Africa Isn’t a Country, but Knowledge Is Power

Africa isn’t a country. Wow, how many times must I have read it, seen it, heard it. How many times I’ve agreed and pointed it out? Who knows. A thought struck me one evening whilst watching Hector and the Search for Happiness, do people really think of Africa as a country?

In the film the main character, Hector, goes on an adventure, when asked “Where to?” first he says “China”. Beijing gets mentioned, Tibet gets shown. When asked “Where to?” lastly Hector says “L.A.”. All very clear but when asked “Where to next?” right in the middle he says “Africa.” This is where it gets interesting. I could not place where. It could have been Kenya,  Zambia, Nigeria, Swaziland, Botswana, the Congo or parts of South Africa. There were wildlife shots from Kenya, beer drinking (Castle) and taxi’ing (GP number plate) in SA. Sweet potato stew, clothes from Zambia, warlords, “cars are few and far between”, Italian mobsters, really bad planes with livestock, field clinics and a lot of security guards. Which came to my question. Where, oh where in Africa was this supposed to be?

We are not a country, there are 1.111 billion people here. You might use China to counter that point. We live on 20,3% of the world’s land mass, that is 30 065 000 square kilometres. That’s larger than most of the world. Does that prove a bit that Africa is not a country. 

However, does this prove that when people are told that “we are the biggest, the best and we don’t need to know about the rest” that they are ignorant? Yes, I know I’m pointing fingers at the rest of the world. Mainly pointing it to America. But films like that makes it clear what they think of us. It’s ignorant, selfish and almost infantilising us. Tell people that you’re better than the rest, well they will take it to heart and they will start stomping on other people. This is how the colonialists thought and in a recent article I read about what some Americans thought of South Africa and uranium, the conclusion I came to, was that they had the same mindset. 

But, a big one, the same can be said about those who don’t pay attention to the world. Let me explain, if you only have to focus on your work and nothing else, you might not know who Snowden or Assange is. You might just skim the top of the news sites. You might just get by to carry on with your life. Your life might consist of just sport or art or whatever. There are a lot of people that work like that, it’s ok up to a point when it becomes ignorant. There are people who don’t know that Georgia is a country who has a woman president, that there’s a place called Chad or Oman. I’m not an expert in either, I just know that they exist and they have different cultures and a variety of things happen in them. They might seem insignificant, but they aren’t because people live there and people matter. I know snippets but that’s a good thing, I try to get know things. 

This is not a lecture, this is however a plea. Not a usual one, but rather an interesting one. Broaden your horizons. I don’t mean you have to travel to Taiwan to get to know parts of the East. Just go read up on new things, explore something you’ve never thought you would. Press the random search button on Wikipedia or install stumbleupon on your browser. The World is teeming with new ideas and new possibilities. You might discover something you actually like. Start small, you would be surprised at how it might widen your vocabulary and horizons and you could make new friends. Knowledge really is power. People move forward and they grow with the more they know, read real books, read articles, explore, go on adventures. Mostly, support your local library those places are actually awesome. 

… because I was home

The furthest I’ve been from a place I called home was not that far. It’s not more than ±1800km. The only time I get onto a plane is to go up to Pretoria. But what is home really? My shortest answer has to be a title from AFI’s Sing the Sorrow - ‘…but Home is Nowhere’.

If I had to ask you: “Where’s home?” You’ll give me general location most likely. If we know each other better, you might even give me your home address. If you had to ask me the same thing, I would say the same thing, but on a good day I might give you another answer. Home used to be a place where all my stuff was in an allocated space. It was all mine and that constituted for it to be called home.

As a teenager I was lucky enough to see almost all of South Africa, for my 21st I went to the only place I haven’t been to – Cape Town. I loved and hated travelling, my fear to drive through Swaziland was lame – I had an irrational fear of heights that weren’t that high. But during that time driving up and down roads got me thinking, where is home? Do I really know where it is? I knew where it was, but the physical place was just that – an external home. It would have been the same as saying the sea is home, just because I have a connection with it. These places that I really called home, where places I felt anchored in. It was honestly a familiarity with the place.

There was however another thing that struck me, I never felt lost, as if home was so far away. I might have missed the comforts of my pillow or the access to my books. But the travelling used to be amazing. I remember there being a rainstorm right before Keetmanshoop and in the distance, past the cars in the place where the sun should have been, was a cloud emitting a light turquoise blue colour right where the horizon would have met the setting sun. Not for a second did I go “I am so far away from home, what on Earth?” nor did I go ” I wonder how the sky looks like at home?”, because I was home.

