19 May 2013


so i thought i would be better at posting in 2013, but apparently not. a lot of things have been going on, and while i've been parked at my computer almost every day, and the urge to write has been there... i just have not gotten around to it.

perhaps if i moved some of the inanity of my twitter and facebook posts to here, i'd write more often. angazi.

so, let's see, what's been going on:

kid moved to joburg to live with ex. they're working on a relationship, and kid sees why i was constantly putting my foot up his ass as far as his grades: i didn't want him to have to competed with the teeming masses of uneducated people who are looking for work.... which he ended up having to do anyway, because a) he didn't apply for university entry for this year; b) his original game plan for what to do this year was superseded by the war in mali and despite my constant entreaties, refused to make a plan b; and c) while he did get a bachelor pass, it was a low-end bachelor pass. he's supposed to be applying to universities for next year's entry, but he is yet to contact me to tell me, "okay, i need you to pay these application fees" ... so it looks like i will have to put my foot in his ass when i see him close to his birthday.

i'm already going to be *that* parent -- wherever he goes [he has, essentially, only two viable options], i'll be getting him an apartment to live in. this was in part forced upon me, because university housing for first-year students is only for people whose overall matric exam average is above 65%, and his.... was not. but i have already told him that he's on his own afterwards [ie he has to have above 65% during his first two years of university]. if i have to pay after the first year, it will be at considerably less nice digs than he'll have for his first year.

i'll be moving to joburg, part time, in the near future. it's time to go husband-hunting essentially. basically, the kind of guy i want is not to be found in cape town. if i were into fem dudes, i'd be fine. but i'm not. if i were into married closet cases, i'd be fine. but i'm not.

but also there are too many south africans who believe that there is only opportunity in johannesburg -- which is funny because, several of my friends have been personally poached and headhunted from elsewhere in africa [and particularly zimbabwe] for well-paying positions in cape town which they can't get south africans to fill. it's one of the reasons that i tend to roll  my eyes whenever "educated" (note the quotes) south africans say they can't find work in cape town. i tend to think that they must have *really* bombed in the interviews in order to be able to say that. if you walk into an interview with a huge chip on your shoulder and thus giving off a ton of negativity... no, you probably won't get the gig. so why do it? at some point the south african warm blanket of victimization has to end....

...which brings me to another weird and creepy part of the dating pool equation: i'm pretty likely to end up dating someone that i'm old enough to have made, as i just can't deal with dating someone else with apartheid mental baggage. [ex has it like whoa. ugh.] i've explained it to kid, and he's like, "yeah, i see it in [various of his relatives who are around *my* age], and i can see how you really don't have time for that mess." i have an internet stalker who's around my age who doesn't seem to have it, but we won't actually meet until i'm in joburg, but honestly, i'm not putting too much stock in it as yet. sizobona.

but also -- johannesburg just wasn't ready for me when i moved here eight years ago. it has moved into its own for the "educated-free" generation, which now includes the "born-frees" ie those who have been born or educated since mandela came out of prison [comprising those born since 27 april 1994, the date of the first all-race elections]. now joburg is ready for me, despite being a) at altitude and b) so far away from water. at least it will be cheap for me to be here during high season this year -- but honestly, i think i will stay in johannesburg during high season, or maybe even go to durban if for no other reason to avoid all the vaalies that come down here to clog our beaches and marvel at the clean air. besides, i have a house walking distance to a beach... that's paid for *and* puts money in my pocket every month. no need to actually be in it all the time.

i've been getting more and more back into transcripts after essentially stopping work around this time in 2010. i've been mainly subcontracting for a friend of mine, but i need to get more of my own gigs, just from an "i want to work less for more money" standpoint. but the rate from my friend that i get isn't bad for here -- and it's still significantly higher than transcription offices in south africa pay out. on a blah day, i get more than a week's pay for those at the lowest end of the employment spectrum; on a crazy hectic day, i earn more than a month's pay than those at the bottom. since i live for free, i'm not exactly crying in my soup.

i guess the other major thing that's been going on relates to *how* i'll be moving to joburg part-time sooner rather than later [my original plan was to do this at the end of this year, *after* medupi went online so i wouldn't be subjected to power cuts which could interrupt my work]. ex has been staying in what was formerly kid's bedroom. of course, a major reason why i'm permitting this is because kid asked me nicely. plus, i live pretty close to ex's work, unlike his family [ex grew up in cape town; most of his family are here]. it's been interesting having him around. he's still smoking hot, but to the surprise of most people who know how we were when we were together, it hasn't been... "on". most children want their parents to be together, and kid is no exception, and he pretty much called it out when we were on speakerphone. i'm like.. "nah". if i could smash without getting involved... oh yeah, i'd be in it. but since that is a definite impossibility... it's better to leave sleeping dogs lie. he turns 40 tomorrow, and is staying in joburg an extra day to properly party. my spidey sense tells me that it's a good thing that

okay. so that's the update. i'll make some business related to stuff i've seen on the news, facebook, and twitter, over the next few days i guess.

07 January 2013

while we're still on the subject of school....

while i'm on a blog post writing spree, i came across this particular gem on twitter this morning. i'll be going through large parts of this in this post, in the event you don't want to look at it yourself. i guess it's being referenced here in south africa, since school starts next week here -- the academic year is largely the calendar year.

but really? i can almost see some of this guy's point, but the fault lies, really, with the wahoos in texas who get to pick what textbooks most americans get, and in dull, uninspiring teachers. i know they exist, but i've never had any. or rather, i was just always so curious about stuff, that i would just raise my hand and ask a question whenever something didn't seem right. funnily enough, teachers like that. it shows you care. and because you care, they will care. .... which leads back to never having had dull, uninspiring teachers.

so let's tackle this bit by bit, eh?

That having been said, in honor of this school year, I have decided to give students some ammunition. Here are most of the subjects you take in high school, listed one by one, with an explanation about why there is no point in taking them.

