Posts Tagged ‘braai’

A Farmer’s Family Holiday

October 15th, 2009 3 comments

NaturesValleyI love travelling; whether it is discovering new countries with its unique architecture or going to places in my own country where I have never been before, I love meeting interesting foreigners and eating local food, but I will never exchange it for the luxury of our family’s traditional holiday at the sea.

It is important to realise that when it comes to going away on holiday, there are two types of farmers – those who are happy to leave the farm for a few weeks at a time and those who hate the idea of being separated from their beloved farm for more than a few days at a time. I am the daughter of a farmer that falls into the latter category.

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Saved By The Braai

July 28th, 2009 10 comments

snow“When I first realised that I was South African.” Boy, did this topic grab me by the neck and shake me.
I leapt at my computer, fingers a blur on the keys, so eager was I to express my South African-ness. To any outsiders witnessing the event I may have seemed mildly rabid. You see, I have lived in Norway for a year now and have wanted to talk about South Africa to South Africans for about 11 months of that year. This was my chance.

I should probably level with you and admit that at that point in time I had not experienced a “moment of realisation” , as such, with regard to my South African identity. However, I had so many reasons why I felt I was South African, I was smugness itself.

I typed furiously all evening and laid down all sorts of heartfelt, passionate claims. It was a great article, sure to render the cynics weak with emotion. Heck, upon rereading I even made my callous self cry.
Until I realised it was all bollocks.

That moment came when, article finished, I had collapsed on the couch to contemplate my genius. It occurred to me that the things I had so energetically listed as South African-flavoured, and thus the making of who I am today, are actually not unique to South Africa at all.

I had talked, complete with grand poetic gestures, about being part of a nation that is capable of developing tolerance and understanding between different cultures. How we, modern South Africans, have had the good fortune to witness the power and grace of a peaceful transformation from an oppressive regime to democracy. How we should be (and often are) world leaders in dealing with peaceful change.

I had rambled on about a nation so accustomed to violent crime that we have evolved and now project a supreme confidence in dealing with the effects of hi-jacking and armed robbery. Your average Joburger is so tough these days, we make the famously hardened New Yorkers look positively tame. Having had my jewellery (and my sanity) unceremoniously removed from my person at gunpoint qualifies me to write this bit. The jewellery was gone forever; the sanity eventually crawled back home.

Naturally, my article had covered the notion that South Africans are so partial to warm climates that we miserably wither and fade in colder climes. Or freeze solid, as was my experience in -25 degrees Celsius during the unforgiving Norwegian winter. Do you know that at that temperature your nostril hairs freeze instantly? For a South African, this is an entirely bizarre experience. Shove a spoonful of beach sand up your nose and walk around like that for the day: that’s roughly how it feels.

Having expressed all that and more, my smugness turned to biting disappointment as my couch-time-reflection suggested that while all these attributes are certainly a feature of South African life, they are also a feature of the lives of other nations. Thus, they are not the ingredients that make me uniquely South African. It was a rather sorry moment of un-realisation, if you like.

Before the fierce patriots among you start loading your weapons, let me explain. My travels of the last few years have taken me all over the world. In each place I have tested my sense of identity against the cultures I encountered, trying to see where I might fit in (a luxury afforded to self-aware, spoiled brats like me). I harbored a great deal of misplaced anger towards South Africa at the time and I wanted to see whether I felt more at home amongst other nations.

braai2What I learned was that there are other countries in the world that also have a history of peaceful political transformation; that crime is certainly not unique to South Africa; and that there are many other nations who have, and appreciate, a warm climate. So, pertinent as these points are to my overall identity, they do not provide me with a sense of South African distinctiveness.

Needless to say, this sudden awareness of the dangerously thin ice on which my identity as a South African rested, made me feel decidedly uneasy. For a few long moments, still lying prostrate on the couch, I reasoned that perhaps I was just a citizen of the world. A nomad of sorts who did not need a nationality to feel okay about myself. What a bummer. I had so badly wanted to write something noble and brilliant about being South African, but I was determined to stick to the brief of writing “the truth”. In that vein, my integrity would not allow me to fabricate something just for the sake of an article.

I spent the next few days going about my business, rather sullenly mulling over the fact that I didn’t feel especially South African. The lack of identity made me quite grumpy, actually. And then, as life often has it, something tiny happened that changed everything…

At a social gathering on a warm summer day, while surrounded mostly by French and Norwegian friends, I discovered (with laugh-out-loud delight) what it really is that makes me South African. It is a minute thing that is so unique to South Africans, it’s undeniable: no matter where I travel to or who I happen to be with, I am completely and utterly incapable of saying the word barbeque. My brain cannot process it, nor can my mouth form the word.

Enter my magical moment of realisation! The joys and sorrows of daily life in South Africa are mirrored in many countries of the world, but our language is unique. Nowhere else on the planet will people understand me when I call something makulu or refer to the boerewors as lekker. South African language runs only in the blood of its people, regardless of colour, creed or geographical location. That is arguably the most refreshing, comforting thought I’ve had in a moerse long time.

Who would have thought that the 5 simple letters in the word braai could make the difference between identity crisis and a sense of complete belonging?

Ja well no fine.

Categories: Realisation Tags: , , ,

A Journey Of Discovery

July 20th, 2009 12 comments

I asked a couple of friends when they realised they were South African; most of them had a definitive moment (“when we won the world cup” being a popular answer), but my story is more an ongoing journey of discovery.

tubeI have been aware of my South African status ever since I was first introduced to the concept of countries and borders and I am constantly being reminded of it when I have to apply for visas. On the other hand, understanding what it means to be South African is a concept I am only now beginning to comprehend. For me, appreciating my South African nationality only started once I left South Africa’s borders. Comparing my culture, beliefs, values and heritage to other nationalities enables me to realise that I am South African.

My first introduction to my “South Africaness” occurred at Fishermen’s Wharf in San Francisco one rainy day just after I matriculated. I was trying to hide from a downpour in a warehouse when I heard somebody shout at me that this area is not open to the public. I apologised, but as soon as they realised that I’m a South African I got invited for coffee. I had to explain to Americans what it means to live in a young democracy such as South Africa and for the first time I started to realise that growing up in South Africa in the 80s and 90s was a unique privilege.

Not only have I realised that being a young South African means that you have been exposed to such a historical event, that you are part of the rainbow nation, but also that we, South Africans, are a unique bunch. I was traveling to work through London early one morning on a rather packed tube when I spotted a very pregnant woman standing in front of an occupied priority seat. I told the youth to get up for the lady and after a few moments of awkwardness he got up. A businessman then commented “only South Africans would do something like that”.

braaiA few years ago I found a small pub in a French village that was broadcasting the French Rugby tour to South Africa. Naturally when South Africa scored the first try I had to cheer, informing the entire pub that I was South African. We lost the game, but afterwards I got given a beer and received a huge cheers from the French patrons – “Au Sud Africains ”. While traveling through Europe I have realised that as a South African we have inherited so many traditions from other parts of the world, yet we also have such a rich African heritage, helping me to understand the European/African traditions I was brought up with. A white Christmas is so foreign, yet so familiar.

On a daily basis, while sitting on a red bus, chatting to a cab driver in Belfast, going through customs, meeting up with friends for a braai, hearing the expressions ja and now now, I am reminded of the fact that I am South African. Discovering my routes and heritage is a wonderful experience; so my only wish is that I will never stop discovering that I am a South African.

Categories: Realisation Tags: , ,