Author Archives: janellearnold

About janellearnold

A University of Cape Town student, born and raised in the Canadian suburbs - you can't blame me for going adventure-hunting right out of high school. The world is a big place, and I'm privileged enough to explore it.


Hello faithful readers!

And I can call you faithful, because my definition of faithful is that you’re reading this right now. Try and wrap your head around that one.

This is just to let you know that I have a new, real blog that I’m starting. Just in time for exams. 🙂

This Africonvoluted blog was actually a class project for my Media degree. I loved doing it. I’m very passionate about the topic. And I got an A in the course, so that’s cool. The problem is, I have a lot more interests than just the way Africa is perceived in the West. So, I’m branching out, becoming more vague, and commencing a blog adventure called Janellethinks. Because I do. And no one can stop me.

I may still post on this blog from time to time, if something is applicable. But if you enjoyed any of my writings at all and want to read more, head on over to the link below.

Thanks for reading and liking and making me feel like I can actually blog for real!




The China-Africa Convergence: Can America Catch Up?

This is a fascinating call to America to take measures against the “deep-seated strain of paternalism” it feels when dealing with the continent. Chinese investments are seriously everywhere in Africa. Construction projects, stores, restaurants, technology… Everything. Clearly China saw Africa as an investment opportunity and went for it. I don’t think most Westerners could even imagine that Africa could be a clever place to put your business.
Anyways, I’ll let Howard French explain the rest. Somebody should give Obama this article before he visits the continent a couple of weeks from now.


By Howard W. French

Howard French, a leading American journalist on Africa for four decades, returned to the continent after stints as New York Times correspondent in Tokyo and Shanghai. He discovered a resurgent continent increasingly wedded to Chinese growth and expansion. The deep penetration of Africa by Chinese firms and citizens has coincided with an era of sustained African economic growth. On the eve of President Obama’s visit to three democratic nations – Senegal, South Africa, and Tanzania – French’s essay initiates an Africa Demos series on the China-Africa Convergence and their implications for the United States and other countries.

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Take Anyone, Just Leave Madiba

I’m really scared that Nelson Mandela’s going to die while I’m out of the country. [Read up.]

If that sounds selfish to you, that’s because it probably is.

I want to be around when South Africa experiences its figurative tsunami. South Africans are an emotional people, and they’ve been through a lot. They’re also an immensely proud people. And no one makes them more proud, and I mean NO ONE, than former President Nelson Mandela.

Madiba is more than just a figure. He’s more than just a hero. He’s the representation of everything South Africa needed to believe in to come out of the hell they were in. He’s the mascot of democracy and hope. He’s the glue that held this nation together for a long time. His passing will be the moment when the fates remove their fingers from holding the porcelain pieces of South Africa’s shell together and, with millions holding their breath, see if it holds together.

To be honest, I know this country’s built of stronger stuff than the nostalgic memory of a man. But man, it’s hard to imagine a South Africa without Madiba. It really is. He is no less than a legend, and to use that word on anyone after him would really be to weaken its power.

So, coming back to my original statement, I want to be there when the wave hits. I want to be part of the mourning. I want to watch a nation fall to its knees with tears and gasps, because I want to watch it pick itself up afterwards. The first staggered steps will be beautiful, because they’ll be unified.

South Africa will have to learn how to breathe again after Madiba’s lungs have failed him.

[My prayers and love to him and his family.]

Janelle’s Travel Tips and Traditions

On my recent trip from Cape Town to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, I spent some time pondering how much of my life I’ve spend travelling. I estimate that I’ve flown in between 100 and 150 airplanes. I’ve done numerous road trips (though not nearly enough!). I’ve been around.

Not only does this much travelling allow you to explore the world and expand your mind (perhaps I’ll do a post about the values of travel some other time…), it also makes you a pro at some very specific things. I thought I’d share some of my rules and rituals of flying.

