Tuesday, 24 August 2010

G'day. I'd like to take this rare opportunity to make an announcement. 

African Down Under is going to retirement, or should I say "retired hurt", as they say in cricketing terms. Actually, it is more like "retired embarrassed". With a grand total of 12 posts in 12 months - aka a post a month - that's slower going than Jacques Kallis in the subcontinent.  I'm amazed I've managed to garner 18 followers to this blog with a distinct lack of blogging action on my part. Thank you. I'm totally ashamed at my lack of ability to keep a blog up-to-date and wholeheartedly apologize for the very unmotivational example I set for today's youth. 

On the plus side and to make up for it, I've resurrected Backwater Views, as I'm officially back in Vietnam! If you'd like a slightly more up-tempo number of posts - think Shane Watson in the West Indies - I suggest you migrate north of the equator in digital terms and see what's kicking about in Saigon from my perspective.

Thanks for your patience and continued support.

Much love and peace.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Embrace your Inner Zefness

As I’m writing this I’m listening to Die Antwoord, Waddy Jones’ (of Max Normal and Original Evergreen fame) lank hos, holla 7 alterego Ninja rapping about his tik-kop sexual fantasy “"Beat Boy": "Shaking Your Nice Boobs, I Tell You I Like You, You Feel My Piel” over an classic house, zef-rave “build-up”, cringing, shaking my head in disbelief, at the sheer genius of these characters created.

Reports of Die Antwoord being fake are grossly exaggerated. The fact is: It doesn’t matter. Expressing surprise at this “revelation” is like being shocked that David Brent of The Office is only a character and Ricky Gervais is not really the egomaniacal, foot-in-mouth retard of a boss that he plays (well…maybe that wasn’t the best example).

I digress. What I originally wanted to write about how proud I am that Die Antwoord have emerged and how grateful the country, especially its creative arts industry, should be to Waddy and his crew. This light-hearted, yet sarcastically-cutting, piss-take of your own culture is what I love about South Africa and I see the same thing in Australia, in a differing degree. It makes you reflect on the things we’re saturated with in the news every day and all the so-called “serious because the media say so” crap we’re force-fed and  being able to actually see the funny side of life. This is also a lead-on after watching Wil Anderson at the Brisbane Comedy Festival at The Powerhouse Theatre last weekend, which was equally cutting, crude and hard-hitting.

I see multimedia like Die Antwoord evolving from previous kitsch cultural commentary like Orkney Snork Nie (Waddy would probably hate me for comparing Die Antwoord to them), in South Africa, and Kath and Kim and The Castle in Oz, taken to another level, laid-over some over-the-top synth beats (“DJ Hi-Tek – take it to the next level!”, Waddy’s creatively raised consciousness and affie Cape Flats rhymes ala Brasse Vannie Kaap, interjected with a generous ladling of Yo-Landi’ Vi$$er's buttery, child-like ,but disturbingly out-of-place, crudeness. Die Antwoord are the mengelmoes poespap potjiekos opiate for the masses. They’re what fokofpolisiekar is for the angst-ridden and frustrated Afrikaans youth and what kwaito, when it first evolved in the mainstream in the early 1990s was for many suppressed young black South Africans. Personally, I can’t wait for what’s coming out next, and the fact that they’re taking it overseas is great.

We should all be able to laugh at, and embrace, our own zefness every once in a while.

Check out their fantastic Interweb site and wallow in the brilliance of it all.

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

South of the border: Part 1

On a day that was so hot the semi-melted, sticky tar of the road clung to the coagulated soles of our flip-flops, we made our way down Nimbin’s, well, only real street. Nimbin, which sounds equally whacky said backwards, is a crazy hippy town in northern New South Wales, which definitely deserves a visit if you’re in the Northern Rivers area.

Strolling down the strip is like stepping into the 1970s’ free-loving, bong-tokin’, hazy daisy era. Groovy tie-dyed remnants of the 1972 Aquarius Festival, leftover revellers who never left, still laze around offering weed or mushrooms to passers-by in-between esoteric discussions on Gaia philosophy, I’d imagine. I got involved in a discussion about conspiracy theories with a middle-aged local, as he brushed his grey-streaked and dirty dreadlocks out of his eyes to squint up and ponder aloud at what looked like a chemical trail left by a plane in the pure blue sky. Shops like Happy High Herbs, Bringabong and Daizy, sit snugly next to each other advertising their wares in UV and bright technicolor that wouldn’t be out of place at a Vortex or Alien Safari trance party. Placards and posters shouting counterculture and political slogans like “Rudd = Treason!” adorn the notice boards and walls.

