19 Mar

Chat with Coin

Short background about yourself.

Bookworm.

 

What were you like at school?

I was a nerd through and through – although I didn’t like going to school per se. Insane affinity for mathematics. Diligent, highly inquisitive although I abhorred the construct of “school”. On Wednesdays, Gabsie and I had mini-Saturday – where we’d go to Hatfield to chill and that’s when we discovered absinthe.

 

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

Yes, but me being me I thought since we’re in an English medium school wasn’t it prerequisite to be an A student in English? No? Ok… But I never thought much of my English until like grade 10 when I’d add a extra A4 3 Quire 288 page hard cover book to my stationery list, which I reserved for writing short stories, scribbles, conversations, bad poetry and the like then when I was done with a piece, I’d give a friend to read – away from me, or I get all weird and nervous, especially when they started crying at the sad parts. That’s when I thought that perhaps I should give this writing thing a go.

Mind you, writing was never on my list of things “to be”- I wanted to be an actuary or a housewife. My dad is an author, so when he used to read my English essays he’d smirk and say “it’s genetic”, I’d vehemently deny ever being one. Guess Bieber was right when he sang “never say never”

 

What are your ambitions for your writing career?

A SALA (South African Literature Award) and some others? *grins*

 

Which writers inspire you and why?

Doris Lessing, I discovered her books when I was thirteen and going through a “diaries/journal of” phase and was bored with the young adults section of the public library, so I went to the adult section and “Diaries of Jane Somers” caught my attention, only to discover it was fiction (doh) but there was something about Jane, Kate (The Summer Before The Dark) and Anna (The Golden Notebook) that intrigued me. As Lisa Allardice put it, “she helped change the way women are perceived and perceive themselves”

My dad, for choosing to write in Sesotho and like during apartheid when many people would be like “why even bother, it’s not like Sesotho books are the best selling”, but he carried on with the same passion and drive.

 

What are you working on at the moment?

I’m ghost-writing a teen novel series, think high school, peer pressure, girls – can’t say much about that yet and my second book, “The Nights I Can’t Remember and The Friends I Won’t Forget” about friendship dynamics, the secrets that keep us together and those that would tear us apart all in good ol’ Jo’burg.

 

Why do you write? Like, what made you sit down and actually start writing?

Apart from being bored at school, I write because there are stories in me that feel the need to be told. That and I always seem to find myself in a situation where people end up confiding in me some interesting tales and incidents that inspire me. Sometimes, I feel there’s a sticker on my forehead that says “I’m here to listen”, sometimes I’m not in the mood to listen and I can’t be rude and be like “uhm, not today” but it’s really like in what the author in Wes Anderson’s “The Grand Budapest Hotel” says “People think the writer’s imagination is always at work, that he’s constantly inventing an endless supply of incidents and episodes; that he simply dreams up his stories out of thin air. In point of fact, the opposite is true. Once the public knows you’re a writer, they bring the characters and events to you. And as long as you maintain your ability to look, and to carefully listen, these stories will continue to…seek you out, uh, over your lifetime. To him, who has often told the tales of others, many tales will be told.”

 

Do you write on typewriter, pc, dictate or by hand?

By hand, and three drafts before I think it’s remotely perfect. Dunno, there’s something cathartic about it but I know I’m due for wrist tendon repair surgery because of this.

 

Where do your ideas come from?

*phew* I guess day-to-day situations? I’d be sitting somewhere and think “wouldn’t it be interesting if…” and if I’m sitting with someone, I’d run the idea by them, so most of my friends think I’m psycho.

Yeah, so, my ideas follow the phrase “wouldn’t it be interesting if?”

 

What is the hardest thing about writing?

Most probably, actually sitting down to write, which is why I’m so glad my tv blew up… but the internet and tumblr, especially tumblr.

 

Do you get writer’s block? How do you get through it?

Yes, I do and when that happens I grab a pen and paper and do some free association writing.

