Sunday, 28 April 2013

Lucha de gigantes

A friend has come to visit from Mexico, and now it is as though my brain is playing an evil game of  hide and seek with any remnants of Spanish vocabulary. It hides all the correct words behind layers of French; it hands me verbs that sound right when pronounced differently but aren't; it makes me look up a lot in reflection; it forces me to speak slowly, as one does to a small child who has been woken by a nightmare and needs calming down; and it makes me go in search of something deeply buried beneath years of other languages and growing-up. 

I feel old not only because the wine I drank at yesterday's braai propelled me to my bed at 7.30, a time when my mother is still awake and torturing me by a) seeing her daughter drunk as a skunk and b) wanting me to look at photographs whilst all I wanted to do was sleep it off. No, I feel old because Spanish was a language learnt in innocence, when we went on holiday trips in the big grey Buick to find pyramids in jungles whilst listening to Celine Dion for the 100th time because I had only chosen her CDs to bring along. 

Spanish was something that came freely, that did not have to be learnt. Spanish is getting up in the dark to catch the school bus. Spanish is when my Spitzi was still alive, when we had a tiny garden but an enormous house, when my father ripped off his own finger (by accident), when children were dressed as clowns at traffic lights and when we went for horse riding lessons twice a week. Spanish, basically, was the bubble before it burst. 

In hindsight the end of the 'perfect family' was the better thing to have happened. It was not easy to suddenly be left à trois, but it meant no more fighting, no more patriarchy, no more lies, no more betrayal. Lives lived in separation was the right choice. 

And now Spanish is back, with a vengeance, in pursuit of past recollections. 
Come on brain, we don't mind remembering. 

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Monster Maker

Ja. You should watch this video.
Although Two Door Cinema Club is a real band, and I'm guessing the Canadian guy meant that he played the band, not the made up album, at his radio station.

Maybe it is not that funny. What would you do if someone stuck a microphone in your face and asked you about all of these bands you've never heard of. It's not like Jimmy Kimmel is going to show the people that said they didn't know what the hell the interviewer was asking about. And if I have learn't anything about humans, it is that we are terribly afraid of looking dumb. Sure, these Coachella attendees look slightly silly for saying they want to see imaginary bands, but hipsters have to keep their cool, man. You can't look like you don't know about the underground bands. Unknown bands should be your thing, so you have to know.

Whatever. This was funny.

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

New Coat of Paint

I don't exactly know how these things happen, but I end up going along on trips impulsively. And often the trips are kind of last-minute planning, which to my very-German-Pünktlichkeit (to-be-on-time-ness) is quite disruptive. I like thinking ahead, making lists of things to take along, and am admittedly a bit anal about organisation. So these trips, damn people, you don't realise what you're putting me through with the randomness of it all. Maybe it is time to see a shrink about creating unnecessary anxiety situations, hahaha.

Anyways. In the end the trips are always worth the internalised stress because leaving is always worth it. This time, a friend asked me along to "the mountain". It sounded very LOTR, so hey, who would say no. That, and the fact that I am becoming a lazy hermit who thinks walking around in the same clothes for a few days is fine because no one can see me. To quote the one girl at our graduation: "Sabine, you are really becoming a hobo."

The mountain turns out to be the hilly region around Tzaneen in the Limpopo province, close to Haenertsburg. We stayed in an enormous old farm house and mainly ate a lot, switched between German/French/English, drank a bit of wine and looked at the rain pouring down outside. Lucky for us, the electricity also decided to be very temperamental, so we were never entirely sure if/for how long the power would be on. It was very different, just sitting around doing nothing nothing nothing all day. No books, no series-watching, no driving anywhere.

We tried venturing outside once to explore the area and walk with the two dogs, but as soon as we came near the river Thor thought we deserved some punishment and the heavens opened up again. Hello rain, thanks for noticing I was not entirely kitted out for your onslaught of wetness. Well played.

The next day promised to be beautiful, with clear skies and warm sunbeams, but we had to head back home. It was good to get away and do nothing, to have long conversations with people you didn't know all that well before and to be out of your comfort zone.

Thursday, 18 April 2013

The takeover/ The sweeping insensitivity of this still life

3 Weeks.
3 Graduations.
2 of them mine.
Now it is all done with : no more waiting anxiously to walk across a stage for a full 20 seconds; no more balancing your hat precariously because it has chosen this (!!!) moment to slowly slide from your head; no more photographs in with hundreds of others just like you in the background.
Now there is nothing I actually have to do, to attend, hah, not even community patrol to drive.

A friend of mine posted a photo of himself five years ago and now, stating that although he felt much the same, he also didn't. And that he still wanted the same things.

