Tag Archives: South Africa

Attack of the Liberal Nazi

When I told my boyfriend that I just had a fight about white privilege with Grethe K*** his response was “Whyyyy?” “Why would you enter into that?”

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I just shrugged my shoulders. I guess it felt like the right thing to do? I was in the mood for debate?

In the end morbid fascination got the better of me. I know all too well that these things never leave me feeling wonderful.

Grethe was having a rant about English speakers (read ‘white people’) and how she was fed up with them and their poor attempts to correctly pronounce anyone’s name that’s not English and might be difficult to say (including hers. She is white). Her point being that English imperialism is shit and white people are shit for failing to respect someone enough to pronounce a Zulu, Xhosa or even Afrikaans name the way it is supposed to be.

My response mostly ignored her racially charged rant and suggested that all over the world people find it difficult to pronounce words and names that are unfamiliar to them. That in Spain all B’s are V’s and all V’s are B’ and therefore I am often Bicky in that country. (She loved this point, retorting with my own personalized meme highlighting my white-people problem).

My Korean student the other day said that she hated Jews. After some discussion we came to the conclusion that what she really hated was zoo’s. That damn racist Korean mother tongue. We’re still working on that.

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The point I was trying to make was that mispronunciation of names and words is not something only lazy English speakers are to blame for. But after a few back and forths, our deeply connected Facebook friendship came to an end. (calling her a Liberal Nazi was probably the last straw).

A Liberal Nazi is someone who identifies as a liberal (i.e. accepting of other opinions and behaviours different to their own) but in reality is inflexible to opposing ideas and behaviours. There are a lot of these around. Should you encounter one, try your best not to make eye contact and certainly don’t bring up how you truly feel about illegal immigrants.

There is no winning in an argument with a Liberal Nazi. They will eventually accuse you of failing to acknowledge your white privilege, to which you can say nothing. There is no test or way to prove yourself, especially when using Facebook as your platform for battle.

Instead of being open to discussion she began with ‘Victoria you are the worst when it comes to this….” I hammered out a reply, hovered over enter and then backspaced. Wrote something else and backspaced. And eventually went with “How am I the worst?”

I knew then and there though, that I was dealing with someone who judged me for choosing to live outside of South Africa (a common phenomenon). Deciding for herself that I’d left hoping to live with my white privilege in peace. Or maybe she meant I that exploit my white privilege by travelling the globe with initial the help of my parents’ financial support 6 years ago?

Ok, Grethe. (How do I say that?)

According to Grethe, travel is nothing but a slap in the face to underprivileged and marginalized people. That’s the message I received anyway. According to her, my travelling has done nothing for my white-privilege-enlightenment, how could it? I’m too busy flashing my money and pale skin to ever consider the real issue of  whiteness in this world.

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Then I realised why I had entered into this discussion back when Grethe and I were still floating around each other’s cyber personal space. My gut told me to, and by now I know to always listen. My gut knew there was a lesson to be learnt here. And believe it or not, the lesson was not ‘don’t mess with Liberal Nazis’….. do whatever you want with them, they might explode and that could be fun to watch.

I learnt, not for the first time, that my choosing to live and work around the world has made me a spectacularly enlightened person. If I may say so myself.

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Here is a list of times I’ve been made shamefully aware of my white privilege:

  • That time in Chile when my interview for TEFL teacher involved a brief meeting where they made sure I was white.
  • That time in China when I made more money than my Chinese co-worker, because I’m white.
  • That time I met a Filipino girl on a train, on her way to becoming a qualified TEFL teacher, who wondered: would anyone in Asia hire me?
  • That time in the airport when Veronika, a beautiful young Filipino teacher, was questioned by immigration about the reason for her visit to HK. You see, if a white trans-gender person came through, with their passport saying male but their appearance saying female, would they be accused of being a prostitute? Probably not.
  • That time my previous boss outwardly admitted that she’d never hire a black person because it would be bad for business (Chinese are more racist than anyone). (A Liberal Nazi almost exploded that day).