 

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

I do. Mostly Doris Lessing, Jean-Paul Sartre. Bret Easton Ellis, Kgebetli Moele. Chuck Palahnuik, Niq Mhlongo, Roald Dahl and Veronique Tadjo

 

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

Doris Lessing, because her books gave me that push to write and Billy Corgan.

 

Favourite book?

The Fifth Child by Doris Lessing

 

Favourite film?

The Royal Tenenbaums by Wes Anderson

The Secret Garden by Agnieszka Holland

 

Favourite song?

1979 – Smashing Pumpkins

 

You can read all her words HERE

24 Feb

Chat with Thabie

Short background about yourself.

I was born on the 15th of January 1994 in Mafikeng (North West), spent my first two years of life in Pretoria. In 1997,     we moved to the City of Roses, Bloemfontein, and I have been living there ever since. I went to Eunice Primary and      High School then successfully matriculated at St. Michael’s School for Girls. 

 

 What were you like at school?

I was a quiet person mostly withdrawn never liked big crowds even though the school I went to, Eunice, was a big    school. I would feel uncomfortable due to the size of the classes. Luckily, in grade 10 I went to a very small Anglican  school St. Michael’s. I was the type to spoke when spoken too and stood firm in what I believed in. 

 

Were you a loner, so to speak?

Yes, I was actually a loner most of the time I preferred being alone. My best friend – since grade two – says that I was reserved and quiet, that I had strong values and views I stood by. She said I could be very silly at times and loved to laugh even when things weren’t so great, a very guarded person,  a fighter that was hopeful about the future.

 

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

At first no, I wasn’t good in English, my Afrikaans was more fluent. Attending English medium schools for 12 years helped me to be more fluent in English, now the tables have turned I am more fluent in English than I am in Afrikaans. I even write better in English than in Afrikaans.

 

Have you written anything in Afrikaans?

No, not really I haven’t written an entire poem or a short story in Afrikaans however, I would add an Afrikaans sentence in a poem or even a stanza but I have never written an entire piece in Afrikaans.

 

What are your ambitions for your writing career?

I would like to use my writing skills and pursue a career in print media.

At the moment I am working towards a diploma in Journalism and hopefully in the near future I will be a journalist specialising in investigative reporting on print media. I would also like to publish an anthology of poems and a novel.

 

So, you write both fiction and non-fiction? Which do you prefer? Why?

I enjoy writing both I have no preference over the other.

 

Which writers inspire you? Why?

My favourite South African authors are:

  • Lebogang Mashile
  • Zakes Mda
  • Professor Pitika Ntuli
  • Malika Ndlovu
  • Phillippa Yaa De Villiers

 Overseas authors I like are:

  • Robin Sharma
  • Erica James
  • Jodi Picoult

The reason I look up to these authors is their excellency in writing and how humble they are especially when they are greatly renounced and well known. At times they inspire the work I do as well.

 

Would you say your writing is similar to theirs?

No, I wouldn’t say that my work is similar to theirs, they just serve as an inspiration to me.

 

What are you working on at the moment?

I am trying to publish my anthology of poems.

I am also trying to complete my qualification in journalism.

 

How much longer ’till you complete your studies?

I have a year left in completing my studies.

 

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

The experiences one went through in life. Attending an all girls school for 12 years was never easy, the writing started by jotting down my thoughts and experiences. 

 

What was not easy about attending an all girl’s school?

The difficult part of being in an all girls school are the cliques that are formed over the years which may result to bullying if a certain individual or individuals that don’t “fit in” a specific clique.

Girls in general tend to be offish with each other due to the competitive spirit girls posses that may also lead to bullying.

 

Do you write on typewriter, dictate or by hand?

I prefer old school I depict on hand.

 

Where do your ideas come from?

I get my ideas from life experiences, other peoples experiences and life itself.

 

What is the hardest thing about writing?

The hardest most challenging thing about writing especially as an upcoming is getting recognition for your work; as well as getting people to understand your perspective and not misinterpret the work that one has written.

 

Does that happen a lot, the part where people misinterpret or misunderstand your work? Why do you think that happens?