1. Always pack extra underwear. No matter what. As I always say, you’ll hate yourself more for not having it when you need it than having it when you don’t need it.

2. Bring your own headphones. Airplane headphones suuuuck. And they usually charge you money for them. Not okay.

3. Check in ahead of time, and pick your perfect seat. I always go for the back 10% of the plane, and always a window seat. I don’t need to get up very often when flying, and I find the aisle seat extremely uncomfortable. And nobody likes the middle seat. NOBODY. Also, if you’re doing more than one flight, alternate which side of the plane you’ll sit on. It makes it slightly more interesting, and switching which side you’re leaning on will probably save you some pain.

4. Use the bathroom after drinks, but before the meal. Now, this may seem like a tiny window of opportunity. And it is. But that’s why it’s perfect! Everyone goes to the bathroom about 10 minutes after the meal has been cleared, so you can expect massive lines then. Not fun. Going just after the drink carts have passed through, you have about 7 minutes of space where no one’s standing – the aisles are clear, the toilets are available, and it’s great. Obviously, go in the airport beforehand as well. It’s all about the staggering.

5. Stay hydrated. I usually drink one non-water beverage per flight, and then load up on the water bottles. When I say hydration, I`m also referring to hands and lips. Airplanes will shrivel you up like a raisin if you`re not careful.

7. Eat everything you’re given. Dude, you already paid for it. Do it. Stuff the rest in your pockets if you’re not going to finish your crackers or your chocolate. Which actually just reminded me that I have a candy from my last flight still in my bag somewhere. Sweet.

8. Have (decaf) coffee in the airport. This is before your flight, or if you have less than a two-hour layover somewhere. In South Africa I always go to the Mugg & Bean. In Canada it’s Tim Horton’s, or maybe Starbucks, depending on how sophisticated I feel. (And by sophisticated I mean not cheap). But caffeine de-hydrates you and makes you have to pee more frequently, so usually avoiding the caffeine is better. Plus you may want to sleep on the plane, and caffeine tends to hinder that.

9. Never carry anything in your pockets. Specifically before you’ve gone through security. NEVER. DON’T DO IT. Save yourself and the people behind you in line lots of grief, and go pocket-free.

10. Do the Sudoku. Hey, those first 20 minutes of sitting in the plane are boring. You’re not allowed to use your tray table, you can’t watch the TV, you don’t want to get bored of the book you brought or any other source of amusement before you’re even in the air. So do the crossword puzzle or the sudoku in the in-flight magazine while you wait.

11. Take off your shoes. I always take off my shoes whenever I get anywhere, but I would highly recommend this on airplanes. Do it right away, before your feet stink or the person next to you has a chance to notice. And, bring an extra pair of socks on the plane. Preferably warm and loose socks, so they don’t cut off circulation but keep your feet nice and toasty.

12. Following on the previous point, dress in layers. But not with jackets or button-up shirts, because they may hold you up at security. Do the T-shirt + sweater + hoodie combo, or something to that effect.

13. Dress comfortably. Seriously. Don’t let those silly women in heels judge you. They’re silly. Who are they trying to impress, really? But don’t dress so comfortably that you feel like you’re wearing a tent all day. Dress like you would to go for a walk, or to hang out with kids for the day.

14. Give yourself extra time to do everything. Somehow, I always move more slowly when I’m travelling. I give myself lots of time to forget things and then remember them, to do all the little tasks involved in flying, and to navigate through airports with my large amounts of stuff.

I’ve done most of this travelling on my own, so maybe my techniques will change if I have to do it with other people. Or maybe I’ll just get more and more obsessed with the details as I get older and slowly become George Clooney in Up in the Air. Who knows.

The BBC’s standards of journalism when it comes to South Africa

Read the article first, then read this critique of it. Such a strange conversation to be having at all. But it’s interesting. And it directly affects me, I mean, if white people don’t have a future in South Africa, I should take my business elsewhere.