A few months ago South Africans began a dialogue about the importance of recognizing your white privilege. Some folks got defensive, but the take home message was this: we’re not asking you to feel guilt necessarily, but simply acknowledge the fact that you have benefited in this world and in South Africa because of the colour of your skin. Just say you understand.

I understand, Grethe.

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The One With The Boerewors Making Competion in Hong Kong

A few weekends ago a local establishment, The Butcher’s Club, held an event that saw various Saffas, and a Brit, go head to head in a boerewors making competition. $550 got you in with unlimited food and booze for the afternoon, as well as a duty to taste and rate each competitor on their boerewors.

Obviously no matter what happened our votes were to go to our friend Steven. And while his boerewors contained more spice than a winning spiced sausage should, he received numerous votes based on the amount of buddies he had there to support him. Unfortunately the rest of the voters did indeed have taste buds and could detect a slight overworking of the ingredients and a liberal-to-extreme amount of spices.

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No, that day a South African spiced sausage competition was won by a Brit. However, in true South African style, the MC abused the free alcohol and misread the winner’s name. A Brit hadn’t actually won, but he did go home with the prize.

The rooftop event on the south side of Hong Kong Island was a fantastic day, well worth the money spent. Of course we were concerned about this; over-indulged and left feeling disgustingly over fed. Low carb/no sugar went out the window upon sight of the confectionary stall and I’m pretty sure beer and gin are also not exactly on the green list either.

Are you in Hong Kong? Keen to give the Butcher’s Club a visit? Find more details here:

http://www.butchersclub.com.hk/

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On Being an ‘Angry South African Expat’ and What Really Makes us Tick

Lets get one thing straight- there is no such thing as a ‘South African expat’.

People who have chosen to live outside the country should not be lumped into one category. Even though the term applies to anyone living abroad, its much more complex than that. There are South Africans living all the over the world for reasons that vary from being racist, to a career move, to prolonged travel. And for a long time now ‘South African expat’ has become somewhat of a curse word, a word used to describe deserters full of hate.

I felt the need to bring up the issue of the South African expat because a) I am one of them and b) I’m pretty damn tired of feeling guilty about it. (And also a recent trending article got me thinking.)

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The first category of South African expats are of an older generation. These individuals have many enemies. They have been living outside of South Africa for years, if not decades. They are targeted by anti-expat articles written by naysayers who write with just as much hate as their accused ex-countrymen supposedly harbor.

This generation of expats left South Africa around the time of the country’s first democratic elections. In the months leading up to them, petrified white South Africans fled the country for fear of being the victims of a counter attack. (That or they were just downright racist and couldn’t deal with a black president).

There is a certain (large) amount of negativity towards this group of people. You can find proof in all the long winded pieces about evil-expats written by gushingly proud South Africans. We get it- there are South Africans living abroad who talk shit about their native country, it’s crime stats and corruption.

But if you ask me, one of the few places one might be exposed to these bad vibes and negativity is in the comment section of an article written by aforementioned gushingly proud South Africans who love singling out expats and their ‘stupid’ decision to leave. Being picked on for being ‘unpatriotic’ and leaving is only going to cause debate, negativity, a lot of back and forth and name calling. I do not condone bad behavior from either side. No-one is idiotic for choosing to leave or stay.

But, as with most things in life, there is a new generation.

Not all expats decided to ‘run for their lives’ around 1994. What about those who left more recently. Those who stuck around long enough to see Mandela become president, watch the ’95 Rugby World Cup and maybe even long enough to enjoy the 2010 festivities….. but eventually still made the decision to leave. While l don’t hold the all answers about the increasing flow of South Africans out of the country, I do have a few questions for those who love to complain about it:

Did you know that people all over the world leave their native countries to pursue better opportunities? Did you know that it is not necessarily unpatriotic to leave your country to live in another one? That often, living outside the country makes us more patriotic than ever before? Especially because, and did you know this, being removed from South Africa and it’s problems helps us keep a more positive outlook on it that you might?

Arriving home the day of Mandela's death was extremely special for for. I was humbled and totally appreciative of my country.