It does happen that people misinterpret my work especially when it comes to poetry. Poetry consists of metaphors and similies due to that, some consider poetry as vague because it isn’t written in straight forward language; a lot of imagery is used, therefore it is bound that a reader will misinterpret a poem. A primary example can be of Shakespeare’s poetry,for many decades his work has been circulating within schools and tertiary institutions. Students, lecturers and teachers try to interpret Shakespeare’s work as close as possible to its original meaning because it is only Shakespeare that knows what was going on in his head and what exactly inspired him when he was writing those poems and he is the only one who knows the exact meaning behind his poetry.

 

Do you ever get writer’s block? How do you get through it?

I believe that every writer experiences a writers block, the way I overcome a writers block is I just leave my work there incomplete until inspiration hits me again.

 

Do you read much and if so, who are your favorite authors?

I read but I would love to read more and more. Apart from poetry I love reading Novels written by Jodi Picoult, Erica James and Robin Sharma.

 

Favourite books?

  • Tumble Turn by Natalie du Toit
  • Capitalist Nigger by Chika Onyeani
  • The Secret Letters of the Monk Who Sold His Ferrari by Robin Sharma
  • My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult

 

Favourite film?

Dairy of A Mad Black Woman by Tyler Perry

 

Favourite song?

  • Soldier by Erykah Badu
  • Everything is everything by Lauryn Hill

–end–

You can read all of her work  HERE

18 Feb

Chat with Thibz

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Thibz

“Wanting to meet an author because you like his work is like wanting to meet a duck because you like pâté.”

Tell us one thing about yourself
I didn’t grow up, I tumbled up.

What were you like at school?
I was naughty – an attention seeker. A primary school teacher called me a busy body because I had a lot of energy.

Since you write in English, were you good at it?
Yes, it was my strongest subject in high school.

What are your ambitions for your writing career?
I want to be great enough to maintain a following.

Does it matter to you that it comes now or later or like Kafka, posthumously?
Yes it does slightly. I’d prefer it if it happened while I was still alive to witness what my body of work means to people, what right I’ve done and so on, just to know what people like about it. If, however, I manage to publish something, then I feel I have managed to leave something on earth forever. Its how I see it.

Which writer’s inspire you? Why?
I’m inspired by lyricist like Nas and Lupe Fiasco. They are unapologetic about what they find to be worthy or “hip” to talk about at any given time. I like that.

Do you strive to be like that in your writing?

Yes I do. Being unique (or stubborn) in a world of people who are trying to be like each other is refreshing. I don’t want to write like anybody or rather, express myself about a common topic in the same way somebody else does. I want to be that different that I become unpredictable in how I write.

What are you working on at the moment?

Poems About Her : Short stories and Poetry by Thibz

About Her? A specific “her”?
The term “her” is used universally here. I’m writing about women in different types of instances. I’m talking about women that cheat, abused women, independent, beautiful women, high-achieving women and so on. All of these women make up the “her” in my title. I’m honouring women. There’s no life/living without them.

Why do you write? Like, what made you sit down and actually start writing?

A feeling made me sit down and try it out. Then someone said I was pretty good.

And what was this feeling?
I don’t really understand it but I recognize it when I feel it. It nags me to write something, anything, down. It may even develop into guilt if I don’t act on it, telling me I’m wasting an opportunity to jot something unique, honest or special down. The feeling may even be passion. I don’t fully know yet.

Do you write on typewriter, pc, dictate or by hand?
By hand

Why? Is there like a special thing that happens when you write by hand that doesn’t happen when you use the other methods?
I don’t trust technology, first of all! I feel like adding a pc or laptop between myself and my writing is like an extra hurdle to overcome on top of the difficulties I already face when I write something down. I’m trying to be as close to the writing process as possible, and any instrument that’s more fussy than a pen and paper is really an intrusion. Haha. I haven’t tried a type writer yet.

Where do your ideas come from?

