The South African Series

Waka Waka? ‘Cause this is Africa

On Monday morning Marshall and Michael went down to the rental agent’s office downtown to give them our list of “observations”. She was aware of all of them. When Marshall asked if someone could come in to repair the water damage and paint over the mold, he was told ‘no’. But she at least made an attempt to assuage Marshall’s fears:

“The mold you see on the walls here is different than what you have in the States,” the agent said.


 “All the same, I’d like someone to come by and take down the under curtains,” said Marshall. “They can leave the top ones.”

Apparently, the guy who owned the property was aware of the cracks, water leaks, flooding dishwasher, special African mold and everything else that was wrong with the house. He wasn’t willing to do any repairs because he has plans to renovate the house in the future, so he’s just going to keep renting it out as is until that day comes. However, he instructed the agent to buy us anything we needed for the house. That was really fortunate, because there is no central heating in the house. Why would one need central heating, or any heating at all in Africa you may ask? Because it’s frikkin’ FREEZNG down here!

When we were told that we were coming into winter, I thought maybe it would be 70*, perhaps 65* at the coolest; nothing too drastic. Naw man. It sometimes gets down to 30* at night down here. It’s so cold I’m afraid to get up and pee. Foolishly, I packed stacks of summer clothes, thinking that if I prepared for summer, it would actually be summer when I got here. Now I and the kids are reduced to rotating the same 3 outfits day in and out. (Fortunately, I found the washing machine. It’s in a separate room outside of the house. The second night we were here there was a torrential storm, which meant that the laundry stayed where it was after I’d washed it: safely tucked away from the dryer, 40 yards from the front door.)

Living in Plett has given me a false sense of what Africa can become. I look around at the opulence and the modernity and wonder if Ghana could ever achieve this on a mass scale? It’s possible, but highly improbable. Corruption and incompetence are far too prevalent in the places that matter most. Not to say there isn’t corruption in low places either: Just3 days ago, we were flagged down by a guy on a bike as we were riding in the car with Michael. His back left tire was low on air and looked about flat. Michael thanked him and rolled up his window. The guy tapped on it, using his body and a bike as a buffer to prevent us from leaving. He said something in Afrikaans and made an eating gesture with his hand. Michael gave him 2 Rand for the “trouble” of telling us our tire pressure was low.

Apparently, good neighborliness don’t come free.

What impresses the most so far about South Africa is that you see a lot of “Made in South Africa” ware and fare at the store. That’s evidence of a country that’s moving forward! Never mind that the guy who is currently running things in the country has a third grade education, takes a new wife every full moon, or thinks that taking a shower after having sex with an HIV positive woman inoculates him from the disease – never mind any of that! South Africa is a place where people can plant their hopes in the ground and watch them grow. It has ‘American potential’.

Potential and hope is everywhere in South Africa. For instance, I saw a guy on TV the other night who was anchoring an entertainment segment on cable TV. In America, this guy wouldn’t have made it alive past the 3rd grade, let alone gone on to earn a successful career in television.

His name is Aubrey Poo.

“Poo” probably means “strong and mighty in battle” in Xhosa, but in the rest of the world it means a hot stinkin’ pile of…well…POO.

Tomorrow we’re going into Kwanokothula to be honored with a presentation by some of the township kids. I’ve never been the guest of honor at one of these things, so I’m pretty excited about it. I hope they do that ‘kick dance’…The one with the legs real high like in the movie Shaka Zulu? Google it.  At the same time, I have to confess:  It’s hard for me to have sympathy for the living and working poor in South Africa, because their living conditions are slightly better than those of our poor in Ghana. The road in the township that I drove on just the other day was better built and maintained than that of our most posh residential area in Accra. And these folk have a pretty good stretch of land to work with if they so wished. They could plant gardens or create a community park. They could have pavilions or anything their imagination could conjure up. Add to that, every wooden shack in every township I’ve come by so far has a DStv dish hovering over rusty tins roofs so that the occupants can be entertained as they shiver in frigid nighttime temperatures.


‘Cause this is Africa.