Arriving home the on day of Mandela’s death was extremely special for me. I was humbled, appreciative and proud of everything my country stands for. I was like a tourist experiencing the magic for the first time.

If you meet an American living outside their country, or a Swede or a Kiwi, would you question their patriotism? Probably not. And their countrymen probably wouldn’t give two hoots about their decision to leave either. So why do South Africans get so upset at the idea of, God forbid, a South African living outside of South Africa?

Remember, a lot of people who leave South Africa intend to return in the future. The experience and knowledge they gain overseas and eventually bring home is priceless and should not be underestimated or downplayed. I like to think they’d contribute massively to a better South Africa one day instead of assuming they’re making things worse.

Unfortunately the dilemma continues for new generation ‘deserters’. Although we’ve gained the right to vote abroad, we’ve somehow lost our right to an opinion on the state of the nation.

American expats wouldn’t think twice about calling George Bush out on his stupidity. They’d second guess their country’s gun laws in the blink of an eye . So why are South African expats at the point where they feel guilty about making judgments about home? We seem to have lost our right to speak negatively about South Africa after making a decision to leave. Apparently leaving means we’re no longer entitled to think along the same lines as people who remain to contribute: Zuma is a dick, crime sucks and growing your savings account takes decades.

If someone makes the decision to leave, so be it. Instead of reacting with negativity and blaming them for their lack of positive contribution to the country, rather give them a hug because you know how hard it must be to leave and a high five for managing to do it on a South African passport.

In the past four years living abroad I’ve encountered a lot of questions related to South Africa, its political and social situation. I don’t sugar coat things. I say yes, my house is fortified and yes, my heart does race when I arrive home late at night for fear of being hijacked at my gate.  I say these things because I have been asked and because they are true. NOT because my favourite past time is to talk shit about South Africa.

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It is also my experience that once these people have heard what I have to say they are, naturally, quite shocked. My answers are often met with more questions. And this is most likely the reason why when you meet foreigners they might bring it up in conversation with you. Not because I’ve exaggerated or gone on, but because they were shocked by what I had to say. Because a lot of the time what South Africans call their reality, is insane.

In the same breath I try and encourage the people I meet to visit there one day because just like a problem child, my problem country is completely delightful and they’d be missing out if they never got to know it.

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Can’t get to France? Just go to Franschoek.

I’m not from the Western Cape so when I go there I’m just as much of tourist as the countless tourists that come from far and wide. I might even appreciate the area more than a foreigner because it is a corner of my country where (in a nutshell) things function. (This province is run by a woman- do what you want with that information.)

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A late sunset is typical of the Western Cape. Here its being enjoyed by diners at La Petite Ferme

Functionality aside, places like Franschoek are just breathtakingly beautiful. There are few places where I find myself amazed that in every direction, around every corner, through every window and doorway, I see a view to behold. Most of these vistas are available from the countless wine farms. The Western Cape is known as being south Africa’s Wine Country, and Franschoek is arguably the best of the best.

The view as seen from the tasting room of Porcupine Ridge.

The view as seen from the tasting room of Porcupine Ridge.

Through the vines at Dieu Donne wine estate. Arguably the best views on offer.

Through the vines at Dieu Donne wine estate. Arguably the best views on offer.

The history of Franschoek, which means French Corner, is not only rich but also very evident. It was once the settling ground of French Huguenots who left their motherland 300 years ago. Their reformed religious convictions were outlawed in France so they set sail for the Cape to join Dutch settlers who shared similar religious beliefs. 

A dominant feature in the center of town- a church in true Cape Dutch style

A dominant feature in the center of town- a church in true Cape Dutch style

If you, like me, were unaware that some of the most prominent and dominant Afrikaans surnames are deeply rooted in France then you will learn something here today. Surnames that are directly linked to French settlers include:

Cronje (Cronier), de Klerk (Le Clercq), Visagie (Visage), de Villiers, du Preez, du Plessis, du Toit, Fourie, Fouche, Giliomee (Guilliaume), Gous / Gouws (Gauch).