Emotion mostly but images from the books I read, movies and the pictures painted by lyricists in music.

What is the hardest thing about writing?

Explaining exactly what I feel.

How come?
I want the reader to feel what you felt when I was writing the poem or short story down. Its almost as if I want to put the reader within my heart and make them understand, with my descriptions, what it is I’m going through, beat by beat. If people comment on my imagery or the intensity of my words for example, then I feel like I’ve succeeded. I want you to feel what I feel. That’s the whole point, to take you with me through what I feel.

Do you ever get writer’s block? How do you get through it?

Yes I do. I just walk away from the piece completely. Come back to it some other time.

Do you read much and if so, who are your favourite authors?
Not enough. Lee Child. I like thrillers.

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

I would like to meet somebody menacing or notorious such as Hitler, Joseph Kony or Al Capone to try and understand their train of thought or to try and understand at what point did they decide that it was okay for them to do what they did. I would do my best to enter their psychosis to see what they see and hear the story from their side. The things we know and can explain are all well but to truly expand our knowledge of the world we need to go to uncomfortable places.

Favourite book?
Tale of Two Cities, still. *laughs*

A Tale of Two Cities? Why?

Honestly speaking, the first time I read A tale if two cities I was in awe of how Dickens brought the coincidences or consequences of the characters to a full circle much later in the book. He made it possible understand how the world can be a small place indeed. I found it genius. The character Sydney Carton was my favourite. He had flaws that dragged him down but was intelligent and selfless. His sacrifice out love for a woman was something I didn’t see coming, amongst other great surprises in the book.

Favourite film?
I can’t remember. Any movie that shifts me conceptually and emotionally gets my vote. Anything from “Be kind, rewind” to Seven Pounds.

Favourite song?

“…I’m thinking ’bout plotting a scheme Ma plotting a scheme!”

—end—

You can read all of his work HERE

04 Dec

This Perfect Day | pt. two

sleep coin2

I’m awoken by the static on a radio coupled with the bellowing of a car engine that sounds like it’s pulling something heavy. Outside, it’s dark, awkwardly so. The clouds are thick and eerily low that I hunch, slightly, just to feel safe. It’s raining softly and there are a couple of search lights peering from the clouds; one tracking the road ahead and the other tracing patterns to the left of the road. There are no other vehicles in sight, nor is there any sign of any civilisation .

I’m in the foetal position in the passenger seat that Sang’s driving. It’s not her usual car and it’s a manual – which explains the pulling sound. As I try stretch, the cars hits a bump and I jolt forward, which makes my head start spinning. My mouth feels like sandpaper – it’ s so dry that my tongue keeps sticking to the roof of my mouth. I swallow but it burns. The static gets worse but it seems that neither of us are bothered by it. 

“Oh, finally! You’re awake, bra!” Sang  turns down the radio as a faint “Christ, Marx, Wood and Wei led us to this perfect day” comes through the static. I quickly shake off the dizziness and look at the back seat.

“Huh?” I start coughing painfully.

“Okay… Like how do we get back to your grandmother’s house?”

“How far did you drive out?” My voice is strangely soft.

“Well, it’s been an hour and a half since I picked you at that place.”

“An hour and a half?!” I try to raise my voice but end up coughing even more.

“Yeah! Like dude, what’s up with their parking rates? No wonder the parking lot is empty! Gee!”

“I know.”

“So, are we going the right way?”

“I don’t know. Where are we?”

“What do you mean you don’t know? Haven’t you been to visit  your gran like your whole life?” At this point, I feel that one of our arguments are about to erupt but I cannot take part, my body won’t let me, so I vomit on my lap and it doesn’t seem like Sang notices.

“Yeah.”

“You said to go straight and I’ll get there.” 

“But Bloem isn’t that big, five minutes and you’re out of the city. Didn’t you see?”

“Whoops!” she laughs and turns the radio up. It sounds like what I’d imagine to be a thousand worms screeching in unison. ” You don’t look so good, Paddy.”

Ja, I don’t feel so good either.” I start looking for my cell-phone.