I realised that I was my home. I lived in a lot of different peoples homes. I’ve felt like I was in a house and I’ve felt like I was home and even then it differentiated. The only difference came from how I felt. No one person has made me go ‘this is home’, how can I give that big responsibility to someone? I know it must be creepy for someone going “But this is my home, you can’t be home here!” That’s not what I meant, the place where I lay my head, is just me anchoring a place to call home. Not that I would ever call a hotel my home. Home would be that place where I have a ton of notebooks, but some do go where I go.

Home is nowhere any everywhere, it is in a physical space and it is the place where I want to be. It’s in the comfort of the books I’ve read and the places where there will never be a trace of me. It is in the words I love and sometimes with the few people that I love. But most of all, home is me.

Wait, why are you calling my parents dumb?

The other day I opened an article that said: ‘Don’t get your parents scammed’. I read it, because I sometimes absentmindedly press buttons that should not be pressed. I do however read as much as I can before clicking said button, but I like to be on the safe side of things. The only thing that bothered me is the way how condescending the writer was towards everyone’s parents.

My parents are old, in the sense that teenagers would say ‘you’re old’. However, I still go to my dad when I have a problem with my laptop when I can’t sort them out. My mother however – she might work on a computer at work – she doesn’t have a PC at home. They do however surf the net (is that the term still used today?), whatsapp, skype, know what a VPN is and could use it if they need to. Well, not everyone, everyone I know over 50+ either has a twitter account or know what it is at least. My dad has more than 2000 followers on instagram, which is more than I have, but they are not dumb! They are very much computer literate. This is only the people I come in contact with, however I mentioned this to my aunt and she said that it always surprised her when people her age don’t know how to do these basic things.

My parents aren’t dumb. They might not be a computer genius, but they do know more than what people give them credit. There are those people who would like to keep things old school and would rather just not learn something new, but that is their thing – you cannot force someone to learn something if they do not want to. I am still put to shame by my family who orders things online while I still go into a shop to buy stuff. They embraced the technology boom, just as much as we embrace new music.

Though, there are people who are not as clued up, who are worried about things or uncertain about what they are doing on their cellphones or their computer. Those people who will get scammed, for who those articles are intended for, the wording might be a bit off, but it can help them. Just as much as viruses that we get by accident *cough*, they do things that they thought were ok. We all make that mistake once in a while. But please, don’t call my parents dumb. Only I am allowed to do that, if I want to that is.

Did crowdfunding make it okay to talk about money?

Since Kickstarter started people have gotten use to the idea of crowdfunding. “You like this idea? Well if you give us money, we can make it work.” This made me wonder, are people afraid to talk about something as personal as money? We’re always afraid to tread on people’s toes but in our heads we classify people by their wealth inadvertently. I do that, I classify by money now and then. It’s a trait I need to loose.

Amanda Palmer did a TED talk and now has a book named: The Art of Asking. In between what all she asks, she also asks for one of the most obvious things: money. Her kickstarter fund for her album got close to $1.2 million. But then there’s the guy who just wanted to raise $10 for a potato salad and ended up getting close to $55 000, he even threw a party. He really got more than he bargained for.

Locally we’ve had “well supported” Indiegogo funds, not everyone reach their target. The two I know of, Jeremy Loops and Stone Cold Jane Austen, JL released his album and SCJA will be released by Nu Metro in 2015. But still I ask “does it make it easier to talk about money?” I went to a local gig and the musician had to ask everyone if they have paid (it was a house gig) and I could see him cringe just a bit. Is it still taboo in SA to ask for money?

I grew up in a house where money never was discussed. As a kid I never got pocket money. When my parents divorced I knew money was a problem. My dad got married again and as a teenager, I only started earning pocket money by data capturing people’s IRP 5s. (I stopped this because of my number dyslexia.) I worked in a shop – the poor customers that had to wait – and got fired by a racist lady who said, if you followed me on Twitter you’ll sort of know this – that she couldn’t keep me on as she had to pay me minimum wage but she did have to do that for black people. I was glad I left, also glad her shops went under.

Money never became a relevant thing to me until I started realising that it makes the world go round. To be honest, I grew up poor. My mother couldn’t make two ends meet. I knew how it was going to bed still hungry. They say poor families are the happiest, well not this one. I only knew the luxury of money as a teenager.

This year has taught me a lot about money. I don’t have a stable income anymore. I had to buy new glasses – THEY ARE EXPENSIVE – and generally any other things that is deemed essential. I don’t want to rely on others, but my situation has made me so. I’m afraid to ask people for money because I know that it’s a pressure point. Which means I suck at asking clients for money. Because of my upbringing, money is still a difficult subject.

No matter how many crowdfunding ventures there are, money is not an easy thing to talk about. We do not want other people to know when we are struggling, but sometimes we want to make it known to the world that we’ve made it. We buy flashy cars and do expensive things. And even then there are still people who struggle with their money as they buy these things on loans and with money that they should rather save.

