Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Postings from Pretoria #39

31 August 2010

Hello there... Rodger French here.

Bonus Photo Update Alert: http://picasaweb.google.com/rodger.french

“ZA Flora 2”

Since we’re outta here in two days, I daresay it’s appropriate to comment on some things I will miss about South Africa and some things I will not. No deep contemplation and/or meaningful sociological revelations here; just a few quotidian items for your consideration.

YES – Pretoria Weather

Pretty perfect all year round, seldom too hot, cold, or humid. Just lovely. And the thunderstorms are wicked awesome.

NO – Home Security

Six keys to get in the front entrance, four to get in the back (not counting the garage door), and don’t even get me started on the psychotic electronic alarm system. Plus, ten additional interior locks, multiple panic buttons, and a safe haven. Enough already!

YES – Lynnwood Housewives Market

A ten minute walk up the road, this is a classic green grocer chock full of fresh produce, fruits, and other goodies. And it’s adjacent to the Groenkloof Slaghuis (butcher shop), the source of a perfect Saturday morning breakfast: A large boerwors (spiced beef sausage) cooked on the braai (BBQ) and served on a soft roll with grilled onions, mustard, and chilli sauce. Pure culinary ecstasy for R16.

NO – Minibus Taxis

Whenever I drive, I automatically assume that any taxi I see is going to pull some crazy shit, like, stopping for no apparent reason, hanging a U-turn at a busy intersection, or passing on the sidewalk. Taxis are also regularly involved in horrendous accidents resulting in multiple fatalities. Taxi driving is a tough gig; I respect that, but WTF. And it doesn’t help their reputation when some drivers in Joburg take potshots at the new Rea Vaya Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) vehicles, which they view as unfair competition.

YES – Locally Employed Staff (LES)

As a member of the Embassy Temp Pool, I spent a month filling in as Mailroom Supervisor and developed a very friendly relationship with the South Africans employed there. We made a good team and I will miss working with them. This applies to other LES as well; having worked six different Embassy jobs, I can testify that they keep the place going.

NO – Julius Malema

President of the African National Congress Youth League (ANCYL): A corrupt, thuggish, adolescent (at 29 years of age) Robert Mugabe wannabe. Sometimes called the “Sarah Palin of South Africa,” he too has vociferous, often vitriolic, followers, makes demagogic pronouncements, and is catnip to the media. Unlike Palin, however, this bozo could conceivably become president of his country.

YES – Madam & Eve (www.madamandeve.co.za)

A syndicated comic strip about a white madam and her black maid, “Madam & Eve” is topical, goodhearted, and very funny. I have gleaned quite a bit about life and race relations in South Africa from it and now rank it among my favourite strips along with “Bloom County,” “The Boondocks,” “Calvin and Hobbes,” “Dilbert,” “Doonesbury,” and “The K Chronicles.”

NO – Strikes

I am all in favor of unions and have no doubt that most South African workers should be getting a better deal. In addition, worker actions had a decisive role in the dismantling of apartheid and are rightly considered an honoured part of South African history.

That said, the number of strikes we’ve witnessed since arriving in September 2008 is simply amazing. They include: Public service workers (shutting down schools and hospitals), transport workers (affecting all rail and port operations), trade union workers (ditto, World Cup construction projects), municipal workers (including rubbish collectors - who also ripped off our rubbish bin), bus drivers, taxi drivers, auto workers, communications workers, metalworkers, mineworkers, doctors, police, and even soldiers.

YES – The Southern Cross

As seen from Cape Town… and Montusi, and Oudtshoorn, and Namib-Naukluft… and our front yard. We’re a long way from where we started.

Anne and I have had a memorable tour in South Africa and are keen to return someday. For now, thank you for your kind attention and stay tuned for “Dispatches from DC,” coming sooner or later. Be well.



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