farmers


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My “liberal” credentials might take a bit of a beating here. But, what the hell, I am African… I can’t pull punches just to make people feel better about themselves. I have some beef with what we eat…

You know I don’t like Palin. She an empty head with lots of background noise. I’m not even going to go into that. Just have a look at a few of the things I’ve written about her to know I am not a fan. See the letter I wrote to Sarah, or how six degrees of separation makes her anti-American and not a maverick, or what I want in a Vice President. Oh, there are many more. But those will give you a sense of my dislike of the lipstick pig.

And here I am defending her. Dammit. I thought about it for a while… But I know I have to. It’s about meat you see. And I am a meatarian. Ooh… Not everyone likes that part of me. Mmm. A few nice tjops and a boerewors on the open fire… Mouth watering sh*t I tell you. Anyway. Go have a look at my views on eating meat. Unpopular? Maybe. Do I care? Hum… Sorry… Was that a question? I eat meat. Live with it.

What am I talking about? I am talking about the “turkey incident”. You know, the one with Sarah “Empty Head” Palin talking to the media while a guy is busy cutting the throat of a turkey in the background to drain the blood. And of course, kill the bird. Here is a link to that just in case you haven’t seen it yet. Do what I did… Turn off the sound and just watch the guy in the background. I really have no reason to hear her voice. She sounds just like a bunch of turkeys in any case. And about as predictable. Have you ever stood with a bunch of turkeys and made the turkey “kulu-kulu-kulu” sound? Yep, they all react the same way by singing it all back to you in unison. Just like Sarah and her gang of bigots. You push the button and she’ll sing it back… So predictable. Anyway… Here is the video.

It was all over the news. People were up in arms about her being so stupid to stand in front of the cameras while the guy is killing the bird in the background. How could she? Is she that stupid? Hum… Yes, this “bird” is that stupid but it has nothing to do with the bird in the background. I really don’t get what the fuss was about?

Are you shocked about the killing of the bird? WTF? How did you think that turkey got on your plate over Thanksgiving? Do you think they were massaged till they died a peaceful death? Or that they died of some natural cause?

Yep. They did die of a natural cause. Natural for a turkey in any case. They got slaughtered. And nicely packaged for your convenience. Ready to place your order for a 16 pound turkey and pick it up at Roche Brothers the day before Thanksgiving. And then you stick it in the oven for a few hours and… Wallah! Turkey time!

(Oh, we had a chicken on steroids for Thanksgiving. Eight pounds – the smallest one you could order. Hey, the butcher frowned at our un-American size turkey – even after we explained we are four very normal size people. Two kids and two grown ups. But that maple syrup did the trick. Nice and juicy! Thanks babe.)

Back to reality… The meat you eat were once little calves and chicks and little piggies and little baa baa white sheep. Yes, they were cute once. But now they are dinner. Or maybe just mashed up into a burger or something. Get used to it. The things we call meat were once alive. Now they are nicely done (medium rare as the chef said) and on our dinner plates. Live with it.

More importantly, own it.

I find it amazing that people were shocked at the video. I just can’t understand how people can think that food comes nicely packaged without any consequences. Meat doesn’t grow on trees. Their natural state isn’t wrapped in plastic and in cold storage. They don’t grow up from little 1 ounce steaks into the half-pounder you slap on the grill.

I don’t have a problem with what I eat. I slaughtered a few sheep in my time. And cattle for that matter. Plucked a few chickens. Even helped a turkey or two from their kulu-kulu state into my plate. That’s life. I am from Africa and had to go to the farm when there was a break from school. I’m glad I did it.

And I am happy that I slaughtered the sheep and cows and chickens and rabbits and deer or whatever else came my way from the farm or when we went hunting. We ate what we killed. It wasn’t for fun. It was for food and to control the numbers. Too many wild animals and the semi-desert area would turn into a desert area if we didn’t cull the animals and control the numbers. Like I said, it wasn’t for fun.

But I am still glad I knew what I ate. And I am glad that I could take ownership of what I ate. From the farm to my plate. I knew the animals and knew what they were for. We always looked after them and fed them. Gave them space to live and kept them healthy. But they weren’t there to be played with. We respected them and treated them well. And then we will slaughter them in the best and quickets way we can. Always with respect and acknowledgement that we owe them as much as what we own them. Because we knew that in the end we will eat them. And live.

My only problem now is that I don’t know where my meat comes from. I know about the force-feeding of turkeys and the steroids for juicy steaks and the transporting of sheep. I don’t like it. I don’t. But I have to make a choice. I either eat it and know what might have happened along the way or I should shut the f*ck up and go eat some celery.

Oh I try to be organic when I can afford it and when I can get it. I make sure I have as much information as possible. But I am not going to live in the clouds and think that there are no consequences. I know that there are some major sh*t going on in the US when it comes to the stuff they call meat. Those large commercial farms are not a pretty sight. But that happens when you want your steaks and you want your burgers. It’s as horrid as you can imagine and then some. Sh*t happens when we want to eat meat.

Know what you eat. Live with it. Don’t try and think you are all “eco-activist” by getting worked up about the turkey getting slaughtered. Those horrid pictures… That’s life. That’s how you get your food. Know it. Live with it. And then eat it.

I do. I’m not going to bullsh*t myself. I might be a disgusting bastard and barbaric African for eating meat, but I am not going to be a hypocrite. I know it. I live with it. And I eat it.

Don’t think your all organic green salad is that much better. Farming soya is killing the Amazon forest. And it tastes like crap. (No thanks, I’ve tried it many, many times in different ways. It always tastes shite.) What makes a plant so much worse than a cow? Just because it doesn’t have whiskers and a heartbeat?

