Tag Archives: South Africa

South Africa, the media and that round leather thing

It has started. After all the time with tedious articles about delayed stadiums, unsafe townships and the usual stereotypes, the World Cup has finally begun. Even though I fear that the media have prepared the perfect ground for every purse robbery to be qualified as proof of how much safer it would have been in Europe, I hope and wish that it will be a great cup. And that bafana bafana makes it at least in the second round.

South Africa deserves it.


Photos South Africa – Finally

Just a few, more and some explaining comments next time, ok?

Yes, finally I am also a member of Flickr

Please put the opening window to maximum size and admire the nearly panoramo photos on the third of my three pages.

As soon as I have time and my laptop here in Brussels, I gonna also put some photos of Berlin, London and whatever you want to see. Ideas?

Basic skills

Some things are just so normal in life that you hardly think about them. For me, it was surprising to learn, that 9 out of 10 black South Africans cannot swim. They never had an opportunity to learn it because there are no or few public swimming pools and the sea is far away even for Cape Towniens. Living in township means that you do not go to the beach very often. You probably won’t ever have a bike, and making a driver’s licence is a huge financial challenge.

I knew how to swim by the age of six and I guess how to ride a bike, too. To make my driver’s licence was just the necessary thing to do, nearly everybody in high school was busy with in the last year. And I hardly ever thought about it…


this evening…

Yes, the day has come – I am going home. My visa is expiring today at midnight and since a lot of work and even more people are waiting for me to come home, I will leave South Africa at 8:50 pm. At least, if the plane is on time.

I have the very same feeling I got when I came to South Africa. I prepared everything, the luggage, the visa, accommodation and so on but I never had the feeling that I am actually going.

Today, my luggage is more or less ready but I cannot believe that I am leaving. Can you imagine while you walking in the sun (30°C) that not even 24 hours later you will have something like 4° and snow??? I mean, Friday, I was on the beach…

Ok, I should stop complaining because I cannot change it and also because I am happy to come home.

There is still a lot to say about South Africa and some posts to write. And if everything goes the way I want it, I will discover the strange and far kingdom of Belgium starting from the 1st of March… What adventures will I experience there?

View from Table Mountain

View over False Bay

Cable Car

South Africa – I will miss you!


I do not give any guarantee for the spelling but due to the huge demand (one email), I thought that it may interest you to know some of the very, very basic words in isiXhosa. Here you go:

Molo – Hello

Ewe – Yes – also Answer to Molo

Haij – No – pronounced like Hey, took me five weeks to get it.

Haijbo – Oh no, used frequently.

Kunjani – How are you?

Ndiphilile – I am fine

Kunjaniwena – And how are you?

Ndiphililenam- I am fine, too

Mlungu – milk, white person (usually meaning me when I hear it)

Nkosi – Thank you

Nkosi kakhulu – Thank you very much.

Andikuva – I did not hear you/I do not understand you

Andias – I do not know.

I know and understand some more words/sentences but I am not sure if it would useful for anybody out there to write them down. Just to give you an idea, I know how to say: The rain is coming; The reverend is out of office; Can I have water, please?; I learn isiXhosa.

The story with the clicks is a little bit complicated to describe. So please read this more as a try. There are basically three clicks: “c”, “x” and “q”. The “c” is the easiest one, pronounced as if you were blaming a child “tstststs”. The “x” is a click you make with your tongue and the “q”, well, I never performed this one correctly I think. It is close to the noise you would make with tongue when you want to imitate a trabbing horse.

As I told you, that’s a try.

One thing I realised is that as long as I do not speak this language, I would always be an outsider among the people I life with. I am excluded of basic conversation as soon as there is more than one person.

I also came to a point to realise that even if I learned the language and improved it to be fluent, that there would still be the differences in culture and traditions. And since this is a question of growing up with, I know that I could never become a part of this society.

Not to mention the question of my skin colour…

Cry the beloved country

Alan Paton
Cry the beloved country

Cry the beloved country - Cover

Written by one of the great, white liberals supporting the Anti-Apartheid struggle over more than 50 years, Alain Paton is drafting a powerful novel going beyond the limits of paper by picturing South Africa in its depth.

