Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Outsider in Gatesville

Most people believe and say they are culturally diverse blending into foreign lands and cultures without being afraid or critical. But then again we have so many liars out there. Being culturally diverse only sounds good because you remember you signed the ethics course at work. Sure you work with a smarty box of cultures but immersing yourself on the grass root level is another story. Embracing the uncomfortable social trends and traditions is only part of it. Being objective and holding your tongue from criticism is far more challenging. Others know when you are faking - you don't ask the right questions or allow for proper responses because your impatience and indifference is the white elephant in the room.

This is true for my previous youthful self when I caught myself mentioning how many black and white friends I had, I knew I was a poser. I am now a glutten to learn as much as I can about those around me. And yes, eat any weird shit they put in front of me too.

Golden Dish, Gatesville, Cape Town
I go back to my wife's first trip to SA. I kinda gave her heads up about what Cape Town is about and how to survive the vacation without running to the Canadian Consulate for protection and helicopter emergency extraction.

My wife is extremely smart and well travelled so I did not have to give her the third degree about home. She knows we don't play with lions and some of us don't live in huts. Like I explained to many others, 90% of South Africans have not seen any wild life as most cannot afford to. There is no watering hole near our house which we can just mozy on down to for a quick sight seeing. You wanna see animals then take out that American Express and lets go. Let me tell you folks, we as Africans cant be ignorant to the fact that many first worlders believe that Africans live in the bush, its the most dangerous place on earth and you will die if you drink the water. When you live on the other side of the world knowing anything about Africa is no where near a priority. Often you see Ads on TV collecting money for starving African kids who are living in filth. Because they are played so often people get desensitized to it and this is what they know of Africa. So the ignorance is understood.

She was in deed well prepared. She had a GPS locator, pepper spray, police and CAA contact numbers and knew which side of Table Mountain the house was on. More importantly she knew we drove on the "wrong" side of the road. While she was professionally debriefed about the worldly surroundings there was nothing to prepare her for my FAMILY. There are some explanations too Taboo to attempt so I decided to throw her in the deep end and experience it first hand. Trust me the story that follows is worth a Trevor Noah skit but that story's for another time.

Golden Dish, Gatesville, Cape Town
The Top Ten must see in Cape Town is easy but generic. I have a different Top Ten which smothers and shocks your body with cultural efficiency. This is number one in the experience. On the far side of Athlone lays a buzzing hub of activity called Gatesville. Smack in the middle is Golden Dish. A Take Aways I called home for the last 30 odd years. Open almost 24 hours they serve fast food to the masses. Walking up to the shop I find my wife's grip nearly cutting of my circulation but I quickly realized why. Hawkers shouting at passerby's, people running over the road frantically no respect for cars, police vans racing with sirens blaring,  taxis hooting for no reason, garbage all over the place, criminal looking freaks that just escaped from prison, beggars following you for money, it was a madness spilled onto the street but just another day in the neighbourhood for us locals. What is more clearer than anything is that she's the only white person for miles around. I guess the shouting and raucous noise from hundreds of coloureds are a defense mechanism to keep all others at bay. I am sure this would be intimidating for many.

Then something happened that reinforced my pride about my people and instantly made me burst out in laughter with tears and all. If this happened in any other situation there would be blood and tears but this was just the equilibrium that was needed. Walking hand in hand we passed one of the hawkers selling his fruit on the pavement. It wasn't a second that we passed him that he said (In Afrikaans) just loud enough for us to hear: "Daar loop OJ" (Translated: There walks OJ). I didn't know if my wife would think of the comment but the brazen lack of filter and ignorance was heart warming to me. I was home.

Oh.... my people know when to turn on the magic just in time..........


Stephan Rossedalen said...

Amazing !!!

marla said...

im more interested in what marie had to say about that comment. :P