|Photo via http://1.usa.gov/IF82Kd|
Wednesday, December 11, 2013
Friday, December 6, 2013
has been since he mostly left public life 10+ years ago. In terms of politics, the political party that Nelson Madela belonged to most of his life is vastly different than the one that rules South Africa today. If only the party could remember what Nelson Mandela, OR Tambo, John Dube, Chris Hani and Sol Plaatje were all about.
Friday, August 3, 2012
|Chad le Clos|
|Chad le Clos photo from: Gallo Images &||http://www.sport24.co.za/OtherSport/Olympics2012/Le-Clos-withdraws-from-final-20120802|
Wednesday, January 11, 2012
You probably know that South Africa produces some of the world’s most delicious wine. Vines have been grown in this area since about 1680 or so, dating back to Jan Van Riebeeck and the first Dutch settlers in the Cape colony. A quick 15-minute ride from our house is the oldest ‘wine farm’ in South Africa. (Wine farm, in case you were wondering, is South African for vineyard). The area, called Constantia (and seen in the photo, albeit not from Van Riebeeck's time), produced such delicious vino that it was the first wine from the new world sent back for the hoi polloi of Europe to enjoy.
The business didn’t stop with the European crème-de-la-crème, although they are still the biggest importers of our local juice. Wine is a big business here: South Africa is the seventh largest wine producer in the world and contributes about US$3 billion to the country’s GDP.
Aside from coining their own name for vineyards, South Africans even created their own wine varietal, Pinotage- a mix of Pinot Noir and Cinsaut grapes. It’s a little sweet for me, but I have enjoyed one or two glasses of the stuff on occasion. You can’t live here and not give it a sip.
To be honest, the real problem is not the Pinotgae, it’s the Savignon Blanc. And the lovely bubbles. And the delicious Shriraz. And the spicy red blends with Cabernet Franc and Merlot. It’s the inescapable fact that you can go into virtually any restaurant around Cape Town and order a fabulous, reasonably priced bottle of wine.
This is even more obvious when you travel around the rest of South Africa and see the lame excuses for wine they serve at restaurants. Johannesburg is cosmopolitan? Not when it comes to your average wine lists. Love the sun of Durban? You won’t love the sub-par wine. After one night out in either of these places, you’ll be begging to be back in Cape Town, drinking fabulous wine.
Considering the history of South Africa and the apartheid government, there is also a disturbing backstory about wine production – namely the “Dop System”. In Afrikaans, a “dop” is an alcoholic drink. Going back as early as the 1800s, those who worked on the wine farms were paid in wine. Sometimes, most or even all of their salaries were paid in drink - hence a system called the "Dop System". While I am sure many of you would not mind part of your salary in wine (in fact, I know it might save some of you quite a bit of cash throughout the year), it has created a disturbingly high incidence of alcoholism, fetal alcohol syndrome (the highest in the world in parts of the Western Cape) and tons of other negative consequences.
Since I don’t want you to have sour grapes about South African wine, I will tell you that the “Dop System” has been outlawed since the 1960’s and the post-apartheid government has been particularly outspoken about getting rid of it. Some say it still persists in areas of the Western Cape. A recent Human Rights Watch report said two farms in the area were giving their workers wine, but the industry has certainly cleaned itself up. Mostly they just exploit workers like any other farming industry in the world.
Apologies for leaving you as bitter as red wine left out too long.
Thursday, December 8, 2011
One of life’s necessities since moving to Cape Town is that I have to drive. After living in urbanity for the better chunk of the last 15 years, my driving escapades have been limited to the occasional rental in some far flung locale, the borrowing of a friend’s car or the occasional use of a Zipcar. Hence, I may be a little rusty in the applied vehicular knowledge.
If my rusty driving skills were the sole problem, this thing would be a cakewalk. Pile on the fact that people drive on the other side of the road, you sit on the other side of the car and parking on the sidewalk is not the sign of a drunk or insane person – now you can imagine my own personal hell every time I get behind the wheel.
