South Africa – the land of sunshine, seagulls, the Big 5, Table Mountain, award winning wine and an abundance of friendly people. The poster child for diversity, South Africa has risen above hard core challenges and some seriously darker times, breaking through a glorious, effervescent and tenacious version of its former self.
It was aptly coined the ‘’Rainbow Nation’’ by national icon, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, describing the ‘’New South Africa’’, post-apartheid, after the very first democratic elections way back when in 1994. Culturally and ethnically diverse as they come, a Rainbow Nation gave South Africans the long awaited chance to embrace their differences and sever the barriers between the people, united as one.
With an unprecedented 11 official languages, the country is a delightful mix of skin tones, religious beliefs, ethnicity and mother tongues, all working and living side by side. But change is not always as easy as it seems, and the transition that South Africa has experienced during the last 2 decades has certainly not been the easiest.
But as a new generation emerges – post-apartheid babies all grown up – having experienced a vastly different start to life than their elder counterparts, South Africa is starting to see other changes that are as exciting and dynamic as the people themselves.
There will always be the painful reminders of the horrific era of apartheid – but the new and emerging generation uses the past as a reminder to constantly move forward, constantly work together and to continuously strive to rebuild their Rainbow Nation and to make it their own.
In any one day in South Africa you could experience the glory of the rolling vineyards of wine country, watch a traditional gumboot dancing show, have your face painted by African women, sample some of the finest local bunny chow cuisine (half a loaf of fresh white bread scooped out and filled with piping hot Indian Curry), have your hands and feet painted with henna by Indian women, eat melktert (milk tart) with the tannies (aunties), attend a cattle show with the boere (farmers) and finish off the day with a real South African tradition – a lekker ( awesome) braai (BBQ).
Every single South African regardless of race, culture, religious beliefs, age, social status, financial status or location is brought together by the braai. On a nice sunny day, in the pouring rain, in the wind, hail or snow – any day or night of the week you will be able to find a bunch of South Africans huddled over a braai, ice cold beer in hand, enjoying time with their friends and family.
These days South African children are brought up with lessons on how to braai, make melktert and love their neighbours – a true sign that the past has been put behind them for good.
It’s the start of 2012 and so many of us will be heading far and wide over the next 365 days. Some of us will be travelling for work, some for pleasure and some relocating to other areas of the world to pursue careers, loves or just for the sheer vagabondish adventure of it all. No matter how tough we think we are, there will always be that one point on our travels when we will definitely get ‘the feeling’.
We’ve all had it at least once. You could be sitting in an airport lounge, minding your own business when someone walks past you with a small South African flag pinned to the side of their suitcase; or walking on an unfamiliar street corner and get a wiff of grilled meat on an open fire and icy cold beer. Sitting in a bar in a sea of unfamiliar faces and languages you hear a ‘howzit’ drift over the gabble of foreign tongues.
Homesickness is that longing pang in the pit of your stomach, where you get a small emotional twitch for that place you know as home. No matter how much I travel I still absolutely and completely fall head over heels in love every time an airplane or car tyre skids onto a SA tarmac or dirt road. And you know why? Because I am in a committed, lifelong relationship with this country. Sure it has its bad qualities, its few traits that make me want to go and sleep on the couch and mumble obscenities under my breath. But we have so many amazing things going for us that I am determined to be positive in 2012, and hurumpf in the general direction of all the gloomy, depressing, negative couch potatoes that have nothing good to say. When problems pop up I am planning to get off my butt and do something about it and not just wax verbal about what should be done. Every action no matter how small is important.
And for those of us who are not travelling beyond borders – here’s a whole pile of reasons to kick up those feet and smile because you’re in one hell of an amazing place.
I love the fact that we don’t have any tornados, or earthquakes. I had the misfortune of being on the 52nd story of a skyscraper in Japan when they had a massive earthquake and am now petrified of high buildings. And don’t even get me started on tsunamis and typhoons.