Chemistry: A complete waste of time. Why? Do you really need to know the elements of the periodic table? The formula for salt? How to balance a chemical equation? Ridiculous. Most of the people who take chemistry in college, by the way, intend to be doctors and while there is chemistry a doctor should know, they don’t typically teach it in college. Why should you take chemistry? Because someone is making you. Otherwise don’t bother. You won’t remember a thing (except NaCl.)

do you know what got me interested in chemistry? like really interested? a little ditty in my 8th grade science classroom explaining why you should never drink anything in the lab. here it goes:

poor little willie
his face you'll see no more
for what he thought was H2O
was H2SO4

for those who didn't pay attention in class, H2O is water, and H2SO4 is sulfuric acid, both of which are colorless and odorless. [the latter tends to have a light fizz to it, though, when it encounters impurities in the beaker in which it's held]

i asked the teacher: will we not see his face because he used it to wash his face in the lab, or because he drank it and died from his internal organs being dissolved? [think about it. it's a valid question.] the teacher - who was later my cross country coach in high school - was actually stumped. gave me this 'the force is strong in this one' look, and said, "both could be right. wow."

that's what turned me on to chemistry. later i realised that chemistry is nothing but tactile math, and really? balancing a chemical equation correctly is really fucking important: it can determine whether you end up with something inert that you can hold in your hand, or a gas that can kill everyone on your street.

my inner pyromaniac likes chemistry. chemistry is fun.

History: Yes yes, those who don’t remember history are doomed to repeat it. I guess no U.S. president ever took history because they have all forgotten the lessons of the Vietnam War, the history of Iraq and the history of foreign incursions into Afghanistan. You will learn untruths about the Revolutionary War and the Civil War and World War II, all meant to teach that the United States is the best country in the world. Forget what they teach you in history. Read about it on your own if it interests you.

there is actually some agreement here, about the untruths about the details of those particular wars, and if you're really interested about them, you should look them up on your own. but humor the teaching-industrial complex anyway, mmkay?

but really? something else i learned in history? the roots of the white superiority complex. it helps me deal with the morons who leave comments on IOL, the often-misnamed thought leader, and even the hillbilly newspaper for the region where i attended school. the racist comments are a bit tamer on thought leader, to be sure, but on IOL and stateside paper, omfg. being a good student of history taught me why these people think the way they do, and how to just shoot them down when i'm tired of them.

English: There is exactly one thing worth paying attention to in English. Not Dickens (unless of course you like Dickens.) Not Moby Dick, or Tennyson, or Hawthorne, or Shakespeare (unless of course, you like reading them.) What matters is learning how to write well. A good English teacher would give you daily writing assignments and help you get better at writing (and speaking). By writing assignments I don’t mean term papers. I mean writing about things you care about and learning to defend your arguments. Learning to enjoy reading matters as well but that would mean picking your own books to read and not having to write a book report. Lots of luck with that.

no argument here. but in this age of 24-hour, 500-channel television [okay, 90 channels if you live in south africa], no one really reads anymore. in order to write well, one must be able to read well. and yes, it's even more difficult to get people to be able to read well if you live in a country with a functionally illiterate president. [hey, if you think president zuma struggles to read in english, you should see him reading in zulu - and that's his mother tongue. *sigh*]

there are only 105 non-dictionary books in my house in south africa, which is one-tenth the number i had when i lived in the usa. when i mentioned this to a south african, he said "that's a lot." i was appalled. i was actually at a loss for words. [think about that one for a second.].

Biology. Now here is a subject worth knowing. Too bad they won’t teach you anything that matters. Plant phyla? Amoebas? Cutting up frogs? It can’t get any sillier. What should you be learning? About your own health and your own body and how to take care of it. But they don’t teach much of that in biology. They teach some nonsense part of it in health class which is usually about the official reason that you shouldn’t have sex.

blah again. this requires far more reading than chemistry. i actually didn't like this class in high school because i had to read a lot more background info as to why snails die when you throw salt on them, and got an understanding as to why jews and muslims think pork and shellfish are bad. [yes, there are biological origins in this.]

but since mainly i like to blow shit up, knowing biology enabled me to understand exactly how much damage i could reasonably expect to inflict on someone/thing with the right chemical reaction.

Economics. This subject in high school is beyond silly. Professional economists don’t really understand economics. The arguments they have with each other are vicious and when the economy collapses there are always a thousand explanations, none of which will matter to a high school student. What should you be learning? Your personal finances. How to balance your check book. How much rent and food costs. How you can earn a living. What various jobs pay and how to get them. A high school student needs economic theory like he/she needs another leg.

full agreement here. i didn't take econ in high school because i took two languages -- in the usa that's kind of rare, but whatevs. full disclosure: i took the extra language to run up my grade point average to solidify my class rank as 2nd overall.

which leads us to.....

Physics. This could be important if the right things were taught. But they don’t. We use physics every day of our lives, but the formulas they make you memorize won’t help you much. The Wright Brothers did not have any theory of flight. They simply tinkered with stuff until their plane flew. That is called engineering. Trying stuff to see what works. The physicists came later and explained it. It didn’t help the Wright Brothers. Why don’t they teach engineering in high school? Because engineering wasn’t a subject at Harvard in 1892.

actually, the formulae they make you memorize do help, it's just learning the applications - which, again, comes down to engaged teachers. and the best way to have engaged teachers is to have engaged students, and the best way to have engaged students is to have engaged parents.

physics taught me how to win fights against people who were, on paper, stronger than me. with the laws of physics on my side, i can beat anyone who doesn't have a gun pointed at me. it's clear that this guy is a bit of a pussy who's never been in any physical altercation of note.

French. Another complete waste of time. Why? Two reasons.

You cannot possibly learn a language any way other than being immersed in it and talking and listening and talking. In school they teach grammar rules and nonsense to memorize so that they can give you a test. My daughter could not get an A in English when we lived in France despite the fact that she was the only kid in the class who spoke English. Why? Because she didn’t know the grammar rules of English. The same thing happened when we came back to the United States. She could speak perfect French (a year in France will do that) but still couldn’t get an A in French. Grammar is like a physics formula, nice in theory but useless in practice, because the practical knowledge we use is not conscious knowledge.