It’s so stupid. People trying to humanize the animals we eat. Cows with glasses on? Yeah, it is funny… But it is also a piece of steak away from being on my plate. Chicken Little? Wait till he grows up. Babe? Mmm, wonder what the farmer did with him when he got old? Sorry, these animals don’t live the lives we are told on the telly or read in those nice bedtime stories. Those are stories, not life. I laugh at the stories of animals done so beautifully by Pixar and the Disney gang and I love Back To The Barnyard. But I also know that calling the main cow Otis doesn’t mean he won’t be eaten when the time comes.

You like cats or dogs? Guess what… The stuff you feed them? Used to be the crap left over after they cut the choice meat for us. Or the fish heads left over after we got our frozen bits cut into nice cubes. We eat meat. Or some of us do. And we should know what we eat and not be disgusted by how we get it. That is bigotry. Or at least hypocritical.

Thank God we don’t hear the broccoli scream as you snap the stem, dry freeze it before it is stuffed in a plastic bag and then dropped in boiled water or nuked by the microwave. Oh, those poor, poor broccoli. And the cute little peas. What did they ever do to you? Or do you wait for the carrot to die a natural death?

No. I am not going to eat roadkill. I know what I eat. Or at least as much as what I can know. I am not going to flinch when I see a picture of a dead animal getting slaughtered and packaged. I am going to look at it and then slap it on the grill.

I know it. I see it. I own it. I live with it. And I eat it.

Do you?

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I’ve been asked about my “anger” many times. What do you have to be “Angry” about? Why are you the “Angry African”? Why indeed…

I would rather have a good meal. Maybe help my wife prepare the food. Get the table ready. Talk about whether we should have brocolli or peas or carrots to go with the maple syrup chicken and roast potatoes she just made. That’s what I would rather do. Just have a good meal together with my family. Sitting at the table and laughing at the silliness of my daughters. Making funny noises and joking with their mother. Good times. Me, my family and a good meal. I would rather have a good meal. No need for anger here.

But how can I? How can I just have a meal when I know that somewhere out there in Zambia is a family arguing about how they divide the last of the nsima. Maybe this will be the last meal they share together. Because tomorrow brings no food and no hope. Maybe tomorrow the kids will have to go down to the charity handing out food and slip some away for ma and pa back home. But will grandma make it? Can she wait another 24 hours before she gets a little something to eat. No laughing or poking of fun. Not when the bones on their bodies are poking hard at their skin. How can there be no anger?

I would rather watch telly. Just vegetate and do nothing. Stare blankly at the screen. Flip channels because I can’t decide between CSI Miami or Kitchen Nightmares. Or maybe I should watch that Bond movie I taped? Or watch Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King again? Yeah. That’s what I want to do. Just stare at the telly and think of nothing. No anger here.

But how can I? How can I stare at the telly when tonight someone might be staring at the barrel of a gun somewhere in the Congo? No channels for them to watch. Maybe tonight will be the last time they see anything. I can change the channel but they can’t change their lives. I can play with the remote but they are here. Waiting for me to think of them. Always hiding somewhere in my conscious. Waiting to flip the channel of my brain to their station. No static. Just their lives waiting to be changed while they live a reality life. How can there be no anger?

I would much rather read a good book. Maybe just finish one of the many I am reading right now. Should I go with Mao and his killing or read about hope through the eyes of Obama? Maybe just get away from all that stuff and laugh at Bill Bryson telling me about A Short History of Nearly Everything. Aah. That what I want to do. Just read my book and let my mind slip away for a little bit. No anger here.

But how can I? How can I read a book when tomorrow the children will go and work those cocoa fields? The pages they flip are the pages of their life going past. One empty page after the other. Or maybe it is a horror. The horror of their lives. Living a Stephen King life larger than even he can imagine. But maybe some khat will help numb the pain. At least it will take away the glint in their eyes. And the empty pages of their life can be seen in their empty stares. How can there be no anger?

I would much rather play with my kids. Play outside like the crazy gang we are. Wild splashing we call swimming down at the lake. And go down that snowy hill when winter comes. Just me and my girls. Crazy, crazy, crazy. All I want is to hear their laughing and more laughing at their silly dad. Egging them on. Come on! You can do it girl! That’s what I would much rather want. Me and my crazy girls. Having fun. No anger here.

But how can I? When the other kids are running away from the warlord down the road. Playing dodgeball with the bullets. Not a sound of joy and belly laughs to be heard coming from their mouths. Just cries of pain as the bullets hit. Lucky if it misses. Dodge, dodge, dodge. That the games they play in the Congo. How can there be no anger?

I would must rather lie next to my wife. Falling asleep and hearing her breathe next to me. I can feel the stress of the day just slip away. Here is where I belong. Always telling her how much I love her. I can never say it too much or too often. And I run home because that is where I want to be. Just there next to her. My lovely wife. The one who gives me meaning. No anger here.

But how can I? When the women in Africa have to walk miles and miles just to get a drop of water for their homes. Every day. Down to the river and back. In the rush forgetting to boil it clean. And they see their families die around them. From a simple thing like drinking dirty water. How can I look at my wife and not see those women carry Africa on their backs being beaten and beaten and beaten. Day in and day out. Rape and murder. That’s what lies next to them at night. Death and destruction giving them meaning. How can there be no anger?

