Category Archives: Travel

Where I’ve been
Where I’m going
Where I wanna go

The South African Medical Condition: Constructive Begging

I am not oblivious to the fact that legitimate, decent employment is difficult to come by in South Africa.  The main reason in my opinion?  Illiteracy.  People simply cannot read and write even in their mother tongues.  Some opt to commit crime.  Others will get by on a stall somewhere busy.  Some will venture out to their nearest traffic light intersection to make the best of our free-flowing peak hour traffic.

‘Car Guardian’ Beggars

There is this South African perception that you can’t expect to park your car in parking lot, or busy street, and expect to find it there when return back to it – even if it would take all of 5 minutes for you to pop in and out of a building.  Car guards approaching me at the point of parking, or sometimes departure, grates my moobs (male boobs) to the nth degree.  Normally I’d spot the open parking spot anyway, but because he swings his arms for my Boeing A380 aircraft it’s going to cost me.  It’s also likely that if criminals want to take my car for a spin – the car guards would conveniently not see anything now would be anywhere to find on my return to the pleasant surprise of me missing an entire vehicle 🙂

How about when some idiot gives your car a kiss with their bumper?  Of course they saw him, but didn’t think to take down the vehicle registration of the said idiot.  They also don’t care to have a “15min free parking” clause – Savages!  All you ever seem to hear is: “I’ll keep my eye on it, mlungu!”  Where mlungu is slang for ‘white person’ even when you’re chocolate-brown like me.  To make things worse – so many of the cars we drive nowadays have PDC (parking distance control) in the front and back.  Yes – they do not guarantee the utmost prevention of bumping a curb, but now the car is beeping out of control because Mister Car Guardian is standing next to a sensor!  Kill me now!

‘Run of the Mill’ Beggars

Do you think traffic light beggars realize how many other traffic lights and beggars there are in Johannesburg?  I for one think not.  Now I may be sounding like I don’t have a gram of empathy for homeless/struggling people, but I do.  I just don’t have money, drinks, food nor jobs to give 99.99% of them.  Even then – sometimes they only care about ‘the money’, and not so much for your drinks, food nor jobs because them being there reaching into the deepest ventricle of your mind’s heart to get some cash out of you is the only objective.

Blind beggars, the disabled, seemingly single mothers with their young, the white lads who stand there without moving an inch, the lads on their knees in peak hour winter traffic, the youth forcefully washing your windscreen, the chaps trying to collect every bit of trash out of your car for some change and of course the lads with the incredibly animated (and dramatic) walks.  I feel out of all of these that the mothers who use their toddlers to manipulate you out of money break my heart the most, man.  I’m still on the fence about soon-to-be-married bachelors being at these already clogged up intersections.  What if this is an introduction to being a beggar later in life?  No man.  The choreographed dancing lads – oh I cannot forget these!  It just seems as though the poor procreate the most. 😦

Anyway – I can’t just complain about the entertainer lot.  We really need reasonable, entry-level jobs for most.  Ones with reasonable entry requirements.  I keep thinking that if public transport was better, cheaper and ran later we could see shopping centers (where money seems to go die) hiring nearly double their numbers because of shift systems that would need to be in place.  Not all in the stores, but some being cleaners and so forth.  Uniform providing jobs that people can make a living off.  Only if beggars don’t make a good 8 to R10 000 or more per month at these traffic lights, of course.  I wouldn’t be too surprised.  A part of me sniffs massive syndicates being behind some begging groups to be quite honest…

‘Traffic Light Small Business’ Vendors

These are the lads I actually tolerate, but to an extent.  They sell charger cables, super glue, thumb drives, sunglasses, safari hats, children’s toys, wall clocks, DVDs of on-circuit movies, cool drinks, and my most preferred – fruits and vegetables.  Fairly inexpensive and biodegradable should you want not feel like having them.  Do you want to know the one trick I use especially if you struggle to say no like I do?  Here’s what to say: “I already have a few of those in the house.  Thanks!”  Thing is that sometimes, when you have shown how you already have what they’re offering, they will still ask for some ‘change’.  They might even offer you some of their merchandise for ‘free’. Of course you’ll give it back, but not without offering some silver.  This leaves me depleted.  It all feels like a scam.

Don’t despair!  ‘Having’ everything on offer will have you escaping most street vendors, but regarding the ‘rest’ of the beggars – you’re on your own, mlungu!

At-a-Traffic-Intersection-Johannesburg-2011

Time Travel

Okay I can’t deny it – there are few things as gratifying as passing through passport control about to leave “The Motherland” right at the beginning of an international journey.  I’m not one to post the class I’m flying (obviously meaning I always fly economy class), but just looking at that flight boarding pass and passport combination always has me wondering what the foreign land I’m off to beholds.

Foreign natural habitat?

I always wonder “is the grass really greener on the other side?”  This is true with England by the way.  The grass there is the greenest green you have ever seen!  Their grass is just pure, unfiltered envy.  You even start imagining that all of SA is a desert L Sand storms making everything look khaki brown… Like the entire country is just one big Hammanskraal… It’s so bad!