The second reason is more subtle. School happens not to teach the French that people actually speak. No one says “comment allez-vous?” in France. They say “ca va?” But we don’t teach students how to speak foreign languages — at least not well.

Immersion is the only way to really learn another language.

so this guy's daughter couldn't get As in english because her parents didn't know english grammar, and couldn't get As in french upon her return because she didn't pay attention to grammar while in france. that's funny, when i was in school - waves cane - i learned english grammar in school. i guess this guy tuned it out or something.

more importantly, my mother drummed grammar [in english, french, and spanish] in my head as i was growing up. so clearly part of this is the problem of the author. i guess this is a position of white middle-class privilege because my mother was determined that i not sound like either a country bumpkin [in french or spanish] or a ghetto bunny [in english]. my complete inability to sound "street" in either english or french is a constant source of amusement to my friends to this day.

immersion is the best way to learn a language, but it's not the only way. really. [but then again pillow talk counts as a form of immersion, doesn't it? that's how i've learned to be able to get by in xhosa. i have people convinced that my xhosa is much worse than it actually is. it helps to overhear conversations about stuff i'm not supposed to know.]

hm, let's see what else i can encounter to get really opinionated about.....

matric results are out!

so, over the past few weeks, the results of the south african school leaving exams were made public. first were those of the private schools, where 98.15% of those students who sat the exams passed them, 83% of whom received bachelor's passes, meaning they could go on to university. given the cost of south african private schools, i would really hate to be part of that 1.85%....

on thursday, the government schools' results came out. 73.9% pass, and 26.9% of those received bachelor's passes -- including my kid. [yay!] we'll talk about the last two years of kiddo's schooling went, but first i want to talk about the marking system for the south african exams.


to get a matric pass, you need to get a 40% mark in a first and an additional language, and 30% or above in four other subjects.

to get a bachelor's pass, you need to get a 50% in two languages, and a combination of grades in the other subjects, all of which must be above 30%, to keep you above 50% overall.

a diploma pass and a "higher certificate" pass are between the two, with diploma being the better of the two. i could go into the details, but i'm sure someone leaving a comment will be more than happy to work out the details of what constitutes a diploma pass and a certificate pass.

anyhow, to an american reading this, one would think that these are ridiculously low scores for passing. i mean, after all, anything below 60% [or 70%, depending on where you are in the states] is failing, right? and, of course, one of the problems with the way that this is presented is that most south africans -- or rather, many of the loudmouths with internet access -- seem to think in the american line of thought, because, annoyingly, south africans are generally in love with most things american. *eyeroll* this really fucking annoys me to no end. [protip: hey, south africans! when other africans call you "the americans of africa" -- it's generally not a compliment. just so you know.]

but really? that line of thought is fine, but it's not valid.

if they really want to think on an american scale, then what they need to do is think on the grade point average scale instead, where 4.0 is an A+ and 0.0 is the lowest possible failure, in which case a 50% pass is a 2.0, which is the minimum GPA of what will get you into a four-year american university, but unless your parents are major donors, or you can pay full price, or you have some strong skill [sporting or something more esoteric], you're realistically not going to get a place, just as most people who get the bare minimum for a bachelor pass in south africa aren't realistically going to get a university place here.

i've found that trying to explain this to south africans is like banging my head against a wall, which is one of the reasons i'm even writing this post to begin with.

so, in american-speak, a bachelor's pass is a 2.0 minimum GPA, and a general matric pass, ie just to get the piece of paper saying that you've passed the matric exams is a 1.32, with the other two degrees of pass being somewhere between that.

to further complicate this -- and this happened to one of kiddo's friends -- you can have an aggregate grade that is high enough for a bachelor pass, but only get a diploma pass due to the marks you need for the languages. i've actually told the friend in question he should get a remarking done of his english exam; one more point and he gets a good bachelor's pass. his overall average was higher than kiddo's.

this happened to one of kiddo's friends from the class of 2011 as well, but he spent his gap year working in his potential field of study, and the university of cape town offered him a place for 2013. this is also fairly likely to happen to the son of a friend of mine, whose overall average is in the 70s, but his average in afrikaans is in the 40s.

does that all make sense?

another major difference between the american system of grading and the general british/commonwealth system of grading is that, generally speaking, the american system of grading starts you off at 100%, and deducts points as you go, while in the british/commonwealth version, you start at 0 and work your way up. it's actually a more difficult grading scale.

that is, if you're in the states and you get a homework assignment full of red check marks, you've probably failed, as they mark what is wrong. however, elsewhere in anglophonia, if you get a homework assignment back full of red check marks, you've probably done really well, because the check marks indicate that you have what the teacher was looking for.

it took quite some time for me to get used to that, having done high school and my first degree in the united states, but postgraduate work in both the united kingdom and south africa. i'd also worked in academia in britain immediately after finishing my first degree [thanks, bunac!], so working out the percentage equivalents to grades to make an accurate comparison was easier for me, but seemed strange at first.

something that's very interesting is that i can't seem to find the provincial breakdown of the pass results for any province *except* the western cape. and the western cape's results are pretty nice, in the grand scheme of things. you can look at the breakdown of the passes in the western cape here. of the 36,992 people who passed the exams with at least the minimum 1.32 average [on the american scale], only 20 are ineligible for further study, whether certificate course, diploma course, or university course.

of course, if the numbers are that positively skewed in the western cape, it goes a long way to explain why only the northern cape out of the other eight provinces have it broken down to any degree of granularity -- in many ways superseding the level of detail found in the western cape's page. that said, some of the other provinces' education department homepages don't seem to have been updated in years. wow.

i'm surprised that gauteng didn't have a breakdown. so many of the vaalies that i know want to gloat about the overall pass rate being higher than in the western cape, but how good are the passes? as whitney so famously said, i wanna see the receipts. donald grant has every fucking right to feel smug, to be honest....

