24 May

Chat with Mihlali

Firstly, tell us a bit about yourself.

My name is Mihlali Songcaka, I’ll be 25 in September. I was born in Mthatha, Eastern Cape. I speak IsiXhosa as well as English, Sesotho/Setswana and Afrikaans. I used to play rugby and I started writing poetry in 2012.

What were you like at school?

I had a mild temper but my kindness overshadowed it. I was always respectful towards fellow students and teachers.

Since you write in English, were you good at it in school?

Honestly, I wasn’t good at it and the subject gave me a hard time.

What are your ambitions for your writing career?

I would like to have a book published in 2019. I would really like for my poems to be well-known and to build my brand. I would also like to become a good performer and a better writer; and to have my work being used in theatre, film and television series.

Which writers inspire you and why?

Honestly, I have not been inspired by any writers and I don’t know many writers but hat inspires me are real-life events and the lives of others.

What are you working on at the moment?

I’m working on a few poems that I would like to get published this year.

Why do you write? As in, what made you sit down and start writing?

If I could remember, I would tell you but unfortunately, I don’t remember why I started. I do remember that I wrote a long rap verse for a friend and he told me that it rhymed well. What initiated the poetry is something that I’m still trying to figure out and oddly, since I don’t remember why poetry feels so special to me.

What do you use to write?

I use my laptop and sometimes I write with pen and paper. Most of the time, I feel that the poem I want to write at that specific moment would be better written by hand than on the laptop and it would come out better.

Where do your ideas come from?

Real-life events from people, sometimes from a sog or my own emotions and feelings or just even random words in my head.

What is the hardest thing about writing?

Firstly, writer’s block and trying to show others that my style is completely different from the usual stuff they read/hear.

Do you get writer’s block? If so, how do you get through it?

Yes, I do. I just don’t write or think about a poem in my head. So, I just leave that poem ad do something else.

Do you read much? If so, who are your favourite authors?

No, actually I only started reading this year, but so far, the book I’m enjoying is Unf*ck Yourself by Gary John Bishop

Which celebrated person, living or dead, would you most like to meet and why?

Well, I have a list but I recently met Sipho Nkosi on Freedom Day. He’s on my list right along with President Cyril Ramaposa and Patrice Motsepe.

Favourite book.

Screw It, Let’s Do It by Richard Branson

Favourite film.

Transformer sequels

Favourite song.

Drake – Look What You’ve Done

Connect with Mihlali on his Facebook page, Pieces by Mihlali Songcaka

 

 

15 Feb

Kansas City Shuffle: Valentines Edition

Whoever said that nothing good nor contrustuve could come from a WhatsApp group clearly hasn’t been me for the past few days.

Were it not for our girl’s group, I truly would not have realised that yesterday was Valentine’s day, wasn’t it?16584865_243305366126884_2291765510871711744_n

No…. I mean, there wasn’t much red, white and pink around, and lest we forget the big news; but it was pretty much just another day, right? Well, apart from the textual calamity, it was pretty much another day.

See, I happen to be dating a person who happens to be a valentinophobe. Valentine’s day is the zenith of his fear.

He made me look to the right, while he went left and had me thinking that perhaps I should pull an Eternal Sunshine – you know, wipe my memory? I was angry for a myriad of contrived reasons at the level of asininity that he exhibited; but then I figured that I should rather get to the bottom of his sudden angst.

It all started two days ago with an unexpected text message that read “WHY WOULD YOU SAY THAT?”, to which I responded with “where?” Of which the subsequent conversation was a passive-aggressive exchange about something that I did not say!

So, why are some people so afraid of Valentine’s day? Is it the expectations? Or is it a deeper fear or love? Maybe it’s just the commercial and material side to it that’s made people more unperturbed by the brouhaha behind this greeting card holiday. Whichever way, my boyfriend should have known that I was one of them and it would have saved us a lot of data.

Whichever way, waking up to messages that Valentine’s day plans were cut short because the big announcement was consolation enough for that little part of me that still wishes it could get a heart-shaped box of chocolates, just once.

14 May

BERLIN (Melville, JHB)

berlin_barNo, not the place where JFK proudly proclaimed he was a jelly doughnut (remember his “Ich bin ein Berliner!” speech?), the other place that was on 7th street Melville, cramped right between Stripes on 7th and The Loft.

