Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Of Colour and Rage

See that post down below? Scratch that! It was writted by a starry eyed girl who believed in the good in humanity and in brotherly love. I since got better wine!

This place is rough. Unfriendly. Cold. Let me take you by the hand and gently position your feet into my (beautiful, new tan high-heeled) shoes. Walk with me:

It's Black

This is the most obvious one. After being in SA for some time, I noticed a pattern. Most cashiers in supermarkets & such like places are black women (look up Trevor Noah on what I go through). I've always been friendly & jolly with my "Hellos" and "Could you say that in English please?" (Je ne parles pas Zulu) always accompanied by a smile. Interestingly, all the African languages here are Bantu and are apparently such that they can be understood across the board (like what Iimagine the Luyha sub-dialects must be to each other (in fact there's a language here that sounds distinctly Luhya). As a Bantu, I find the concept strange and have yet to hear a full sentence that makes sense to me, but apparently one speaks in language X and the other responds in language Y and all is well with the world.

Why this is important is that wherever I go, I'm spoken to in some language that I don't understand by everyone who's black on account of my skin colour. That's not the problem. The problem is that when you respond in English, you single yourself out as 'wale watu wa bara' (African niggers) who've come to take their jobs. The uniformity of the seeming hatred is amazing. It is unforgiving & unyielding. You are the enemy. Period. Given a chance, I'd like to engage one of these in a conversation on why it's ok for white foreigners to come in and take their jobs but not black Africans. What the hell? Of course I've never tried, because they look like they could carry machetes under those ample skirts. It just looks to me like misguided racism. Because don't be fooled; racism is what it is.

It's White

Then there are the whites. My God, it's like their classmates were shot in class for doing anything that wasn't strictly in accordance with the rules. And through a systematic Pavlov type training, they realized that all things that don't fit within the lines must be pulverized. You judge these situations for yourself:

The roads here are very orderly. When I first came, the office had some guy explain to we ex-patriates what to expect on the road in SA. They said that South Africa as a populace is very angry and we should avoid road confrontations wherever arising. They said that their matatus (here called taxis (and yes the normal taxis are also called taxis. No I don't know why they use the same name and I guess the differentiation is in conversation)) drive like crazy and we should give them as much space as possible. When I finally got out onto the road, I wished them a single day at the Globe Cinema Round-a-bout in Nairobi. They don't have a clue on how to spell chaos. Anyhoo, their roads are super orderly. Lights (termed robots (... I know)) are followed. Round-a-bouts (termed circles (at least with this one you can see where they were coming from)) are but small bumps on the road in a circular shape. And their stop signs & speed limits and all these are followed. It took me a minute to get used to it, but I did get with the flow. Driving here is actually relaxing; you don't accelerate to be the 3rd car after the light turns red. Amber means stop.

Anyway, I'd been in Nairobi during the Christmas break, and I guess I lost some of these manners. Today while driving (while listening to some particularly aggressive music - I blame the music) I cut someone off in traffic. Let me just paint it for you: I needed to switch lanes or miss my turning. Completely my fault: I had come speeding on the wrong lane and had only started looking for an in when almost too late (you Nairobi drivers wouldn't understand). So anyway I get into the guys lane. Immediately the guy goes berserk! They don't have tint here (don't know why) so I'm watching the (white) guy all but pull his hair out by the roots. At some point while the lights were red, I honestly thought the guy would get out of his car & come slap me. After wa start moving and I see the guy is still so very vexed, I move aside and let the guy pass me by. He doesn't expect that. You can tell he's happy to be ahead, but  I think he wanted to do so on his own terms that may have involved bashing my car in.

Take a chill pill. It's never that serious. You'll get ulcers. Eish!

If I have the space, I'll quickly tell you of another incident that happened today. Yes I've had a colourful day (and that's not an expression to throw about loosely here .. but that's the story for another day). I'm house hunting. I was to see an apartment today but the agent wasn't available to show it to me. So we agreed that she'd leave the key and I would go pick it up to view the place and return the key once done. Straight forward enough no? No. I get to the place (which just so happens to be in the same complex as where I'm presently staying) and ask for the key. I'm given a song and dance about the person who has the key not being available. So I tell them to call me when it's all sorted. So after 15 minutes or so, I get a summons to the security office. I wonder at this, but figure "mwenye haja aende choo" (let the mountian go to Mohamed). So I find a tall (white) guy standing akimbo and glaring down at me as I saunter towards him. Part of my job involves loosening tense situations, so I throw out a disarming smile and greeting to which I get the barked response; "What's the problem?!" So I'm already at a loss; what problem? I've just come to pick keys to view an apartment as instructed by agency such and such. I explain this. Do you know the sound  a 4-year-old would make to immitate a police siren? He starts making that sound. I'm dumbfounded and can only stare at him, with my jaw probably on the floor. The guy is over 6 feet tall, older than me & dressed in a suit trying to sound like a siren. I swear he has hand gestures to match ... To cut a long story short, his concern (as so clearly articulated) turns out to be that the arrangement the agency made was that they would pick the key at 9am the next morning and there was nothing about this clandestine and probably treasonable attempt by some 3rd party to pick the key at 6 the evening before (this is where you roll your eyes). The situation is sorted by my calling the agency and their discussing the change of plans. Idiot tall adult accompanies me to the viewing with the net effect that I didn't like the house.

Yeah Yeah Yeah!


KK said...

Hey Digz... Long time. Sounds like you are experiencing life;) Don't forget to have fun while at it.

Digzer said...

Hey there KK! It's like going for a reunion! I went over to yours and saw you've been slacking off as much as I :-)

Experiencing life it is. My next post will be brighter :-)