....and so does, to a degree, helen zille. i'll put it like this -- i'm allowed to be too left-brained for the general south african public. she really isn't. she is a twitter queen, and one of the tweets that got the south african general public's panties in a bunch was about having to build schools for educational refugees from the eastern cape. since you only get 140 characters on twitter, trying to explain anything at length there is an exercise in futility, which is why i'm happy for this outstanding interview with akanyang merementsi [who i also follow on twitter] in which she clarifies her [correct] usage of the word "refugee" .... honestly, i haven't seen so many people get butthurt over the word "refugee" since -- people were forced to flee new orleans and southeastern lousiana after katrina. [wow, another american comparison.]

i bring up helen zille because if you go back to the breakdown of the western cape's results this year, you will see that there were 12% more students who took the matric exams in 2012 than 2011, and the pass rate went down by 0.1 percentage points. basically she's been proven correct. it would not be a stretch of the imagination to say that underprepared students came from the eastern cape in grades 10 and 11 and the schools here in the western cape couldn't undo the damage fast enough. there are mathematical ways in which i could spell this out, but maths are not a collective strong point of the south african public, so there's no point. *sigh*

 i don't believe that zille should have apologised for that "refugee" tweet; but she did, eventually. the culture of professional victimhood as espoused by the ruling party plus the paucity of critical thought as evidenced by the fact that only 12% of those who started school in 2001 gained university passes this year -- so many dropouts means that it's extremely difficult to have rational intellectual discourse in this country. if most of my friends [regardless of race] weren't from zimbabwe, i don't know how i would be able intellectually function in this place on a face-to-face level, to be honest.

all that said, the general state of public education in south africa is pretty appalling -- and, by and large, it's the most egregious in the provinces that can't be bothered to do any meaningful updates to their education departments' websites. [ahem]

i don't see how either angie motshekga [the basic education minister] or most of these MECs continue to have jobs. seriously. oh, right, i know. the bar is set low. mediocrity is acceptable. can you feel me rolling my eyes? i am. seriously. wtf?

i'm quite sure that people in other parts of africa were looking at the quality of the matric passes and planning on when they would move here with their freshly minted degrees to set up shop -- or, at the very least, their freshly minted A-levels, which are weighted much, much higher in the admissions scale than the matric exam, even though there's been some grade inflation going on there, too.


on a personal note, as i alluded to at the beginning of this post, kiddo got a bachelor's pass. because of the combination of family drama when he was very small and a lousy birthday, he was 19 writing matric exams. more to the point, he turned 18 in 11th grade, at which point he wanted to spend more time being cool rather than hitting his books, which was a real recipe for disaster.

X [his biological father] and i had him in a very good school, and he was doing well enough for the school [a sore point for me was the low expectations certain teachers and officials seemed to have for some of the nonwhite students, even though this was more than counteracted by other teachers and officials], but not as well as either his useful teachers or i thought he could do. so kid and i fought and screamed and gnashed teeth over various things over the past two years, most of which were related to his grades, which i felt weren't good enough for someone living in a house with me.

it got so bad that he moved out -- twice. that said, one of the nice things about it, to which i alluded in the last blog post, is that he and X have a relationship again.

so we were all happy when he received a bachelor's pass. having seen his report cards this year, i knew it would be close, due to his poor showing in one of his classes over the last couple of years [the very subject which provided his lowest exam result]. when i read him his grades over the phone, he said, "i'll take it, but how is this a bachelor's pass?" he'd read something that jonathan jansen had written about someone with far worse grades than he that was trying to get admission into the university of the free state.

throwing out the horrible grade, kiddo's aggregate was a shaky B [again, working on the american 0-4 scale]; inclusive of it, it is a solid C. but the very fact that he even questioned the validity of his bachelor's pass shows that prof jansen's books [and the fact that i brought them into my house] rubbed off on him. so i felt good. i'd even forgiven him of the argument we had the very day he left the house to go to the eastern cape to his grandparents -- calling him up with his matric results was the first contact with him in almost three weeks.

i refuse to stand in lines for clearing, so he must contact any university he wishes to attend when he's got the money lined up to pay for his first year -- i told him that if he gets below a certain percentage, he must work to pay for the first year, and i will pay for subsequent years provided he maintains grades. so i suppose he is going to spend the next few weeks emailing various universities in an attempt to negotiate a place for 2014 entry as well as pounding the pavement to find internships/starting work in the field he wants.

27 December 2012

so.... have you all missed me?

15 months with nary a peep... so much has happened, most of them good, some of them bad, all of them learning experiences.

to wit:

  • after nearly 16 months of waiting, i got my residence permit, so i'm legal until somewhere around the next presidential election in the united states. this means i can enter prize competitions, fly to places like vic falls and mauritius at the cheaper south african price when they have special deals, and i can keep my lottery winnings, should any ever occur.
  • obama got re-elected, without my help. i'm registered in pennsylvania, and had every intention of voting for him, but just couldn't. [for a list of reasons]. at least i can actually say "i didn't vote for obama either time" much like i can say "i have never bought a michael jackson album" [nope, never done that either].
  • kiddo and X have largely reconciled, but this boy has basically had to move out of my spot because there's only room for one alpha male in my house. [that would be me, if you're slow]
  • i've tried to put my foot back in the dating pool a few more times and.... got badly burned each and every time. but this last time, tho.... eish! i'm almost afraid of what karma has in store for that dude, it was that bad.
  • i've been approached to be, um, a paramour [ok, closer to concubine] for a heterosexually-married man. i actually had to remind this negro that i am way too old for such silliness. as part of the "are you out of your mind, man?" diatribe, i brought up the fact that this week in 1998, i walked out on someone who had me in a similar position.
  • a lot of unexpected things have been happening this week. i can't quite talk about them yet, but i have hinted about them on twitter.
  • my properties are almost fully let, which means that i won't need to punch a clock for the foreseeable future, provided that i stay in this country -- which, after the way the last two weeks of november and the first two weeks of december have gone, is not exactly a given anymore. 

to be continued....

