Sunday, 29 April 2012

Clap your hands say yeah

The whole weekend I was thinking that I had so many interesting topics to blog about, but now everything escapes me. On Friday, the 27 April, South Africa had a public holiday ( Freedom Day) to commemorate the first democratic elections held on on that date in 1994. I went to the festivities held at the Union Buildings, which is where the president does his leading-the-country-thing. Well, when he is in Pretoria, at least.

I took these photographs last year.
The building is situated on top of a hill that overlooks Pretoria, so it has a very nice view of the city and vast gardens where one can have a pick-nick and just chill on the lawns. The gardens go down in various levels, like steps, and at the bottom they set up a stage for the celebrations. I was waiting for my friend at the top, enjoying the view, but it was a bit awkward because 100% of people who go are black ( the percentage of white people that go is so small that I am guessing it would't even figure into a count). I felt a bit like a zoo animal. Young girls asked if they could take a photograph with me. It was weird.

As I was waiting, this group of young men walked past, and I must have looked like a welcome challenge because one of them came and sat next to me, while the other five squeezed onto another bench to watch what would happen next. The "I-live-in-SA-and-I-am-a-lone-female" in me a bit like "Ja, you will get robbed in a few minutes", but the optimist in me decided that they were probably nice and I should just have a little chat. Shame, the boy did not expect that.

He told me they had come in a bus from Vereeniging, a city ( town rather) south of Johannesburg, for the day's festivities. They were all still at school and he enjoyed accounting the most. Our conversation was going well, although his English was not brilliant and my Sotho is non-existent. My grandmother can speak Sotho, but all I remember is something that sounds like hutla? It means you aren't listening? Or something. My grandmother says it a lot. The boy just laughed at my bad pronunciation and asked who I had voted for. BAM. There it was. Politics. Fuck.

I hate talking about politics. It is like religion: everyone refuses to change their view while still trying to convince the other person to do exactly that. It is pointless. I wanted to talk about Freedom and how it feels like to be a post-Apartheid youth, not about how I think the ruling party's majority is to big, and that all the parties engage is stupid little squabbles over nothing instead of effecting positive change where it matters. All these parties create division, not unity.

So I said I did not vote and avoided the subject. Luckily my friend phoned, he was already at the bottom, so I said my goodbyes, wished them good luck at school and walked away.

I was barely three meters away when the other boys, who had been watching the interaction intently, started cheering and clapping. What for, I don't know. Perhaps my conversation skills have dramatically improved. Or it was just another weird thing on Freedom Day.


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