Friday, February 26, 2010

Notes from SA

First, I'd like to thank everyone in Joburg for arranging a wonderful week with nothing but sunshine while we were out there. From the sounds of it, it stopped raining the day before we arrived and started again the day after we left. As much as we miss a good highveld thunderstorm, rain is not a novelty or a tourist attraction coming from the Netherlands. So we really appreciated your cooperation in this particular area. My brain is still in SA. No doubt about that. I am in denial about this grey, miserable wet weather pissing about outside my window. And to those of you who are subsequently blaming me for taking the sun from Jozi, I'm sorry to say that I must've dropped it somewhere over the DRC cos it certainly ain't here with me!

Let's see... some highlights from the week...

Going to an old varsity mate's wedding.

These are always great as they are a good opportunity for a reunion kick up. They also make for great awkward opportunities - such as me asking a (formerly) good friend whether he was seeing anyone at the moment. "Um, yes... Tarryn. My fiancee. Who I've been with since varsity". Oh. Right. Her. Good. And obviously she didn't leave much of an impression on me. Whoops.

Having a twisting dance-off with one of the waitresses at the venue. Needless to say, she's black and she won. I tried. I just looked stupid.
...but not as stupid as the Fatkid who attempted a mop dance-off with one of the other staff waitresses. Yes. A mop. Dance off. Why? What do you usually accessorize with on the dance floor? Pah. Amateurs.

Going to watch a Bulls game at Loftus.

As much as I try to fight it, Pretoria is strong in my gene-pant heritage. So I coerced a bunch of friends and family and we went marching to Pretoria - where we spent more time commenting on the fans than the players. In our group of ten, we had 1 x Australian and 1 x AA-approved gentleman of darker hue. This is important to note, as the two members happened to sit down next to each other as we were engulfed in the sea of blue on the stands.

Now, we had explained to our interested Aussie that these people are VERY serious about their rugby. Very. Like, you see that large gentleman walking with a very small newborn baby (swaddled in blue, of course)? You see how he is holding the baby out to the Bulls mascot like an reverent Catholic might hold their child up for papal blessing at the Vatican? That child is going to be a God-fearing, Loftus-loving, horn-wearing, bakkie-driving Bulls fan for life. And despite how he may be inclined, he will not be gay and he will marry a lovely poppie from Hatfield. End of story. Being a Bull supporter is more than a "yeah, I watch 'em on the weekend sometimes..." kind of thing.

So when our Aussie decided to cheer as loudly as she could at the announcement of the Brumbies' names (the one lone voice in a stadium of boos), our resident AA-approved gent became a little nervous. I offered to switch seats with him - and before I could finish the thought he was out of his seat and standing over mine, muttering something about feeling like the X on his back had grown exponentially in relation to his proximity with the one Brumbies' supporter. I couldn't argue with that. As the game progressed, and the fans became more and more aggro at the Bulls (who were down in the first half), our Aussie supporter's cheers became just a little bit more muted. Even if the vloeking is in Afrikaans, anger does not need a translation. Ag, but you know, eventually the Bulle came through and it was only an early game in the Super14 after all, so any Bulls fans who did notice the Aussie in our midst seemed to find it more amusing than aggravating. It helped that she is cute and quite naaaice to look at too.

My favourite quote from the game came from X when, after yet another Bull try, I asked him if he would care to join me in celebrating with a clenched fist in the air while shouting, "Amaaaaaandla!". He declined, and with a wry smile explained, "I choose life." Again, I couldn't argue.

Good times. Also, I nearly got taken home by a lekker-ding covered from head-to-toe in blue body art (the traditional war attire for the most ardent of fans). Fortunately Mills was there to frighten him off with his massive bulk. It was good to be home.

The 2010 build up.