Crowdfunding has maybe opened the door where we are more comfortable to ask for things when the ‘project’ is right. But I won’t be able to ask for someone to fund my novel. It’s my thing and I should be able to do it myself – maybe I am just stubborn – and no one else is allowed to talk to me about money. But maybe crowdfunding has started to break down barriers that we’ve put up, no one knows and the future is unpredictable. Maybe this is the step in the right direction.

Life Scares Me

I am an adult, or rather I get classified as one. I am an adult but I refuse to accept it. I want to do stupid things and not worry about the consequences. I want to take responsibility of my life but still be free to do whatever I please, they are not mutually exclusive. I am supposed to be the grownup and know what I am doing. Little does anyone know, I don’t know the answers to everything. You see your peers suddenly fall behind or speed ahead and you feel like there’s a secret formula that they have worked out and you don’t know what it is. I still freak out when people ask me what I want to do with the rest of my life, but to be honest – I still have not worked out that part of life either. I have no idea what I am doing. I don’t think I will ever know what I am doing, because my head is still in the clouds. Maybe one day I will come down to Earth, but today is not the day.

A year ago, I was restless. I knew work was coming to an end and I had less and less things to do, which meant I filled it with useless nonsense or did all the work I needed to do on a Tuesday and Thursday and that was really it. I sat around looking at varsity applications, crying internally as I just knew that even though I wanted to study for the sake of learning. I would never do it.

I also remember the first time someone asked me, seriously, what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I was sitting in the Afrikaans class and the teacher wanted to know us, so Hadeda (that was her nickname) asked everyone and in the last row relatively to the back I quipped – I want to be a writer. She was amused and not encouraging. I “wrote” my first spin on little red riding hood at about 6 – I even illustrated it. I knew I loved art and I loved words, it was the few things that made me feel like me. But as always I went through different phases. I wanted to be a doctor, a paramedic, a computer engineer and a graphic designer. I tell you, I had weird ideas as a teenager.

I am not the same person I was a year ago. Things change you, circumstances change you and life in general changes you. And it honestly feels like I am lost. I have friends and family who got engaged or married and I am truly happy for them, because why be angry at something you’ve never had or never have experienced. It feels like they have grown up and they know that the two of them will figure out life together. I have friends and family that have kids and they are truly content, I do not envy them, as having kids are a lifelong commitment that I am just not ready for. That moment that I was in that classroom comes back like it was yesterday, even though it was 9 years ago. The person who sat in front of me is now engaged. I used to pull her long blonde hair to get her attention, because that is what friends do. We annoy each other and they get used to your passive aggressive ways.

My head is still in the clouds. I am not sure when last it saw the earth or even felt the rain that my hands do. It lingers and looks and wonders. It dream’s dreams that I wish I could achieve. Maybe fall in love or find that job or finish this book. It looks around in awe at things that I wish and I hope. Small things, little things and sometimes the big things. Life is not easy and I envy those who have parts figured out. Those who carry on with life like it is a breeze and things around them are just as simple as abc. I fear for myself sometimes as I sit and read and worry. I wonder if I will ever get somewhere or be someone or make friends again. I wonder if I will end up in a house on my own and drink away whatever pain the day has given me. Life is not easy and sometimes the small things bring you down. Like how one person smiles at another and you just know it is love. Or, how one phone call changes things and the person’s eyes sparkle and you know today is a good day to be at work.

There are no roadmaps for life. There are no batteries included. It is just as it is. It feels like I am failing life and some days I just believe I can do anything. I still feel like a teenager, as if I just woke up and crawled out of a cocoon. Life just started to happen and I fell off the earth. Some days I feel like I have lived life a million times and I cannot take it anymore.

Maybe, maybe I will never be ready. I will have crumby jobs because I am afraid to take a step further and do what I need to do. I just have to run with it and realise that there are so many that have no idea what they’re doing. That’s why my 23rd birthday bothers me. Am I supposed to have figured out stuff or am I still allowed to make mistakes? Will anyone ever take me serious or will there forever be prejudices? There are still so many questions and there are even less answers. Why is it so difficult to live life?

I may be and adult, I may just start figuring out life now. I may have one or four crumby jobs – the hope of art and writing still there at least. But I hope to have the mind to ask and enquire and make sure. I hope the fears fade and I let people in and not drive them away. I hope that I will one day inspire someone or feel inspired to do things, because that’s what makes life interesting and worth living. Asking questions and being afraid sometimes lead you to do things you never thought you’d do. Sometimes saying the whimsical yes may just help you or free you.

And I hope I will listen to people and not smother them. Take a breathe and drink a cup of coffee while they talk and sit in silence, not being afraid. I hope to be patient and kind, but also strong and secure. Because I am not the only one.