In one month I'll be 25, and damn, this quarterlifecrisis thing has hit me over the head with a baseball bat before kicking me in the stomach a few times and then proceeding to steal one of my motherfucking kidneys. It has been nice enough to leave me my other kidney, because, you know, life goes on, and I should just man up. For a while there I felt like Charlie the unicorn heading to candy mountain: everyone asking you stuff and you're all miserable in your blanket of self-pity and then, in the end, it is all dreadful in any case.

But then, somehow, everything got better. I sort of might have a sort of job. I might still leave to teach English somewhere. I might still apply for Masters programs starting in the fall (well, northern autumn, southern spring). I might do nothing but Coursera courses this year. I might just do anything I want. There is no more findaman-marry-buyadog-buyahouse-havechildren-workworkwork-die. Perhaps that, and not the Internet or gay marriage or black presidents or female chancellors or whatever you like, is the fundamental change of the 21st century: the "knowledge generation" has the option of opting out. We (not all, of course) are choosing jobs we love and fulfil us, not work that pays the bills. Or ideally it should be so.

I am fortunate enough to have a mother who says I can still stay at home. I am equally fortunate to have chosen a degree I enjoyed very much, and where I was sure I was heading in the right direction somehow.

And I am fortunate to know how to write. This might seem trivial, I mean, EVERYONE can write. With millions of blogs/Twitter accounts/Pinterest/etc. everyone has a platform from which to promote their writing. However, an actual talent for writing is still a skill. Look, I very much doubt what I write and the words I choose and the self-obsessiveness that a blog seems to require. In order to write about your life constantly you have to admit to a degree of narcissism, but you also need to see the light and the dark in what you write. I went to this spoken poetry event, and it seemed as though everyone believed their poems to be excellent, even when they weren't. Nevertheless, it is easy for me to criticise because I am an uncourageous audience member, not daring to speak the words I dare to write.

But after having read the submissions some of my peers have made to one of the Coursera courses, writing well should be one one of those things you mention when the interviewer asks you about your strengths, because it is something to be proud of. The ability to structure an essay well, to spell correctly and to bring across an argument without blabbering on forever is admirable because not everyone can write, well, well.

And that has been enough to stop the lull in my life. Enough with this "meh"-feeling.
Writing. Writing. Writing.
And moving on.

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Veels geluk liewe maatjie

For my mother's birthday we pre-celebrated on Sunday with a wine and chocolate party. We made tamale pie, chevin balls, a sundried tomato tart, various cheeses and a double chocolate cheesecake. And wine, of course. Lots of wine. Wine Wine Wine. We are really fortunate to be able to purchase great wine at cheaper prices (haha, that sounds like a sales pitch), so for the party wine we went to Checkers and got four different types of their Odd Bins wine. The idea behind odd bins is to get great wine but to make it more affordable for the customers because it is not branded (well, besides Odd Bins). So you can see what type of wine it is, what region and what year it is from, but apart from that, you get nothing. Try the Pinotage #703 for R44.99 and you'll see what I mean.

Anyways. I baked my mom a cake, because that is what one does when it is birthday time.
Nom nom nom. It really turned out well.

Here is the recipe:

Double-chocolate baked cheesecake ( Sunday Times Food Section 24 March 2013, p.7)

200g chocolate digestive biscuits
1 tsp cinnamon
90g melted butter

500g cream cheese
2/3 cup castor sugar
1tsp vanilla
1 tbsp lemon juice
4 eggs
60g dark chocolate, chopped

200g dark chocolate
1/3 cup sour cream

Preheat oven to 170°

So, start by spraying a springform pan and lining it with baking paper. I omit the baking paper because we have this cool cake lifter thing, but if you don't, I suggest lining it in order to remove the cake more easily later on.
Then crush the biscuits in a food processor, add the cinnamon and the butter, mix it all together and press it into the bottom of your pan. Then put it in the refrigerator to cool.

For the filling, beat the cream cheese with the sugar until it is smooth. I didn't have enough cream cheese so substituted mascarpone for some. Then add the vanilla and the lemon juice, beat again. Next add the eggs, and, yes, beat again. Lastly fold in the chocolate pieces. Pour the filling into the base and bake for 50 min ( or until the top is slightly brown but still wobbly). Let the cake cool down.

For the topping melt together the chocolate and the sour cream, whisk it all together until it is nice and glossy, and spread it over your cooled cake.

Refrigerate until the chocolate is set, remove your pan and taaada, you can serve your cake and eat it, too.

Hello ingredients
This would be your base
Folding in the chocolate pieces.
What the baked cheesecake looks like. 
I topped the cake off with some pomegranate seeds because it looked kind of empty, but you could add berries or peaches or shaved white chocolate curls or nothing. 