“What did you have?”

“A glass of Chenin Blanc.”

“That’s it?”

“Yeah.”

“Box or bottle?”

“I don’t know, doesn’t Chenin Blanc just come in a bottle?”

“It’s probably box, dude, that place has the décor that screams box wine” she laughed. I open a window, “and you know what they say about box wine… Now look at you!” She hands me half a bottle of Revive – except it’s blue. I hesitate but drink it anyway. It’s thick and syrupy.

In the distance I see a sign that reads: Virginia.

“Hey! Isn’t that near Bloem?”

“All I know is that it’s in the Free State, so just go straight.” She speeds up, I start getting comfortable with her driving.

“I’m getting used to the car.” She smiles. The screeching worms on the radio slowly start to die down and through the static children’s voices chanting “Christ, Marx, Wood and Wei led us to this perfect day” start getting stronger as the rain starts picking up.

The car soon approaches a downhill bend, I start looking in the cabby-hole for a CD. The chanting starts getting to me and the nausea gets worse as the car seems to gain speed. As I get up to look outside, the one searchlight has stopped on a huge gum tree in the distance, to our left.

Sang steps on the accelerator. I feel like telling her to slow down a bit but all I can manage is to throw up again, this time on the gear.

“Siff, like how am I supposed to drive, now?” She shakes the blue liquid off her hand then smells it.

“Smells like teen spirit.” I snigger.

The car hits another bump and one of the wheels lock. We tumble off the road. My body jolts left with the momentum of the car and my head starts spinning as it hits the passenger window, I go blind for a bit as the pain radiates through my head. I feel around my cheekbones, the skin is broken. I look at my hand, it’s bloody.

I look at Sang to tell her that I’m hurt but she just smiles at me.“You really don’t look to good, buddy.”

I grab my phone with the intention of calling for help but it’s rebooting. I lift my head and see we’re headed straight for the gum tree. I try the seatbelt but it’s stuck.

The worms on the radio and the kids chanting gets louder and louder as we crash into the tree.

Neither of us scream.

– 2010

 

13 Nov

This Perfect Day | pt. one

Sleepy CoinI find myself walking in the covered parking of a mall towards a popular department store. It is hot. I know this because my feet and fingers are swollen and throbbing. I deliberate which city I am in until I see the parking pay station and rates. I am in Bloemfontein.

As I meander  the shopping centre, I realise that everyone is holding a clear plastic cup with red sludge in it and a black straw through the lid. They’re sipping on this as though their lives depend on it, perhaps to survive the heat. I ask a few people where they get this drink from but they all give long incoherent answers so, I give up on finding this elixir and try to figure out why I am at the mall in the first place. Nothing comes to mind except that it’s out of habit. So, out of habit, I head over to Exclusive Books and look for a classic that I can read over a glass of wine and light meal. I take Ira Levin’s This Perfect Day and head over to a coffee shop whose décor is very late 90’s – early 2000’s futuristic jazz bar with dull  silver tables and blue – red neon lights, my stomach turns and I decide to sit in right in the middle of the semi-populated eatery.

The waitress brings the menu but I hardly look at it. I order a croissant with preserves and cheese and a glass of Chenin Blanc, “please make sure it’s cold,” I add. I realise I forget to order water but figure that she’s going to bring some ice with the wine, so that’ll make up for the lack of water. I open the book and start to read. After a two pages of reading, the waitress brings the wine accompanied by a bowl of ice. The glass had some condensation on it but when I took a sip it was warm and syrupy. I added more ice but it just melted yet the colour stayed the same. I took another sip and continued reading until I go to the part where the school children chant “Christ, Marx, Wood and Wei led us to this perfect day” then I took another sip.