Africa is a Country (Old Site)

Yes, the BBC sent the snooty John Simpson to South Africa to do a bit of parachute journalism and be led around by the white “rights” group Afriforum (since when are they are a credible source?) to come up with this insulting question: “Do white people have a future in South Africa?” Read it here. The main claims of the piece (and a documentary broadcast in the UK on Sunday night) are that the white poor number about 400,000 (that would be about 10% of the white population), that there are 80 “white squatter camps” situated around the capital Pretoria, and that there’s a deliberate attempt on the part of the new government to neglect whites. These reports usually add attacks on white farmers into the mix as if there are direct links between these phenomena. And the BBC did that too. It’s a mashup of all the nonsense…

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How to Speak South African

This is a story told from Canadian and South African perspectives. It should give you a nice idea of the linguistic differences between the two nations. And maybe some other differences too.

Note: ‘South African’ is not actually a language. Don’t go looking for “South African for Dummies” on the bookshelves. You will not find it.


I went to a barbecue at my friend’s house today. On my way, I got stuck at a few red lights, plus I had to stop for gas, so I was a bit late.

“What’s up?” Jon said, as I got to the front door.

“Not much, thanks. Let me get the hot dogs out of the trunk, and then I’ll be in!” I responded.

I carried my meat and beer through the house, and my friend ushered me through to the back yard, where the barbecue was already lit.

“It’s looking good. Anything I can do to help?” I said.

“No, everything’s pretty much taken care of. Did you catch the hockey game last night?”

“Yeah. Awesome stuff. An overtime win! So epic.”

“Totally. This food’s smelling so good, by the way. I’m so hungry!”


I went to a braai at my mate’s house today. On the way, I got stuck at a few red robots, and I had to stop for petrol, but I was still half an hour earlier than everyone else.

“Howzit?” Jono said, as I arrived at the front door.

“It’s cool, man! Shot! Let me get the boerewors out of the boot, and then I’ll be in!” I responded.

I carried my meat and beer through the house and headed to the back, where Jono was busy lighting the braai.

“Cool vibes, man. Anything I can do to help?” I said.

“Nah, it’s chilled. Did you catch the hockey game last night?”

“Does anyone even care about hockey in this country?” I asked.

“Field hockey, sometimes,” Jono offered.

“Yeah, but still…”

“Yeah, never mind.”

There was an awkward pause as both he and I tried to figure out why he had mentioned hockey.


As the sun slowly sunk away for the night, the air began to cool. We gathered closer around the campfire, rubbing our hands together to stay warm.

We laughed and talked about Stephen Harper and Rick Mercer and how much we dislike Americans as we ate our fill from the barbecue.

I wiped off my hands after eating my third s’more. I decided it was time to head out for the evening, so I waved goodbye to those still huddled around the fire, and headed back to my car.

It had been a good night.


The food was eventually ready, as the sun sunk away for the night. The air cooled off a bit, and everyone freaked out about how cold it was. Someone lit a fire in a pit in the middle of the lawn.

“Is this legal?” I asked.

“Legal for what?” someone replied.

As the fire started to grow, Thando dropped her wors into the flames, because she was gesturing too much with her hands. A chorus of “yoh!”s and “shame!”s broke out, but luckily there was another one to replace it.

We laughed and talked about Jacob Zuma and Trevor Noah and how much we dislike Americans as we ate our fill from the braai.

I wiped off my hands after chowing some milk tart. I decided it was time to bounce, so I hugged every single person goodbye, and headed to my car. I tipped the car guard even though he hadn’t been there when I arrived and it looked like he had made his ‘official’ vest himself.

It had been a good night.

A Different Kind of Autumn…

I lied. They actually do have fall here.

It drags on forever and the colours aren’t nearly as dramatic as a Canadian autumn, but it still happens. I took some pictures on the University of Cape Town campus to prove it.

My craving isn’t satisfied, but every time I fill my lungs with autumn air my heart aches a little with joy, a little with longing.

That’s what I love about the seasons.