Wednesday, 18 December 2013


"Sometimes I wish there was someone I could write a letter to. I look at piles of mail on the floor. They have someone to write to. I bet its not a bad feeling. To be able to reach out. And believe in your heart that someone will be there. I wish I could believe that, too."

 - Henry Rollins

I am lucky to have people who send me things in the mail. The short rush of joy as I open the letter box and see something has arrive for me is such a high. I don't understand why people take drugs, they should just send one another letters instead. Not knowing if or when the letter will arrive causes enough anxiety and receiving something in the mail that is not a bill is so wonderful than one needn't look elsewhere for excitement. 

My mom sent me some of my clothes and things (a flour sifter! measuring spoons and cups! a peppermint crisp! my one blanket!) for which I had to go to the customs office. Yesterday I went again to fetch a surprise Christmas packet a friend had sent (Mrs. Balls chutney! earrings! a personalised calendar!) and also got a letter in the mail from another friend. I know the best people :) 

Pakkie 1

Pakkie 2. Nice stamps :)

Sunday, 15 December 2013


Sometimes you don't know what the hell you are doing.
You get caught up in a senseless routine. Everything seems horrible and pointless.
You don't know why you chose this, because in that moment it equals misery.
Sometimes you just need a win.

And that is what I got: I won.
I have an exciting history with winning: it is never the lotto or a car or money, but it is always an experience. Somehow I end up winning adventures.

The first three times these experiences took me to France (or rather, the French embassy did as part of the annual Francophonie celebrations) and every time I met the most wonderful people. We came from all over the world to share our passion for similar subjects(be it language, the arts or photography), and we bonded in those hot Paris/Perpignan summer weeks filled to the brim with lessons in Frenchness: in between language courses we ate baguettes and went on a cheese tasting, we climbed the Eiffel tower and the steps to Montmartre, and the one time we took the TGV down to Perpignan for the Visa pour l'Image photojournalism conference.

Through one another we learned about other worlds as well: practicing an Iranian dance on the Pont des Arts; eating a maple-shaped cookie whilst hearing about life in Canada; wondering about the strange habits of the girl from Azerbaijan or being taught by a young Serb how my camera works. We reveled in being a young, multicultural group on an all-expenses paid trip to France. The memories from those trips, and the new friends from all over the world will stay with me longer than winning an object in any case.

This time the win was again unexpected. I was skyping with my mother when an unknown number called on my cell. I thought it was the bank or some government agency wanting my non-existent money. Instead, it was a nice man from some company explaining that I had won a dinner for 10 people, cooked in my kitchen by a professional chef. It was part of a promotion by Telekom at various German universities and I had entered through Facebook.

Elisabeth Opel showed up loaded with fabulous food and I had invited some of the other students. It ended up being another fantastic experience. Somehow we managed to squeeze into our little kitchen and different teams worked on different dishes. As a starter we made a parsnip soup; the main course consisted of Spätzle with filet, an onion sauce and onion rings; and dessert was Kaiserschmarrn with apple compote. They had asked if I wanted a specific dish and since I haven't had a traditional German meal in a long time that is what I asked for.

Parsnip soup with croutons and duck breast. 
Spätzle with filet and onion rings. Although Spur's onion rings will always remain #1. 
My German grandmother used to make Spätzle as well with Rouladen and she'd fill our plates with a second enormous helping as soon as they were empty. I don't remember much about her, but her food was always delicious. Her dishes were traditional and time consuming and not really suited to the climate of SA. It must have been strange for her to come to such a hot country knowing only recipes that were suited to the cold - somehow rich and creamy does not work as well when it is 35° (except if it is a rich and creamy ice cream). Now my mom makes Spätzle on occasion as well as a special treat.

With the courses we consumed 6 bottles of white wine, 2 bottles of sparkling wine and 2 bottles of red wine so irrespective if you liked the food or not you would have had enough to drink to make up for any distaste.

Hello new friends.
So glad I now have an apron. 
I was a bit apprehensive at the beginning of the evening, because in Pretoria I would know exactly whom to invite and how to lay the table. I'd have had everything we needed in an enormous kitchen, and we could've eaten outside on the porch, enjoying the spring. Here, the kitchen is quite small and none of the utensils are mine (I have a knife). Also, I just invited the first 10 people that I saw during the course of that day, so it could have been quite a fail. Luckily everyone was really into the cooking-together thing and I hope that it may have sort of laid a good foundation for moving from being merely people who study together and are all new in this city to actual friendship.