I would much rather just go on holiday. Maybe take a trip to Europe and visit those fancy French. Some cheese and red wine. Aah, that’s the life. Or laugh and point at Mickey and Minnie down at Disney. Maybe get away for just a week or two and visit my friend back home. Another trip to Bucks County would be nice. Just me and my three girls. Hanging out in New Hope for a drink and maybe a small piece of memory for the mantle. No anger here.

But how can I? When the only break my people get is another trade deal that fails. Or another empty promise for those dying of aids or malaria. Or the breaking of another leg as the torture continues in countries down South and East. But also here in the North and West. Broken promises to go with their broken lives. How can there be no anger?

I really just want to hang with my friends. Or drink a coffee by myself. Sip by sip. A braai and a good old fire. Learn to play the guitar like I’ve always wanted. Or write that bloody book that’s been bugging me for years. Save some money and retire early. Go for a drive in my car to watch the leaves go all rainbow in fall. The good things. That’s all I ever really want to do. Take it easy and stay easy. A smile, a laugh and good times.

I don’t want anger. I hate anger. It’s not nice. And it is not me.

Why am I angry?

I know happiness. I know what it is. I have it. Oh boy, do I have it. But I can’t enjoy it. At least not the way I want to enjoy it… Fully. I want to give myself totally to happiness. I want to live my happy days by throwing myself at it. Just living it 24/7.

That’s what pisses me off. That I can’t just enjoy life because of bigots. Because of liberty for some. Equality for those who can afford it. Freedom for those who were born free. Justice for those at the top.

I am angry because I can’t enjoy my life thanks to oppression of others. My right to have a fun time is shot to hell because of the rights of others being shot to hell. Bullet by bullet. Every warlord pisses me off because they remind me of what I am missing because of them. They are taking away my happiness because they are taking away the happiness of others.

I am angry because my friends and people I don’t even know can’t just love who they want. I love my wife. I love my wife. But the more I love her the more I am reminded of those who can’t love the way we love. That their love is somehow less meaningful than our love. I am pissed at bigots taking away happiness because they are taking away the rights of others.

I am pissed and angry for purely selfish reasons. I don’t want to fight for the rights of kids to have a shot at a life. I don’t want to fight for justice in the world trade and aid system. I don’t want to fight for the freedom of African women. I don’t want to fight for the equality of my gay friends who want to get married. I don’t want to fight for the liberty of the slaves working the sweatshops or farms in China or Africa. I don’t want to do all this crap. I want nothing to do with any of this.

I. Do. Not. Want. To. Do. This.

I just want to sit back and enjoy my life. Just me, my girls and my friends. Happy times. Good times.

But I can’t. And that is what pisses me off. That is what makes me angry. That is what makes me the Angry African.

I can only go do nothing when there is nothing to be done. When others can afford to do nothing. When everyone has a shot. You bloody people. With your rights and freedoms and liberty and equality and justice. Just have it already.

Fuck. Dammit. And everything and anything else that go with that.

I am because we are. Ubuntu.

I can only stop caring about what to watch on telly when there is nothing to care about. I can only be happy watching my kids go crazy when you have a shot at happiness. I can only have the liberty to drink my coffee sip after slow sip when you have liberty. I can only have my braai in peace when you have peace. I can only be the equal of my wife when we all are equal. I can only have justice when you have justice.  My freedom is your freedom…

I can only be free when you are free.

I can only be me when you can be you.

Until then… I am the Angry African.

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You know, sometimes we needs loads of evidence to point to someone being Souf Efrikans. But sometimes one photo tells the story. Unfortunately for others, 3 photos are not only enough proof to show they are Souf Efrikan, but also enough to make sure they won’t ever get a visa to go anywhere else in the world.

Take today’s victim friend… He gave me 3 photos. Was he crazy? He could have given me one corner of one half a photo and I could have pointed it out to him. Hell… This guy is so Souf Efrikan that even Mandela calls him boet. I bet you he has the typical 1, 2, 3 of Souf Efrikans – 1 liter brandy, 2 liter Coke and 3 liter Ford. That’s Souf Efrikans for you. As easy as 1, 2, 3…

I give to you Koos Baardman (Chuck Beardman)… Oh, he thought he was Keven Bennet from Seattle, but we know he is Koos Baardman from Sonderwater (Withoutwater). But let me give you a bit of background on Koos…

Every year millions of Souf Efrikans go down to the Cape for a holiday. Those Vaalies, or as we call them, Klipkakkers (Hum… Rockshitters…) come down in their numbers. Getting away from the craziness of living up at high altitude. Only problem is that they are the crazy people and they all gather down at our place. And guess what happens? It’s the same crazy people doing the same crazy things – but just with a better view. Ja, bleddie Klipkakkers…

We have a few of the farmers coming down as well. Bringing their caravans, sheep and mother-in-law with them. That is also the order of importance. Koos does that. He is a farmer. He rents a place right next to the sea every year. Okay, what he defines right next to the sea. It’s about 5 miles in and right next to the sewerage plant. But that’s no problem. Five miles is just enough for the mother-in-law to go missing for the whole day. Or whole holiday. And the smell of the sewerage plant remind him of the kraal (enclosure for sheep and cattle) back home. He is from the land where men are men and sheep are scared…

So here we have Koos at his little place by the sea. Let’s see what evidence we can find. A bit of a tester today. Try to match the red arrows to the statement of his Souf Efrikan roots…

The afdak… (The lean-to) 

Every good Souf Efrikan has got one. An afdak. But not just any afdak. There are certain things that tells us this is a Souf Efrikan afdak…

Now, let’s match the arrows… Join the dots… Check the lines… You get what I mean?