This list is by no means comprehensive. Basically, if you can think of an Afrikaans surname- that surname was probably originally French. And here I was linking all South Africa’s Dutchmen to the Dutch. 

Part of the list of original French Huguenots in the Huguenot museum

Part of the list of original French Huguenots in the Huguenot museum

Now when I say that this history is evident, I don’t only mean that there is a great Huguenot museum in Franschoek. Every street name, every restaurant, wine estate and shop are all, if not mostly, French. Bon-bon this, petit that. 

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‘The Main Drag’. Notice the ‘Bijoux’ Chocolates.

These days Franschoek is known for its gastronomy and is undoubtedly the gastronomic hub of South Africa. It is home to some of the country’s best restaurants. So if you’re a food lover, wine lover, history lover or even just a beautiful landscape lover, Franschoek has something for you. 

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My New Camera and Me

It’s been roughly two years since I last owned an SLR camera. I didn’t have mine for long before I drowned it in sprite and made the decision to replace it with the more compact Canon G12. My thinking behind this was that I would take way more photos with a camera that I could put in my handbag.

My little compact SLR has served me well- give or take- but there are certain things that it’s not, and at the end of the day, it’s not the kind of camera I need to be shooting with if I have any intention on improving my photography skills.

It’s always more of a dream than a reality- buying a camera. And even then, it’s not something I fantasise about because I know myself and big, expensive possessions are not my thing. I can’t seem to look after my belongings properly and I can’t even blame it on my lifestyle, it’s just me. So a couple days ago when I found myself in the right place at the right time I made a (fairly) impulse buy and the fantastic Orms Direct in Cape Town.

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Trying out my new toy in the evening light- using the fixed 50 mm lens. Perfect for low light shooting. Photograph taken by Sian Cohen.

My friend and host while in Cape Town, Sian, was going there anyway to replace one of her lenses. On top of that, someone else had suggested I visit this fantastic camera shop while I was in the Mother City. Next thing I knew I was doing a little research on what I wanted and could afford. Less than 24 hours later I was the proud owner of a new Canon EOS 650D, three lenses, a tripod, two SD cards and a great camera bag. Gotta love package deals.

I realised it was time for an upgrade on my first day in Cape Town when Sian put her camera in my hands and encouraged me to shoot with it. We were heading into town to be tourists with two Brazilians. Taking photos left right and centre- I realised how much I had missed actually looking through a view finder. That’s just not the vibe of the g12 point and shoot- the view finder on it is, quite frankly, a joke.

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So long to framing shots through a screen.

The rapid shutter speed is also something I’ve missed- the amount of great shots I didn’t get all because for two years I’ve been pressing a button and having the photo take a spilt-second later. Now it’s instantaneous. Here’s to many more, better executed, ‘in the moment’ shots which are arguably my favourite. I’m a big fan of shooting people going about their lives, whether they’re aware of it or not.

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Having fun driving around Cape Town, loving the shutter speed and ability to capture rapidly.

In my experience people aren’t really too fussed about having their photograph taken. If they’re not comfortable with it they’re probably a criminal. Just flash them a smile and maybe a thumbs up afterwards, just to say thanks. Obviously it all depends on the person and the situation but there’s hardly ever a time where I’ve needed to verbally ask someone if I can take their picture. At most I’ll use eye contact and body language. Others may feel differently about the lines this kind of photography crosses, but my journalistically trained brain reminds me that if its in a public space its photographable.

I feel good about my new toy and furthering my skills with it. Stick around to see what (and if) I can do.

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Someone I Once Met: Dootch

Someone once said that if you wanted to walk from campus into town and you’re in a hurry, don’t go with Dootch. Our university was one of the smallest in the country, and although it’s done a lot of growing since I left in 2010 it still only boasts a couple thousand students. It was as if Dootch knew them all and they all knew him. Walking into town with him meant stopping for a chat with various people as he inquired sincerely about how they were- not forgetting the inquisition about the health of their family and pets too.