Will they speak my speak? 

Well – likely not.  This is easily the biggest pain when all over the atlas – language differences.  You leave South Africa being able to command a few African languages, including Afrikaans, only to land up where they don’t know most of those languages, and most importantly – they don’t care.  It’s even cute that you can twang when you speak – they will not even try meet you halfway.  The French and Germans come to mind here.  I have to note that Afrikaans is incredibly useful in Europe even though many have grown and been taught to steer away from it.  Being a Germanic language by origin means that quite a few other languages, and their respective languages become slightly less ‘impossible’.  What I have found to be interesting?  Afrikaans, much like English, adapts and grows with the times.  So terms such as ‘wi-fi’ don’t have a meaning in Dutch, which Afrikaans directly originates from, but exist in the Afrikaans vocab.  I can think of many South African languages that don’t… adapt.

How will the food taste?

Few things are as disappointing as bland tasting food when you can easily achieve this feat back home.  It’s as though when you time travel, by moving outside your normal time zone, your taste buds struggle to adjust.  This happened my first time in the US as well as England.  Make sure to try everything you can stomach though.  On the streets, in that dingy alley to the fine dining experience.  I found that fish dishes, that aren’t fried because screw all fried food, in England are amazing!  Or I got lucky.  Probably got lucky.  Never mind.  Anyway – this is why I’d love to see Asia soon just to sink my teeth into actual donkey meat and stuff.  Or dog meat!  Butterflies and moths!  I want to Periscope something like: “Fluffy, which looks just like my friend’s pet dog, is going dooooooooown with this chili soy sauce!”  Hahahaha!  I make joke.  I am disgusting. 😐

What fun things can you do?

Contiki tours are easily the easiest way to plan a getaway with ‘structure’.  You’ll be in a group of people likely from all over the world with a guide who will usher you between different parts of a country, or countries, showing you all they deem important on your visit.  You’ll be sure to sight see most if not all the iconic landmarks, try out the different local cuisine, loads of alcohol, get in on some local entertainment, some shopping and an opportunity to use your camera to snap away memories throughout your journey.  Ideal if none of your mates are willing to travel with you.

Will I have enough money?

There’s no such thing.  Our ZAR (Zuid-Afrikaanse Rand) has fared poorly against other currencies for what feels like forever.  No – really.  Some people are lucky to work for companies that afford them worldwide travel opportunities.  Some are afforded travel opportunities by their families, and the rest of us have to simply save up.  Contiki Tours might not offer you that 5-star life abroad, but that’s normally not the point of trying to discover and experience foreign countries.  How much is required in the end all depends on you and the exchange rate.  Good luck!

Favorite Country to date?

Strangely, being South African and all, it has to be Amsterdam.  It has nothing to do with the weed (weed is a drug – I don’t care what anyone says).  I swear.  It has everything to do with how you realize where a large part of our modern history originates.  The white people there look like ‘our’ white people.  Familiar church structures, street names, surnames and certainly a familiar Dutch language.  Beautiful scenes and bicycles everywhere you look – my kind of place that.  Second in line?  England.  Another one of our colonizers, yeah?  Really just because it feels like home as well.  The Indians, blacks, coloreds… HOME!  Well, in summer anyway. If you have pre-94 anger swirling in you – ignore this entire section.  Thank you.

Where to next?

A few Asian countries, starting with Thailand, would be great.  A party hub like Ibiza, Tanzania, Angola, Kenya (for the beautiful Maasai tribe), Nigeria (just for the street cred, but not to attend a church service there), Switzerland (for the watch makers), Canada (for the views), Norway, Sweden, and definitely Italy because The Vatican City!  I’m not a big fan of tequila, but definitely Mexico.  Brazil?  One to consider.  Russia?  Why not.  Australia?  No – too many animals and insects can attack and kill you there.  New Zealand?  Maybe.  It’s clear I haven’t seen much of the world after all.  If you know people in foreign countries – I’d recommend you start there.

What is magnificent to see that would have most people in South Africa appreciate this country for what it really is and not what the media and world make it out to be?  Travel to African countries.  Don’t even head too far out – visit our neighboring Namibia, Botswana, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Swaziland, Lesotho, and Mozambique.  These are amazing places to start with.  So much history and perspective about the old and new in just these places with them all previously having been previously colonized much like our SA.  That said – I hope you have covered, or plan to cover, South Arica.  There’s a little bit of everything right here.

You know what I have discovered to be completely different in the conversations between black people and white people in SA?  Conversations about travel.  “When I was in Rome with Sandy last year we saw…” or some “…oh no this time the kids were on holiday in New York with their aunt and seem to have had a blast!”
That time you couldn’t wait to send your child(ren) to ‘holiday’ at their grandparents in Turfloop whilst you’re sitting with your mates talking about how much money you lot wasted at the local drinking hole the past weekend…  We’ll get there! 😦

Amazing architecture, foreign people, new languages, weird food, strange climates, new surroundings and beautiful scenery awaits us.

