Tag Archives: Canada

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.

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Homeseek

The other morning I had an overwhelming craving for fall.

I was sitting in my Religion & Society class, it was mid-afternoon, I was tired and bored, and I wanted it to be autumn.

It was all there in my mind – the stunning warm colours, contrasted with the cool, crisp morning air; the smell of leaves and pumpkins and hay; the grey skies and brown coats and purple scarves and auburn hair blowing in the wind. The desire was so intense I could taste the breeze and put my hands in my pockets for warmth.

But then the sun was shining outside, and I realised I’m not in Canada anymore, and I sighed.

There is an autumn-type season here in Cape Town. The ivy leaves on the University of Cape Town’s buildings turn red and gold and fall, the air turns colder, and people start dressing in greys and blacks and blues. And there is winter (another thing you should know about Africa). It’s cold and miserable. There’s lots of precipitation (albeit rain). People lose hope. Pretty similar to the Canadian winters I grew up with.

Sure, it freaks me out whenever my brain tries to relate the month to the season. When I think fall, I think Hallowe’en, so the fact that leaves are falling in May is just wrong to me.

And this led me to a juicy moment of self-reflection. [Meanwhile, I’m still in a class I pay to take…]

The four seasons of the Northern Hemisphere aren’t just a way my life can be divided, but an entire way of seeing the world. I lived life in those seasons. They’re the documents, the diary of how I grew up, and I don’t think I’ll ever quite shake that format for organising my experiences.

Then I got to wondering if this means that I’ll never feel comfortable here. Will I never fit into Africa?

But maybe my story is a thread, weaving left and right, and maybe Africa’s story is a blanket of many threads, and maybe her story and mine will interweave and intersect at certain points, but I will never fully be woven into her seams. I will learn from Africa, and possibly she will learn from me, and that will be something.

Perhaps this will never be home for me. But I don’t think Canada will ever be the fullness of home for me either.

Home is where I am the most myself.

I am the most myself when I’m searching for home: behind me, before me, around me.

I am home.

Zuma, it’s not okay

Police brutality has been front and centre in the South African media lately. The latest instance, the death of a Mozambican taxi driver, has the honour of being the “just another” example. And now South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma has come out and said that there’s no need to investigate the police force. “It’s fine. It only happens sometimes, and what are a few extra unnecessary deaths in this messed up country of ours anyway?” (my version of his words)

Well, Zuma, I think police accountability is extremely, vitally important. Being able to trust those in authority in one’s homeland is crucial to a country’s development. I agree with your statement that not everyone in the police force is a problem. Unfortunately, they all wear the same uniform, and if I hear that even 1% of the police are untrustworthy, I don’t trust any of them.

This realisation was crazy for me. Growing up in Canada, I grew up being taught that the police and fireman and all of those guys are awesome. I get this warm, fuzzy feeling when I see cops coming into Tim Horton’s to get their free coffee. I admire what they do, and am grateful to live in such a well-protected part of the world. It’s only on TV shows like Numb3rs and NCIS that you see cops doing sketchy things, and I usually don’t associate those stories with reality.

But yesterday, I came to the shocking conclusion that South Africans don’t get to feel the same way. Here’s the sequence of events that led me to this conclusion:
I was chatting to my homeless friend the other day, and he shared some horrific stories about being picked up by police, beaten up, and thrown back onto the street. From his perspective, it sounds like certain officers find pleasure in asserting their power. That is the last person I want to see ‘enforcing the law’ on the streets.

Then yesterday, I was at McDonald’s and saw a few police officers there eating breakfast together. As the familiar warm, fuzzy feelings began to appear, an ounce of doubt appeared in my mind. Are these the good ones? What if one of these guys participated in beating up my friend?

That’s sickening. It breaks my heart that the symbols of safety and honour that I grew up with aren’t actually honourable a lot of the time in most countries.

And I don’t want this to sound like I’m showing off how great my country is. I sincerely wish that everyone in the world could trust their police, their government, and their streets.
Zuma, this needs to be a priority. Corrupt police officers can’t be police officers anymore. They just can’t. If the ones in charge don’t know the difference between right and wrong, how is everyone else supposed to?

5 Things You Should Know About Canada

This blog is mostly going to be exploring perspectives on Africa, but I felt the need to get some stuff sorted out right from the beginning. Africa, you happen to be probably the most misunderstood continent, but that doesn’t give you the right to be misinformed about other places. So I, the faithful blogger, am here to aid you in your educational lackings.

And not that I’m biased or anything, but everyone in the entire world should really learn some basics about Canada. Really.

When most of the world thinks of Canada, they probably think of this:

Moose

Or this:

RobinHIMYM

But most likely this:

Snow

And a lot of the stuff you know about Canada is true. But let me clarify just five things, and you’ll be a more well-rounded person for it.

Thing 1: Canada is a Country
Unlike Africa, Canada is, in fact, one single nation. It is not part of the United States of America. Not that there’s anything wrong with being American… Just kidding. Thank heavens I’m Canadian.

Thing 2: Canada is Really Huge
Like, second-biggest-country-in-the-world king of huge. It’s waaaay bigger than China, and the US, and Brazil, and any other country you can think besides Russia. So if a Canadian tells you something is ‘close’ to something else, ask them to clarify what they mean by ‘close’, because relative to Canada, everywhere seems close.

Thing 3: Canada is Ruled by the Queen
It’s a long story as to why we never bothered to become independent, but that’s too much to get into right now. The Queen of England is our head of state, we have a Governor General who’s her Canadian rep, but basically he just shakes people’s hands and has tea a lot. And then we have our actual Prime Minister who does real stuff for the country. Or is supposed to, anyway.

Thing 4: Canada is not Cold ALL the Time
Just most of the time. We have Fall, Winter, Spring, and Summer every year. So yes, in the winter it’s so cold you want to die most of the time. And that lasts for about a third of the year. But the rest of the time it can range anywhere from 10 to 30 degrees Celsius. (Fun fact: Canada uses the metric system most of the time!) Amazing. Trees grow, flowers bloom, the elderly come of out hibernation, there’s singing in the streets. It’s a glorious time.

Thing 5: Canadians are Proud to be Canadian
Seriously. And the longer I’m away from Canada, the more passionately I defend it.

Tip: Don’t assume you know everything about everything. More importantly, don’t assume that if you don’t know something, it must not exist. That’s the kind of logic that’s crippled the way that the West views Africa. Don’t fall into that trap.