05 October 2011

long time...

ja, so i haven't written anything for here in like two months.

i've been busy.

mainly kiddo-related stuff, and the uselessness of X in dealing with this son. i'm quite tempted to tell X to cease and desist in even bothering to phone kiddo because he keeps calling and saying he's going to do all of these things, and then.... nothing. just disappears. i seriously bonded with one of my cousins who went through something similar with her dad [my father's brother] on this very issue. she feels i should do exactly that, but the only reason that i haven't is because kiddo is 18 and has to make that choice for himself.

a few funny things are happening on crackbook these days. first of all, X keeps coming up under his dad's last name as a suggested friend. [X and his immediate younger brother have their mother's last name, and the youngest three kids have their dad's last name. kiddo looks a *lot* like X's dad, tho.] this is annoying. that said, i went through the photos and it seems that he's having a greeeeeeeeeeeat time in joburg, which is good. but, you know, he's going to need his kid one day, and basically, kid won't do anything to help him unless i say so. for the record, i've told him that he *should* help with X, just as i rocked up to be there to hold my mother's hand when she passed away last year, but i'm honestly not sure if he will, since X has never been much of a father to him.

also, i've just joined a group on crackbook of what seems to be primarily black hyper-travelers. it's time to dust off the passport and start moving around again, and i probably will once a) this residence permit is finished and b) my new house is ready.

i really want to go to maputo for "conception weekend" which is the end of this month [i know the day on which i was conceived], but i don't want to leave the country until i have my residence permit. also, it's actually busy season, work-wise, although i doubt i will have work on the friday and the monday, which are the days on which there are direct flights to maputo from cape town.

maputo can wait until i get my residence permit, as package deals are much, much cheaper for south african residents than for people without residence permits. ditto zanzibar. but eish, i've been waiting for almost four months. considering that i've applied for a retired person's permit, it's pretty clear that i meet the qualifications for obtaining a four-year permit, but the backlog of the hundreds of thousands of zimbabweans are holding things up. bah.

i also need to check up with the estate agent about the house i've just about. i know the son of the people from whom i've bought the house has come down to start to clear out the house, but i need them to keep me posted on the progress. i really want the workmen to start on the dependência as soon as those people move out on the 15th. [yes, the house has a dependência... i like the non-committal vagueness of how that sounds. but contextually, it basically means "servants' quarters" and i'll be renting that out.]

speaking of rentals, my mother's house is getting new tenants, which is nice, because i could really use that income, especially in my quest to shake out some equity from one of my other properties on this side.

ugh. oh well, time to go to the gym.

let's see if i can make posting a regular thing this time around....

23 July 2011

some things to make you go hmmmm....

why don't more black americans travel to africa?

[caution: may be offensive to some viewers; moderate to strong racial views included.]

that's an interesting question. i actually have a whole lot of my own theories on this, many of which i've described in the comments on this particular topic posed by greg gross. Or rather, i *thought* i might have left comments there, but apparently, i can't find them. hmph.

anyway, what i normally say is that, well, black americans generally don't have the kind of jobs that can pay for the ridiculous airfare that it normally takes to get to most places in africa, and even if they do, they normally don't have the type of vacation time which would involve being able to make a two-day flight to various parts of africa.

that said, i'm acquainted with a few people online who disprove those particular theories, to a degree. [i've actually met fly-brother, most recently when i was on my way back to south africa from brazil.]

now the reason i'm writing this post is because of an encounter i had with a mutual fan of both myself and fly-brother. he's a fan of fly-brother because he's really into travel, and a fan of mine because he reads a lot of my political commentary on various websites, most notably thought leader.

i ran into this guy in a club last nite. it was strange -- he came up to me and says "did you ever have red hair?" i currently shave my head clean, since i sport the sherman helmsley look when i don't. i say to the guy, "yes, i did, a long time ago." so then this guy goes, "so you write a blog called kwerekwere is barbaros, not xenos?"

me: guilty as charged.
him: has anyone ever called you a nerd? you really split hairs on your etymology in your blog title. that's what's attracted me to your writing.
me: lots of times. [chuckle] thanks.
him: can i ask you a serious question?
me: sure.
him: how many african countries have you visited or lived in?
me: [thinks]... somewhere between 15 and 20. i'd have to sit down and think about it. [actual answer: 17, so i was in the ballpark.]
him: do you think it's because you look more african than most american black people? i can tell from your page that you have an american passport.
me: [not sure where he was going with this. also not sure if i should throw my drink on him or just ask for clarification. ultimately, i decide on the latter.] pardon?
him: i mean, you're dark. i've lived in and traveled in almost as many places as you have, and i have noticed that most of the black americans who are traveling are lighter-skinned, as if they would be called mixed-race in europe.
me: that's deep.
him: there's this one black american guy who i think follows fly-brother's page that is a facebook friend of a personal friend of mine. when i am with my friend, i read the guy's updates and i often think, "he spends so much time in europe, south america, and asia -- why does he never go to africa?"

a chill goes through my spine at this point. he can't be talking about who i think he's talking about.

me: what's this guy's name?
him: [exactly the person who i could not possibly believe he could be referencing]

i dropped my drink. damn this world is small. small in that i actually knew of the person he was discussing, and small in that i wasn't the only one to have this exact same thought. after i bought another drink, he goes on --

him: maybe he mainly is seeking validation from europeans or other lighter-skinned peoples than africans?

i start to grumble. i'm having a serious deja vu moment from the book our kind of people where lawrence graham, upon arriving in washington to do an internship, is told about the colorist bullshit that goes on in washington dc... by someone white.

me: if you read my writings, you know you're going to have to start explaining yourself very quickly before i get upset and curse you out.
him: yes, of course. what i am meaning is that maybe there is a subconscious in black people in america where while they might not particularly like the fact that they have white ancestors in there, given the chance, they will spend a lot of time with white people while abroad.
me: maybe i'll let you slide, just this once. anything else?
him: i mean, i know it's expensive to travel to africa, but iberia is always having a sale to many african countries. and at the very least, some airlines are flying from the usa to dakar, which is closer to most american cities than, say, berlin, athens or rome.