Cry the beloved Country is the story of two families, a white and a black one, separated by the race barrier, hundred years of development and nevertheless closely linked to each other. The Zulu reverend Stephen Kumalo searching in the Johannesburg for his son Absalom and the white farmer James Jarvis loosing his son Arthur.

The book was written in 1948 and describes the conditions in the black shantytowns in contrast to the white settlements. It details the problem of the unequal distribution of land, leaving to the black population only such a small part of their ancestral land, that their traditions can only be destroyed. This unequal distribution of land is the issue of important development struggles of South Africa at that time and today as: erosion, rural exodus, overcrowded townships, destroyed families and traditions, violence, and hatred.

Paton has a very own style, which first seems strange but develops soon in an intense rhythm. The story is told more as a tale in a repetitive style reminding some ancient legends. This style is not easy to read but makes the book all together more authentic.

Cry the beloved Coutry pictures life in South Africa as what it has been for a long time and what it is to some extend until today: the white minority closing the eyes to or simply not knowing the black majority out of ignorance, fear and a feeling of superiority. The black majority, half aware of its power but intimidated by hundreds of years of oppression, a feeling of inferiority and fear, torn between hope and rebellion.

After having been to South Africa for three months, I perceived this book as parabola to South African life and history: dead, desperation, seemingly destroying everything but against all odds, people rise above themselves, crossing the invisible but still powerful border of race and their own fear. Thus, they show their pride for this country, a sometimes surprising and strong optimism, and making a promise of a better future.

Paton describes South Africa as what is can be: beautiful, amazing, welcoming, cruel, violent, desperately human – extreme and overwhelming.

Best quotation among others: “I have one great fear in my heart, that one day when they (the white minority) are turned to loving, they will find that we (black population) are turned to hating.”

Coming home

Saturday evening, it was not the first time that I took a taxi (= minibus) from Cape Town Central Station to make my way home to Gugs. So I know by now which one to take. Tiny problem this time, the placement person put me in the wrong taxi going to NY1 instead of NY108. I only asked twice…

The problem was now that I was going to NY108 while my host mum was sending someone to pick me up to NY1. Remember: I have been strongly advised not to walk alone in this area.

When I realised that the taxi was going the wrong way, a slight panic came up. I got of at the usual stop but nobody else, so nobody to walk with. Only solution coming to my mind: going right to the police station, which is at the next intersection. Thought, done. While walking, a called the daughter of my host mum who told me to ask the police to give me a lift. And since I had no better idea that was exactly what I did.

Now, imagine you the following picture: a white girl (to be more precise: this one white girl being crazy enough to come to this place) walking in to the police station explaining her problem. The policemen first would not even believe her that she is really, truly living in this area and even working here.

Finally, they agreed to give me a lift because it is too dangerous for me to walk alone (statement of a police constable). For the first time in my life, I have been brought home in a car with four police men, two of them armed with MGs.

We discussed about the areas here (Gugulethu – black township, Manenberg – coloured township, Thambo village – just in between where I stay), the crime, the violence, crazy European volunteers working and living there and sport.

They invited me to come over one evening and to observe their work. Seriously, if I had more time left, I would like to do this. It must be a challenging experience. But so, I just thanked them and I am glad to know that in case of any problems (and may it just be transport), I can address the next police/security officer. Very, very reassuring. No kidding.


Saturday, I visited the Two Oceans Aquarium in Cape Town. Nice experience teaching me a lot about fish, algae and all the other stuff what swims in the oceans. Let me share my newly gained knowledge:

Did you know that Eagle rays seen from down seem to smile. It is sooo cute. And, I made a photo, publishing date in probably two weeks.

Did you know that baby sharks look exactly like adult sharks, only smaller? They have already a lot of teeth and they look somehow mean. We are used to see baby animals as sweet or cute but this seems to apply only to mammals.

