Wednesday, July 14, 2010

I apologise for Vuvuzelas

I know my wanderings have taken me many a place, and many a city, but my home town is Cape Town, South Africa. When I left the country in 2004 I never thought I would return to stay. I imagined all sorts of places I would live my life, but none of them included moving back to Cape Town.

However,  life being life, and mine in particular having a tendency to spit me out at random locations around the world, I ended up back in the Mother City. The idea was for my long distance relationship to stop being long distance, and for him to move here to this gorgeous city to live with me.

However, South Africa being what it is, and him being the mountain man and small town boy he is, jobs are tough, pay is bad and cities are still noisy.
So..he's back in CO, USA and we are back to limbo.

Isnt it funny though, how often our view of our country can be so dramatically altered by one event? Ok, so here I speak not of the mundane or the average, or of a small passing comment that shifts the universe as a butterfly fluttering its wings in a canyon. The Soccer World Cup is hardly inconspicuous. But it is just one event. And this one event has irrevocably shifted how I see my country.

I admit freely that I was one of the people who saw with dreading heart the unveiling of the decision to host the event here. Along with many of my countrymen, and a large portion of the world, I had images of strikes and transport problems, undeveloped infrastructure, unfinished stadiums. Crime, not so much, but only because unlike the propoganda of the international media I know the violence is generally limited to areas where the people who live there have few other options. Would you walk through the ghetto in your city late at night carrying a camera? Unfortunately, our ghettos are bigger than most countries, so the statistics are scarier.

The way the people of South Africa have risen to the challenge has amazed, delighted and impressed me. The response of visitors and the awe I have seen in their eyes as they walk round my beautiful city, stare at the cultural peculiarities of my countrymen and gape at the mountain range in the middle of our CBD has caused me many a moment of smug pride that I get to live here and they dont.

When it comes to 'feeling it', I have to say that few countries have quite thrown themselves in the way we have. First, we came up with a 'sound', that although it has probably deafened half of South Africa, and will forever outdo the most annoying sound in the world, will forever bring to mind thousands of drunk football supporters straining to outdo the person next them. And then we threw in some showmanship.

(btw, the man in the above photo is carrying that all on his head.. no straps or anything - just balanced)

Maybe it helps that our flag has so many ridiculous colours? I think the simple fact that we stand out in the crowd by default is helpful to our cause.

All in all, crime rates dropped (even the crooks were watching the games) and our spirit was maintained, most South Africans supporting one team or another after we inevitably didnt make the quarters. Never to be left out, one could even see the occasional tearful South African sobbing into their Netherlands scarf at the final, and watching with grief as our new-found foreign friends flew back to their home countries.

I dont know how to express the patriotic welling of emotion I feel when I see how well we have done. The pure love for the people here that have warmly welcomed the world and blown them away with beauty, culture and variety. We have a long way to go, but dear God, we have come so far.

I have only one apology and that is for the ongoing prevalence of the vuvuzela. Admit it though,  I bet you only hate them so much because you cant blow one yourself...

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

I am sure that at some point in the past I have mentioned that I am a little OCD. Like most people with mild OCD, I am not obsessively neat in all areas. My sock drawer is not perfectly aligned, I do not have special places for my pens and pencils at work. I am not even that neat, really. My clothes are draped over a chair when I take them off (and in a busy week this chair can, for all intents and purposes, cease to exist as a chair) and I will often leave stuff on the lounge table when I stumble to bed after a late night DVD watching session.

However, I am clean. I kinda have to be, because my hair gets everywhere. If I don't clean regularly I end up with hairball tumbleweeds in all corners of my house. And the place I am most concerned about when it comes to cleanliness is my kitchen. I cant cook in a dirty kitchen, and a dirty counter top is anathema to me. Just ask my long suffering lover when he has been using the counter top as a bread board instead of an actual breadboard. Carrie covered in blood doesn't come close. Ok, so maybe recently due to some stresses I let it slip a little, but I mean really, who scrubs the oven every weekend anyway?

Why am I telling you this? Because rental agents are from hell. Although that may seem like a completely irrelevant topic, I assure you it is not. My lease is coming to an end. This is a good thing because I am moving back to the suburbs and halving my rent, so I cant wait to get out. The commute is worth it. However, The Agent has had to come into the flat to show it to the prospective renters. She tends to give me about 2 hours notice, usually when am I at work, and almost definitely every time I forget to take my knickers off the line on the balcony. The first time this happened, my flat mate was in the process of moving out, my brother was crashing in the lounge and there was STUFF everywhere. I warned her. She said no problem.

A few hours later I get a phone call. "Hello, angel (god knows why she calls me that), dropped by the flat today. A bit messy, isnt it?"
"Anyway, darling, I just wanted to let you know that your kitchen really needs to be deep cleaned before you move out. Its rather filthy right now. Of course, if you dont, we will just have to take it out of your deposit. But thats all daaaarling, chat to you soon, byeeeee!"

There was a brief shocked silence as I held the disconnected phone to my ear, closely followed by a blush that I swear started at my toes and ended at the tips of my hair. I was extremely embarrassed. My only conclusion was that my chef brother had decided to cook the night before and had managed to pour Bearnaise sauce into the toaster and throw roasted cherry tomatoes at the ceiling. I stormed home in a righteous fury only to see.... nothing. The kitchen was clean.

Nevertheless, I spent the whole of the next evening scrubbing. I got on my hands and knees and scrubbed the stove, under the stove, I moved the fridge, I cleaned the cupboards, I took toothpicks and scraped the tiny molecules of bacteria out from between the tiles that my super-triple-strength-multi-pupose-kills-everything-alive-even-post-Chernobyl-cockroaches cleaning spray couldn't get. Eventually I was satisfied.

The next day, The Agent called to ask if she could bring a client round to view the place. Of course! By now the flatmate had moved out, overseas guests had made their way home, my brothers limited possessions were secreted away in the spare room, and frankly, the place was looking cleaner than I had ever seen it. I was confident. I left her a note apologising for the state of the place last time, made some lame excuse about lots of guests (I was still feeling a little shameful - and I apologise too much when I am embarassed) and hoped she was well.

I retuned home afer work in good spirits (nothing makes me happy quite like coming home to a clean house) and see the following note:

"Hi Miss P
I think its just best if we get the deep cleaners in after you leave. They cost about R300 but they scrub walls and they will be able to get that mould out of the grouting etc. I know it seems expensive, but at least you wont have to worry about the post-lease inspection or anything.
Thanks Angel!
The Agent"

I was absolutely stunned. Speechless. I have come to the decision that R300 is well worth my peace of mind, and that I am not going to clean ANYTHING until I move out. And every time I speak to her on the phone, I listen carefully for traces of a German accent...