1. A roof made of old blue overalls and stitched together by his lovely wife Ant Bettie. (Blue overalls are the standard outfit for farmers in Souf Efrika.)

2. Leg of blue overall still hanging down the side of the afdak.

3. Old school lawnmower for when the last sheep is on the braai but the grass still needs to be cut.

4. House at the back where mother-in-law is locked up at night. (Just to keep her away from the booze and boys.)

5. Window Aunt Bettie uses to shout instruction like, “Pulls up yor pents Koos. Duh hole nayburhood dusn’t neet to see yor builders cleavage.” (Proper accent included.)

6. Forest for feature braai wood. It used to come right up to his back door. Yes, Koos likes to braai. Often. And big.

7. Pipe to let the steam out from the “braai”. It isn’t really a braai. It is a home made mampoer factory. (Mampoer is the strongest drink ever made. And it is home brewed. Not to be used close to an open flame. But can be used as a paint stripper. Made from fruits. Any fruits. We Souf Efrikans aren’t too picky…)

And… Did you see the generator driven computer in the background? That’s to keep up with what’s going down with AA! Fox News for Africa. Unfiltered and unbiased… Hah!

The workshop…

But you would think the guy will stop there right? That he won’t give me any more reason to “show him the way”? He did…

1. The stick part of a broom used to poke the coals, chase the bloody dog who just grabbed the meat off the braai and also to flip the dog turds off the grass like a professional golfer. (Was once used to keep Ant Bettie away when Koos by “accident” had an “accident” in the kitchen sink after too much mampoer.)

2. A telly to watch the rugby and cricket on. This is cricket you see because no true contact sport for men will really have so much padding or wear helmets. The motto of rugby players… “Real men don’t wear helmets” and “it doesn’t hurt if you can stitch it back on”.

3. A coffee mug. Koos’s favorite coffee mug. He drinks everything from this mug. It says, I Love Mum. Not allowed to be washed, only rinsed, as Koos believes the residue of coffee, mampoer and braai sauce leaves a nice aftertaste. Also known to repel flies from the braai area. And cats won’t even crap close to it. (Currently has mampoer in it.)

4. Wooden fence to keep the noisy neighbors out. Especially the mother-in-law.

5. Bag of charcoal. Only to be used when wood runs out or when you need something hard to chuck at the dogs crapping on the lawn but you don’t really want to get up from the chair.

6. The “Mampoer Bucket”. Used for any type of residue left after making mampoer. From the leftover fruits to the brown and green stuff that grows at the top of the liquid or the yellow watery stuff that comes from you after consuming too much liquid. Once the bucket is filled… Used to kill ants and bees in the garden. And stop the dogs from crapping on the lawn. And makes a mean mix with some ice and a lemon. Not sliced. Called Souf Efrikan Cocktail.

7. Chair taken from the rubbish dump and welded together again by Koos. He made his whole dining room set this way…

8. Big bag of crisps hiding behind the chair. Ant Bettie doesn’t want him to eat so much crisps. But he needs his fix. Also used to store biltong when Ant Bettie isn’t looking. And spare beer.

9. Huge bowl of dip for the chips. Currently covered in tinfoil. Key ingredients… Onion, salt and the stuff from the mampoer bucket.

10. Grass where the dogs crap. No matter what you do there will always be fresh crap in the morning.

11. Big cooler / small paraffin fridge to keep the beers cold. Always stocked full. Because you never know when the “Big Wind” of ’78 might hit you again. That was when Ant Bettie made bean stew and forced Koos to sleep outside for a few days until his “Big Wind” passed. And passed completely.

12. Spare canister attached to braai / mampoer factory to hold extra cold beers while waiting for the mampoer / braai to be done.

13. Tools hanging from braai. These tools are proper antiques and the London Museum has offered Koos loads of money for this already. They want to use it as part of their Neanderthal display. But Koos said his dad gave it to him and he has fond memories of those tools. And he can show the scars on his butt to prove it.

Koos himself…

You think that is enough? How Souf Efrikan can he be? Much more…

 

1. Neck. Made for playing rugby. Take no prisoners! Real men play rugby and real men have real necks. Not rednecks.

2. Hair shaved for the holidays. Generally covered in big floppy farmer hat. Good to get a haircut once a year. Gets rid of all the things that live there. At least 3 previously unknown species was found by the Nobel prize winning group of scientists who make this yearly pilgrimage to what is known in scientific circles as “The Haircut”. (It is not known whether any of the new species will be able to survive outside the Koos habitat.)

3. Fence also used as spare wood for really big braais. It used to be 60 feet long. But then, Koos had a couple of really big braais since then.

4. The bakkie… Like every good farmer Oom Koos drives a bakkie that is diesel and the smoke it creates when you start it can be seen from space. Rumored to have led to the invasion of Iraq as the bakkie was seen as a WMD. But he drove it back to SA quickly once he filled his oil drum (now used as a braai / mampoer factory.) The US never suspected a thing. Oom Koos is good in that way. Or maybe Rummy was just bad in that way. And yes, when Oom Koos drives the bakkie it can also be heard from space.

5. The kraal where the sheep stay during the holiday. Barren because the sheep have eaten almost all the grass. Not a problem because Oom Koos have eaten almost all the sheep already. Yes, Oom Koos and Ant Bettie have been there on holiday for almost a week already.

6.  The towel used to wipe bloody hands when Koos slaughters the sheep. Also used to dry himself after a swim at the beach.