It's awesome. It's positive, it's enthusiastic, it's pretty. There are soccer balls everywhere. Even on top of the ferris wheels at Gold Reef City. We saw Soccer City from a distance and the Calabash stadium looks amazing. I've heard that the stadium in Nelspruit has a huge giraffe design around its perimeter. The Gautrain - progressing, ongoing, again positive. Brilliant in theory. Can't wait to see it in practice.

Yes, I can say this from a 'tourist' point of view. And yes, I would probably also be griping about the anticipated throngs of ignorami who will soon be flooding the cities, most likely pointing at ferral dogs and asking inane questions like, "is that a hyeeeeena?" But to the nay-sayers about whether we'll be ready or not for the influx of tourists, bear in the mind that the Greeks were still digging, erecting and constructing frantically just two weeks before they hosted the summer Olympics in 2004. And they had that little Goldmann-Sachs trump card up their sleeve. By the day of the opening ceremony, there was not a trace of construction to be seen. It's a massive project. No country makes it look easy. Not even the most financially lubricated.


Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Snow is over-rated

For those who are wondering about the lack of blogs this week, it is due to an impending visit to warmer climes. My brain is already in SA, and has been for quite some time now.

I leave you with two images:

1) From last weekend - me, getting stuck in a rather awkward embrace with the shower door at my boyfriend's sister flat. Boyfriend's sister had to assist in my escape, much to her amusement. The shower door remains unhinged, to say the least, but it started it. I swear.

2) Me, receiving a new iPhone (not from T-Mobile.. I am still waiting for my money back from them). The new iPhone is still in her box, sleeping peacefully. I will have to figure out how to unlock and register her, preferably not in Dutch. I decided not to do that while packing for SA*. So that will happen next week upon my return. It will not be a smooth process and I'm sure there will be further hiccups. But for now, my lovely new Kumquat remains innocence and unscathed, her virtue preserved.

*In a wild moment of panic, I decided that it was vitally important to pack a pair of knee-high boots... "I don't have boots! What if I need boots? Do you think I'll need boots? Is this enough? I can't possibly have packed sufficiently for one week in Joburg!?"

Fortunately, Mills was on hand give me a powerflick back to reality and remind me that I have never, ever had reason to wear boots (nay, closed shoes) in February in Joburg. So I didn't pack any boots. And yet somehow, I still filled an entire suitcase. It'll be interesting to see what else is in there. Possibly a duvet? An obsolete telephone directory**? Some crocheted pillow covers? Who knows.

**I have actually done this before.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

On women (and their bodies)

According to the BBC: "Abortion rates for women aged 40 to 44 match those for the under 16s, figures for England and Wales show."

The article goes on to state that this could be due to the health risks for both mom and foetus, but "anecdotal evidence" suggests that it generally just boils down to 'oh... I didn't realise I could still get pregnant at my age'.

It just blows me away - if you don't want to get pregnant, use contraception. It's really not hard. Internal, external, oral, hormonal et al. how many ways and means are there nowadays? You can pretty much use any orifice of your fancy (although this range of choice may get too complicated for some people... swallowing a diaphragm or putting a condom on a banana has not been known to help much. That said, if you can't figure out how to operate an IUD then you automatically fail the IQ/EQ test. Sirens should sound and you should be installed with a chastity belt which does the family planning for you. End parenthesis.).

I wonder if there is any social/cultural background correlation between teen pregnancies and the women who are having these 'Surprise! You're pregnant!' abortions in their forties. I'm guessing there is - which just goes to show that wisdom does not in fact come with age. I don't have issues with women who voluntarily (or actively) seek pregnancy in their mid to later years, but any woman in her forties who is "surprised" that unprotected sex has resulted in one up her spout deserves a severe swat to the forehead. Hormonal teenagers can get away with a claim of ignorance. You cannot. *FLICK*


... there is allegedly a motion in Australia to ban pictorial depictions of women with small breasts because "such images encourage pedophilia."

