Friday, 29 June 2012

Only a few paychecks away........

Greener on the other side...

 The University of Cape Town has a charity fundraiser where they will wash cars in the main road past the university. All the students in old clothes getting wet with squeezies cleaning cars and just having fun. Generous drivers giving money for charity especially to all the cute female students in wet tops. So this is the background to my story.

So I find myself on vacation in Canada and visiting my sister in law in Montreal. Really beautiful city with great people. Vacation is awesome and the food even better. My only peeve was moving around the city by bus, train and walking even though I just rented a car. I was told a car is too inconvenient with traffic and limited parking. What?? Iam not sure why this pissed me off to no extent but it did. This just threw me off my guard because firstly I spent almost a thousand dollars on car rental and secondly in SA you work hard and save well so that you never have to use public transport ever.

So we find ourselves driving into downtown and I see all these white kids trying to wash cars at the traffic lights - they must be from the university also collecting money for charity. Wow, how small the world is as they do the same thing the Cape Town. Then wifey pointed out that they definitely not students collecting for charity. So I told her what we do at home. She quickly put me in the loop as these white kids were homeless kids with squeezies trying to get money for their drug habit. Wait slow down. I cant think that fast. Good looking white kids standing on street corners begging for money?? You must be taking the piss. I felt I was in a Just For Laughs video, until they came over to my window. Oh damn. Whats going on here I thought?

Two years later driving home in Winnipeg from shopping I see more white kids begging for money on the corner. Ya I know, I will get over it some day, but right now Iam still shaking my head. I always need to do a double take as here the homeless are so well dressed with expensive looking hiking backpacks. Decent jackets, nice t-shirts and clean shoes not like at home in SA. Seeing hundreds of people begging in SA is just part of the landscape. You recognize them instantly, you know their stories and can guess what they will try to sell you. But over here in such an advanced society and financially structured lifestyle no one should be begging. For a white person to be begging in Canada means that you have missed a huge fucking sign the size of a Mountain saying "Success this way ->" I guess shit does happen to everyone no matter what colour, but dont ask me to be understanding. Okay, okay, I guess we all a few paychecks away from joining them on the street. So true I know!!

Sunday, 24 June 2012


Okay. So where do I start with this one. The cooking situation in SA was simple. Every Sunday was a big lunch tradition. We would make a huge lunch with at least one roasted chicken, roast potatoes, rice, veg, a pot of hot mutton curry, roast leg of lamb and fried fish. We were only 3 persons in the house but always expecting visitors with bottles of whiskey to come by. The blessing with all the left over food is that most of it is placed straight into the fridge so no one cooks Monday to Wednesday. This is a really easy equation allowing for instant food that only needs heat.

Roast leg of lamb

What a tradition to continue right? Oh no. Not in Canada. Here meals are slightly different. When cooking is done here there is absolutely no food left any where. What? How so George? Well.....let me tell ya what it is. If you 4 at dinner. You will only cook 4 of everything perfectly so there is no left overs. So once you finish that 1 piece of chicken on your plate you shit out of luck. If you anything like me you would be placing covert reconnaissance on those empty pots of food hoping there's a forgot piece of chicken that accidentally slipped through the portion control. You know its a long shot but your stomach is saying "what the fok dude?" So getting near the pots is easy. Just start picking up the plates and offer to wash up the dishes which gets you in a perfect position near the stove to take one good look in the pots for more food. And once again its a FAIL. in my own home I cant leave any food in the fridge for more than one day then into the bin it goes. Throwing away food like this is out of control and too much pressure of an African. In SA I have left food in the fridge for months and was always perfectly fine after reheat. I cant be cooking everyday so I make extra to heat up later. No. Dont ask me to make one piece at a time. Iam cooking the whole cow and warming the left overs tomorrow, because nothing is more logical or satisfying.
Not me by the way.


I work in hospitality and clued in with temperatures ripe for Ecoli growth but that only effects people in First world countries and not to a hard living South Africans like myself. Never in my life heard about anyone getting sick from eating a steak which fell on the floor or from that last piece of chocolate that fell out your hand. Normal germs have no chance against my consistency, especially since I was brought up eating delicacies like cows feet, sheep intestine, fish heads, giblets, tongue and all sorts of livers. Oh damn now you know where I come from. At least I never tried fried chicken feet, but one day I will.

So to my beautiful loving wife. If you throw out any of my perfectly good left overs that is less than 3 weeks old we gonna have problems :)

Monday, 18 June 2012

To an amazing woman

This dedication will be a departure from the usually upbeat posts as I do believe life itself should be balanced and not too sheltered. I have always been pro South African and the eternal optimist. I have always argued against ignorance by promoting our achievements and celebrating the heros of our time. I have consistently promoted South Africa by painting a positive and scenic picture for those I have met on my travels taking away the perception of mud huts and animals roaming free. Some people just needed a change of perception as in their defense their expectation is conceived from information and primitive visuals which are found on National Geographic and these heart breaking charity ads on TV.

 I have bragged about the good life my family has and how we have prospered enough to be able to travel the world. I tried to separate the good from the bad and how one is able to have a consistently normal life in a country with such diverse extremes.  I have therefore always despised Saffers who left for greener pastures and who have become keyboard haters of our new democracy, especially knowing that Mandela was essentially caught and imprisoned because he refused to leave the country when many of the other leaders have left to study in foreign universities and fight the struggle from outside SA. I somehow had an overwhelming need to reeducate folks by planting seeds of hope for a country that has such a poor and scary reputation.

