resembles the man. The students at UCT disgraced themselves by throwing human excrement on a statue. Well done! They have just made him more famous than ever before! His memory will live on, thanks to the students from the “Rhodes Must Fall” campaign. Now Google “irony”.

His statue is gone, but his estate includes part of UCT and Kirstenbosch Gardens. We’re going to need an entire sewerage plant and more than one crane to remove that. There is also the Rhodes Scholarship Fund. Should we keep receiving his funding? Is it morally correct to accept money from such an evil man? What about Rhodes University in Grahamstown? Another product of Cecil’s estate. We can rename it, like all the roads in Pretoria, but he will always be a part of our history.

Three, educationally challenged men became a little too excited and jumped on the band wagon by vandalising the horse memorial in Port Elizabeth. The suspected EFF members have reinforced the ignorance of their party by breaking a statue dedicated to horses. Either they had no idea what the statue symbolised or the horse was a counter-revolutionary and did not deserve that bucket of water from the soldier. There is also the possibility that Julius just wanted some attention. There is even an inscription for Julius and his comrades to read.

THE GREATNESS OF A NATION
CONSISTS NOT SO MUCH IN THE NUMBER OF ITS PEOPLE
OR THE EXTENT OF ITS TERRITORY
AS IN THE EXTENT AND JUSTICE OF ITS COMPASSION

ERECTED BY PUBLIC SUBSCRIPTION
IN RECOGNITION OF THE SERVICES OF THE GALLANT ANIMALS
WHICH PERISHED IN THE ANGLO BOER WAR 1899-1902

Steve Hofmeyr poked the bear by writing a letter that highlighted his views of “us and them”. Although many of his points were valid, the last thing we need is for an influential person to provoke both sides of the conflict.

Some PEOPLE have certain opinions while other PEOPLE have opposing opinions. Not all blacks want statues of white men to burn. Not all whites care what happens to random pieces of sculpted metal standing in parks.

Throwing faeces at things we don’t appreciate will not solve problems caused in the past. Vandalising statues of dead men will only make South Africans angry. Whether you’re a boer or a black, you are South African. You’re either a part of the problem or you’re working towards a solution. If you expend energy fighting statues, I have bad news for you.

Hin Wong Bay

Sat 20 Sept 2014

Maja's nemesis. The "yellyfish!"
Maja’s nemesis. The “yellyfish!”

The best thing to do here is snorkel. Actually, it’s the only thing to do, besides relaxing and admiring the view.

Fishies
Fishies
Feeding the fish chips. Baked, not fried.
Feeding the fish chips. Baked, not fried.

We shared the area with Vince and Alice, a French couple. Vince has the most irritating ability, whereby he speaks both, English and French, like a native. We prefer him under water.

After hours
After hours
Hin Wong Bay
Hin Wong Bay
Sunset
Sunset

Occasionally, a coconut will attempt murder by unplugging itself from the palm tree and falling, from bloody high, towards it’s victim. Failed attempts are signalled by a dull thud, as the tropical assassin hits the ground. We then rip his skin off and turn him into a snack.

Breaking open a fallen coconut. Getting the husk off is a mission!
Breaking open a fallen coconut. Getting the husk off is a mission!

Slaghuis Express

Thurs 18 Sept 2014

A sleeper train took us to Champhon. For anyone over 5’5” it’s more of a foetal-position-train, as the beds are not built for westerners. The only people to disembark the train, at Champhon, were tourists. Lots of them! This is the first sign to watch out for when being ripped off. At 06:00am we were herded onto the back of various trucks. Each tourist was branded with a sticker, to indicate their destination. We were just cattle, on our way to the money-making factory. Products of the tourist industry.

Night train. Curl up and hope for the best.
Night train. Curl up and hope for the best.

The ferry ride was another meat truck, crammed with various species of tourist. The American variety seem to be louder, more obnoxious and irritating than the rest. Maybe it’s something in their feed.

