Monthly Archives: September 2011

Girl Crush

Tamara Dey and myself at the Hyde Park Hotel


Generally, everyone is allowed one same sex crush. I have three- Julia Roberts, Christina Hendricks and Tamara Dey. In my head, we’re all best friends.

Based on previous interviews, I think Julia is so down to earth. Her smile and that giant vein on her forehead add such character. I fell in love with her after watching ‘My Best Friends Wedding’ on repeat for 3 years and then proceeded to watch every movie she’s made. Even when everybody was hating on ‘Eat Pray Love’ (the movie), I thought she did a sterling job and it was actually the script that was bad. Should I meet her one day, I will let her know that she did the best she could with an average script.

Christina is the lovely lass from Mad Men. I watched season 1- 4 of this series in 10 days. Initially I wasn’t a fan because I thought Mad Men was monotone and I couldn’t relate to any of the characters. There was no Meredith Grey to irritate me or Bree Olson to chuckle at. But I grew to love and hate the 60’s because of this series. Hated it because women who weren’t married by 25 were labeled outcasts. Loved it because men wore 3- piece fitted suites and hats everyday. But back to Christina, her character is all-woman.

Tamara is stylish, groovy and has (only what I can describe as) ‘pazzaz’. She was uber cool as queen of kwaito and now uber coolest as queen of disco/rock/dance. She’s my singing and dancing alter- ego. On Friday 26 I got to meet Tamara Dey. I asked her to share her biggest middle class concern. I fumbled and mumbled around the question but it’s generally what happens when you write better than you speak. I wish I didn’t have to write down my thoughts for them to be clear!

Tamara stated the high levels of unemployment and reckless taxi drivers as her biggest MCC’s. This lead to a discussion on South Africa’s public transport system- or lack thereof. She recognises the efforts being made by metro police and the department of transport to clamp down on drunk driving. But her biggest grievance is that there is still no ‘reliable’ and ‘affordable’ public transport system that allows the youth to party responsibly. “People are not going to stop going out” said Ms Dey.

(She’ll be performing at St Johns College (Jhb) and Rhapsody’s (Pta) with her band Flash Republic this weekend. The bands music is also available on iTunes and Omusic)

All of these women have remained humble even after the fame and multiple hugs from strangers. From Julia, I’ve learned that wild laughter is a daily necessity. From Christina I’ve learned to own and embrace my femininity and from Tamara I’ve learned that sources of structure and stability are crucial for a fresh perspective.

Sweet Death

Photograph by Youreuglykbie deviantart.com

I have had two encounters with death. If you are a pessimist, everyday is a meeting with death but these two events almost resulted in a rather undignified ending.

The first incident was at home. It was a warm afternoon, after a relatively busy day at high school. I went around the house performing my chores. You know, like back in the day when kids were told to stop watching Bold and the Beautiful and do something productive?

On my way to close the living room curtains, I helped myself to an Endearmint. They’re those lovely, milky- white, chewy mints that could break your tooth or as in my case, bring you closer to your fate. Upon reflection, the first three letters of Endearmint were a great warning.

Instead of putting it in my mouth to quietly suck on, I tossed it in the air, put my hands behind my back and attempted to catch it with my mouth wide open. It was a trend I had picked up from watching pantsula dancers and it had worked before with peanuts and grapes. Based on previous success, this should have been no different. However, as opposed to settling on my tongue, the mint sealed my wind pipe. It was a perfect fit. It was then that my first fight with death began. I raged against my last gasp, ran to my mother’s bedroom, tried to signal the problem whilst gasping, choking and crying. She shoved her fingers down my throat and told me to keep swallowing. It was the longest 3 minutes of my life before the combination of water, my mom’s fingers and a brief prayer, sent the mint lower down my throat and allowed for some air. Should this not have worked, my mom (also a doctor), confessed that she was on her way to the kitchen to fetch the sharpest knife and perform a small operation that would allow me to breath. Every time I remember this incident, I imagine a tombstone written: ”Here lies Phakamani, she died a sweet death”.

The second encounter was a little more serious. I was walking to campus just before midday to do research and print notes. I walked past a tall, middle-aged man, wearing dark sunglasses, a sport hat, jeans and a drimac. Nothing out of the usual except, why is a middle- aged man soaking up the sun instead of clocking in some hours at work midday?