The blue, white and red sign enticingly glowing, welcoming you with promise that you had found the right bar. During the day, it was emptier than most European churches – those that aren’t yet turned into museums – and at night, especially Thursdays and Sundays , it got so full that most of the party happened outside this establishment – because it was small and cramped up and sweaty – but not the old fried onion kind of smell. These nights were wittily named Detox Thursdays and Sundays. Where a couple of slogans like “Sunday is the new Friday”  and “retox is the new detox” came about and put shame to all other phuza Thursday’s around the country

It was young, vibrant, fresh *but aren’t all bars in Jo’burg like that? – Try* and the only place that played a bloody good range of hip-hop– which appealed to some house heads and hip-hop enthusiasts alike, drinks were cheaper than most places around Melville and they even sold Cheas-Naks ( cheesier than Nik-Naks, IMO, which reminds me, when was the last time a person had those?) You’d know who was there by just looking at the windows but nevertheless you were guaranteed a great time;unless one of your mate’s prospects, or even yours, was not present).

…and to imagine that I fell in love with the place on a lark; this one Sunday night (2008) after convincing people with cars that the braai we were attending was dying down and that Melville 7th street was a better place to continue celebrating the end of examinations!

The interesting thing about this establishment was that after a while, one realised that the same “creative” types – and some others – frequent the place, creating a myriad of attractive yet dysfunctional relationships of any kind, a kind of non-septic cesspool – that’s what drew one there. The thing is, after a while, one becomes highly acquainted with the order of the DJ’s and their playlists – with the DJ adding a couple of new songs here and there – so the music became excessive and the reason why one continued to frequent the place was because of the people, yes, people. Human beings are social creatures and that just makes us all so curious, which makes us ponder and wonder about the next person’s life, especially when you see them all. The. Time. It’s in our DNA. Therefore, I did understand why one would be so drawn to such a state of affairs, it made for a piquant life :

– Who is doing whom now?

– Who is cheating on whom and with whom?

– Would there be any confrontations?

– Who was going to act crazy or out of character?

– Were there going to be any drunken brawls?

– And the classic, who was going to get themselves banned that night.

The post-detox chill session would then take place at some friends apartment where people had been pre-drinking earlier and the conversation would mostly comprise of everyones notes on the latter questions, laugh a bit, drink some more and patiently wait for the next detox night!

It was a way of life.

It was fun.

It was a distraction from the reality that is life but like all distractions,  it’s legacy still lives on but now there’s Kitchener’s (and Braam).

– Ava

01 Oct

What’s Your Taxi Personality?

Nothing beats South African minibus taxis. They make up 90% of the taxi industry – metered taxis (aka cabs) only make up 10%. They are dirt cheap and yeah, some of their drivers are aggro-maniacs with questionable driving skills, but what’s there not to like about a mode of transport where by sitting next to the driver, one automatically becomes his assistant? They even have special seats for pregnant women, women with children and even women with baggage! So, they can’t be bad at all, right?

Travel sites like South Africa Dot Net refer to them as “the somewhat unconventional system with a language and a code of its own” *and here I thought language and code were one and the same – Coin* They even say that “a ride on a minibus taxi will certainly provide you with an authentic South African experience” and (my favourite) “a minibus taxi can provide interesting insights into the lives and cultures of ordinary South Africans.” That last sentence is wholly debatable but I’ll reserve my comments and get on with my post.

Yes, minibus taxis are an experience on their own but I reckon they’re just like any other mode of public transport since one runs into some interesting characters. Considering that a majority of South Africans use taxis, over my years as a taxi-user I’ve come to identify eight common taxi personalities:

1. The One Who Dares To Challenge The Driver: taxi drivers are scary beings, no? Well, not really but there is always that person who will argue with the aggro-maniac version about anything, including: their driving, their chosen route, the fare, why they strike, taxi violence, the change and the state of the taxi. Then this character expects the rest of the commuters to back him/her up and if that doesn’t happen they threaten to start using Rea Vaya or Metro Bus.

2. The One Who Greets: It’s a common African practice that whenever one enters a space that they should greet the people already occupying the space – should it be occupied. It’s understandable, kinda like “I come in peace” thing… But in a taxi O_o This type of folk will open the door (regardless of the 10 car back-up caused by the taxi in rush-hour traffic), greet loudly in a happy-go-lucky tone as if to say “Hi, I”m [name] and I will be providing you with the entertainment for the duration of my/your journey” and then only get in after they get a response, find a seat and spark up a group discussion starting with how everyone’s day was. *Thank heavens for Beats by Dre – Try*

3. The Ones Who Don’t Know Where To Sit: Seats in public transport are tricky, especially when it comes to moving seats at any time during the journey. Questions like “can a person do so? Will anyone be offended?” start running through ones head but in a taxi, yes? Seating is everything! Most taxis don’t have aisles but you will get that person who insists on occupying the flexi-seats near the door even though there is space elsewhere and only move when told to do so by the driver.

