african time

huge.100.504987African time… Some people say it in a disparaging way. It’s too slow, the queues are too long ,the staff are unhelpful – the list goes on, and it’s bullshit. Slow isn’t a bad thing, if you make time for it. Making time for slow isn’t a bad thing, because the urban world is too damn fast and frenetic anyway. The queues are long, but the process runs smoothly regardless, even when the queue snakes through three rooms. The patient people in the queue use their phones, talk to each other; the impatient ones use their phones in an agitated fashion, pacing, muttering, glowering. They’re not pissed off because they want to go and do something fun, they just resent the time taken from their oh so vip status, money worshipping day. They’re in a hurry for hypertension and heart attacks. Most of the staff are helpful, but not if they’re getting treated like inferiors. They’re also doing hectic jobs for fuckall money and there’s just no point blaming them for everything that’s wrong with the govt.

Africans, aboriginal Africans, tend to interact in ways other population groups don’t. Businessman in suits talk to cleaners with no superiority involved. People talk, laugh, reel around drunk, joke and wait. Patiently. I’ve seen people in triage at a very fucked up state hospital, get served a simple meal for lunch. Unpretentious, but there was meat, rice, vegetables. I’ve been hugely entertained by a Cape Coloured woman who got up and regaled us all with a hysterical tale. I’ve heard the sweetest little snuffling giggle coming from a man, he was treated (by everyone) with respect. I’ve seen and been the recipient of immense kindness; people share information, pens, smokes, whatever. I’ve had fun and learned a lot, simply by kicking back and chilling right out. And I’ve been reminded, every single time, that my country is not all about status, and that no matter how broke or unhappy I am, I am actually incredibly privileged.

When my mother died, I didn’t use a fancy funeral home with hushed voices and serene surroundings. When I fetched her ashes, the waiting room was full, loud, lively. It was surreal. In a private office, a well dressed and friendly woman plonked down my mother, vacuum packed in plastic, then looked completely horrified and scuttled off – not for very long – and returned with a smart wooden box with the ashes in it. I was given a blanket, because seeing one is part of the grief and mourning rituals. (here’s a pdf about such rituals, in case you’re interested: MOURNING RITUALS AND PRACTICES IN CONTEMPORARY SOUTH AFRICAN TOWNSHIPS  The poster about it explained that and suggested that if the recipient had no need of it, they might want to give it to someone needful within their community. I gave it to a woman working her ass off in the hot sun, spending the money she made on her kids’ education.

Now I know I’m looking at it all through a lens of middle class white privilege. I know that the amount of unemployment (38%) and poverty in this country is fucking horrendous. Thing is, most times in those rooms and queues, people are getting helped. Slowly. Efficiently. Those two words do not cancel each other out, we just think they do because zomg rush hurry meetings appointments hurry hurry hurry, rape the country for more money and fuck any sense of community. Everyone should have the opportunity to work and buy whatever they want and be whoever they want, bit that doesn’t mean we should all forget what a community, any community can do. Individualism, taken too far, is lonely.

Reason I’m talking about it all, is that I went to the Traffic Dept today, to renew my driver’s licence. I took some photos to show you.



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battlescarred, bright, bewildered, bent, blue & bipolar

18 thoughts on “african time”

  1. I share your opinion re: individualism and loneliness. We need community. We need community. We need community. Did I already say we need community? And community can be found in fleeting moments such as waiting to renew one’s drivers licence. I’ve talked about time and the importance of slowing down (in the context of my kids and always telling them to hurry up) on my blog. Personally I hate rushing around. I hate being super-busy. I like to sip my day like a good quality tequila and not down it in one go like a cheap shot at a dirty bar.

