A Very English Girl Passing Through A Very Afrikaans World

If you are from Bloemfontein and are sensitive or defensive, PLEASE DO NOT READ THIS.

All Afrikanerism definitions from Wikipedia. I did not make them up. I promise.

Traveling is a wonderful thing. I love it. I love my country. I love traveling in my country. I love the diversity of the landscape and the people.

Sometimes though, just sometimes, like when you’re sitting in a sports car, and your face is Vogue ready and you’re wearing your Karl Lagerfeld’s and you’re looking pristine, and some moegoe (silly/stupid person) sticks his face through the car window and says, “Heita ousie (hello maid/black female)”, you just have to wonder whether you passed a border post and didn’t realise it.

These are just my thoughts, the thoughts of a very English girl passing through a very Afrikaans world, Bloemfontein.

If there is one thing traveling has taught me, it’s the good sense to differentiate between a language and an attitude. I have no issues with Afrikaans as a language; it’s one of the easiest and most expressive languages in the world.

I do have issues though with the attitude of some Afrikaans speaking people.

On entering the city, of roses, mind you, I felt like I was in a 1980’s South Africa, like someone had pressed rewind on the politics, culture and clothing. Like Nelson Mandela had never happened. Like vellies (veldskoens – traditional Afrikaans outdoor shoes made from hide) were still in fashion.

I felt like Posh Spice in the heart of Boerfontein (farmer’s land). Jislaaik! (Oh the horror).

But at least I cracked a smile.

Sometimes, just sometimes, when you travel, and you find that you’ve crossed the invisible border post, and you are in the middle of some sort of time lapse, you just have to pull in the bum and push out the boobs, and “gooi” (throw your weight/attitude/bitchiness) with the best of them.

When I was out in public, my laaitie (younger person, esp. a younger male), kept saying to me, ‘get ready for the stares’ and I said, ‘Don’t worry, 2 years in Korea prepared me for stares’.

Sometimes, just sometimes, when you travel, and you find yourself in an adverse or annoying situation, feel it, deal with it and move on. It’s the Universe preparing you for another situation. And because you have already been prepared for it you won’t feel the need to skop, skiet en donner (kick, shoot and beat people up) over it.

Just march on like the laanie (boss) you are!

If it sounds like Bloemfontein is a kak plek (crap/shit place), ag shame man, it’s actually not.

Sometimes, just sometimes, when you travel, you need to get past certain things and focus on the positive, and then you’ll enable yourself to just enjoy the experience.

Bloemfontein does have the most amazing skyline. It feels like you can reach up and touch it.

The streets are clean and the gardens pretty.

I got to run, walk and hike in a beautiful, quiet and peaceful wildlife estate.


Photo: The wildlife estate

I got to enjoy some quality time with family (great conversation, good laughs and lots of delicious food)

I satisfied my craving for pap ‘n vleis met a bietjie chakalaka on the side


Photo: Boerewors, lamb chops, pap and chakalaka

Bloem is mos a ander plek maar ‘n goeie plek. (Bloem is an ‘other’ kind of place but a good place)

This ‘ousie” may not be back in a hurry, but still, one love. We cool. Like that.

Ons sal weer om dieselfde vuur sit. Miskien.

Photo: Sunset Clouds



The Homecoming and Reverse Culture Shock

12 days ago I was at Incheon airport in Seoul paying for overweight baggage, desperately just trying to get on the plane to Hong Kong.

3 and half hours later I was in Hong Kong being whisked away by security in one of those airport-golf-carts in a mad dash to get from one terminal to another for my connection to Johannesburg.

13 hours later one of the Mama’s at customs at OR Tambo International was scanning my passport and saying ‘welcome home’.

Yes, I had made it. I was here.

It felt surreal to have my feet planted on home soil again. To look around and see familiar faces. To stand near people and not just overhear their conversations but understand it as well.

To drive on roads mapped to my memory and breathe in the expanse and beauty of the landscape. To be hugged by the warm Highveld sun and smiled upon by the clear blue African sky.

It all felt so dreamy for the first 24 hours. Until the realities of trying to get myself re-integrated into the daily business of South African life started hitting me all upside the head.

For the first few days my mother became my conjoined twin because in order to exchange money, buy a sim card for my phone, buy airtime to make calls and buy a data bundle for internet connection I needed to have proof of a South African address, which I did not, for obvious reasons, possess. Mother dearest to the rescue.

Leaving a land of fast internet connection and access to wifi literally everywhere and coming to a land of slow internet connection and literally no wifi access anywhere, is hard. And frustrating.

Leaving a land with a fast, efficient and friendly service industry whether it is government, business or private and coming to a land with “I’ll take your money and fuck you” service industry whether it be government, business or private, is hard. And shocking.

Sitting in a restaurant or at a family dinner table and suddenly being tuned in to every conversation going on around you and trying to keep up, is hard. And overwhelming.

Trying to catch up with friends and close a 2 year gap is hard. And sometimes impossible.

Being in public and making sure your handbag is closed at all times or keeping your eye on your cell phone that you left on a table or making sure that your car is locked properly, is hard. And annoying.

I was really looking forward to coming home. I wanted to come home. I made the choice to come home.

There have been fleeting moments when I’ve felt frustrated, shocked, overwhelmed or annoyed, where I questioned whether I made the right decision. When doubt set in.

But a conversation with my sister and nephew recently, made me realise that with the all the things we want or desire in life, with all the things that make us happy, we mostly have to make certain sacrifices to get them. Sometimes little sacrifices and sometimes big sacrifices.

For me to live in my country with such an abundance of beauty, with the choice of mountains, forests, beaches, safaris, wine farms, and big open space and an abundance of activity to go with it, I have to make certain sacrifices.

So the question is not about want or desire or happiness, it’s about sacrifice.

And the willingness to do it.

Am I?

Not sure yet.

Are you?