i swear this guy has hacked into my computer. i was pointing this out to fly-brother just last week.

me: oh, man. not iberia. it's a crap airline, and you know it.
him: yes, it is, but it's not too different than flying domestically on most US carriers, so it should not be a problem for them.
me: you might be right on that one. i've never really flown domestically in the US. when i have, it's mainly been on crop dusters. and i flew on southwest once when my brother got married.
him: i know. and you're not missing anything.

at this point, his friend rocks up.

him: look, we have here mundundu from thought leader.
friend: i've always wanted to meet you. i see what you write on thought leader. you're very well travelled. were your parents diplomats?
me: no
friend: military?
me: no
friend: were you adopted by germans as a small child maybe, and this is why sometimes you say the things about white people that you do?
me: [nearly dropping another drink] no -- and that's a new one. why do you ask that?
friend: well, you are always saying that you are in these out of the way places and there are always germans there.
me: well, there are.
friend: yes. this is why i am asking. maybe you are raised by german people to travel like this.
me: wow, i think i might have to blog about this tomorrow. this is too much.

i felt the booze starting to really hit me, so i left. fortunately i live in the city centre, 800m from said club, so it was no big deal to get home. [even tho i did happen to, um, party on the way home. but that's for another blog. :) ]

i stupidly did not get either of these guys' names. and yet, if the one follows people i know on facebook, they know mine, which i try to keep off of here for the time being. maybe they'll drop me a message.

but this did actually get me back to a post that i had been writing before, but had mothballed because the opinions contained therein were some pretty hot shit. basically, it's far easier to be a light-skinned black american travelling through europe or latin america [ie to look like the americans i referenced in this post] than to look like me. you can identify as black all you want, but the societal treatment is where it's at [vos no lo sos o no pareces]. i've had enough racist bullshit happen to me in europe, north america and south america for it to be a major reason for me to be living in south africa right now. the "being followed around the store because people think i'm nigerian" is so much easier to deal with than the very real shit that i've had to deal with on those other three continents.

many people would look at this one guy i know and basically be, "well, one parent is from somewhere else, but the other one is probably local" and he'd get much better treatment than i would. there is still a sense of "he is one of us, despite being mixed with foreigner" that works out to his advantage. i've mentioned having to go nuclear in the uk, and don't get me started about france. i purposely no longer speak french in france, because every time i do, i'm an african who must be deported [or at the very least, whose papers must be closely examined] as opposed to everybody's black friend when i'm speaking english. the thing is, i don't particularly like to speak english, which is one of the reasons i can get by in ten or so other languages.

but i know that i'm different. maybe not unique-snowflake different [who am i kidding, unique snowflake would indeed be appropriate here], but eish, man. i really hate having to give off "american" in order to avoid drama. when i'm in my most comfortable accent, people think that i'm a west african who lived in the states for a while, and i do nothing to discourage this. when i was living in senegal, a few people thought i was from togo or benin or cameroon -- my french was too good for me to be nigerian or american -- and those people who did know i was american often asked me if i was peace corps because of a) the level of my french and b) the facility with which i was picking up wolof. my boyfriend's family and i had a sham going that i was from bissau because a) i spoke portuguese and b) my wolof was nowhere near good enough to be senegalese or gambian. but never, ever american.

the reason? it can be found, among other places, on pages 40-41 of black gold of the sun: searching for home in england and africa by ekow eshun. the black americans that *do* go to africa, and anglophone africa in particular, have a really bad rap. i've heard basically the same opinion from ghanaians who i've met here in cape town. and many of the black americans that i've met here in cape town are almost, to a person, that bad. i purposely try to avoid them at all costs, to be honest. local south africans who i know that have attended the black american church in johannesburg have given me the same, "you're not like them" stick that i've gotten from white people about black people in the usa.

in eshun's book, he tries to defend black america by telling the tour guide that not all black americans are like that. i can further that a bit in saying that it's a social class assaholic thing rather than a race thing. but if that's all you encounter, it tends to form an opinion and stereotypes.

in that vein, i often tell black americans who are making plans to come to africa to start with west africa first. or, to be honest, any sub-saharan country other than namibia or south africa. the social engineering of the 1950s and 60s makes it harder to perceptualize that one is in africa instead of latin america. it's not that the "real africa" [whatever that means] doesn't exist; one of south africa's tourism mottoes is "a world in one country" -- it's that since mass transit pretty much stops at nightfall, it can be problematic if you take mass transit to various parts of town and get stuck. and hiring a metered cab comes with its own set of difficulties: many cab drivers won't even go to the townships under any circumstance. many cab drivers aren't south african, and collectively speaking, south africans, at all races and socioeconomic levels, don't like foreigners very much -- things that led to the very title of this blog.

wow. this has been a lot. i could write a lot more, and probably will during the week. but it's midnite and a few bars are calling my name, not to mention my phone has been ringing all night from brothers who want to hang.

14 July 2011

black in latin america.... peru and mexico

so, i was waiting for fly-brother to get back with the last installment of the "black in latin america" series, and he's never gotten around to it. i guess this is where i put in my two cents about it, until he does. [ernest, when you do post about it, don't forget to actually leave the comments open.]

so skippy went to mexico and peru and talked about how two of the founding fathers of mexico, morelos and guerrero -- if those names sound familiar, it's because there are states named after both of them -- were both mulato. he also talked about how veracruz was an important slave port. again, this is not a shock -- any place sugar was cultivated in the new world, there were african slaves. people tend not to think about mexico in this regard, but they were there, but not that many of them. but people in veracruz speak spanish like other caribbeans [ie, with the african influences] instead of like other mexicans.

gates also talked about the town founded by escaped slaves. basically, a bunch of slaves escaped from from veracruz and gave the spanish so much grief that the spanish just said, "okay, fuck it, you can have this bit of land, just leave us alone. deal?" so deep in south eastern mexico, you rock up and there's this statue of the black guy who founded the town.

black guy. mexico. i know, right? sounds... incongruous. everyone knows there are no black mexicans. [okay, there are like 5 or 6 -- which is the problem; it's a major reason that no one knows about them.]

