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Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Tourists and Foreign Affairs

On a recent trip to Zanzibar (Jealous much?) I found myself going through the regular procedures of moving in and out of a country. As much as I would like to call myself a seasoned traveller I will never get used to this Shleporama, and let me tell you O R Thambo is a dream compared to what you are greeted with at Airport ala Zanzibar. I found myself having one of those “Oh my god, I’m in Africa” moments while standing in line in the un air-conditioned mosh pit they like to label “Immigration”. Compliant and trying to somehow not breathe in the overwhelming smell of B.O., I couldn’t help but laugh at the thought of someone not so familiar with this territory, finding themselves on the “dark” continent. Had it already been over a year since the World Cup?

With our streets being filled with the sound of the trumpeting vuvuzela, a myriad of accents and array of colourful people from all around the world; I remember it being kind of hard not to get into the soccer spirit during 2010’s world cup. Especially when you had a mix of spirits with your soccer, my favourite still being gin and vermouth, stirred if you please. Dealing with work in an absolute frenzy centered and themed around the world cup, by the time kick off had arrived, I was in bed with a migraine hating life and wanting to stick those Vuvu’s up everyone’s Woo-Woo’s. My roommate at the time, Eddy who also happens to be my best friend, confident, psychologist, drinking partner, personal chef and self proclaimed soccer Santa did his best to get this soccer Grinch next to him for the opening match but I wanted nothing to do with it. I was adamant to stay indoors, cure my flu and soak in some well-deserved “Me Time”. PVR play list was chockablock with the last weeks Oprah, Greys Anatomy and a few Sex and the City repeats… bliss.  And then half way through my play list, as I lay under my duvet, Mr. Delivery on its way, I heard screaming, laughing and ululating from all around my apartment. It was instinct, I switched to the soccer and Tshabalala had just scored that 1st goal against Mexico. Without any warning and as if from nowhere my soccer spirit fought its way through all the self pity, the migraine, the weeks of eating, sleeping and breathing soccer and leaped right out of me. The next thing I knew I was jumping around my boudoir shouting Ke-Nako and doing a very wonky Sinutab fuelled Waka Waka dance.

Once the sinus fog cleared and I became a human again, I realized that my quiet martini bar was now a carnival of Germans, Mexicans, Americans, Ozzys and Poms! They were everywhere, in restaurants ordering our oxtail, in gas stations asking for beer, in traffic going 60 in a 120 zone and piling into our bars for some cheap and friendly SA hospitality. I thought to myself, this is just fantastic.

Soccer Santa and I found ourselves in one of those great bars that has a 2 for the price of 1 drink special while watching the SA vs. Uruguay match. Between the Jagermeister shooters and Bafana getting their asses handed to them we met 2 American gents who joined our table and ended up spending the night bar hopping with us. It was so refreshing to meet new people from a different world and I was surprised at how easy it was to show off our culture, our people, our beautiful country and our “hood”. The whole week we took them to our favourite SA spots and introduced them to our group of cronies. We wanted them to leave Joburg feeling like they’d had the experience of a lifetime, chuckling over our differences and celebrating our togetherness.

With all of these foreigners infiltrating our everyday lives it got me thinking about Tourists and the people that enter our kinesphere with all sorts of expectations, hopes and agendas. In life, who handles our personal foreign affairs?

We all have a long list of people who for whatever reason, have disappeared out of our lives as quickly as they arrived. Some of them come with baggage, some of them travel light. Some of them stick around for years, some for months, some for hours and some forever. Hindsight is 20/20 and when I look back on my past relationships, my friendships, my affairs and my karmic explosions I like to think that each person has their purpose and that through these chance meet and greets they help put more stamps onto my life passport.

Sometimes I wonder what my travel brochure would look like. Would it read something like “Europe on a shoestring” or “Romantic Zanzibar getaway”? Do potential travelers see me more as a “One night in Paris” kinda gal, or “Escape to Escobar, excludes airport taxes”.