There’s also that other character at the taxi rank who knows that after two minutes they’ll be getting off but insist on sitting at the back, forcing six people to get out the taxi before they can, which can be annoying especially when a person with baggage who also has trouble moving their limbs is the one occupying the door seat – adds 20 minutes to a journey.

4. The Ones Who Insist On Keeping The Windows Closed: No matter what. Be it a hot day, stuffy rainy day, farts, B.O, someone with freshly chemically processed hair, feet, fried food or even a mix of all of them, the windows stay firmly shut. Try it. get into a taxi, open a window and within seconds someone is bound to tap you on the shoulder telling you to close it.

5. The Ones Who Eat In A Taxi – especially fried chicken: it’s just wrong, especially with a person like in No. 4 around and a taxi is not a cafeteria. Food is messy, taxi swerves. Food falls on me. You laugh it off and there goes my favourite chemise.

6. The Ones Who Stare: they’ll look at you for uncomfortably long periods, look away for a second and carry on looking at you again or look at your big screen smartphone as you are IM-ing your BFF and comment.

7. The Ones Who Hold Conversations About Sensitive Matters (mostly about themselves): like bodily functions (think The Spa of Embarrassing Illnesses inappropriate), divorce proceedings, sex lives and anything else that should not be discussed in a taxi.

8. The Single-Serving Friend: self-explanatory… These make for great conversation.Take “Chocolate Thunder” and Tee, these two guys I met the other day in a taxi. CT is a graphic designer slash ex-male stripper and escort with an American accent and Tee was the guy who didn’t know where he was going – literally and figuratively – but knew if there was pot and beer where was meant to be going, he’d get there. They had a killer idea for Coin’s next children’s book: a bear made of chocolate who always saves the day by offering kids a piece of his body… *OMG! That is wrong on so many levels – Sang*

So, next time you’re in a minibus taxi, take note… you might spot one of these characters or even get to figure out what your taxi personality is!

– Ava

17 Sep

Sho’t Left | After Roboto

…those are the terms you usually hear in a taxi, here.
No, not a cab where it’s just you and the driver, the mini-bus ones that range from new Quantums to very old types which you cannot make out what make it is.

The taxi’s that most South Africans use as a primary mode of transport, the ones that went on strike after the announcement of the Gautrain and BRT.

The taxi’s whose violence is legendary.

Those that drive bad and stop almost anywhere without warning because the passengers tell the driver to stop there.

The ones with the passengers that stare at every passing car and won’t open the windows on a rainy day and it smells like freshly relaxed or permed hair.

The taxi where the person next to the window has smelly feet and refuses to open a window.

The ones where if you’re sitting in the front you’re forced to count everyone’s fare even if you aren’t too sure about it yourself.

The taxi’s that know their way around rush-hour traffic.

Yeah, the ones with the drivers from hell!

I usually sit in the front to avoid having to shout out any of the commands to indicate my stop, but, if I’m unfortunate I usually sit at the back and pray and hope that someone is getting off where I need to get off.

In my experience of taxis, I’ve rarely seen the drivers as most people say they are, except in the case of the woman whose R50 got ripped because the driver didn’t have change. The last few times I’ve been in a taxi, the one driver tried to sell me Golden products, the other lectured me about how important it is to stay in school, another tried to sell me airtime and most of them are rather helpful.

The worst thing about taking a taxi is sitting next to someone who feels like they have to tell you their life story! And they won’t shut up! You can’t tell them to stop since they’re pouring their heart out and you become the joke of the rest of the passengers and they snigger because they understand how you feel after a long day.

But for all bad taxi experiences, there’s always a funny one that makes you take a taxi again so one can have a story to tell, because after all, don’t we live to tell stories?

Unfortunately, this didn’t happen to me nor  Coin  or Try but to *dramatic music* Sang.

She decided to take a taxi from work – since her lift club left her behind as she took too long to pack up her belongings. So, at that time of the day, her only option was the comforts of the aforesaid taxi’s – although she had hoped that one of the new ones would come by first, but instead it was a jalopy. She gave her signal and it stopped. She climbed in and saw that the only available seat was next to the slide door that didn’t close properly and left a gap so she had a lovely view of the tarmac at the step. Now, Sang, being who she is, was probably being harassed by Coin to “get back to chat”, which she did once the vehicle drove off. It drove in a manner that vehicles of its type do, swerving and driving on the yellow line until it did a rather interesting manoeuvre that left the passengers swaying and Sang’s delicate fingers lost grip of her shiny mobile which fell on the step and tumbled down through the gap it went.

