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How To Poo In A Swedish Bog

July 9th, 2009 12 comments

Isn’t it funny how people often want something purely because they can’t have it? Some times the girl across the road becomes all that more appealing when she gets a boyfriend. Some writers call this cat-string-theory: The idea that a cat is only interested in a ball of string because you’re holding it high up in the air, out of reach. Once you drop the ball, and the cat gets a hold of it, the interest is lost. Other writers may sight the basic laws of supply and demand for this. When supply is low and demand exists, a commodity is considered precious or rare and desirable.

Increase the supply (make it freely available) and suddenly the commodity is no longer considered rare or precious. What-ever the reason for us wanting what we can’t have, we can not deny having touched this part of the human experience at one stage in our lives. You may be asking yourself, what does this have to do with realizing I am South African? Well everything. For me it
was a case of, I didn’t know how good I had it till I left.

All our lives we are lead to believe that certain pursuits in life are noble, admirable and worth having. For some reason we think we will find all these pursuits somewhere other than where we live. The grass always looks greener on the other side; until we see the bottom half of the picture with the garbage dump next to the green pasture. The allure of a life overseas is something that will always play on the mind of someone whose ancestors have their origins far from the shores of Africa. I got to taste this European life for 7 months when I went to Sweden for studies in 2007. I was living in a city called Jonkoping, in the centre of Sweden, and the reality of a life outside South Africa had begun for me.

Within the first month I knew something inside me would not conform to the “Swedish” way of life. Everything was regimented and organized with instructions appearing on every toilet stall though-out the land on how to wipe your ass without offending the local population (The manual of a well manufactured IKEA flat packed coffee table comes to mind):

Step 1: Undo buttons 1 through 5 and then pull down pants.
Step 2: Relax orifice A (as opposed to orifices B & C of course).
Step 3: Take dump. Quietly!
Step 4: Assemble Danish flag toilet paper wads in an orderly fashion.
Step 5: Wipe orifice A using single, evenly pressured strokes until color no longer appears on paper. Discard lightly marked toilet paper in trash-can A; Medium marked paper in trash can B and heavily soiled bog paper in toilet.
Step 6: Flush. Quietly!
Step 7: Return pants and buttons 1 through 5 to original positions.

All hail the modern developed community for its foresight and instructional manual prowess. When did the idea that I am South Africa get cemented in my head? When I found myself rebelling against every pointless freedom constricting rule I could find (with the “How to poo in a Swedish bog manual” being the exception).

swedishDuring my stay in Sweden, I can recall “borrowing” the communal furniture from the student residency study rooms and lounges for my private use. This was done without a question of whether this
was the right or wrong thing to do. Swedish legislation dictates that one must separate one’s trash. Five different trash cans are required for this and recycling is fundamental to not getting crapped on by the land lady. I used a single dustbin for two months regardless. My opinions on several different topics further proved my South African habits to be juxtaposed to those of the European persuasion: TVs are for throwing out of windows, bicycles left unattended are subject to the finders keepers rule of 1884, public transport was implemented so we could drink on the way to the club and a police force that can not be bribed is blinded by the rigidity of a system that punishes those who wish to grow plants in their garden.

The Swedes found themselves living in black and white while I came from a completely grey area. The friendly petrol attendant or socially inept waitress was no longer anywhere to be found. The beggar on the street who set off your daily guilt trip about how you were born with a silver spoon shoved up your pooper was simply not there. Traffic flowed, strikes were unheard of and every store closed and opened at precisely the indicated time. If you arrived late for something, there was no nope that you might catch the beginning because it was already underway. Front doors all over Sweden were cluttered with piles and piles of shoes because the back-breaking, economy flaccid-ising exercise of mopping up your own floor has as much appeal as having your prostate exam being carried out by Captain Hook.

Do theft, disorder, bribery, corruption and general dysfunction make me South African? Certainly not. While my behavior speaks more to the escapades of student life than to being South African, the things I was doing is not the point I am tying to make.

I do not enjoy or want dysfunction, that is, until I can’t have the choice. It is the desire to exercise my own discretion and freedoms in a way that is fulfilling to me that makes me South African. For years our country was given no choice on how things were run while being so occupied with laws and rules they soon forgot about the truth. It is an aversion to such a society that makes me South African. I want to choose how I live and not be instructed in every detail on how to do it. It is, however, also the little things I love about this country that makes me South African. The friendly people, the good sense of humor they posses and the idea that no matter were you meet a South African in the world, you feel like kin. But out of the all the things that made me realize that I am South Africa, and love being so, the three Bs of life closed the deal:

I realized I was South African when I found my self half way around the world, “borrowing” the communal braai from the student residency grounds for an undisclosed period of time, at the end of a cold, snow soaked Swedish winter so I could Braai meat on my balcony, with a Beer in one hand and a chunk of Biltong in the other.

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