My head starts slightly spinning and I can hear the children chanting in my head, faintly. I put the book down, rub my eyes, take off my spectacles then clean them. I look at the glass of wine and sigh before signalling the waitress for more ice. She acknowledges my gesture and I continue reading. I keep sipping on the wine – even though I told myself I wouldn’t until the food arrived. When she eventually comes, I’m halfway through the glass of wine and my head is heavy and my mouth is dry. I tell her that there’s something wrong with the wine and she takes a sip of it in front of me and says that she can’t find anything wrong with it. So, she takes another sip and exclaims “gosh, I need a holiday”, puts the glass back on the table and walks away. At this point, my head is as heavy and as flimsy as a sack of rice and every slight movement lowers my energy levels. I take an ice-cube to my mouth and hope it quenches my parched throat.

Nothing.

“Christ, Marx, Wood and Wei led us to this perfect day” starts ringing in my head as  it falls on the plate with the preserves, cheese and croissant.

To be concluded.

 

 

03 Dec

The “Please Call Me”

a "please call me"

– the most useful thing since well, before they were created.

A “Please Call Me” or “call-back” or PCM, depending on the circles you run in, is a free service that you dial. sends a short message to your recipient that simply requires the recipient to do as its name suggests, call the sender! If you are a respectable PCM sender, your recipient WILL call, if not, well…
During my high school days , circa 2001, when PCM’s were unlimited, could only be sent to someone on the same network as yours and simply read “Please Call Me”. Gabsie and I would communicate solely via PCM; one meant one thing; two, something else; three, another and so on… to a point that when they could not capture your thoughts one just had to send a text and if the text could not get the message across, only then would a call suffice. Today, this PCM code still exists but it is only used in those cases when you know that the recipient of your text messages has no airtime or SMS bundles to reply, so you send something like “Are you still coming? Reply one PCM = yes, two = no” and if the person is prone to mess that up you a further “ thereafter odd number of PCM’s = yes, even = no” CONFUSED? Be glad I didn’t explain the one, two, three PCM convo-alphabet-code!
After a while, either people complained of random people sending them PCM’s and when they called back – because that was the primary function of this great new service – people would say they just “made-up” the number or there was something called PCM stalking or there was just such a high volume of PCM traffic because these networks got smart, firstly we could now send PCM’s to any network BUT they started to charge us.. 20c. Luckily, this didn’t last long, so they made them free again but they were limited – BUMMER! No more one,two,three PCM convo-alphabet-code, we still used it even if we had to pay – don’t ask. We basked in limited PCM’s – bloody networks – and to keep us happy they gave us a treat – personalized PCM’s! Well, not fully personalized, all we could “personalize” was the “me” to something under ten characters. Boy! Did we eat this up! We ate it up like we usually do with Debonair’s latest offerings. They were the best thing well, since the unlimited simple PCM’s – the iPad of PCM’s. They were:
  • “Please Call Coin”
  • “Please Call Me” (the people who thought they were being funny)
  • “Please Call Mxit” (for people who wanted to carry on with a conversation on Mxit)
  • “Please Call FB (or Facebook)” (for people who wanted to share news on Facebook)
  •  “Please Call (student number)”  (this one was actually sent to a Unisa lecturer)
  • “Please Call IluvU”
  • “Please Call ImisU”
  • “Please Call HepiBday”
  • “Please Call MryXmas”
  •  “Please Call HepiNuYr”
  • “ “Please Call Marryme” (I can bet you it’s been done)

and “Please Call Noairtym” (although this is redundant because some networks offer the “Please Recharge Me) ..and many more!
PCM’s had now created the why-send-a-text-or-call-when-you-can-sum-it-up-in-ten-characters attitude which was basically about being short, direct and most importantly you said it for free! Companies also jumped onto the PCM band-wagon and networks made even more money with the PCM ads – luckily one could enable or disable these ads because you’d get “Please Call Noairtym. Blacklisted, need a loan? Call 0860 00 00 00 in seconds”. Again, we were smart about the new PCM’s, especially since this new cyber-speak of dropping vowels and some consonants and shortening phrases like “had to be there” to HTBT or FYI and LOL etc… With these new PCM’s you had to be with the “right” network because some allow you to change every PCM while others allow you to change your PCM message once a day – like the one I’m with.