Now, I'm not sure how I feel about this. Being a woman with two very neatly proportioned A-cups, I feel enraged and belittled all at the same time. I have three personal interpretations of this supposed story:

1) What you're saying is that if a child molester ever accidentally caught a glimpse of my neat little noombies, I would get him (or her, I guess) all riled up? I find this very unlikely.
2) Okay, so what you're saying... because my boyfriend finds me attractive and quite likes to get a viewing (inadvertent or not), he has pedo-tendencies? Equally unlikely.
3) Full grown females with small boobs do not really count as full bodied "women" and cannot therefore been depicted as "adult". So... what you're saying is that I have a disability? In that case, I shall be applying to the Australian government, who seem to recognise this handicap, for compensation shortly.

No? So what exactly are you saying then?

To quote a friend on this matter, "it's like killing Aborigines to end discrimination".
Aaaah, now wouldn't that be funny if it were true... um... oh wait.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

"Only in [insert appropriate country here]..."

Well, if I was feeling unjustly put-upon yesterday, just imagine how these students have been feeling. Being Iranian in origin, some universities in the Netherlands have decided that these learners cannot be allowed to study nuclear physics. I particularly love the infamous use of the ubiquitous "them" in the last paragraph:
Twente University went even further by closing its doors to all students from Iran, arguing it is impossible to keep them* away from open lectures.

[*my Italics]
I know it's just the way it was written by this source, but it always sounds like a judgment, doesn't it? Them. Those people. That kind. Generally uttered in hushed tones, while eyeballing one of them... whomever they happen to be on that particular occasion.

It's stories like this that make me realise that the application of idiotic, bureaucratic policies is not particular to South Africa. I can't say whether it should make you feel better or more horrified when you realise that governing systems are the same world wide.

Let's not forget the previous story about safety vests being handed out to immigrants of darker hue - which still makes me laugh every time I go outside looking like this:

Fortunately I am an immigrant of lighter hue, so people can see my pale skin reflected in their headlights... right?

Getting back to the Iranian students (many of whom are actually Dutch), I feel the need to point out that they are not completely ostracised in the Netherlands... at least they can still sign up for a T-Mobile contract.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Why I will not be joining the T-Mobile network

About two weeks ago, I finally gave in to the temptation. I decided to get an iPhone. And because Steve Jobs is a man who is big on controlling the market wherever possible, there is only one "reputable" distributor of the iPhone in the Netherlands - similar to UK and US markets. Now, knowing that something will always go wrong with anything I order, I decided to avoid any "unlocked" iPhone offers. I needed something with a promise of after-sales and customer support.

So I went through the official distributor. T-MOBILE. I decided that the easiest process would be online. That's the beauty of the first world. You can buy things like phone contracts online. I filled in the forms - the usual... address, phone number, work address, mother's maiden name, bank details, intended name(s) of unborn child(ren), the works. I also had to add ID details, which I duly did.


My registration was accepted and I received an email informing me that I could now pay them the upfront 60-euros. How very exciting, I was one step closer to getting my Kumquat iPhone!

At said time of delivery (after wasting a day waiting at home), I flew down the stairs ready with ID and open arms.

*SSSSCCCCCREEEEEEEEEEECH!* knew someone was going to hit the brakes on this happy story, right?

The delivery guy (iPhone tantalisingly in hand) looked at my ID... the same details that I had submitted on my online registration... and said, "oh, but this is a residence permit. You're South African."

Yes. I did not make a secret of this. I eyeballed him warily, knowing full well what was coming and barely concealing my urge to introduce my kneecap to his overall-covered groin.

"You're South African," he repeated. (YES. WE'VE BEEN THROUGH THIS) "I have you on the system as having an EU ID. This means I can't give you the phone today. You have to go through a different order system."

I didn't argue with him. I knew it was pointless. He would only do what it said on his clipboard. Trying to keep the furious trembling to a minimum, I went back up to my flat and phoned the T-MOBILE customer non-service centre.