When I was at varsity, I had no idea of what my next move would be. I was a young actress, single, clueless, loud and vivacious with oh so many dreams of being a million things when I grew up. I wanted to be on Broadway in New York, I always wanted to write and to see the world (still do), I wanted to open my own high end classy and sassy sex shop, I wanted to design my own swimwear line… the list goes on. I was doing promotion work and helping my dad out at his office to earn extra money so when one of my friends asked if I would be interested in doing some freelance performance work for an events company I was super stoked. The pay was great and all I needed to do was put on a costume and do what I loved - performing.

The events company I was working for had employed a few of us and eventually it was the same handful of starved actors working at each event. One day, the Big Kahuna at the events company called my 2 colleges and I in for a meeting. A meeting? This was not something I was accustomed to. Auditions, rehearsals and production meetings with lots of beer… these things I knew. But a real grown up meeting, this was way up there with paying taxes, responsible drinking and 69’ers… no clue.

As we sat with the Big Kahuna he spoke to the three of us about starting a company together. That we should form a CC and run a business that manages actors and performers for corporate entertainment and events. He gave us artwork to look at, came up with some spiffy names and pitched this crazy idea that he felt was worth a shot. He oozed positivity, creativity, leadership and charisma and encouraged us to take a risk, to jump in, holding his hand for the first tricky bits, and run with it.

Almost 5 years later and here I am running my own successful business with 2 of my best friends. The Big Kahuna saw the brochure and invested his time, creative juices, advice and wisdom in us. He is still my mentor, business advisor and wacky off the cuff friend.

Then there are those travelers who come into our lives purely as visitors. Sometimes they take the best of us and leave with some of it on the way out. Sometimes they give us multiple orgasms before they give us their names and sometimes, they stick around to give us some more. Wouldn’t it be great if we could have some passport control over who was allowed to enter our bedrooms and our hearts? Or even peruse our Facebook page…

Yesterday Mihle and I found ourselves in stitches over an email she had received on her Facebook page. Open brackets, Mihle is my business partner. She is mysterious, wonderful, creative, sassy, bohemian, and passionate and this little Xhosa girl loves her stew. She is also one of my nearest and dearest friends. Close brackets. It seems that Mihle always attracts the strangest of men, some of whom I like to classify as “trolls”. Jannie Grobbler had requested for her to be his friend. Now, because she has a mutual friend with the same unfortunate surname, she accepts… in the hopes to find out how she knows this person without a profile picture. (Mayday, mayday… see any red flags Mimi?).  So it turns out that Jannie is a 55 year old married man, or as he so eloquently put it, MBA (married but available) living in Germiston with his church going wife who no longer wants to have sex with him. Jannie would be fuming right now if he heard me talking this way because he believes that “sex” is something you associate with prostitutes, he would rather I refer to it as making “sweet tender love”. He wants to “make sweet tender love” to my friend Mimi, as he goes on to say in his 5 PAGE EMAIL (seriously I haven’t received a mail that long from anyone on FB, EVER) that he would offer her a discreet interracial relationship (Jannie thinks us white girls are way to full of ourselves and that despite the fact that “most people see black woman as prostitutes” he is very interested in pursuing a woman of colour who he can “wink at, kiss your forehead, spoil you with flowers just because…”).

When the laughing stitches had subsided I asked Mimi what she was going to do. She said to me that she had already removed him as a friend and that she was going to forward the email to our close friends to have a giggle at. At least on FB we have some kind of security as to whom we let over our borders and who we send home packing.

Sometimes it’s hard to realize that we, ourselves are travelers and tourists too. We visit in peoples lives and maybe we too are guilty of exploiting their hospitality, and maybe not. I’m sure there are a few men who show my passport stamp off to all their buddies with caveman pride and I’m sure there are a few who have conveniently renewed their passports to clean the slate.

Our friends from America went back to the U.S. real chuft of their African experience. We exchanged emails and promised them a visit in Arkansas. Whether this ever happens or not is very debatable as I’m starting to settle on the idea of “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” as a more appropriate travel package to advertise myself with. Bafana along with a bunch of other teams didn’t make it through to the next round of the World Cup and slowly but surely the Ozzy accents and boisterous Pommy cackles dissipated from my everyday life.

I can only hope that the foreigners take back a sweet souvenir of their experience here, a slice of our goetspa, our spirit, and our guts. And I hope the same of anyone who by some spontaneous thrill seeking urge, decides to take a chance and throw the dice in Vegas.

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