[but shit... he totally butchered tenochtitlán. if i can learn how to say it in pennsylvania in eighth grade from a history teacher who had just gotten off the plane from ireland, he can fucking say it. jeebus.]

so then skippy pops over to peru. i know a lot of black peruvians, so i was especially interested in how he would do this bit. and to my surprise, he actually nailed it. for much of its history, lima was a black city -- this was something i knew, and this was something that was covered. something *else* that was covered, and i was looking for [i actually had a list of things that he *better* cover, and ticked them off as he went through them] was the fact that prominent people tend to have a bunch a big black guys as pallbearers when they die.

but my favorite part of this: skippy was picking cotton. that's right. he went to a cotton plantation -- yup, they still exist -- and skippy was out in the filed picking cotton. given that i know a few people whose academic careers skip personally ruined, i was tempted to teleport myself into this scene and whip him for picking it too slowly, but it was ... something else to see skippy's house slave self out in the field picking cotton.

that said, he was really annoying with his "oh my god, like totally, i've never been so close to cotton before" comments. bitch, please. quit it with your allegedly superior self.

but overall, this episode... very good, despite his purposefully bad spanish [he had to have done this on purpose, unless he was definitely channeling his not-so-inner cracker through this whole series].

29 May 2011

wow... that whole hispanic debate again...

don't you hate it when people are stupid and just don't realise it?

so, pbs did this somewhat unwatchable [i'll explain why in a minute] series on black in latin america. my friend fly-brother critiqued the first two episodes here and here [mijo, nos debes dos criticas más...]. in the first post, a "person" [i use this term in quotes because this guy can't be real] rants on some really bizarre tangents. he also talks, at length, about why hispanics are a separate race.

now, anyone who knows me personally would by now see where i just might have a teeny problem with that last bit. but then this "person" comes on my page and gets butthurt that i won't debate him [because i've been too busy raising children, but anyway], but today i've finally had some free time to look up his points.

and boy are they some doozies.

now, the easiest way to completely shut him down is summed up by the next few paragraphs:

i did the majority of my formal education in central pennsylvania, known to much of the rest of the states as "amish country" -- many schools that teach german in school don't teach the high german pronunciations taught in germany and german government-sponsored schools worldwide, but the swiss-german forms from which the misnamed "pennsylvania dutch" [pennsilfaanisch deitsch translates as "pennsylvania german"] is descended.

the amish, for those who don't know, are an anabaptist sect mainly known for still dressing and living as if it's the 18th century. an interesting about the amish is their viewpoint about people who are not-amish: everyone not-amish is "english". i bring this up because in central pennsylvania, and especially in places which could be called the "amish american homeland", most people are of the same swiss-german stock as the amish. and yet, they are still called "english".

this is, of course, a bit daft on the face of it. there are a few people in those parts who are not of swiss-german ancestry, and there are some black and "hispanic" people. but, at the 2000 census, pennsylvania had more non-hispanic white people than any state except california, new york, texas, and florida -- all states with substantially more people in general. if you look at the 2000 census, you will see that in the year i graduated high school, 1990, pennsylvania was 88.5 percent white. even at 2000, it's 85.4 percent white. maybe 2010 will have it go below 80% for the first time ever, but i doubt it.

but it doesn't matter. the amish call all of them "english" -- without taking differences into croatian or polish catholics, russian, serb or ukrainian orthodox, or any other group. they're just "english" and that is that. they don't take into consideration someone who is half-black, half-greek, or the guy in front of them in line at the weis markets in the town where i attended undergrad that originally is from west bengal. not-amish = english, that is that.

now, if this guy wants to continue to argue the point that he has the mindset of someone stuck in the early 18th century, more power to him. but, you know, many people with actual brains would be like, "nah, that's too big of a mental jump to make". don't get me wrong, there are a LOT of people in latin america who would wish they were white -- the whole concept of "mejorar la raza" is all about lightening the line to get rid of any obvious black or indian features.

in short, "hispanic" is as much of a "race" as "north american" is -- fly-brother is right in saying "um, no, hispanic is not a race" but is a bit wrong in his retort, as he is [incorrectly] more specific by comparing it to "african-american". the best comparison is "american" and leaving it at that, but i do understand the point he was trying to move by being more specific.

oddly enough, my brazilian visa obtained in cape town actually has "north-american" as my nationality. [fly-brother, does yours?] i vaguely remember my last brazilian visa stating my nationality as "americano". maybe the next one will say, "estadunidense" -- i guess we'll find out in about ten years' time.


now i found much of the pbs series largely unwatchable largely because of skip gates. sometimes i think he's either just stuck on stupid, naive, or both -- and, to me, it was on clear display throughout the whole series. there were some nuances that i'm sure he didn't pick up, not having grown up in such environments -- my favorite of those was when he's in brazil and he's got his hand out with a bunch of other men and he's like "we're all a different colors" and the guy who's approximately the same shade has him goes "moreno" in a tone of voice that totally indicated "why the fuck are you trying to call yourself, and by definition me, black?" this particular scene is in the preview to the series, so you can peep it here without going through the whole brazilian episode. a photo of that very scene that i've just described is next to the teaser for "brazil, a racial paradise?" -- the answer to which, by the way, is "no" for reasons that i touched on here.

i'm going to try, again, to watch the last two "black in latin america" shows this evening. i know i'm going to have a tough time with the brazilian one; maybe i should start with the mexico/peru one instead.

if i'm able to watch them, i'll post my opinions of them later on. on verra.

how about dem elections...

so, almost two weeks ago, there were local government elections here in south africa. there was overall voter turnout of nearly 60%, which was very high for almost anywhere outside of continental europe or various dictatorships, and apparently, much of the additional votes went to new political party the national freedom party -- which doesn't have a website, but does have a few facebook groups.

some more of those votes also went to cementing control of cape town by the official opposition, the democratic alliance (da). the da, since 2006, had run cape town via a seven-party coalition, but this time around they received an outright majority -- and a much stronger majority than many of the other metropoles. they had port elizabeth in their sights, and almost got it on the ward councillor level, but proportional representation is what did them in. you can see the full results of the local government elections here.