So, if you’re me and you happened to have met a potential SO, who happens to live his life through PCM’s, you wouldn’t be surprised to one day – after a third date *yes, since I’ve overcome my fear of dates since that disastrous one – to receive a PCM that read “Please Call BeMyGF” Unfortunately, I was with Ava -who thought it was the cutest thing ever! So I accepted with “Please Call Sure”. After a couple of months things had run their course with Mr PCM, I was forced to send “Please Call ItsOver” and  this time I was with Try, his reasoning was since it started with a PCM, let it end with one. I couldn’t argue.

UNFORTUNATELY, I subscribe to the network I do, and it was one of those SMS bundle-free, data bundle free, airtime-less days. I was forced to send PCM’s to people – including the authors of my life. So I received calls and texts ranging from: “what’s over”, “you dumped him via PCM – naaice”, to “PCM break-up, you can be so heartless” and one call as requested by my “Please Call ItsOver” . Luckily the initial recipient of the break-up PCM got the message and didn’t put up a fight, he just replied “Please Call Cool”. Evidently, PCM’s are handy – if you’re with the network that meets your PCM needs, they’re brief and direct but seriously can we really say all we need to say for free and in under ten characters?

*Even Twitter tried with the 140 characters thing but out of a need to say more TMI Me Twitlonger were born -Ava*
If so, then this post would’ve simply been “Please Call PCMsRock
– Coin

 

15 Oct

the “café”

South Africa, one of the few countries in the world with a directional name and yet I still meet the odd person who dares to ask where in the world “south Africa” is.  Land of so many interesting things that I’ll leave for you to go Google later. My favourite thing about the country is how one can go to any of its metropolitan areas and at the end of the day feel as though you’ve experienced two different worlds thanks to it’s cultural diversity. See, here there is no “average Joe” there’s an average [insert race/origin/social status] Joe. Which brings me to the “café”. Anywhere else in the world, a café refers to an informal eatery that offers a range of hot meals and sandwiches or an establishment that specialises in serving coffee, because technically café is Euro-speak for coffee, which makes sense.

Wait until you come to South Africa, where the average Joe could point you one of two places:

Range of South African "cafes"1. The Corner Café : an establishment that can be found – yep you guessed it – at the corner of any street and has nothing to do with serving coffee and hot meals, unless one counts the varieties of meals these places make with a type of sausage South Africans simply call “Russian” (post on this to come) and fries. These establishments are a cross between a small convenience store – the only convenience being it’s proximity to one’s abode – and general trader that sell miniature over-priced goods and the only coffee one will find there is in a tin and is either percolated or chicory. These establishments are identifiable by the signs outside which are sponsored by either a mobile network company or a soda company.

NewsCafe Campus Square circa 20132. The franchise café: This establishment is known for it’s food but mostly for it’s cocktails (and cocktail specials), alcoholic beverage launches and alcoholic beverage sponsored parties complete with DJ’s and promo-gals. These places magically turn from a a semi-respectable breakfast meeting place to bar-type place by day, to a full club by night. Yes, there’s coffee but who drinks it when the waitress can slip you a cold one at 9am with your Eggs Benedict. These establishments are the hunting grounds of BEE-type characters (BEE – black economic empowerment, l-o-n-g story but basically proves that South Africa still has a long way to go) who sit with laptops, playing Solitaire, looking like they’re busy on a “deal” or talk to themselves on the phone – and forget to switch to “silent profile” because they look silly when the phone starts ringing “mid-conversation”.

If you’re looking for that cosy place with the smell of coffee in the air and real good croissants and pastries , you know that type of place one would expect to see Hemmingway, Wilde, Van Gogh and even Sartre sipping on coffee and smoking a cigarette, you’re going to have to be specific when speaking to the average South African Joe and ask for a coffee shop. If they don’t get it, ask for a directory or look in your traveller’s guide and any place that got something to do with coffee in it’s title is your best bet… just avoid NewsCafe.

– Try

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