    Liked by 3 people

      1. For people who are mentally stable and can prioritize this shit – waaaaay easier. For the mentally unstable – waaaaaay more effort, but absolutely doable and makes sense to include all her suggestions in a long-term self-care plan.
        Ultimately we plug in to what makes sense for us. I was thinking of forced commitments, like family obligations, and my philosophy is “they’ll understand” or “they’ll get over it”, because if I’m not well then I simply can’t – saying “no” and taking care of oneself is hard. Because people say they want the best for you, but then try and manipulate how you spend your time (not you you, you as in people in general).
        Balance is the hardest. I often feel guilty for not being ‘busier’, but when I am busy I’m riddled with anxiety and have a hard time coping.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. Thanks lots for the comment. When I’m wallowing in self pity about having almost no family, I remind myself that being bipolar and responsible for others would be hellish for me. And them. Apart from the bipolar, I’m a loner anyway. I couldn’t agree more about balance – and I guess bipolar is the polar opposite of balance. In my 20s, I decided I’d never have children of my own in case I passed on some faulty genes. I promptly spent the entire year I was 26 aching physically and emotionally for a baby of my own.

          Wtf am I waffling about….

          Liked by 1 person

          1. You’re waffling about – here comes some clichés – catch 22; you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t; the baby blahs. You know yourself best. You would know better than anyone what you can handle in terms of being responsible for others and taking care of a family.


  2. Hey Bpd, I read your post and thought to myself “that’s not unique to South Africa, that could be any country”! Poverty is on the rise everywhere. I know that the idea of what poverty actually is, is vastly different depending on where you live and how much you have (or more importantly don’t have). Those who think themselves below the poverty line in my country for example would be seen as definitely wealthy in other countries – hence the huge exodus of people from south east Asia – where they are risking their very lives to reach any other country where they might have a better chance of staying alive and rearing their family.

    The speed at which we all live our lives seems to be getting faster – well mostly all of us and mostly getting faster anyway. I’m not sure if that’s an age thing, being that I’m middle aged (yikes!!), but I do wholeheartedly agree that if we all slow down, we experience more about our fellow neighbours and we experience more kindness and laughter and fun than when we are living a fast paced life, full of bluster and our own self importance. I am absolutely of the opinion that life should not be lived the way we are living it now. And I absolutely agree that we are not meant to be solitary beings. We need to get our sense of community back. Its not a solve all kinda thing, but its a start!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I want to understand what you meant by the mourning rituals and being allowed to give them away. Is it a period of time involving certain practices and you can allow someone else to have that period of time? It is confusing but interesting.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. That article was very interesting. I understand that these traditions are old and are very important to the culture.
        I would hate to be forced by tradition to mourn and not socialize for an entire year.

        But I guess when the females bring her new clothes, at the ritual of burning thr black ones, then they go out together are get their party on :)

        What did you mean about giving the mourning ritual to another person? Can they do it instead of you? Does this benefit them because they can relax more?


        1. Re the blanket – the thing about passing it on to someone else in the community is just to give someone a blanket, not as a mourning thing. This country doesn’t ha e a tradition of making those blankets, so they’re all store bought. There are some particular ones that have some significance, but in this case they’re just store bought blankets. No special colour or style.


  4. I dislike all the impaience and rushing that is the way of life in the North East of the US, where I live. I live in northern New Jersey, which is very near to New York City.

    People cut you off driving, refuse to let you out on the road. When a new check out line opens in the grocery store, people will run to shove in front of me, even when I was closer and walking towards it. They run in order to ” beat you”.

    What do they win? There is some weird self esteem attached to ” beating” people. I do not relate to it.

    Monteray California was very different. Much more relaxed and people oriented. I loved it there and I fit in much better.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. My father used to work in a factory, when he used to be underemployed. He used to bring home left over gadgets and things.

    He put a red button up on the wall. He called it the Panic Button. He said anytime either of us felt any panic from stress, we should run over and hit the Panic Button.

    It was funny and my friends would ask what the button did. I would tell them it was the Panic Button.

    It was there on the wall outside the kitchen for years.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I think I am losing this ability. It’s not that I hate waiting, I just don’t feel comfortable around people for longer amount of times. Or maybe I’ve been doing things on the internet for too long. I want to get it back, though.

    And always nice to see your world through pics :)

    Liked by 1 person

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