This week my enduring compassion for SA has been violent shaken to the core. I was informed that my beloved aunty who was the patriarch of our family had died this week. She was 73 years old but always took so great care of herself. She was never sick and had an extremely active life. I really assumed she was 50 something. After my grand father passed she took over all the family businesses which included liqueur stores, night clubs, bars, a hotel and butcheries. I worked for her for a few years and loved the business. She was always the most conservative in the family which made us rely on her guidance so much more.

Then the devastating news that she was actually murdered. She was murdered by her gardener in the most violent way. Such a beautiful person was taken away in such a horrible way is just unfathomable, especially with me on the other side of the world. I could not reconcile that she could be involved in anything so vulgar. She led the life of a saint, was church going and extremely generous. None of my SA vacations could be complete without my visit to her and spending sometime in her house. If it was not for the pictures in the newspapers of her body being removed from her home I could imagine that this never happened. Our family has never experienced such a level of crime before and has been relatively unhindered by the level of violence in our country. To say that she did not deserve such an end is the biggest understatement that was ever made. She was not a risk taker and was extremely family orientated and her grand kids were the joy of her life. Even as a business woman I remember we would drive home on different routes from the various businesses just to ensure her routine was not noticeable by would be robbers. She was homely and just enjoyed spending time with her family.

I now realize that all my optimism surrounding SA all hinged on the fact that our family was born on the privileged side of life and that we were never really exposed to the high volume of crime which was reported on a daily basis. Did I then fool myself into a false sense of security. Of course not. I knew where we were living and was particularly aware of our security issues. I suppose I did have a feeling that being a statistic belonged to other people who we read about in newspapers and not our good family. Iam now given a rude awakening with such a personal sacrifice that Iam questioning whether I should reconsider my positive outlook. How can I not? I now feel a blatant need to kill that mother fucker who dared to lay hands on such a loving aunty. So now I understand what many South Africans are feeling in the wake of violent crime. Its an extremely hopeless experience. Especially when you hear that the police detectives were delayed as their precinct had 16 other murders that same day. And this is on a Monday! In Canada I live in the most violent city in the country with 36 murders a year but in one Cape Town precinct they have 16 murders in one day. I wonder how many precincts are in Cape Town, then again I prefer not to know or Ill be further discouraged with hopelessness.

For now I will remember my aunty for all the great moments and the wonderful life she lived. Maybe her spirit will guide me on how to deal with her loss and what message I should carry forward with me. Aunty I will remember you for your smile and that special place you hold in our heart.

With all our love
George, Marie & Sipho

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Fancy Third Worlders......

South Africans know how to live the high life in a Third World country.We have standards that First World countries have dropped years ago and yet I have not reconciled why we still have them now knowing how far behind the rest of the world we are trailing in all aspects of society.

Case Study 1: SA supermarkets must have packers to pack your groceries!  No self respecting supermarket in SA would deny packers for its customers. Its taboo and unconstitutional. Even in Finland (the best country in the world to live in) you have to pack your own groceries. The cashier pushes your groceries one side and for you to pack while she helps the next customer. Of course I am the only one in Finland still standing at the cashier wondering who is going to delicately pack my groceries and getting all pissed off with this shady customer service until once again my wife saves the supermarket employees from Armageddon and shows me everyone else is packing their own groceries. You know I never went back there but I had to relax my stubbornness as I realized I could not shop anywhere in Turku without packing the groceries myself. 

Case Study 2: If any petrol station in SA asked customers to put in their own petrol we will never go back there & they be bankrupt in a month. Who the hell is going to wash the windows, top up the oil and fill up the cars water? Voetsek don't even come try. This is completely unacceptable to ask us to give up such a comfort & privilege, while in the the US & Canada they been pumping petrol themselves for years. Yes even when its snowing and your fingers are numb. Can you imagine getting out into -25C snowing weather to put gas in the car then having to go inside to pay for it......Ya I know......its a joke! Our SA society is about 85 years away from trusting locals to firstly find they gas tank and secondly to not drive off without paying. No forget 85 lets make it 150 years, hopefully long enough till when the world runs out of gas, cause trusting our people is as good an idea as water proof tea bags!!

 Case Study 3: Nights out in SA is not that much different than the First World but for one exception. In the First World you could buy a round of drinks for your group and you will die of thirst if you wait for them to buy a round for you. Instead each person would go alone to the bar, buy their own drink and come back to the conversation. Not a care in the world you just bought them a round of R540 / $66. Talk about awkward. I experienced the same thing in Cape Town with two Dutch acquaintances. Dont they get it? I buy for all then you buy for all and everyone is happy. I might be African but I know how to party and have no respect for money, so why are these priviledged people so hard up? This has been happening to me in Finland, US, UK, and Canada. I dont seem to have learnt my lesson as I continue to spread the cheer. Problem is that I have too much to only spend on myself, I would loose my mind and over indulge - image Van der Merwe in a whore house with a credit card. Yep thats me. This is usually not a pretty sight but thoroughly entertaining. I love being the life of the party and getting everyone liquered up but if you not going to return the favour then Iam not partying with your broke self anymore.Now get out your welfare check and buy me a drink.

Try the Canadian drink Caesar below if you have not already!