Stepping off the ferry, onto Koh Tao, reminded me of chasing sheep through a run, for the farmer to count. The narrow walkway was flanked by employees of hotels, taxis, dive centres, night clubs and tour operators holding advertisement boards and shouting at the tourists to catch their attention.

The entrepreneurial taxi drivers had cottoned onto the concept of supply and demand. Our taxi, actually a bakkie, cost just as much as our over-night train. The island is a very steep mountain, jutting out of the ocean. Just the thought of walking those hills, with my backpack, makes me cry like a fat kid on a hiking trip.

Not much to complain about
Not much to complain about

Our accommodation, which we randomly picked out, happened to be on the quieter side of the island, away from the cool kids and the bars. Being a morsel in the meat processor was disappointing. I was disappointed in myself for being naive enough to fall into the trap. But that’s how we learn. However, this little bungalow, hiding in a quiet bay, is well worth a quick lesson.

View from the bungalow
View from the bungalow

DANGER! Beware the Tourist!

Sun 1 March 2015

Finally found a quieter part of Bangkok, behind a Buddhist temple. There are no womanly-looking men or manly-looking women coaxing us into dark night clubs. No pushy taxi drivers, dragging us towards their cab by our baggage-handles, before asking where we’re going. Not a single, well dressed, Indian gentleman offering to tailor me a suite for “good price”. I haven’t even seen a fire-eating midget. I’m beginning to wonder if we’re still in Bangkok.

Nocturnal activities of tourists
Nocturnal activities of tourists

These are just the local people of Bangkok, trying to make a living out of the tourism industry. Large budgets, dedicated to marketing campaigns, do not feature in their business plans. Approaching their target market, in the street, is how they advertise. They may be persistent at times, but remain respectful and are generally harmless. It’s the tourists that are a hazard!

I'll admit, I miss the midgets.
I’ll admit, I miss the midgets.

Drunken Australians dancing on a table, balancing on top of another table, in a restaurant. A British couple jumping the boundary wall, of a fancier hotel, to sneak into the swimming pool and be escorted out by security guards that have to treat them respectfully. That creepy American man, drinking beer by himself at 09:00am, on the street, while telling passing girls how beautiful they are and that he would pray to have a girlfriend like them. More Americans, talking as loud as humanly possible about how corrupt Russian politics is (not hazardous, but god, the ignorance is infuriating). The extraordinarily aggressive, Swedish woman clutching her butter knife, while staring at the throat of a western man groping a waitress. Fear the tourist!

DANGER: Farang.
DANGER: Farang.

In Europe, one will often hear people complaining about the damn foreigners coming to their country and destroying things for the locals. Pot, kettle, black…something like that?

Charlotte’s Ethical Web

Sat 28 Feb 2015

Killing F***ing Chickens
Killing F***ing Chickens

While walking through the Kanchanaburi night market, we spotted fried cockroaches, crickets, beetles, frogs and silk worms. The adventurous side of me thought that I should definitely have a taste. I quickly squashed that ridiculous, adventure nonsense and moved on.

A healthy snack
A healthy snack

Dozens of people were walking around with small cages, filled with finches for sale. The hippy in me (a very small organism somewhere under my foot) thought about buying them in order to set them free. But the entrepreneurial Thais had beaten me to the thought. The finches’ purpose was to be bought and set free. I realised this as I watched a young girl opening her cage to release the tiny, feathered commodities into the Asian wilderness of Kanchanaburi.

I suddenly swung my opinion 180 degrees and refused to buy them, as that would be supporting something quite cruel. The cute little birds were crammed into tiny, metal cages, awaiting a sympathetic sucker to purchase their freedom.

Free the Finches
Free the Finches

Immediately after my ethically correct decision, I walked over to the food court and had no problems ordering stir-fried chicken noodles. The poor, delicious chicken probably spent most of its life in a tiny cage, awaiting the wok. The only form of sympathy it could have experienced was a quick and painless beheading, with a sharp knife and heavy hand.