7. The path to freedom. Or at least to the outside toilet known as his “office”. That’s the right turn where he makes his number 2’s. Number 1 is done on the grass like all good Souf Efrikan men do. Koos turns left for his 1 and 2. 1 Liter brandy and 2 liter Coke. The shop is just around the corner. Oom Koos is known to be more inclined to go left than right. It’s a natural thing for him to lean towards the left.

8. Braai made from an oil drum. You know, the one he got in Iraq. He cut it in half and just welded a few spots together. High tech for a Souf Efrikan but then, he is known for his edgy attitudes towards braaing. He was once seen braaing chicken! What the hell is a salad doing on the fire? A question asked by the many onlookers. If it’s not red it’s not meat. If it’s not meat you can’t eat.

9. Rooster to place the meat on. The rooster (grill) is a key component of any braai. It leaves nice lines across the steaks. Best place to get a rooster is to cut one out of the frame of a grocery trolley. And it’s shiny too!

10. Battery backup for the mampoer factory. The clamp is used to charge the battery that runs the mampoer factory. At the moment not on as the braai and mampoer can’t be done at the same time. Koos generally empties the mampoer into his mug for “safe keeping” while he braais. No one knows how safe this really is. Not this close to an open fire in any case. Koos uses it instead of fire lighters. No, he doesn’t pour it over the coals. He just breathes over the coals. So strong that no matches are required either. The term “spontaneous combustion” was named after Koos and his fire lighting abilities.

11. Tongs used to grip the rooster. Koos is also known as an expert in grabbing thongs with his tongs. The screams of surprise and the horror when they see him can also be heard from space. Koos doesn’t mean anything with this. He just needs something to cover his hands when he grips the tongs. They get hot. Unlike the girls he gets his thongs from.

12. Meat and fish pot. Koos is famous for his daring braai techniques. You can see the pot where he mixed fish and chicken together. Men call him names because of this. Names like “traitor”, “Mr WTF” and “stupid doos”, but Koos doesn’t mind as he is a Renaissance man. Just don’t call him a maverick… Let me just clarify Koos being famous for this dishes. Infamous might be a better word for it. Eating this dish is not allowed under the Geneva Convention. It makes grown men cry. And get very, very sick. There is no known cure for this. Have you seen the movie Awakening? Now you know why…

13. A red arrow. I just threw an extra red arrow in there to make it look even more impressive. Honestly? I actually forgot why I had that other arrow in there. Or that one…

14. The chain. Some people think that Koos have dog chains around his neck. No, it isn’t. It’s his keys, tools (drillbits and screwdriver), earbud (he has used the same one since 1984. They always come clean after a rinse under hot water. Or after repeated use), tobacco for his pipe, his pipe, glasses and Swiss Army Knife. Oh, and a can of Bullybeef (Spam/Corned Beef) and a half-jack of mampoer. A man can never be too prepared. He hides it really, really well.

15. Boep. The paunch that you see is the pride of all Souf Efrikan men. Or like they would say, “I work-ad werry hart forr dis boep. U no how mutch beer I hed two drinked two get dis boep? Et leest wurf 40 bucks. Part off my retiremint plen.” A Souf Efrikan man without a boep is like having Italy not change their government every year. Or the English not lose against Souf Efrika in rugby or cricket. Or President Bush without a f*ck-up once a day. You know it is possible, but it ain’t gonna happen.

16. Rugby jersey. Every man in Souf Efrika must have a rugby jersey. You never wear it on the farm. But you also never take it off when you go on holiday. Including at night when you go to sleep. Alone. Outside. Also never washed. NEVER washed. Wash it and you could be deported and lose your citizenship. Another reason to sleep outside… The smell. Just ask Ant Bettie. Koos played rugby. He was a winger who played on the left. A left winger.

There you go! And who said that KB isn’t Souf Efrikan? Hell, he is more Souf Efrikan than me! Seattle is only where he visits for the duration of his lifetime. But Souf Efrikan he is…

Sorry Kev, but you asked for it…

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Who’s next? Come on… Don’t be afraid. I’ll be nice…

You might know that my dad and I didn’t get along. Yeah, that might be an understatement. You see, my dad was an ass. But I do remember a story or two that makes me laugh at the old man. And the story of the hubcap guy always makes me laugh.

But before I tell you about the hubcap… My dad collected things. Not just anything. Anything crap to be more specific. He had a garage that could hold three cars and still have some space left open. But he only parked one car in there. His Mercedes. Big old ship of a car. The 300D mid-80s diesel version – silver of course. More like a ship than a silver bullet. But he loved that old Merc of his.

But it was old style diesel. Not this fancy stuff you get today. You had to turn the key one way and let it “warm up” first. A little light will go on and then you turn the key the other way. And “boom” with a puff of diesel smoke the baby will start up. And you could see that petrol/diesel meter drop as you idle while you wait for the engine to warm up. That baby was heavy on fuel.

And that car stood in that garage. I had to wash it and polish it. But he hardly drove the thing. He had this clapped out Toyota Hilux. Another diesel. And it drove like a jackhammer. You felt every little piece of the road. Including that ant you just drove over. Oh he loved taking me for a ride in his “bakkie” (what we call a pickup truck in South Africa). I think it made him feel all farmer. He even bought it from a farmer. Of course it had to be a Hilux. Bloody hell, every guy who bought a bakkie that wanted to be “old school” had to have a Hilux. I drove a 1965 Beetle…

But back to his garage.