i was sort of hoping that the african national congress (anc) would have taken back cape town, so i could see how long i could go without paying the rates on my properties before getting a warning letter. [i already know how long it takes in a da-ruled municipality.] but it would seem that i'm not going to get that chance.

some south african readers might think that this post would be an ode to the da, but i would disagree. i'm not a big fan of most of the south african political parties in general, but i will say that i am quite glad that the da ran an overall positive campaign this time around in focusing on service delivery instead of scare tactics like "if you don't vote for the anc, mandela will die" [i'm not making this up.]

another thing i liked about the da's campaign is this poster. it shows the leader of the party, helen zille [who is the premier of the western cape], patricia de lille [the mayor-elect of cape town] and lindiwe mazibuko [the national spokesperson]. this article is a fairly good cover of ms mazibuko. my only fault with her, to be honest, is that she should have taken on blade nzimande on the floor of the national assembly when she had a chance [and, more importantly, done it in isizulu or siswati]. blade might harp on her about not being from the townships, but she definitely has izinwele kwakasi. [an annoying thing about south africans in general, regardless of race, is they don't seem to be big on hair care.]

but anyway, back to the poster. it shows the three women at the forefront of the party, and pretty much that, barring some bizarre collapse, mazibuko will get to run it, after aunty pat gets a few minutes. [zille and de lille are the same age tho -- zille is three-ish weeks younger than de lille] also unspoken is the fact that south african women do most of the heavy lifting among south africans who work, in the face of some of the most ridiculous sexism on the planet.

the sexism here is pretty bad. i'm glad to be male, but after having moved here, i've found myself extra grateful for that y-chromosome sperm reaching the egg first. it's really ridic.

the sexism is also a factor in the breakaway national freedom party, headed by zanele kamagwaza-msibi. it would appear that the wikipedia article about her was written by someone still loyal to the inkatha freedom party (ifp), as there is zero mention of her leaving the party. in any case, she was the national chairperson of the ifp, and when it was time to have leadership elections in the party, for some reason they were cancelled. many people both inside and outside the party considered her popular enough to unseat the party leader, mangosuthu buthelezi, who has led the party since its inception. interestingly enough, buthelezi is second cousin to the current zulu king, and there's been a lot of chatter in the media that the heads of the royal zulu families are not really interested in a woman leading the official zulu political party. given that women in kwazulu natal are often beaten and stripped naked for the "crime" of wearing trousers, this would not be particularly surprising.

another thing that particularly annoyed me was the shoddy television reporting by both the south african broadcasting corporation [sabc] -- it's so pro-government that i often call it "pravda" -- and its commercial rival e.tv. it was just overall bad -- american coverage of the 2000 presidential election bad. really effing dreadful. after a while, i had become nauseated by the sabc's eusebius mckaiser and tsepiso makwetla and etv's jeremy maggs and iman rappetti in particular. [while i'm on the subject of e-news, macfarlane moleli has become quite the mavis lately, innit? it's not a good look.]

the coverage was just bad. both channels had cute ongoing graphs for the 48 hours of vote-counting, but the analysts they brought on, not to mention the reporters' own personal prejudices, completely turned me off. that said, the analysts brought on e at least tried to hide their prejudices, but the ones on pravda? no way. one of even said, "unfortunately, it looks like the anc will not win cape town." it was really gross.

it reminded me of why i've been dragging my feet in getting permanent residence here -- if i do, then i'll have to pay income taxes to this place. i'm okay with only paying VAT.

it's been a minute...and all i can talk about right now is weed.

so, it's been almost two months since i've posted. the problem when you have a very socially active teenager is that you have to give up a few things in chasing them around.

[for those who follow on and off; my ex's almost-18 year old son lives with me, and it's very likely that i'm going to be named guardian for two of his friends over the next few months. so, unlike a lot of other people who blog about obsessive amounts of travel and politics... i've got very real real-world responsibilities which tend to take precedence over blogging.]

again the inspiration for today's first post of the day is something written over at i'm black and i travel -- he recaps something that i'd heard was coming, but apparently is finally happening: the netherlands is making its coffee shops in the same way as its gay marriage: for locals only. which, of course, is completely stupid and counterproductive, but anyhow.

so they're going to ban foreigners from the coffee shops. reading the article, geert wilders et cie are basically about to put a lot of people into the small-scale drug dealing business, because a good chunk of the american and british tourists are going to want it, regardless.

it's been decriminalised in much of europe, and also in much of canada as well, so i really don't get the willingness of the dutch government to starve itself of revenue from the stupid. it's easy money.

[it's always fun to watch tourists smoking up the last of their stuff in the smoking areas of the train station at schiphol -- and the reaction of the middle american tourists who are there with their kids. not that i've ever done that to taunt such tourists, oh no. nope. never. nooit. geen idee.]

back to the american and british tourists. god, they really act ridiculous with a little booze and weed in them. [young british tourists are, by most accounts, the worst lot in europe. they are tolerated because they tend to have the most money, but still.]

on more than one occasion i would bring my own weed to the bulldog* and mix it with stuff i got there and sit in a back corner and smoke -- not only to hide away from the idiotic anglophones, but because i've bought food at the burger king next door. [there i go on about burger king again.] the staff at the bulldog -- itself a full-service restaurant and bar -- tend to frown on your bringing in your own food. but i look more menacing than most of their bouncers, and plus, i generally order in dutch, so i'm left alone. sometimes it helps to know how to make the "big black man" thing work for you.

*if you must buy weed at the bulldog [while you still can], buy it loose and roll it yourself. their prepared joints are far more tobacco than cannabis entirely because of the aforementioned anglophone tourists getting too high on smoking it pure. europeans tend to smoke their joints mixed with tobacco, which is NASTY to me, since i don't smoke cigarettes.

[wow, i'd made a lengthy edit to this, and blogger ate it. fuck. very unhappy about that.]