Of course Dootch isn’t an actual name that exists in any baby-name book. You see, Dean du Chenne was a huge fan of South African rugby player Butch James. By this way, Dean became fondly known as Dootch. And sometime in August 2010, there Butch was, a national sporting celebrity, at Dootch’s wake. Honouring with us the spectacular person that Dean was. What this would have meant to Dootch is immeasurable. His idol and namesake came, laughed, hugged, teared up and posed next to a photo of our recently lost friend.

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How many people do you know that mentioned, at the age of 20, what song they’d like to have played at their funeral? Probably not many. And his choice of ‘Forever Young’ is even more chilling. Such a personality, so much larger than this life, could only have been taken away from here by something as unstoppable as lightning. Everything about this situation, when I think about it today, is incredible.

There are a close-knit group of people who were lucky to call Dootch their best friend. These people knew all too well the kind of individual he was- the class clown and boy’s boy who was never too poor to spend money on his friends- or anyone for that matter. Even if he didn’t know where his next meal was coming from. Certain figures, with certain organisational skills, who knew him so well, knew that his life couldn’t just end there. And so the Dootch Fund was born.

Only in it’s second year, the fund has already raised enough money to sponsor it’s first post-graduate student. It wasn’t easy to choose who’s life to change, but in 2014, the Dootch Fund will send it’s first student back to university to further his career. And all because once a year, in September, Dean’s ever growing number of friends and family gather in the Drakensberg and raise funds while wrecking havoc.

I’m glad for the few years I was able to spend getting to know him at Rhodes University and on various trips. One that stands our is our 4 day hike through the Transkei where he wore no underwear and brought no change of clothes. Cheers to Dootch, to his family who attend all the events and to his dedicated friends who have not let a great life end where it could have.

 

 

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Through the Karoo

When we meet someone who has been to South Africa or is planning a trip there we always ask the same question: where did you go? And we, more often than not, oooh and aaah over classic must-sees like Cape Town, the Garden Route and The Kruger National Park. But what, I say, about the Karoo?

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There’s no place quite like it. It is spectacular in its sparseness- but then again I’ve always had a thing for dry areas. Of course the Garden Route is a must see for various reasons, and people are naturally drawn to beautiful coastlines, but the massive part of our country that is the Karoo is in a league of its own.

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My most recent trip through there has got me seriously thinking about suggesting it to future visitors of our majestic country. I’m from the North West province so a journey through this area is necessary if you’re en-route to Cape Town. And if you do find yourself there, go one step further and take the road less travelled. Get off the highway and experience some (actually) really good tarred roads connecting Karoo towns- doing this you can truly appreciate the open, beautiful spaces in South Africa.

The long straight roads will lead you to enchanting towns, somewhat stuck in the past with their Victorian architecture. Telling stories of days gone by when the area was filled with Boers trekking through the interior, fighting bloody battles against the Brits and locals in the Anglo-Boer War.IMG_0246

In the Karoo, much like other parts of the country, you will be awed by a spectacular array of cloud formations. I love them for the depth they give to photographs and can find myself looking at them for ages. What is it about South Africa and clouds? Nothing beats them.

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I’m not a morning person, but on the odd occasion, when I’m forced to be up to see the sun rise, I realise that dawn is an incredibly beautiful time of day and one that I should really make more of an effort to see. Unfortunately sleep is very important to me. There are plenty of child-raising years to come where I will be up around that time.

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Q&A: Bodyboarder Ticks Tahiti off his Bucket List

Reece Wartenberg’s first love is the Ocean. But above all comes bodyboarding. His deep seated passion for it has and will continue to take him across the world to ride the waves of his dreams. This year Reece made his biggest dream a reality by heading to Tahiti – number one on his bucket list.

Use three words to describe yourself.

Just very determined.

What does the word ‘Tahiti’ mean to you?

The word ‘Tahiti’ means a lot, but Tahiti is synonymous with a place called Teahupoo. I have been a bodyboarder all my life, and Teahupoo is well known as (debatably) the best bodyboarding wave in the world. To me there’s never been a debate. Teahpoo is the best. Since I was 11 years old I have known I needed to get to Teahupoo.  So what does the word ‘Teahupoo’ mean to me? Everything, literally everything.