His bakkie was parked outside the garage because my dad collected crap. Loads of crap. Anything goes really. And it all had to go into the garage. He had it all. Old toilets he found on the rubbish dump. Tables he took from friends who sold their houses. Nuts and bolts and screws to fill a Home Depot store or two. And a physio table. Yeah. A physio table. I mean WTF? The closest he ever got to being a physio was stretching to put his socks on in the morning or tucking in his shirt. But it was a bargain. He found it in the local paper and bought it. Why? Hell, I asked him that many times. And his stock answer was, “You never know when you need one”. WTF? Can you think of a reason why you might just need a physio table and thanked god that you kept one in the garage “just in case”? He never did find a reason to use it. Apart from putting more crap on it that he got from somewhere else. I guess it was just fine for stacking boxes.

Anyway, this isn’t about his bakkie or his physio table. This is about another bit of crap he bought and how it came back to bite him. This happened many years ago. When my dad and myself were still talking. And still driving together once in a while.

He decided to spoil me and take me to town with his Merc. For a number one haircut I might add. So he parked and found one of the local homeless guys to look after his car while we ran off to the barber. I am sure the guy knew my dad because he was notorious for paying people peanuts. A 15% tip? Hell no. More like a 0.15% tip and an earful about the crap service. Dad, it’s the Spur, what do you expect? (Spur is a chain of restaurants in the line with Uno’s. No, more like a Uno’s with the service of a Denny’s.) So he flipped the guy 20 cents and off we went.

I had my haircut or hair slaughtered to put it mildly. I remember that the guy had shaking hands. Leaving my hair uniquely styled for school bullies to target. I had a few fights at school back then. Defending more than attacking! But I had my hair slaughtered and we were off to go jump in the Merc and go home. At least the drive back home was going to be better than the haircut. And then it happened. Someone made my dad an offer he couldn’t refuse. Offered him more crap to buy.

The guy that was meant to look after my dad’s car came walking towards us and aimed straight for my dad. My dad was pissed off that the guy wasn’t looking after his car after he paid him that “King’s ransom”. But the guy quickly got my dad’s attention when he mentioned something about having a “great deal” on some goods he just picked up. I wasn’t concentrating on the discussion as it was really embarrassing seeing his eyes go all bright with the idea of another “great deal”. He wasn’t even discussing whether he should buy it or not. He went straight into how much he was willing to pay for it. They went this way and that way and eventually settled on an amount. My dad feeling he got ripped off and the guy feeling he got ripped off. Always a sign that both are pretty happy with the deal. So my dad got his goodies and we were on our way back to the car. My dad still looked back at the guy walking the other direction and said, “Is my car okay? I paid you for that you know you lazy bugger.” The guy just kept on walking, waved his hand in the air and shouted, “Ja, ja. It’s okay”.

My dad was now in his element. He got another “great bargain”. I asked him, “What the hell are you going to do with that? You already have four so you don’t need two more do you?” He just gave me a “humpf” noise and shook his head at his stupid boy. What the hell do I know?

We got to the car and it hit me. I couldn’t help but burst out laughing. This was revenge. This was justice. There was my dad standing with this “great bargain” in his hands. Two hubcaps. And missing from the Merc?

Two hubcaps.

The hubcap guy just made my day. And taught me a lesson. You want to get what you want and the other person deserve? Just play on the weakness of the other guy and sell it back to him. Thank you hubcap guy. I would have paid you double what my dad did. And that would still be a “great bargain”.

My dad going shopping...

My dad going shopping...

I have these pictures in my head. Pictures of people and places I have seen. It’s my memories in colour. I wish I had them in little picture boxes to share. But I don’t. I just have these pictures in my head.

Pictures of the Pink Market in Bamako, Mali. The sea of colour spread as far as the eye can see. Clothes and textiles hanging from every stall, tent and shop. Shirts of gold, blue, white – all shades and colours, more than the rainbow can give. Shirts and tunics and dresses hanging everywhere. And the women in their bright clothes and big smiles. Mulling around and laughing and talking. Neighbours during the day and friends at night.

Pictures of Soweto Market in Lusaka. Taxi’s everywhere. The minibus taxi’s. Blue and yellow or whatever spraypaint they could get their hands on. The backyard mechanics working at the stop street. Welding “new” exhaust pipes on cars still idling. And the tables with their variety of goods spread out. Fresh fruits and vegetables – oranges, carrots, potatoes, apples and everything you would want. And don’t forget the nsima and stewed beef. Or the dried Mopani worms ready for a salad – like croutons. And the men sitting in the alley’s drinking beer and talking soccer. Pictures of life and living.

Pictures of the arts and craft sellers on the side of the road on the way to Masvingo in Zimbabwe. Two or three soccer fields big. Sellers and artists a meter or two apart. Row upon row. With a government agent standing out acting as a seller. But the suit and the sunglasses give them away. They’ve  watched too many Western spy movies. But the artists sit there with a dusty backdrop and the beautiful Zimbabwe hills scattered around them. And their art. Art of wooden carved heads, soapstone mother-and-child abstracts, traditional clothes and much, much more. Just more and more – row upon row. Fields of art. And fields of people.

So many pictures. The flower sellers in Cape Town with their wide smiles and Table Mountain backdrop. Fisherman in Hout Bay coming in with their catch. Rows and rows of construction and more construction in Abuja, Nigeria. Carpets of trees as far as the eye can see when flying over the Cameroon jungle. The Danube with the spectacular Buda Castle as a backdrop in Budapest, Hungary. Lake Geneva from the window of a train. The Sun and Moon Pyramids in Mexico standing tall with cities of ancient civilizations scattered around and underground. So many pictures.

But my pictures can’t tell you of the smells, sounds and tastes that lingers in my mind.