After being told (three times) how important I was to their organisation, I got through to a CSR. Maintaining my pitch in what I thought was a fairly even squeal, I explained what I had just gone through and friendly Fred said he would check... Five minutes later he was back. "Um, yes, there has been a bit of a mess with your ID. If you are South African, then you can get an iPhone but your order has to be under your South African passport. So what you need to do... " I'm sorry, what? What I need to do..? Your system accepted my ID and my money, and now I must fix your fuck up?

"Um, yes... so what you need to do is cancel the order and then after a few days you can start a new order again, but this time you need to point out that you are South African."

End conversation.

Now, you're probably wondering at this stage why I didn't just list my South African passport from the start, right? Well, here's the kicker. T-MOBILE is apparently very sporadic about which nationalities are recognised. Here is the full list as offered when ordering on
America (United States of); Belgium; Bosnia-Herzegovina; Bulgaria; China; Croatia; Egypt; England (Great Britain); France; Germany; Ghana; Greece; Great Britain; Hungary; Ireland; Indonesia; Iran; Iraq; Israel; Luxembourg; Mexico; Morocco; Netherlands; Nigeria; North Ireland; Poland; Portugal; Russia; Slovenia; Somalia; Spain; Suriname; Turkey; United Kingdom (Great Britain); United States of America.
That is the FULL selection. A seemingly random sample of about 30 of the 190-odd internationally-accepted sovereign nations. If you're really astute, you'll have noticed that of the 35 mentioned here, UK is listed not just once by three times and the US is listed twice. So make that 32. And I can't even play the race card, because Nigeria cracks the nod and they're quite widely recognised as a nation of darker hue. Somalia also gets a look in, which is nice for the pirates.

Upon reflection, I thought that maybe this sporadic list is representative of the countries that T-MOBILE is active in. Because that would sort of, almost, make sense. Maybe. But when I looked on the global locations on, they have the following listed:

The mystery and intrigue continues! Because now you see some countries that are listed on the ".com" website, which are not listed on the ".nl" site. So other expats who would be similarly discriminated from this list would be Canadians, Japanese and Indians.

(Interestingly, when I was googling "t-mobile global", the first automatic entry suggestion came up as "t-mobile global outrage". This made me feel less lonely in my fury.)

So... back to me. I didn't have a choice to enter my nationality. The cruel "now you see it, now you don't" non-delivery happened a week ago.

Today I again phoned the T-MOBILE Customer Non-Service Centre. Just out of interest, wondering what the hell was being done about the fact that I had paid over two weeks ago and hadn't received anything. This time it was friendly Sally who I got through to (could've been Suzy or Fred. They all sound the same).

"Okay, yes... I can see that your order is almost cancelled.. it should be fully cancelled by the end of the week."

Almost? Should be? Apparently it takes more than an entire working week to click CANCEL. I wonder if they had to train someone up, special, for that. Or perhaps it takes longer because "it has to go through a different process" when you have a cheeky non-EU resident trying to give you money for your non-services. In that case you have to click the button that reads: "Delivery aborted due to non-listed nationality". That would probably take longer 'cos it takes longer to type.

And when can I expect my money back?

"Oh, that'll be returned within the next six weeks."

Six weeks. One day for me to make my one-way payment to you guys. Six weeks, give or take a month, to get it returned when YOU cancel the delivery. Well, Sally, I know you're only saying what's on the script, but you and I both know that that's just a pile of wank. Don't we?

So T-MOBILE... It's been short, and very frustrating. Based on this, I'll be paying another shitty mobile provider for their shitty non-service, on a monthly basis. Just thought I'd let you know.

ps. Get a fucking atlas. With the borders coloured in.

Monday, February 01, 2010

A snippet of IM romance

Koekie: I think you should pay me more compliments
Sent at 4:42 PM on Monday
Mills: Your bum wobbles like jelly and I like jelly
Sent at 4:52 PM on Monday
Koekie: I'm going to blog that
Mills: Sure. You can also blog that I don't approve of your softening stance towards Andy Murray.
Sent at 4:55 PM on Monday