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The island of Tahiti

You spent three months there – not many people do that. Why did you?

As a traveller you realise more than ever that money, and time, dictate life. I knew that this was my one shot for a trip like this. I knew that if I was going to get Teahupoo the way I’d seen it in the media I’d have to go for a long time. Perfect waves don’t just happen every day – there are hundreds of factors that come in to play. You can predict when it will probably be good, and that’s what the sponsored guys do – They’ll see from a couple of days before that Teahupoo will be good and they’ll fly in for that one session. When you’re self funded that’s impossible. I went for three months to give myself a solid window. Also, I knew in three months I’d really get to experience the people and the culture, which I knew would be (and was) a great side effect.

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As the only guys at the surf camp in the main town,’the fantastic 5′ got on really well. We revelled in telling our surf stories to each other.

You’ve travelled quite a lot. How did this trip differ from other ones you’ve taken?

Usually I travel and work, and do short trips in between when I get time off. That way I get to see and do so much, I get fully immersed in the country I’m living in, and finances are not too much of an issue. This trip was different in that I knew I didn’t want to work – I spent every cent I’d ever made on it. In a way I feel like I was being a bit selfish and wasteful (economically, environmentally etc) but at the same time this was my one opportunity. I made the decision before I went to Tahiti that this was an investment in myself. If I didn’t go I would never have known, and now that I’ve gone…well, I can’t put a feeling to it…but I feel ready.

You obviously had your expectations prior to arriving in Tahiti. Once you were there was there something about it that really took you by surprise?

Not really. I knew so much about Tahiti before I went. When I got there part of me felt like I might have been before. The biggest surprise was that I was actually there.

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Tell us about one particularly memorable experience.

There were two incidents from which I’ll have always have the scars, which I suppose makes them particularly memorable. Twice I had bad wipeouts at Teahupoo. Both instances were almost identical, and within two weeks of each other, so I’ll tell you about the last one.

Teahupoo was big, heavy, and dark. It was angry Teahupoo. I paddled out between sets. When I made it to the take off zone the atmosphere was tense. Everyone was buzzing, even the seasoned locals seemed anxious – they know more than anyone that when Teahupoo is big it’s no joke.

The first big one which I was in the right spot for, I went on. It was breaking across nicely but it was essentially a massive closeout – identifying these closeouts effectively comes with experience. The locals call these waves ‘west’ as the swell has some west in it. So, my big west wave, was easily one of the biggest waves and barrels of my life. Everything happened in slow motion, as you’d imagine it to. I rode the barrel for seemingly ages, I felt so much power in the water and I could see all the boats in the channel from inside the barrel. The noise of the lip exploding on the reef was deafening. It was bliss. I quickly realised, though, that it was going wrong.  The west section reared up and there was little I could do. I was just swallowed up. I hit the reef twice.

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My reef wounds from my first ‘reefing’ at Teahupoo.

The first time ripped my fin and boardshorts off and I slashed my foot and hip, the second time I cut my arm pretty badly. It was a fairly lengthy hold-down and I came up dizzy and coughing. I coughed into my hand and there was some blood. In between catching my breath and being washed towards the reef lagoon I remember laughing. The adrenaline was just so intense.

That evening, and in the days after, the self-administered first aid was a mission. For three or four days I couldn’t sleep and my whole body was in pain. But man, life was good. I’ll never forget that day. I’ll be back to Teahupoo soon to make my way out of one of those big barrels.

Describe, in one word, how you felt when your three months in Tahiti were up.

Content (predictable, I know).

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Tahiti was always at the top of your bucket list. Now that you’ve been, what destination has replaced it?

Puerto Escondido, Mexico. Also for wave-related reasons, but I have no doubt it’s an amazing place in general.

Any words of wisdom you might have for those thinking about travelling to Tahiti?

If you don’t surf: Go to Tahiti as part of an around-the-world ticket. An around-the-world ticket is about the same price as it cost me to get to Tahiti from South Africa. If you don’t have a need to stay long-term it’s by far the best option as you can go to so many other countries as part of the same trip. When I was in Tahiti I’d occasionally go in to town, which is a fair way from Teahupoo, for a few nights. When I did I’d bump in to other travellers, all of which were on around-the-world trips. Hearing their experiences definitely made it sound like the best option for non surfers.