Did you know that Giant spider crabs are really giants growing up to have a diameter of 4 meters? I wonder what they taste like;

Did you know that fishes never stop growing their entire lifetime? They only grow slower when they are getting older. And Nemo fishes are smaller than I thought. Hollywood is not a reliable source of knowledge…

Did you know what algae, sponge, Kelp, anemones, star fish and sea urchins feel like? No? Me too, I had no idea. In the Aquarium, they have a genius invention: a Touch pool where you can touch all this stuff. Yes, real touching in a museum. Since I am a one of these people loving to touch, smell or taste, this was definitely one of my favourites.

Did you know that seals and penguins are stinking? Probably yes. But at least the penguins are moving, fighting and busy while the seals are just laying lazily in the sun…

What else? I spend a lot of time watching the sharks, other fishes and the turtle (one poor, lonely turtle) in the huge predator tank.

Only problem: now that I have seen very closely what a shark’s teeth look like, I wonder if the idea to spend my last week here surfing was such a good one. False Bay, where I want to go to, is one of the best spots in the world to see the Great White Shark. On the other hand, I learned in the aquarium, that sharks have killed only 9 people during the last year, but more than 300 by defect toasters… I think, I gonna take the risk.

Oh, and for dinner, we had fish, of course 😉


One of the cheapest ways to get transport in and around Cape Town (except walking and highly dangerous cycling) is to use taxis. First thing to know: we do not speak about the European kind of taxis you call and than you pay a fare per kilometer. Taxis are minibuses usually made to transport between 14 and 16 seated passengers.


These figures are more theory than reality because I’ve been in taxis with 20 people and heard about worse.After some breathtaking experiences, I can say that, except all, it is pretty safe to take a taxi (safe by South African standards). Exceptions are: the poor condition some taxis are in and the way most drivers try to get their costumers in the quickest way from point A to point B.

First aspect: I saw and drove in taxis which were more rust on wheels than cars. I was especially impressed by a taxi I took in Langa. How this car was still moving is an enigma to me. Unfortunately, I could not find photos on the Internet showing this kind of taxis.

Second aspect: Drivers have a licence to drive badly or how a friend put it: to kill. I had some breath taking experience while sitting on the front seat in the morning rush hour. Taxi drivers drive where and how they want to drive. I had one driving on the pedestrian walk using the horn to get pedestrians out of the way. Note to everybody who wants to come to SA: as pedestrian you are better prepared to jump when a car comes fast in your direction. You are pregnant, on crutches, in a wheel chair?  That does not matter, you better jump. No kidding.

Taxi rank

Taxi ranks are mostly part of this places in South Africa (ok, I can only speak about Cape Town) where you hardly see white faces. Blacks and coloureds yes, but very few white faces. The inconvenience is that I always feel uncomfortable the way some people stare at me. The advantage is that people sometimes take care of me, asking me where I come from, how I like SA, if somebody picks me up at the taxi rank, and so on.

You can take taxi at a taxi rank, stop them by waving your finger. You have to know where to get of except if you go to the terminus. To pay the taxi, you give the required amount of money (usually between 4 and 8 R) to the guy or the woman sitting next to you. If you do not have the matching amount, the change comes back to you in a fascinating way I am too lazy not able to describe. That’s definitely something to experience on your own.

Ok, that post is much longer than I wanted it initially to be. But now it is written, so you have to read it. 😉

Original images from here. The site gives a good review of housing in townships, too.


1. When you get up at 6 o’clock and go out of the house at 7, then you can be on the top of Lion’s Head at quarter to 9. You can then walk over to Signal Hill, have pick-nick there and ask a nice couple to give you a lift to town. If you follow this instructions, you can be back at the starting point at 1 pm, and still have half a day for whatever you want to do…

2. There are only 4.729 million telephone main lines registered in South Africa (1 per 10 inhabitants) but 33.96 million cellphones (2 out of 3 inhabitants). More stats from this side

3. Picture of the day (actually: yesterday) and for people with a very powerful imagination: a very old and very short lady driving a huge, old, green Mercedes taking as much time as she needs to cross an intersection. New experience: Taxi drivers using their brakes and making place for the lady.

4. I love the spelling check tool from wordpress.

5. Ndiyakuthanda – I love you in isiXhosa (and yes, it in only one word, that is one of the reasons why I have so many problems to learn this language)