Paul Nigh's Back to the Future DeLorean Time Machine
Paul Nigh’s Back to the Future DeLorean Time Machine

I’m b(l)ack!

This isn’t some deep post.  I’m back from my blogging vacation.  I’m also wearing all-black clothing right now.  So, I’m b(l)ack! I have realised that writing long pieces put me off being here, but enough of that!  Now straight to the point pieces.  Like a chicken drumstick.  I love chicken drumsticks.  I’ve also time travelled to a few time zones and back.  Which reminds me – I love the 80’s science fiction trilogy “Back To The Future” directed by none other than Stephen Spielberg!  One of my all-time favourite science fiction movies.  You know what’s cool?  The years they travelled to back then?  They’re round about now :’) “Great Scott!”

Back To The Future Posters

Our Times versus Their Times

Why the times have really changed.

I believe that we are not far off from the sort of way our parents were in their heyday. Fair enough – we consume far more media and have access to that angelic demon called the internet where one can learn to create a bomb using household contents or find the words to express how they feel about someone.

I’ve observed how mobile communications devices – tablets, cellular phones, computers, etcetera – pose a huge risk to many a relationship that are business-related all the way to the most personal of relationships. The reason is because, well, it is fairly simple to reach people in different places and therefore just as simple to breach many forms of ‘contracts’. Don’t get me wrong – there is the human element. People make the errors and not the devices themselves in the same way that guns don’t kill people, but people kill people. Well, regardless, the very device you can’t live without results in you living without certain people and things it affects.

Another big difference in ‘the times’ between our parents and us? Travel. It is now no longer a full day’s drive to move from Pretoria to Polokwane. From 3 to 5 hours you can essentially move halfway across the country. For a few hundred rands you can be in Cape town in 6 hours or less. What does this equate to? The ability to reach an infinitely larger audience. Sometimes this audience is in the form of the opposite sex. The opposite sex which is likely easy to conceal whatever you ‘left behind’. Therein lies the problem.

Essentially I have only identified 2 things – travel and communications. Two things that literally and figuratively drive the entire planet. And many relationships apart. From toll gate slips, SMS messages, emails or merely sending a message to an unintended recipient. These simple examples are the downfall of many.

Car Cellphone. Quite… Fitting.

Imagine how much simpler our lives would be if we could not date girls in the next city? Okay, the thought of that is quite sad, but you get my point. So, stop comparing us in the here and now with them in the then and there. Some of “them” are in the now and the divorce rate is a clear indication thereof. Oh, people need to exercise self-control and be responsible for their actions? Well, it is not by chance that people from every kind of walk of life land up with similar relationship challenges. From the very rich to the poor. In cities and in remote villages. The opposite sex and in some cases the same-sex who actually do the responsible thing 9.9 times out of 10, but it is without a doubt that as any goal keeper can’t keep every shot at goal out that 0.1 times out of 10 one will bypass your last line of defense.

I am of course not condoning nonsensical behaviour, but merely stating my observation. Play safely!

Taxi Driver. Motorcyclist. Cut from the same cloth?

I cannot start to express how much I do not respect taxi drivers. Yes, they take brunt of being responsible for some 16 million commuters on a weekly basis, but how do we even begin to justify the manner in which these commuters are transported? How refreshing would it be to WANT to leave one’s car at home over the weekend on the regular and utilise a public transport form instead? Truth is – by the time most commuters can afford to no longer use a taxi they breathe an eternal sigh of relief. They are also highly unlikely to revisit that avenue if they can help it.

Now, my biggest issue with the South African Taxi Organisations, which we’ll call SATO for this exercise, is that they don’t contribute towards the tax revenue of this country. Okay, I lie – they do, but like any cash business – how do YOU know if they don’t make 6 times what they declare? Anyway, that’s another topic altogether. Let me get into the heart of my gripe – red robots, speeding, poor condition of the vehicles, barrier line overtaking, tricks to avoid stand-still traffic… Now, I am generally not bothered by this because I’ve used taxis for much of my life. I KNOW how impatient the passengers are. This IS Gauteng and we’re all always in a rush. Very bizarre, but admittedly true. Well, if you’ve experienced any of this ‘horrendous’ driving I’m talking about then I have to ask – have you ever witnessed motorcycles on our roads and wondered – “Are taxi drivers and motorcyclists cut form the same cloth?”

Thailand - Bangkok - Public Transportation - Tuk-Tuk (Motorcycle Taxi)
Thailand - Bangkok - Public Transportation - Tuk-Tuk (Motorcycle Taxi)

There isn’t a single way in which I can differentiate between them – all are in a rush, they feel they own the road and have an incredible sense of entitlement. “Look at me. Why did you not see me? Let’s get off/out of our vehicles and battle it out then!”

It’s a damn shame. On a lighter side – I love witnessing quarrels between the two. Much like sibling rivalry. Truly one and the same.

Quite the sight.