Unlike her reclusive friend, who would have looked up and mumbled “oh!” and anticipated that another passenger saw what had happened and stopped the taxi. Sang shouted “Stop the taxi!” and like a Tom Cruise (or even Will Smith, these days) in a traffic scene, she opened the door with great force, jumped out and dodged the on-coming traffic while running in heels, to get her precious cellphone which was at the mouth of a drain. She took a deep breath and picked it up and saw it was still on Yeigo with ten “oi’s” from Coin and told her the story.

For those who haven’t been in a taxi, what are you waiting for? BRT and Gautrain are coming, taxi days are numbered… or not!

– Ava

17 Sep

“Coin”

It was after a wonderful Sunday afternoon that a little girl decided to push her way into the world. Little did she that she had chosen the most inconvenient time to take her first breath, for when she first showed the signs that her arrival was due it was midnight.

Panic! Ecstasy! What to do with the other child? That she didn’t know but what happened at the hospital just after 02:04am would determine her name…

The baby had come out all bouncy and healthy and the parents were happy, but there was still a bit of a commotion in the room. So, as the mother was asking her husband to call the family and inform them of the new arrival, the nurse was asking what the name of the child would be… Please note that these were the times when mobile telephones did not exist. The father filled in his pocket for some change and the mother shouted that he should hurry up… So he said:

“I don’t have a coin!” Which is what the nurse heard and what was penned.

None of the parents weren’t too happy about this but it grew on them…

– Ava

17 Sep

Robot Retail Therapy

South Africa… no place like it, really. But then again, anyone can say that about the country of their birth, yes? No?

Well, what makes this country great is its cultural diversity – yes, most countries are culturally diverse but not like South Africa, because here we actually celebrate and recognise all cultures and this all makes for a wonderful variety of English called the Standard South African English *how textbook of you – Sang*. See, it’s not uncommon for language varieties to have different names for certain things like say the Americans call it ketchup and the Pom’s call it tomato sauce, on the left of the pond it’s known as jelly and on the right it’s known as jam – or preservative *and the French have a joke about the English eating preservatives – Coin* The list is long.

Well, in South Africa certain objects also have their own special names… There’s the tennis shoe/sneaker debacle… we call ’em tekkies *maybe because they are tacky – Coin* and a barbecue is a braai (probably the most practiced rite here, which is another post altogether). A napkin is a serviette, sausage is wors, a plastic bag is a packet and when someone calls you a “china” they’re being nice, ditto for when they call you a “bra”… the list goes on, and there’s still the “black” South African Standard English words like how Cadbury’s chocolate éclairs are Jackson 5’s, all toothpaste is known as “Colgate” “packets (see above) are known as “Checkers” and all fizzy drinks are known as “Coke”. Yes this is South Africa.

My favourite South-Africanism is the robot *sigh*, tourists have remarked “are you lot ok with all these robots?” I swear the Japanese must think we beat them to making socially acceptable robots, people must think we live like we’re in I, Robot! To the world, a robot is a machine that resembles a human and does mechanical routine tasks on command but to South Africans a robot is a simple traffic light… yes, we just went one step ahead on that one.

The robots at most intersections are a fascinating place, apart from being solely built to control traffic one can spot the occasional driver digging his/her nose or catch another talk to him/herself only to find out they’re using a hand-free cell-phone kit, the robots are like where life begins. They are that one-stop shop all because of the traffic light vendors:

THEY ROCK. HARD.

Forget drive-thru’s, these guys or rather traffic-light vendors have made living in South Africa so convenient.

Need a mobile phone car-charger? They have it.

Need an umbrella? They have it.

Need a cool drink? C’mon, that’s why there’s that cooler-box on the pavement with dry-ice, sometimes in summer they even sell ice-lollies.

When I was a kid, they mostly sold flowers and newspapers but now it’s fruit, DVD’s of the film that is yet to be released around the country, sunglasses, vuvuzela’s, potato crisps, sweets, beanies, gloves, scarves, blow up things, toys and knick-knacks. Watches, artwork, mirrors – I exaggerate not – sportswear, flags and aircon repais. These vendors are heaven sent. They saw a gap in the market and closed it, some call them annoying but I reckon they should also have coffee and to-go breakfast or carry satellite PDA’s linked to various government departments say the traffic department and Home Affairs then the world would be a better place.

They offer a quick – well, they have to be, traffic lights only close for like a minute – and friendly service for the type of condition they work in – which is more than I can say for in-store salespeople. They brave losing a limb and work weekends and public holidays and do it all with a smile.

The only down side is when you really want that DVD but everyone can see that you in the silver Jeep Wrangler with registration plate “AVABABY GP” buys pirated DVDs *sigh*

– Ava

The best ones are around Fourways, Johannesburg or Menlyn, Pretoria