Monday, 15 April 2013

Sweet banana

My ass was vibrating, and not because I had suddenly learnt how to shake it myself or because I had my cellphone in my back pocket. No no no. The man at the drums was drumming so hard the entire floor was shacking, and as luck would have it, we were seated front and centre, on platform of vibration otherwise known as the wooden floor at the Alliance Francaise in Pretoria.

On their FB site I just saw the word "free", which to my poverty-stricken status means a chance to get out of the house. I had no idea what to expect from Stone Aged Souls, the "free-form musical-visual synthesis" group that is being sponsored by the Alliance to travel around Southern Africa.

The whole concert as such was strange. It felt a bit like a bunch of hippy friends all banging on instruments and "jamming". The lyrics were terrible though. I may be a cynic, and critical, and perhaps too easily so, but when someone chants silly things like "did you know you have wings?" and "sweet banana sweet banana sweet banana" and "the mother who fathered children" it feels a bit pretentious to me, as though the lyricist was wanting to conjure complex imagery but fails in his/her language use. For instance, what does it mean when one sings "like human beings I'd rather be of human beginnings"? I know it sounds great, all that repetition of similar sounds, just tell me what you actually wanted to convey?

During the performance, one member would go to the back and swirl sand around on a lit glass plate that was projected onto a screen behind the musicians. It was interesting to wait in anticipation  of what images would be formed next, and how they would connect to the music. Don't know if it really was a synthesis though since the equipment kept going into sleep-mode during one of the painting sessions, and the camera's spot meter was always in the middle of the image.

Overall it was a fun night mostly because the Alliance provided the some great Glühwein to the guests and because the friends I attended it with made it seem not so strange. It is not as though I am opposed to the strange if it is wonderfully so, but this seemed as though they could require a bit more practice in how to stage a show. Although I must add that the Alliance does a great job in providing free, varied entertainment and in supporting local/international artists. So it is natural that the previous event I attended, featuring Dobet Gnahoré, was a lot more engaging for me, but that this one might have been much more fun for other attendees.

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Without You My Life Would Be Boring

The photograph is an edited version of a film photo I took at Wilderness, 2011.

Art is perhaps the embodying of different ways of seeing, and without things to look at and interpret for myself, my field of vision would be much diminished. So thank you, art and artists, for  helping me see.

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

I am folded and unfolded and unfolding/ I am colorblind

On Saturday we went to the Holi One festival in Johannesburg, re-named the We Are One festival in order to avoid any religious associations. After the photos from the Cape Town version were released, the Joburg concert sold out in hours and the 3000 supplementary tickets that were released a week or two later also sold out within a few hours. The whole thing was very hyped up. I was expecting cool music and everyone dancing in clouds of colour whilst have the best time of their lives. because that is what the pictures made it look like. 

I was even worried what we would do afterwards, as the festival started at noon and ended at 8PM. I really shouldn't have worried. We were somewhere else before the sun even set because the whole festival was just so damn boring. Yay, yes, on the hour everyone would gather and throw their powder into the air, but the hour spent in between was such a damn waste. 

Either you spent it hiding in the shade somewhere, or queueing to get something to drink, or queueing for food, or queueing at the toilets. I realise it is the first time this concert was held in SA and things is bound to go wrong. However, it makes sense only to sell cans and not decant every glass bottle into plastic glasses because as soon as someone throws powder, you can either choose to drink chalk or throw it away. I mean, most drinks are available in cans, so the organisers should just have ordered everything in cans and saved on the plastic cups. 

Also, the DJs were bad. I'll admit to being no electronic music expert, but have attended more than my share of EDM events, so if in five hours you're there you cannot find one tune to dance to something must be wrong. And it wasn't just me. After the three minutes of throwing powder and grooving to half a minute of Indian music, everyone would wander off again and leave only those drunk enough/high enough not to care on the dance-grass-floor. 

I told a friend that the photographs only capture a moment in time, that they only show that second where you were actually having fun and posing for a new profile picture. It feels as though We Are One was more a case of We Want To Make Those Absent Jealous as everyone spent their time tweeting and posting images to FB instead of dancing and celebrating a really pretty day. 

Afterwards, we went to a friend's new apartment, which was the highlight rather than throwing colour and waiting. 

Anyways, here are some images. They really are fun to take, but as a whole the festival was not worth the hype. If you decide to go, choose to go as a photographer and protect your gear, or get wasted and hope that next time, they'll hire better DJs behind the decks. 

Monday, 8 April 2013

Something Good.

Please tell me something good happened to you today. A little moment of joy or an enormous surprise, just anything happy.

In the past three hours, it is as though all my ideas and dreams and hopes and back-up plans for the future were sucked up by a monstrous fan and ripped apart in seconds. Seconds. And now the fan is just continuing, as if what he has done to me was hardly even noticeable. Moving along. Breezing about.