We Need Our Heads Checked Durban

I rarely go out these days, I can actually count the times I’ve actually done something on two hands. I am not a hermit by choice. It’s a bit more complicated than that. I need to give you a bit of background, I don’t live in Central Durban, I live on the outskirt in Suburbia. Which I love, sometimes. I don’t drive – for obvious and not so obvious reasons – just ask me and I will tell you. I went out on Wednesday. Which meant I could finally see Joshua Grierson live. I’m going to plug his music, because I can. If you want to see him live (which I recommend) and live in Cape Town – check out the events here. If you missed him, because logistics, check out his soundcloud here. His music has the power to wake you up, even though you’re wide awake. He himself is interesting, there are still so many questions and so many thing I would like to say. This was not the usual gig I’ve ever gone to. It was held at someone’s home. Most of the guys that rocked up there mostly knew each other, I think there was a total of 6 people that didn’t know anyone else. So we just formed our own clique. Which meant I was not the idiot standing there behind Grierson’s back, doing the impression of an awkward penguin. It’s strange what music does to people, it breaks down inhibitions and awkward moments. The guys here really loved music and we got chatting about something that has been bothering all of us. I know I said I only knew the musician (sort of) but I ran into an acquaintance and we chatted for a while with different people afterwards. These are the two things they bought up:

  • People not going to gigs
  • Lack of venues

This is Durban, we’re known for not turning up at anything for some lame reason. I sort of have a legit reason, but if I really want to go somewhere I will try and make a plan. Even though it mostly does not work out – as I have a different taste of music than the people around me. Also it’s not about not catering to different people’s tastes – recently a hip hop artist cancelled their Durban date – people are just not making the effort to do anything. If I had the money and ability I would devour any gigs that came this way. Are we so chilled that we think other people might go just to support the artist? Are those who do go, mostly the only people who do go to these events? What is wrong with us? Are we really just not that into music, which I refuse to believe, that we won’t even bother? In the same breath I will ask you, if you’re not supporting local or international acts, why are you complaining that bands are starting to skip Durban? I know I am part of the problem, tomorrow night (8/11) Bittereinder’s playing Live! and I am not going. But the thing is, they are going to be here.They’re not overlooking Durban, hell I’m glad they’re playing here. Another thing is – lack of venues. A lot of places closed down. Not just on here or there, I mean a lot of places closed down. There’s only a few left that people are willing to venture to. (Even I, who live “up the hill” venture down to Durban to just the obvious places.) I know it’s become a problem. It’s not really the lack of people that did that but rather requiring licences and so forth. But it sort of links to the previous problem, less people are now going to watch a new musician/band/group or even a nice musician/band/group. If people started making an effort would new places start opening up again? I don’t know. To those who support local and international if they’re playing Durban – I salute you! Because you’re not living up to the label that Durban has generated for itself. Just wake up and go listen, I promise you will experience things that you’ve never had and you might just fall in love with more music.

Things never turn out as you expected it to

Over the past year this is what I have done:
• Was jobless
• Admin temp that made me feel like I was dying for 4 months
• Started online courses
• jobless again
• Started writing my second novel
• Stopped my first draft of my first novel because it started draining me
• Started writing blogs for a computer game website
• Started investing more time in short stories
• Started drawing/painting again
• Got my learners again
That’s not a bad list at all! I am now more a freelancer than ever before.

To put things in perspective. I should have matriculated in 2009, I only did that in 2012 because my parents thought home schooling would be a great idea. So my matric year and 2010 I tried home schooling. That didn’t work out. I went back to school at the end of 2011 and then got everything I needed by end 2012. I had an apprenticeship ready for 2013 and it was only going to last a year. So 2014 I was supposed to go to university but lack of funds and life itself stopped it.

It’s now the 4th term of the year. I’m not going to university next year. I’m writing, getting paid to write and doing art. I should be happy. Truth be told, I feel like a failure.

I’m turning 23 soon and I feel like an utter failure. I never got to study further and that sucks. I’m not changing the world one step at a time. I still don’t have my drivers licence. No first date. I haven’t finished my novel. I haven’t travelled the world, though I have travelled South Africa extensively. I have become a recluse. I still can’t write a cv.

I’ve never really had a life plan, because I didn’t see myself even turning 20. And now it feels like I’m failing life.

My two goals for 2015 are: move to Cape Town and finish my novel. That’s all I really want right now. I would love to go travelling but that won’t ever happen. I would love to study, I’ll just take my online MOOCs as it will never be anything else.

But here’s to October and new beginnings! Here’s to finally figuring out how to write that damned cv. And here’s to hopefully go on that stupid first date, I really don’t want to be a cat lady.