The landscapes in this amazing country are incredible. The Drakensberg, the Karoo, Tsitsikamma, the Indian and the Atlantic ocean and the Garden Route are just some of the spectacular vistas that make me shiver with glee every time I drive through them.
Have you noticed our amazing wildlife lately under the sea, on the land, and in the air? We have everything you can imagine, right on our doorsteps. Including one of the most intensely populated floral kingdoms in the world and over 900 species of birds.
We invented the kreepy crawly, Pratley putty, cats-eyes on the roads and Dolosse blocks (large, concrete blocks designed to break up wave action used along harbour walls).
I love the fact that we still have open roads and free parking spaces. In a world where the human population is exploding we still have a sense of space around us.
I love our unique words, words that only a South African can identify with. You know lekker, yebo, Aikona, Ayoba, Aita, Ag, Aweh, Dinges, howzit, just now, dof, larny, robot, padkos, muggie or gogga, indaba, mzansi, spaza, wena, shongololo, hhayibo!, fundi, cozzie, hundereds, soapie, the 411, babbelas, sorted, kief and koki’s,
There are incredible festivals all around the country and there are some wild, wacky people who go to them. The Grahamstown Festival, Splashy Fenn, the KNKK, Kirstenbosch summer concerts, the J&B Met, Cape Town Pride Festival, the Design Indaba, Oppikoppi, the Jazz festival and Rocking the Daises.
I love the sound of crickets and beetles in the evening, and the fact that we are still very courteous to our elders. I love hating the f-ing taxis and the way we get all patriotic over a beer commercial when we are overseas. I love the smell of Highveld thundershowers and lying in bed watching the Two Oceans and the Comrades marathons, while constantly plotting to enter the next year.
Here’s to Mandela, Dr Christian Barnard, Steve Biko, Desmond Tutu, Pierte Dyrk Uys, Nkhosi Johnson, Thandi Klaasen, Gerard Sekoto and George Pemba, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Soweto Gospel Choir, Nadine Gordimer and J.M. Coetzee. Alan Paton, Esther Mahlangu, Shaka Zulu, Nkensani Nkosi, Gavin Rajah, Dr Moloi-Motsepe, Basetsane Khumalo, Miriam Makeba, Natalie Du toit, Zackie Achmat, Sol Plaatjie, Yvonne Chaka Chaka, Antjie Krog, Hugh Masikela and Nandos adverts. Good on you Zapiro, the McGreggor sisters, Peter Mangubane, Fokoffpolisiekar, David Goldblatt, Walter Sisulu, Mark Shuttleworth,Oscar Pistorius, Bruce Fordyce, Joseph Albert Mokoena, Jaques Kallis, Victor Matfield, Ernie Els, Ryk Neethling, Kingsly Holgate. Right on Sibisiso Vilane, Ruben Riffel, Margot Janse, Luke dale Roberts, Lucillia Booyzen, Carte Blanche, Elana Meyer, Jonty Rhodes, Kass Naidoo, Freshly Ground, Gerry Rantseli, David Tlale, Tiaan Nagal, Dj Ready D and Dr Christiaan Barnard. And the great thing is I could go on and on and on.
More than anything, I love our passionate people who are deeply connected to their history. We depict togetherness unlike any other country; in a global context where war and racial hatred can sometimes seem like the easiest route. We never lose hope that one day things will get better. There is such an amazing diversity of people who still have a fire in their bellies that we can make a positive difference in about 11 different official languages.
We can also toyitoyi like it’s nobody’s business when we believe in a cause and we are probably the best people to get a party started. And our women are some of the most beautiful and powerful in the world (as far as I am concerned).
You can call it a dopey-eyed, rose-tinted, squishy-centered optimistic view of our country. But I know that for every bad, corrupt, disappointing, terrible doom and gloom you might find, there most definitely is still the complete opposite of it; alive and kicking out here.
Bring on a positive 2012.
Photo by: mister-e (Flickr)
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What do you love about South Africa?