I can hear the Cape Town flower sellers shouting funny lines to get you to buy their flowers. “Two Rand a bunch”. Or the ice-cream guy shouting, “A lolly to make you jolly, a sucker to make you wakker“. The languages going wild in Pink Market. And Spanish all around in Mexico. Not a word I understand. But it still sounds like music.

The taste of my first cheese fondue in Lausanne in Switzerland. Followed by horse steak as a main course. And chilli on everything in Mexico. And tequila to take your breath away. And having some more. My first good coffee ever in a little coffee shop in Brussels. And later having a Turkish coffee a few blocks away. And still trying to go to sleep more than ten years later.

The smell of the perfumery in Luxembourg. And dog poo in Paris. Fresh fish bought from the fisherman in Strand. Real butter on the farm in the Karoo. Manure on the farm… Afval and putu on a wonky table in Khayelitsha. Fresh baked roosterkoek on the fire at Ouma’s place.

They are all good. But my pictures don’t fade. They just get more colourful by the day. The shades of poverty around the corner disappears. The darkness of sick and hungry children fades way in the background. Every spot of bad memories grows fainter by the day. Only the colours of happiness and beauty remains. And become brighter by the day. That’s how I want my pictures to be. The good things of life and living etched in my mind. Smiling faces. Happy times.

I hope you have some pictures too.

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I have been loyal all my life. Always. It was what made us special. The two of us. Together. Together through the good times and the bad times. The two of us. Now I won’t be able to look at her in the same way again. Never again. Because she will know. She knows. Even if I don’t tell her. She’ll know.

Well okay, I was loyal at least since I met her – my little special one. Before that I played around. I was young. I tried everything. I was reckless. But I have never cheated since I made my commitment to her. My special one. She was all I needed. Oh, I noticed the others. But I never did anything. I looked, but I never touched. I never wanted. I just looked and admired. And shook my head when I saw other men playing the game. Having one on the side. But I fell too. I couldn’t help it. I am just a man. A weak, weak man. A man with needs. Basic needs.

I promised her she was the one for me. And she still is. It is was a one-off. I promise you. It is a one-off. Never again. Never again. I knew that she was always there for me when I needed I her. And I need her now. I want her to be mine again. The way she was. The way she was before. Before I cheated.

Maybe we just got used to each other. Maybe the same thing that attracted me in the first place became the same old thing. The same thing every day. We forgot how it was back in the days when we just started. The first time. Familiarity breeds contempt. So true. So, so true.

She was the first things my lips touched in the morning. And the last thing at night. I can smell her when I wake up. That sweet, sweet smell. I can still taste her on my lips. But I can also taste the other one. The one I cheated with. And I can’t get the taste and smell off me. I can smell her on my clothes.

I saw her on the street. I was on the street. Just walking. And then I saw her. Through a window. She looked good. Oh so good. I stopped dead in my tracks. It was like a train hit me. I could feel my heart skip a beat. My palms sweating. The blood rushing. I knew I wanted her the instant I saw her. She reminded me of when I was young. And innocent. She seduced me like no other. And she didn’t even know it. She was just sitting there at the window. Just looking at me but not seeing me. Playing games with me. But she wanted me. And she stood out. As if her name was written in the sky. And I stared. Stared at her sitting at the window – with her seductive ways. That’s when I made my move…

Okay, maybe more like on the window. And she wasn’t really sitting. More like stuck on the window. The big letters wasn’t quite written in the sky. Just on the window. But it spoke to me. It said “Espresso Royale Cafe”. What a name. It sounded all European. All Italian. And I wanted one. I wanted her. A little Espresso. Right there and then. In Newbury Street. And I couldn’t care less who saw me.

<blink>

<gulp>

I know. It is a shocker. Me, Mr Starbucks Triple Grande Latte, was going to let a non-Starbucks coffee touch his lips. Hold on people. It gets way worse. Way worse… I… I… I actually did it! Yes I did. I just couldn’t help myself. I just had to have one. To hell with the consequences. I wanted an little Italian Espresso. And I wanted it now. It brought back memories of my first coffee fling. My little Italian girl. So I just walked right in and had one. Straight up. And it felt good. Real good.

The barista didn’t know my name. And she didn’t ask. So she never got it wrong either. It happens. And the sugar came in little packets instead of the “easy to operate, tilt and let it run” sugar containers of Starbucks. I need the large container you see. It holds almost enough sugar for my standard coffee order. But I didn’t care. I liked it for that moment. Even if I was stabbing my Starbucks barista in the back. Because I still love my Starbucks Triple Grande Latte.

I know those who know me will be shocked. Mr I-Was-Born-With-A-Cup-Of-Starbucks-In-My-Hand. I always have a Starbucks in my hand. I get up at 6 am and I have coffee. In my travel mug. And I have more coffee. And more coffee. It is a running joke. If someone mentions Starbucks everyone looks at me. And if someone wants my advice for free – they know to just invite me for coffee at Starbucks. I am easy that way.

Yes. I love Starbucks. And not only because of the taste of Ethiopian Sidamo. I love Starbucks because, as an ex-Oxfam campaigner who headed up the Coffee Campaign, I know they are pretty good at working with the coffee farmers and they pay a pretty damn good price for their coffee. More than Fairtrade. Yep, you heard it here baby. They pay more than Fairtrade for their coffee. We looked at targeting them when I was at Oxfam, but we didn’t. Because we very quickly realized that they are pretty damn good. Not perfect – no one is. But pretty damn good. And they make a damn good cuppa joe.