Sunday, 8 December 2013


ondergronds het ’n rif geskuif
die aarde struikel
verward swik die son

toe sy asem hom verlaat het in die nag
het die sterre geduisel
want alles is verstrengel
wurgend aan sy dood
sy dood en die dood alleen

ineens is alles droef
asof ons in ’n groot skadu staan
asof glas deur ons breek
asof klip in ons splinter
asof ons gedagtes in fluisterende wanhopige groepe rondvlug
soos assegaaie in die grond bly vassteek


in Qunu weier die beeste vanoggend om uit die kraal te gaan
by Lusikisiki lê die visse na aan die oppervlakte
in Mvezo maak die korhane geen geluid nie

die gedagte aan Mandela laat ons binnekante knak
(ons wou sy sterwende liggaam nie sien nie)
ons kan selfs nie die mond oopmaak nie
(ons wou sy sterwende liggaam nie sien nie)
om te begin praat oor sy dood om te praat oor sy dade
(ons wou sy sterwende liggaam nie sien nie)
oor sy bloed wat pyl soos ’n luiperd na geregtigheid
(ons wou sy sterwende liggaam nie sien nie)
om te vertel van sy werke, sy sagte ongelooflike krag
(ons wou sy sterwende liggaam nie sien nie)
die lieflike nate van sy blommende vergewende kopbeen
(ons wou sy sterwende liggaam nie sien nie)
die stormram van sy tong
wat toekomste tot ’n verbonde kern wring

ons kan nie reg laat geskied aan Ons Grote
(ons wou sy sterwende liggaam nie sien nie)
ons wil dit nie sien nie

in die voetpaaie, op die sypaadjies, in busse langs die paaie
bondel ons swyend bymekaar, ons die gewones
ons sprinkel ons trane oor hom
ons besprinkel die erflating
van die Vreeslose Kryger wat ons eenmaal regeer het
ons besprinkel die lyk wat gewas moet word
ons besprinkel die geopende bloed van Mandela
ons gewones was hom nie met water nie maar met liedere

met droefheid neem ons sy liggaam
ons was dit, ons bad dit
met hande wat hom liefhet, raak ons aan sy dade
ons gee hom aan, van hand tot hand
hoog bokant ons koppe
die man wat ons van onsself gered het

o singende bloed van die seun van uNosekeni
o palms van Mvezo vol sterre en reën aan die oewers
o arms van Qunu wat ’n land se diepste wonde omhels

die Groot Aanmekaarbinder
niemand se strottehoof kan Mandela se lied end-uit sing nie
niemand ontglans ooit ons Groot Saambinder vir ons nie
niemand oortref hom in morele gesag nie
geen leier is nog ooit só deur sy mense lief gehad nie
hy wat ons beste gesig was
hy wat ons aan onsself teruggegee het

die beliggaming van die wêreld se smagting
na iemand wat omgee
wie se dade onbeskaamd goedheid wou bring

geliefde Mandela, bring seën op ons, jou kinders
laat jou lewe sy vingerafdruk op ons almal laat
dit sal lank duur voordat ons ooit weer ’n mens so edel
iemand so genesend en koppig mooi
so taai van inbors so streng insluitend van beginsel
so elegant en oorrompelend van hart in ons sterflike arms kan hou

– Antjie Krog

(Gebaseer op die weeklaag geskryf vir Moshoeshoe 1, “LITHOKHOKISO tsa Moshoeshoe le tse ling” deur David Cranmer Theko Bereng.)

Maya Angelou also wrote a tribute poem entitled His Day is Done

Saturday, 7 December 2013

My salvation lies in your love

Yesterday, incredulously, I watched as President Zuma announced Nelson Mandela's death. Until now he had always bounced back from his numerous hospital stays. What it must feel like to be home, now, to share in the sadness of his passing and the joy his life had brought. In Germany an epic storm is causing floods and blowing away trucks, but what nature inflicts on itself seems tame compared to what people can do to others - it took an indomitable will and a humanity that most lack to be able to forgive one's oppressor as Mandela did.

My whiteness and my youth prevents me from truly understanding what the struggle was, what had been sacrificed and what it meant to live in a country where race controls your life. Actually, no : I have never not had freedom, but I know that race is still a deciding factor in SA. It is a ripple underneath everyday life that somehow refuses to disappear. I notice when I am the only white person because I feel it makes me vulnerable. white + girl = better watch your back. Not always, not everywhere, not because everyone is some criminal, but simply because the ripple of racism is closely followed by the ripple of crime and corruption that washes over any hope for a better future.

I wrote at the beginning that it is astounding what one person can do to another. I wonder if now we have moved past racism to class difference being the main social problem: those who have nothing see no moral qualms in killing another for a cellphone. However, if you have a roof over your head and enough money in your bank account you might wonder how someone could be so dismissive of the rights (and in the worst case scenario the life) of another.

It is difficult for me to speak on these issues while sitting in another country, starting a new life here. But within two weeks three of my friends were assaulted in one way or another and it is very hard to remain 'Proudly South African', to say wonderful things about your home and assure people that the crime is 'not that bad'. I miss my family, my friends and my country all the time, especially after hearing news like this. I miss the sunshine, December holidays at the beach and not looking like a pale vampire. I miss feeling like I belong.

But I also enjoy not having to be afraid all the time and being able to walk home, alone, at 3 AM after a friend's house warming and not worrying about being robbed.

As the blanket of sorrow falls over South Africa and everyone is in a state of mourning, I wonder what Madiba's death will mean for the future of the country. What influence did he still wield, if any? How will power relations in the ANC shift? Will Zuma stay on for a second term? Why do people not see that at least in part they are voting for their own demise? It will be an exciting time to observe what happens to Mandela's legacy, and whether the people of the rainbow nation will manage to find a pot of gold at its end or fail in this endeavour. I choose to cling to optimism because historically South Africans have fought too hard to attain the rights listed in the current constitution. It cannot have been for nothing.