I walked past him feeling a little nervous about the tattoo on the back of his hand. I have nothing against tattoos but I’d watched too many documentaries about gang related tattoos. A minute after I had passed him, he ran up against me. I think it was a failed attempt at snatching my bag. He walked in front of me towards campus and I slowed down behind him. I ignored the whispers telling me to cross the road or to walk in the opposite direction. As he reached the top of the cross road leading to campus, he turned around and pulled out a thick knife with a steel handle. I turned around to run, felt my sandal’s slipping off, screaming help! He chased me for about a meter and pulled my right shoulder down with his free hand. I was on my back, against the tar throwing my purse at him and pushing the knife away from stomach. Luckily, it was a busy road so onlookers came to my rescue. The punk ran off without a single thing and he was chased after by private security guards doing their morning routes. They found him cowering in the drains.

I was left wondering where that big puddle on the tar came from? Turns out I was so scared; I lost control of my bladder. I have to thank my Bridget Jones inspired underwear for keeping my frock dry.

What is the point of the now common middle class existential crisis? A life made up of angst, fear, numbness and despair even with an environmentally- friendly roof over your head and beef medallions in your stomach. You see my friends, unlike life, death is short. It’s a mint blocking your windpipe or a brush with a jail bird on parole.

Vacation

Greetings darlings, excuse my absenteeism. I was on vacation for two weeks and then returned to two more weeks of anxiety, stress and heartbreak. This too shall pass and nothing makes me feel better than writing. In other words, I’m back for your reading pleasure!



Let’s rewind to the beginning of August: I had planned a vacation to Zimbabwe (Harare). It began with a trip on the Gautrain. I don’t remember the last time I was so excited. Pity I was travelling alone so I don’t have pictures of my stupid grin spread from cheek to cheek. The Gautrain blew my mind but I couldn’t help think, I was one of very few South African’s who would experience the simplicity and thrill. Later, I found out that thieves were stealing the cables required to run the train. The truth is you can’t build a billion- rand project that will only serve a single- digit percentage of the population.

Within minutes I was starring at the Johannesburg Airport. Or should I call it a mall that happens to have a landing field? The energy at any large airport sparks off some exponential excitement. Even if you’re dropping someone off, you’ll wish they had packed you in their luggage.

The flight from Johannesburg to Harare is under 2 hours. That is just enough time for a light meal and bevy. Followed by a little arm-rest tussle whilst paging through a magazine and maybe some polite conversation with a stranger after a snooze. Compare that with an 18 hour bus ride to the same destination that includes a sleepless night and a 2-4 hour stop at the border in which you pay for your sins. I have no personal experience of this but I have been given a detailed warning and I believe the testimonies. True to the nature of a middle class vacation, I had no worries upon my arrival. I had a warm hug to welcome me, comfortable accomodation and a packed itinerary.
Harare is vibrant but dull and peaceful but slow. The city is bustling but the buildings need a lick of paint and you can walk late at night without feeling threatened but there are only a few places you can go before feeling like a goldfish in a mini bowl. Could somebody please switch on the street lights so I can see where I’m going? Strangely, I find all of this charming and familiar. It has quaint spots like the Avondale flea market which is open every day and the Borrowdale flea market which is open on Sundays. The best Chinese Food is served at Shangri La; I walked out with noodles in my hair, beef strips up my sleeve and fried prawn in my shoes. If you’re interested in night life, there are a variety of bars, pubs and clubs to satisfy that. The weather is fantastic and allows for summertime bafoonery all year round.

I suppose the real charm in Harare is carried by its inhabitants. You never know if you’re going to get a hand shake or a hug but you always feel welcome. This might also stem into a conversation in which I explain that not all South African’s are xenophobic. As a neo-Pan African (whatever that means) I see that we all carry a nervous condition. In Zimbabwe, daily life carries on as best as possible under President Robert Mugabe’s authoritarian rule, high prices and unscheduled blackouts. If I haven’t made it clear before, let it be known that South Africa pretends to be a thriving democracy but only a few get to experience it. So similarly, South African’s continue to make the best out of poor service delivery, false promises, corruption and projects like the Gautrain which only serve a few. Both countries are in dire need of a follow- up revolution. The cracks are evident: South African’s are restless and Zimbabwean authorities are scrambling for a post- Mugabe solution.

Despite this, I can’t wait to see the rest of Africa. I bow down to the City of Harare. Next vacation spot? Kenya!