On Bangladesh and Bieber

Today I heard that there was a factory fire in Bangladesh, only two weeks after a devastating building collapse in the country. I read about it on Twitter, and saw it on the news headlines. I may even have taken in the number of people killed, but I was immune, so desensitized by the tragedies and death I read about every day. However, one picture of the building collapse brought the incredible magnitude of the tragedy home to me.

I cannot describe this picture to you. Every time I glance at it, masochistically kept open in my internet browser the entire day, my body is covered in goosebumps. Here it is. I think it is one of the most powerful pictures I have ever seen.


To my (and probably your) collective disappointment, also open in my browser is a video of Justin Bieber performing in Cape Town last night. For me, Justin Bieber represents obsession, wealth, and youthful idiocy. In this country, Justin Bieber is bigger news than the people who died in that fire.   

These two events, the fire and the concert, happened at the same time. So many people died in Bangladesh as a result of poor health and safety rule enforcement, while adoring fans follow every move that Bieber makes. Such is the cruelty of life. Yet I cannot escape the tear of blood on this Bangladeshi man’s face as he is immortalised in his final embrace.   


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The Tyranny of Taxis


It’s 8:45 am in the morning. Pick any morning, they’re all the same to me. I am driving down the N2 towards my workplace, Equal Education in Khayelitsha.

Pause for a second. If you are anything like the most people I talk to about my job, a number of thoughts will be fighting for attention in your head. Perhaps you start with wow, she works in Khayelitsha. Or maybe it is, is it safe there? Does she have to drive so far to work every day? Are there even any white people there? Yes, these are the ridiculous questions I face on a regular basis.

But back to the issue at hand. I am driving along in my medium powered car, as before, when out of my rear view mirror I see a flash of white behind me. From experience I know that this usually means trouble. A second later, the SOLID white line to my left, the hard shoulder of the road, and the lane to my right are occupied by taxis, dicing along the highway at 140+km/h. At this point, the only possible reaction is to hold onto the wheel tighter and try not to freak out. This is a daily occurrence for me.

Every time I think about changing into the fast lane, I check to see that there are no taxis in sight to force me off the road. Every day, turning right onto Landsdowne road, I wait for the taxis in the straight lane to turn right and cut me off. This is everyday practice.

But why do we, as South Africans, let this happen? Why do taxis rule the roads, and threaten the delicate balance between order and chaos, lawfulness and anarchy. I blame fear of taxis from both ourselves and the government, our traffic police, and the failure of adequate public transport. Something must be done to break the hold that the taxis have on the road.

After doing a little bit of reading, I can see that I am not the only one writing about this:

www.southafrica.info has the following information in an article about driving in South Africa for visitors: “Drivers of minibuses and taxis can behave erratically, and often turn a blind eye to rules and road safety considerations”.

This article from About Africa Travel writes some entertaining tongue-in-cheek comments on the tyranny of taxis.

This blog post by Pumla Dineo Gqola provides “helpful” tips for travelling in a taxi.

And finally, Mail and Guardian writer Mpho Moshe Matheolane shares a terrifying taxi experience.

Despite all this, at the risk of sounding like a hypocrite, and maybe I am, when I drive home today I will not be taking on taxis left right and centre, as I have implied we all should. And this is the problem.

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A week without series

ImageYesterday marked day one of my week without series. Hopefully it will be followed by a week with no junk food, a week of no swearing, and a fourth week with no tea drinking. Yes, I know you are thinking “well she missed Lent”, but this new phase stems from a realisation I came to last week, that my life has become a cycle of work, exercise, eat, watch series and sleep, with some socialising falling in between.

Work I am stuck with, food and sleep are necessary for daily existence. Exercise and socialising are good for me. This leaves series. White Collar. Game of Thrones. Grey’s Anatomy. Downton Abbey. You name it, I probably watch it.

When I was a little kid, I read books instead. I could be found walking the passages of my childhood home with a book to my nose, tripping over things as I went. I went to the bathroom with my book, often spending hours reading in the bath. At night I would borrow (read steal) a torch from my parents and read “late” into the night (a terrible 9:30pm) under my covers. I took part in the readathon every year in primary school, competing viciously and fighting dirty against my best friend, also an avid reader.

In early high school I went through an awful phase of reading very bad romances, probably to fill the void that was my dead love life at the time. I consumed them at an incredible rate, until I had read everything in the teenage section of the library.  At this point my mother banned all trashy books, and I progressed to adult books.

At university I was constantly busy, swept up in varsity life with its hard work and serious playing. I read occasionally, mostly in my holidays at home with my two teacher parents.

I was once told that in the Waldorf system, they teach children that “the reading angel” lands on your shoulder at a young age, and remains with you for the rest of your life. Mine landed all right, but has since flown off in disgust at the sad dearth of reading happening in my life.  

For this reason I have decided to give up series for the week, hopefully as the start of something new. 

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee is waiting for me, next to my bed. Underneath that lies Her Giant Octopus Moment by Kay Langdale. As Twitter reading initiative ReadaBookSA says, bring on the “intellectual swag”!

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