Archives for posts with tag: Culture

Yesterday night at a club, I encountered an American.  Not just any American, but Morgan…from San Francisco.

White, early-thirties, mousy/tousled hair with a nose ring and some SouthEast Asian-inspired dangly earrings.  She could have been Jewish, but I’ve never been good at that cultural/ethnic guessing game when it comes to White people.  Irrelevant in this case.

Anyway, Morgan overheard me speaking to a friend – loud enough in a loud club – and asked me where I was from.  Immediately hearing/knowing she was from the US (I’m OK at the nationality guessing game), I said I’m American…followed with the abbreviated version of “what I’m doing here, when I came” that’s reserved for complete strangers in less-than-appropriate contexts.

I learned that Morgan decided to DEAGA (Drop-Everything-And-Go-Africa) to come volunteer for the World Cup in Cape Town.  I couldn’t hate on that.  I met DJ here doing the while he was doing the same thing…cool guy.  This was Morgan’s first weekend in Jo’burg.

Then it got interesting.

(the following is a summary of our dialogue past pleasantries)

GG: “oh ok, cool…how’d you like it?”

M: “volunteering was cool, but I didn’t like Cape Town”

NOTE: a lot of people love Cape Town, a lot of people hate it (non-CapeTonian South Africans moreso than visitors I find).  Actually, Morgan is one of the first Americans I’ve met who didn’t absolutely fall in love with CPT.  The Cape Town thing is  for another post.  Moving right along…

GG: “really?  Why is that?”

M: “well…it really didn’t seem like Africa.” She continued, because clearly she saw nothing wrong with her own honest and “informed” conclusion. “I spent some time in Namibia after World Cup, and in the townships.  That felt like Africa to me.”

In GG’s head: Eeeeeeerrrrrrrrrkkkkkh (or however one types the sound of the needle sliding off of a record)

Conversation over.  Party People  @ O.S.T. was not a teachable moment…and if a month in South Africa DURING the world cup did nothing to counter a notion that all things not of shacks, poor children, or sparsely populated brushland are not African…I had nothing more to say.


Not Africa…..


Not Africa…



photo credits: Ghairu, IN AFRICA!



I’ll be back later.  Promise.  I know…it’s been a while 😦

Ok here goes. Everything Stef said is 100%. I love SA. All of its seemingly contradictory cultural contrasts are sure to challenge those in other boxes with severe cognitive dissonance.

I want to explain what the “Boerewors’ Curtain” is. For the simplest part, the ‘curtain’, think “Iron Curtain”…a poli/socio/cultural veil, drawn willingly and opened at will by those with privilege on the other side. Now the ‘oerwoers’ part:

A boerewors, most literally, is a sausage. The name comes from the Afrikaans words boer (“farmer”) and wors (“sausage”), and is pronounced [ˈbuːrəvors] in Afrikaans, with a trilled /r/. I haven’t met a red-meat eating South African that doesn’t tear up a boerewors off the braai (with the exception of Muslims, when the boerwors are not Halaal).

OK, so back to the curtain. There’s the urban dictionary reference, and I’ll also cite this loooong article which I know will be worth the read if I get thru it. It is essentially a barrier separating the Afrikaans-speaking middle income suburban neighborhoods from everyone else. Fill in your own cultural context…the curtain exists somewhere near you. You can feel when you cross it, whether it’s cross bridges and tunnels in NYC, or out to good old Metairie. You know. And add the sociopolitical context of still racist, post racial states…you definitely know.

For more cultural context and a diversion, also chek this post from Africa Is  A Country.

Now back to BLK (JKS). The show was great, an awesome experience for sure. In the middle of nowhere, past a showroom filled with the cutest of airplanes I fell in love with – probably on acct of my bday twin, Amelia Earhart – 1000 people show up. Then there’s us, the guests who showed up unnanounced and unplanned for in a minivan, teleported cross the curtain as if in a Wonkamobile, then we tumbled into Smirnoff’s red rabbit hole. Stef likened it to a Commie theme…funny considering, it could have been the iron curtain we crossed indeed, if only visually.

The night was replete with good sound and enough libation to ignore the occasional “WTF are ya’ll doing here??!!” looks. In fact, it was as if the curtain was never opened. Our folk were in their own pocket of space, seeing each other. Only the booms, clicks and twangs of Tiesto’s trance transcended the barrier on all accounts.

There were the occasional runins that indicated the heightened sense of sensitivity. (1) on our entry into VIP without knowing we needed another braelet – which mgmt forgot to give at first – a random patron exiting told my friend “she musn’t try to get in where she doesn’t belong.”. Wrong thing to say – today, to a Black south african, on the othr side of the curtain. He got a pinch.

(2) A beatdown…I don’t know on what account, but we went to the car to drop off something and I saw a man being kicked, repeatedly, on the dirt…Menace to Society style….out of the corner of my eye. We passed and ignored, but not before noticing it was the white boy on the ground, and our brothers doing the kicking. Note: I doubt we would have passed if the opposite were the case.

But all in all the trip down was great. I crawled out slowly, getting back to my car in Melville as the sun was rising over Jozi, sunny side up. Went for tea by SABC on the way home and crashed 3deep on a couch with 2 others on chairs at the homie’s house.

I was all the way out at 10:30am, when I crawled into my bed.

This once, I didn’t draw my curtains.