If you surf: The waves are heavy and the reefs are sharp. There is no relief. If that’s your thing though, go. You have to. Teahupoo is not the only spot. There are about 30 spots (or more) on the island all of which have their unique characteristics. It’s a playground. Ideally go with mates though – I was alone and would often make the 45+ minute paddle to the reef passes by myself. It would have been nice to have someone with me, especially when you get out to the spot and you realise you also have no one to surf with. When it’s heavy it can be a bit stressful. When barrel fever has bitten for a session it’s tough to tell yourself to hold back. I’m not claiming to be hardcore, I’d often chicken out!


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Welcome Home to ‘Goodbye Madiba’

The fact that I arrived home the day South Africa celebrated the life and legacy of Nelson Mandela is something I will be eternally grateful for. There had been so much speculation surrounding Mandela’s health and whether or not he was still with us that it almost seemed as if, when we were finally given the go ahead to say goodbye, South Africans did so with relief as well as joy, gratitude and pride. It truly was a celebration.

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Messages for Madiba outside his Houghton home, Johannesburg

My experience of the whole thing saw an incredible amount of joy in the place of sadness, as well as a sense of calm rather than the chaos so many people had anticipated. The country was well prepared for the inevitable day Madiba, the face of the nation, would have to live only in our memories. He had been sick for months and eventually, when his time did come, he went in peace in the comfort of his own home. Just like he deserved.

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South Africa is the only place I know of where people dance when they’re sad (or angry!)

What he also deserved was the congregation of people outside his house in Houghton, Johannesburg; dancing, singing, celebrating, joking, crying, remembering the man we all consider our father. This was only one of the places South Africans gathered to show their respects. Nelson Mandela Square in Sandton and Vilikazi street in Soweto where other massive rendezvous points for the occasion. As well as various other spots around the country.

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As a brightly coloured crowd danced and sang songs of remembrance and freedom I was reminded of just how beautiful the people of this country can sing. Their natural ability to harmonize is always impressive and so too is their tradition of dancing in the face of sadness. People of all generations, colours, religions and social status crowded together, smiling at and with one another in memory of Nelson Mandela. While South Africa has a way to go in dealing with its racial, social and economic divisions, this occasion allowed us to forget about it for a moment and just be, as Madiba wanted, brothers and sisters.

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I think most of all, being present for all of this has reminded how I feel about my country, or rather, how my country makes me feel. As much as the Earth is calling me to explore all its corners, I will always be proudly South African. And sometimes, as hard as it is to define what it is to be South African, there is something so obvious about it when you’re back home. A melted-pot of cultures and traditions that we all share- black, white, Indian, Coloured, you name it. A braai for example; we all love a good one of those!

When I found myself next to the man leading the choir of people, I had to get a photo with him. He had a voice of Gold.

When I found myself next to the man leading the choir of people, I had to get a photo with him. He had a voice of Gold.

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10 Kinds of People You’ll Find at a Hostel

If you haven’t stayed in many hostels before or in one at all, you might be under the impression that certain ‘types’ of people or travellers stay in them. While I cant speak for how things were years ago, I can safely say after my hostel experiences, that there is no ‘one type’ of traveller that chooses hostels as a preferred form of accommodation. Its not necessarily the young traveller looking for cheap accommodation and a good time.

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So who can we find in the bunk below us or in the common area spending too much time on their devices? These are the ones I’ve identified recently:

The Newbie

This person is either new to travelling or to staying in a hostel or both. While a lot of hostel stayers will have stayed in many others before, there are some that you will meet who are staying in one for the first time. These people are intrigued by the constant flow of people in and out of the establishment and can be found interrogating new roommates upon arrival. The Newbie could also be new to travelling as a whole and might be unusually interested in the lives of the Intrepid travellers

The Intrepid Traveller

This person has travelled a lot and has stayed at many hostels. They are not as eager to become best friends with every new face they see but instead let the connection form naturally. Some types might be big on talking about what they’ve seen, done, where they’ve been and how cool it was. Others might keep this information to themselves but can be spotted from a mile away by how comfortable they look cooking their meal for one in a foreign kitchen surrounded by strangers.