Baby Terrapins
Baby Terrapins

While digesting my dinner, the thought of turning vegan fluttered through my mind, but quickly disappeared along with the finches. Seeing my food pre-packaged or pre-cooked, instead of as a living, breathing, suffering animal is extremely convenient and sets a decent mental barrier between me and the butcher. This has, in no way, stopped me from ordering bacon and eggs for breakfast. Maybe things would be different if I had to slaughter Wilbur myself.

Stupid Tourist

Fri 27 Feb 2015

Lazy Swede
Lazy Swede

As much as I love the Thai people and their friendly, relaxed nature; I absolutely despise asking them for directions. I suppose I am also at fault, as I still have not learnt my lesson after more than five months of travelling in South East Asia. After every failed attempt, at acquiring directions from a local, I tell myself, “That’s the last time! Never again! Get a map or ask a tourist.” But the next day, while wandering around looking for the market/temple/bus station, I’ll see another Thai face with such a welcoming smile and eagerness to help that I convince myself, “This time will be different. Of course this person knows where to go. They live here!” Wrong again. Upon arriving at the supermarket, instead of the train station, I will increase my problems, exponentially, by asking another local person for more directions. Panic sets in, due to fear of missing my train, and still I have learnt nothing.

The shape of our key ring was mildly conspicuous
The shape of our key ring was mildly conspicuous

Not finding my way is obviously my own fault. However, as a proudly South African male, I find it much easier to blame someone else. Other tourists have laughed in my face when I told them that I ask local people for directions. Apparently ‘losing face’ in the Thai culture is a large source of shame. One cannot be asked a question and not have an answer. The words, “I don’t know” will never be uttered. An incorrect answer is better than no answer at all, even if it means sending the silly white boy, without a map, in the wrong direction.

Fill your water bottle for 1 Baht (0.031 USD for 1.5 litres) Great idea!
Fill your water bottle for 1 Baht (0.031 USD for 1.5 litres) Great idea!

An Account

Thurs 26 Feb 2015

“Hey, babe. Coffee.”

The waitress nodded and briskly walked towards the kitchen, returning moments later with the steaming, hot broth.

“Cheers, babe. You’re looking smart in that uniform. Let me fix the collar for you.”

Her young body froze with fright. Her collar didn’t need adjusting. Even so, it was for her to adjust and she was perfectly capable of fixing it herself. Instinct told her innocent mind that this was wrong. She cringed inside at the close proximity of the mature stranger and the touch of his hands on the back of her neck.

“Much better! Let’s order some breakfast, yeah?” He said, as he lowered his palms, along her skinny arms and onto her stomach, in order to adjust the bottom of her shirt, where a sliver of skin was visible and vulnerable to a quick feel.

She pulled out a notepad from her apron pocket and placed it on the table to begin writing. The smile that she would normally wear, to greet and serve clients, had faded into a wide-eyed look of worry and anxiety as she leaned over to jot down their order.

“I’ll have the English breakfast, babe. I like my eggs firm, like your skin. Hmm, smooth, too.”

The pig slid a fat hand across the table and began stroking her arm with a thick, sausage-like finger while she tried to concentrate on the breakfast order of his wife, sitting alongside him with their infant child in her arms.

Never had she experienced this kind of discomfort and fear. Why was this man, that she had never met, treating her with such disrespect? Couldn’t he see that he was hurting her? Or did he just not care? Even a polite request, for the guest to respect her personal space, may upset him and cause a scene. Upsetting a client means losing one’s job. A Thai waitress earns a dismal wage on a good day, but one cannot afford to eat without it.

The event in the restaurant, involving the western “gentleman” and tiny Thai woman, left quite an impression on both Maja and I. In fact, this town has made more of a dent, rather than impression in my mind about the behaviour of people. I use the word “people” very loosely. Many of the specimens that we have observed could be categorised, in the “Missing a Chromosome” column, along with Jacob Zuma, George Bush and members of ISIS.