You think I care for the mom-and-pop shop? Not much. Three rules for me. Pay a decent price for your coffee so the farmer can benefit, look after those who work for you and make a damn good cup of coffee. What you do with the rest is just white noise to me. It would be nice if it was a mom-and-pop shop. But that is just wallpaper. Pretty pictures. Not substance. Nice to have, not a must have. Starbucks tick the three main boxes so I am pretty happy.

But I also like them because I am a newbie to coffee. I grew up in South Africa people. We are known for our outstanding crap coffee. Come on. Ricoffy, Frisco and Koffiehuis aren’t real coffee. Read my lips. Chicory is not a coffee. It’s a weed. A herb at best. Moer koffie. Ha. Look at the English translation. Beat up coffee. Or to be more specific on how South Africans use the word moer… hum… well… fucked.. hum… to assault. It is an open assault on what we call coffee when South Africans make coffee. Moer koffie. Ha! Tell me another one.

I fell in love with coffee in Brussels. Back in 1999. On my birthday. We were about to catch the train back to Luxembourg where we were visiting our very, very good friends when we saw it. A little coffee shop right on the corner opposite the Bruxelles-Central. Can’t remember the name. But we went in for a quick cup of coffee. We had 30 minutes before our train left. We walked out the café more than 2 hours later. On a buzz after about five cups of bloody strong Segafredo. It was the first time I met the Italian lady. And she got me hooked.

So my little fling in Newbury was nothing but a fleeting moment of weakness. Just a reminder of yesterday. Good memories. But she wasn’t really Italian. Just a good imitation. Like Vegas. But it was still good. I felt young again. Pure again. Good memories. Segafredo. She’ll always be my little Italian lady. And she’s the only little “on the side” I’ll ever have. She ticks all my boxes.

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Today I share a post with Baikong! It a guest blog of sorts. I did a post for her in celebration of Women’s Day. About the women of Africa. A version of that blog is below. But I encourage you to go and visit her site. Please do – it is excellent. Go to The Life of a not-so Princess. And she promised to do a blog here soon. In the meantime…

 

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Long Live Mama Africa 

I am always amazed at how people from outside Africa look at Africa and always have an “oh shame” expression on their faces. They somehow feel sorry for the people of Africa. You know. How could you not? How could you not feel sorry for the people of Africa when all you see in the papers and on the charity cards are the faces of hungry children and suffering women. You can’t have a heart and not feel sorry for them. Especially not for the women of Africa. Or can you? Sorry is not the emotion we want you to feel when you look at us. And sorry is not the feeling you should have when you look at the women of Africa. They have given birth to Africa. To all the children of Africa. And they carry Africa on their backs. The same way they carry the children of Africa on their backs. They carry Africa and the children while they work in the fields. While they toil in the sun. Getting the food ready for our people to eat. Don’t feel sorry for them. Celebrate them. They are the power in our arms. The speed in our footsteps. And the food of our souls. Hear them roar.

Let me tell you a story that plays out in Africa every single day. And then you will know to never feel sorry for the women of Africa.

Every single day you will find women selling fruit next to the road. Walk the dusty roads of Africa and there they are. Working from before the sun rises to after the sun sets. To sell their goods as people commute to work and back. And they walk for miles to go and buy those fruits and vegetables. To get ready to open the “doors” of their business in time to hit the commuters before they are all off to work. And they sit their day in and day out. Waiting for the commuters to come back. Selling their fruits and their vegetables. Bananas. Apples. Oranges. Mangoes. Tomatoes. Carrots. Potatoes. Whatever goes and grows in that region – and what they can find at the main market. Come rain or sun, floods to droughts. They sit there and sell their goods. And feed the people. And you want to feel sorry for them?

Don’t. Do not feel sorry for them. Think of Bill Gates when you see these women sitting there. Running their business. With a hundred competitors each side. Competing for the same small group of buyers. They run their business. But they also run Africa.

Celebrate them because they run their businesses with all those competitors on both sides. And hardly any schooling. And no business training. And they support an extended family. Feeding them and keeping them safe while the men are off somewhere else. Making war or making love. With another. And you want to feel sorry for them? What is there to be sorry about? These are strong women. Women with pride. Women with a business sense that Bill Gates could only dream of. They run a successful business with nothing but the sweat on their foreheads and strength of their souls and the heads on their shoulders. They don’t suffer. They don’t suffer fools.

No. Don’t feel sorry for them. They are the arms who cradle Africa. Feel sorry for the men of Africa. Feel sorry for the men of Africa because they don’t know what they are doing. Feel sorry for the men because they make the wars. And the women bury the dead. Feel sorry for the men who beat our women. And the women give birth to them. Feel sorry for the men who have no pride. And the women pick up the pieces behind them. Yes. The women of Africa clean up after the men. These men with no pride. These women of strength.

You know why the men of Africa are so weak? Because the women of Africa is so strong. The men see it in the eyes of the women. This strength. And they know they can never be that strong. And they do whatever they can to kill that light in their eyes. But you can’t. Not with African women. They are too strong. And that is what makes the men so weak and so scared. They can never roar like the women of Africa. Never. And they know it.

Yes. We men treat the women of Africa like second-class citizens. We treat them like that because we know we can never be that strong. We can never be the backbone of Africa. We can never give berth to a nation. We can never care for Africa the way the women do. We are not Africa. We can never be the women of Africa. That is why we call her Mama Africa. She is our soul and she is our life. She gives us life and she keeps us safe. Viva Mama Africa. Long Live the Women of Africa.

 

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This was inspired by the women in my life. My mother, my wife, my daughters and my sisters. I love you all. You inspire me.

 

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