Why do I feel so shredded?
First Japan informs me I've been chosen as an alternate and will be told any time between now and fucking Christmas whether I can go. Yeah. Because I haven't been waiting long enough already.

For the moment I was still sticking to that 'keep calm and carry on' bullshit. I was thinking, ah, well, apply to universities and do your Masters and that is what you wanted to do in any case and ALLWILLBEFINE. Everything's ok. You are ok.

Then I went to the University's site where I really desperately wanted to do my Masters, and BAM, they say the program has been postponed because it is being "re-evaluated" and there will be no admissions for 2013. What. No. Nonononononononono.

Now, I am not sure.
Start dreaming from the beginning. "Re-evaluate" yourself, what you thought you wanted, what you could do now.

No need to panic.

Friday, 5 April 2013


A few weeks back it felt like Oprah was giving cars away. Only that the cars were books and we actually had to pay for them. So essentially not the same thing at all, but still amazing.

Every year Exclusive Books hosts a warehouse sale in Johannesburg (maybe twice a year?) and sells the books for R50 per kilogram (that's about €5). Holy shit.

The books were just too cool. My cousin and I just loaded in anything we thought could be remotely interesting (in other terms if the cover was colourful), but my sister was more discerning. In the end we walked out with 47kg between the three of us.

It is great to not have to fork out R800 for an art book. Normally, the books I use for research cost too much because they are in quite a specific field that doesn't interest the general public? Online activism, you say? We just push the 'like' button on Facebook and things change. Comic books and graphic novels as literary works? No, man, those are just for children/nerds. I'll wait til someone makes a movie out of it. How the Internet has affected/changed our way of thinking? Not really interested, hand me 50 Shades of Grey please.

Sure, I am generalising (as always), but what made the warehouse sale so fun is stocking up on books you would ordinarily not consider because they would not fit in entirely with the information you need and then not justify the expense incurred. But here, paying between R50 and R150 for a great art book is beyond worth it. I might have grabbed one or two silly books (like the one where you have to identify famous people by their hairstyle). Overall however this was better than Christmas and Easter and birthdays all put together.

Thursday, 4 April 2013


We're on the carpet, sorting through an entire room scattered with Lego. We need some pink block to add to the construction of your house. First we tackled the camper van, then its trailer, then the camping table, and now the house. Her brother is building a monster truck, complete with battery-powered lights and the ability to pull a little built car onto its loading zone. Man, Lego, I hadn't remembered that playing with plastics blocks was so much fun (and so exhausting).

I originally wasn't there for the Lego, but for the coffee. My neighbour had asked this morning if I wanted to come visit a bit later, so this afternoon I walked over. I thought it would be this quick "hello, how was your week away, ok bye", but instead we played Lego with the kids and had coffee and then wine and then dinner. It was really fun not to be sitting with instant noodles and watching 7de Laan by myself.

Earlier today I read this article about South Africans in Europe and how when they are here they feel this need to emigrate because here it is so terrible with the corruption and violent crimes and general underlying feeling that at some point in the not so distant future, we will collapse completely into lawlessness. But the author made the point that mostly going away makes one realise what one had before, and then one misses the wide open spaces and knowing one's neighbours and chilling at the till because the cashier is working at a snail's pace.

I agree with the sentiment that "when South Africans speak up about crumbling infrastructure, poor service delivery and ridiculous schedule overruns it should not be viewed as privileged pandering", because we shouldn't accept that the police and the government is, at least in part, corrupt. We shouldn't have to patrol our neighbourhoods, we shouldn't have to be afraid all the time, and we shouldn't always play the race card when anything goes wrong.

But with all its faults, I think it is the people that still make us an endearing nation. It is that evening where you hung out at your neighbours just because, or that day your friend will played chauffeur and came to your graduation, or that your cleaning lady still calls you on your birthday even though she is retired, or that you make an extra lunch on Tuesdays for the guy who delivers the free newspaper. In the end it is simply that you like living here more than you would like leaving.

Monday, 1 April 2013


You can shout at me to my face,
Slam doors,
Throw things,
Do whatever it is angry people do.
But don't yell at me over the telephone.

All I need to do to silence you is hang up,
and never pick up again.
One little gesture stops the nagging, puncturing "Ja?!" at the end of every damn sentence,
and suddenly you'll be shouting at the "doood doood doood"
of someone having left the conversation.

Maybe I bait you, maybe I know which buttons to push,
but the fact that you do not know the names of my friends,
or what I studied,
or who I am,
(and don't ever ask)
it makes it necessary to increase the crevasses of our relationship.

One day it will split, there will be nothing left of me but some memory of times past
when I was too young to realize
you are not a nice person.