I lived in this stunningly beautiful and diverse country for 27 years of my life, most of them my formative years. I completed a high level of education there, enjoyed sunshine, and a lifestyle that only a few can dream of - not one of wealth, not in the financial sense, anyway - but one in abundance of great days spent playing frisbee on the beaches with friends, going for sundowners with friends, braais (bbqs) with friends, heading out for a meal at one of the thousands of restaurants with friends, riding off-road motorcycles, fishing in crystal clear rivers, camping in some of the most remote and beautiful parts of the country.... the list goes on. Did I mention it was with friends? Oh yeah, that's because we are very social and like nothing better than gathering ourselves around a fire.
Was it dangerous? Well, yes, it is pretty high in crime, but nothing ever happened to me. Why? Because I have something called Common Sense, and when I use it, I generally find that I remain quite safe. It's a very handy commodity to own, and I keep mine close at hand. Going alone into a township in the middle of the night does not belong in my Common Sense box. But that's another blog...
However, I am gobsmacked at some of the ludicrous questions that I am often asked about South Africa, so I have decided to blog about it and to clarify - once and for all - for those that are interested in learning.
WHERE IS SOUTH AFRICA?
Do you know where America is? New York in particular?
It's nowhere near there.
ARE THERE WILD ANIMALS ROAMING THE STREETS?
Yes. We have elephant, lion and springbok - sometimes it can cause quite a traffic jam, those elephants are notoriously slow at zebra crossings. But if you keep your wits about you, you may be lucky to flag down a cheetah or two, which could speed up the journey to your destination.
DO YOU KNOW JOHN FROM DURBAN?
Yes, of course I know John! Wow, what a small world it is. Is he the one that lives in the third hut from the sun? I'll send him a smoke signal.
HAVE YOU GOT DOGS IN SOUTH AFRICA?
No. We ate them all.
WHAT IS DRIED MEAT? (biltong)
In Voortrekker days, when journeys were long and arduous, it was important to keep protein as long as possible. The Voortrekkers discovered that you could preserve meat by coating it in a mix of salt and spices, and hanging it out to air-dry for a few days. It is now a delicacy and common fare to all South Africans.
DOES BILTONG TASTE NICE?
No. It's as awful as smoked salmon. We spend a lot of time preparing it and consuming it - we eat it as a penance for our sins. We also export it all over the world in an attempt at World Domination.
IS THE CRIME RATE HIGH IN SOUTH AFRICA?
Yes - the animals are getting quite out of control. Baboons and monkeys in particular are nimble-fingered deviants of the highest order. We shall have to shoot them all.
IF YOU'RE FROM AFRICA, WHY ARE YOU WHITE?
Um. Because my parents are?
DO YOU TAN?
No. We just self-combust in intense heat, hence why there are less Whites than Blacks in South Africa.
DO YOU RIDE ANIMALS FOR TRANSPORT?
Yes. We really do find it's easier than cars, and much cheaper. We have very good motorways, three laned, which is quite suitable for elephants.
DO YOU HAVE ELECTRICITY?
We used to. Now, due to load-shedding, I'm afraid we don't. Candle sales are on the rise, and we are currently recruiting for wick manufacturers.
Our Minister told us he had good news and bad news about the economy.
"The bad news is, the shit is going to hit the fan.
The good news is, the fan will be off due to load-shedding, from 8am to 6pm."
DO YOU ALL STAY IN HUTS?
No, no, not at all. Some prefer caves. Others still prefer tin shanties. Some even have brick houses, although this sighting is rare.
DO YOU HAVE RUNNING WATER?
No, we use buckets to catch the rainwater, which we then boil on an open fire.
Most South Africans are immune to Eboli.
DO YOU HAVE ATMS?
DO YOU ACCEPT VISA?
No. We prefer to complicate matters by carrying around all the cash we own.
It encourages others to rob you.
IS CRIME RIFE IN SOUTH AFRICA?
No. The barbed-wire, electrified fencing around most houses is purely decorative.
DO YOU CELEBRATE CHRISTMAS?
Yes. But by New Year all our Christmas presents are stolen.
DOES EVERYONE HAVE AIDS?
It all depends on the severity of the disability. Some have hearing aids, others walking aids.
ARE YOUR POLICEMEN GOOD?
No. They sleep a lot.
WILL I GET CAR-JACKED IF I DRIVE?
Only if you get a puncture. Failing this, there is no reason to jack your car up.
I do hope I have answered some of your pressing questions above. Rest assured, your trip to South Africa will be nothing short of memorable, and a great way to lose weight, especially if you go diving with White Sharks.
You will never forget your adventure to the Rainbow Nation, just don't expect any pot of gold at the end of it. Jacob Zuma has already confiscated it....