But alas, I have no choice in the matter. Driving means doing the things I want to do in my life, so now I am a driver.
First, the wrong side of the road thing. At first I thought this would be the killer. But it’s fine as long as you keep shouting left to the left, right to the left to yourself as a reminder to keep you from pulling onto the wrong side of the road when turning. Problem solved. Circles; a tad more challenging but as long as there are other people there, you can just follow along. The only issue was a recent brief foray to the US when I became utterly confused at an empty street corner and had to think hard before deciding which lane to go into. Yikes!
So once I got the hang of the wrong side thing, I noticed all the other things… namely the roads. Ladies and gentlemen, we are not talking the interstate highway system – South Africa has yet to elect their own Dwight Eisenhower. Most roads are as wide as the sidewalk on Broadway near Herald Square but with the ludicrous expectation that two-way traffic will use it. Sure the cars are small, but c’mon! Spending a lot of time in reverse, rather than playing (but feeling) chicken.
Even parking in the driveway can seem like stuffing a sausage into the casing - see photo.
The parking lunacy doesn't end there. While driving last week on a beautiful scenic road (which there are no shortage of), I noticed that they had actually marked little white lines for parking spots on the SIDEWALK – which explains why everyone thinks it is perfectly fine to park pretty much anywhere they want, often leaving pedestrians to walk in the road.
But I have also noticed this flagrant attitude of “Fuck You” that comes from pedestrians. They walk right in front of moving cars, indifferent to the fact that a machine is barreling towards them at 40 miles an hour (will never get that kms thing, sorry). Overall, it's a very tense relationship but can you blame them? I mean the cars park right in your path!
Cars v. pedestrians. Same ‘ole war no matter where you are.
P.S. Haven’t even thought about riding my bike. Scared shitless for that one!
Monday, November 7, 2011
So, I have traded Buenos Aires for Cape Town, South Africa. The only thing they have in common, honestly, is their latitude. Buenos Aires is extremes... loud and Latin, sweaty and screaming, hectic and hungry. It's got a New York attitude replete with yellow and black taxis, culture spilling into the streets, and millions of people squeezed into a 132-story high rise.
Cape Town is the complete opposite.
Think blues. Cerulean seas, ultramarine skies. Mountains peeking over the skylines in any direction you spin. The only truly hectic thing aside from the asshole drivers (this is an upcoming blog post... I mean, they drive ON THE WRONG SIDE OF THE ROAD... a topic begging to be deconstructed on this blog) is the wind. Pachamama got the last word in this place - the southern seas whip a wind for several months a year that can be more hectic than Buenos Aires' humanly induced insanity.
I don't want to give away everything that's ahead but just lay the marker down and promise to recommit to my first world white girl blogging. So thanks for coming back, lovely to have you.
Thursday, August 19, 2010
In the US, for the most part, your name is your name. As that NPR story signifies, people react with shock and awe if you stray too far from your given name. Sure, we’ve got Joseph’s who become Joes, Jennifer’s who become Jennies. But radical departures are seen as just that – radical and inspiring of NPR stories that people talk about.
In Latin America, it is common for people to have a variety of names and naming customs are very different. In the northern parts of South America and in Central America, people often take their mother’s maiden name too. So you can meet a Maria Jamilla Ruiz Perez that is sometimes know as Maria Jamillia Ruiz P.
Another one you will encounter all over LatAm is people being called names that are not even among the litany of legal names they may have. Some of them sound obvious – Lau for Laura, for example. But other times, people use a name that has nothing to do with their other name – like Nacho in place of Guillermo. In Bogota, I even ran in fear from trying to see an apartment when I asked for Maria, only to be told there was no one by that name there. Turns out, Maria was just the name she used on email. Violeta was the name her neighbors knew her by. Me? At first I thought it was a tourist scam (Craiglist, while wonderful sometimes, can also be sketch city regardless of what city you are hunting in) but I eventually realized the naming customs were not what I was used to.
Today, I am just going by Jill and kinda liking it.