Someone like this man who we found with a flat tyre after cycling through the Atacama Desert can be found in a hostel when he's not in his tent

Someone like this man who we found with a flat tyre after cycling through the Atacama Desert can be found in a hostel when he’s not in his tent

The Neat Guy

This guy is not me. The neat people are able to live out of their suitcases or backpacks without it looking like an erupting volcano. Some of the really talented ones even keep it zipped up and untouched-looking the entire time. I am currently sleeping above such a person. I don’t know how they achieve this.

The Messy Guy

This would be me. This has always been me. It’s as if taking an extra 5 minutes to pack away what I’ve just worn is the hardest thing to do. Having this kind of personality is probably also what made me struggle a little in my summer job as a yacht stewardess KEEPING THINGS CLEAN. The messy people feel bad about their untidiness, but not enough to rectify it. Please note, in my case its organised chaos and is limited to a 1m squared area. And I still know where everything is.

There definitely seemed to be more 'messy' travellers in South America. I'm sure it has a lot to do with the type of person who travels that part of the world

There definitely seemed to be more ‘messy’ travellers in South America. I’m sure it has a lot to do with the type of person who travels that part of the world

The guy here on business

Believe it or not people travelling on business also stay at hostels. They might not be the CEO type but here and there you’ll find someone around for a reason other than just ‘travelling’. These folks can be seen spending a lot of time on their devices – and are forgiven for it. Unlike the hostel stayers who have their noses buried in social media as if they were at home on their couches.

The Quiet Guy

This person will wander around the hostel, sometimes with earphones in, not speaking to anyone. Days can go by without many words coming out their mouths. I don’t have much else to say about these ones.

The Organised Traveller

Some people, mainly those on a tight schedule, will have everything planned out down to the hour. Printed out travel itineraries and all. This person is often the same person as ‘the Newbie’.

The go-with-the-flow Traveller

These ones don’t know what they’re doing today or where they’re going tomorrow. “Somewhere in Spain”, “Maybe Madrid”. The go-with-the-flow traveller and the organised traveller might have difficulties travelling together.

The Friend

There will inevitably be ‘that person’ staying at each hostel who you click with. It could be another solo traveller, someone from a similar background or country, someone from a completely different background, or someone you’ve picked up as a lover. Basically you have the chance of meeting and connecting with anyone from anywhere. Your friendship could last 24 hours or your plans could end up involving each other for a few weeks.

Travelling solo means being able to do what you want to do, when you want to do it. This includes changing your route along the way and joining someone elses. Eoin convinced me the Bolivian jungle would be a good idea.

Travelling solo means being able to do what you want to do, when you want to do it. This includes changing your route along the way and joining someone elses. Eoin convinced me the Bolivian jungle would be a good idea.

The Partier

Usually of a younger age. The partiers will focus on how much alcohol induced fun they can have- and lets not forget the drugs. So far I can say that these types are more likely to be found in South America than Europe.

These girls partied non stop through Bolivia and Peru. Here's them on a hangover.

These girls partied non stop through Bolivia and Peru. Here’s them on a hangover.

Bare in mind- a hostel stayer can be the friend, the neat guy, the intrepid traveller and the go-with-the-flow traveller all in one. Other combinations are also possible.

Hostels are far from the dirty dives that people thought of them as before. And they are especially not something out of the movie ‘Hostel’. By my definition a hostel is a place where you pay less per night for accommodation than anywhere else. Its also where you have access to free internet, cheap laundry services, the odd free meal, camaraderie, adventure and comfort. There is no reason to ever stay in a bad hostel when we have access to sites like Hostelbookers and Hostelworld. They give us every single detail from location down to if they supply locks or not. The ‘reviews’ section is particularly important and can really help you get a better feeling of the place before arriving or if you even want to stay there at all.

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