Step into the Nimbin Museum to learn more about the town’s roots, its age-old problem with the police and notable historical events (which all seem to link to the town’s problem with the police). A gold coin donation gets you well-informed, as well as a mind-bending tour through the cobwebbed museum, sidestepping a stalactite forest of spatulas and eggbeaters hanging from the roof, and a variety of brightly painted paraphernalia. Stop to watch reruns of one of numerous police raids on the museum and, if you’re lucky, get offered a toke by one of the resident free-thinkers who man the in-house coffeeshop. 

This is truly a museum like no other, and is probably one of the focal points of the MardiGrass Festival. MardiGrass is an annual protest rally cum celebration of all things cannabis related. It focuses on the legalisation of the herb, as part of the Global Marijuana March, and raises awareness through fantastic events like the Pot Olympix, which includes bong throwing (and yelling) and joint rolling events. Roll in and roll a fat one on the first weekend in May. 

Although the baser elements that come along with loafing and drug-dealing seem to have permeated the bohemian beatnik spirit of Nimbin, with some unsavoury characters staining the otherwise highly eccentric and colourful rural town, the local backpackers and tourism industry seem to give the local economy a vital boost. Thus, support the locals by taking the Nimbin Road out of Lismore, drop by and buy a bag of sensimilla, some hemp products or even just a hacky sack. If so inclined, rack a bong with the locals, tune in and drop out...

Just remember to leave again some time...

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

What's in a name?

Burpengary sits along a stretch of busy asphalt: the M1 north out of Brisbane towards the Sunshine Coast. It houses a weighbridge, a tavern, a railway station, three primary schools and a creek. It’s nothing special by anyone’s terms. Except mine, as I can’t look past the great name. Burp. Gary. Burping Gary. Am I the only one who finds that a fantastic place name?! I think many Australians are too used and oblivious to the sometimes beautiful, occasionally chuckle-worthy,  often completely hilarious names all around them. So let me enlighten you on some of the ones I’ve found as I near the end of my first 6 months in Brisbane.

Of course, many names come from aboriginal roots, such as Burpengary, derived from burpengar, supposedly meaning “land of the golden wattle”. I don’t mean to offend anyone, but whenever I drive by the place I don’t think, “Oh yes, what a beautiful setting for golden wattles.” My mind conjures up a metaphoric image of a balding, overweight bloke in a stained, white wife-beater, watching daytime TV and precariously balancing a can of XXXX on his bulging belly, and belching loudly.

I’m not sure if it is just this part of Queensland, or if it is spread across the country, but quite a number of the suburbs and towns have alcoholic and intoxicating connotations. Take, for example, Bongaree on Bribie Island (named after the Aboriginal explorer and companion of Mathew Flinders). Other illustrations include Beerwah or Beerburrum near the beautiful Glass House Mountains, both again from aboriginal descent. One of my favourites along this stretch of coastline is Sippy Downs. How can you not crack a smile at that?

Some of the names sound inane, like they were made up by children building a Lego world. “What should we call this place, Tommy?” “Let’s call is Bli Bli!” Nudgie sounds like a playground prank and the Moolooloo Plains sounds like there should be heaps of cows grazing contently , which I think there are.

Other names in the area are slightly disturbing, but equally amusing, such as the unfortunately named Dicky Beach, a suburb of Caloundra. Or how about a nice Sunday afternoon drive out to Bald Knob? Erm, no thanks.

Something else I’ve noticed about names along this south-east stretch of Queensland coast is all the references to piracy and hidden treasure, which makes me think there must have been at least a few swashbuckling encounters when Captain Cook sailed through these waters back in the 1700s. The area of the Gold Coast springs to mind almost immediately (but so do images of Miami and Palm Beach – perhaps some of the most unpirate like places you can think of). Where better, however, to look for buried treasure than on Deadman’s Beach on Moreton Island? How about navigating the treacherous Deception Bay or Skirmish Passage? Arrgh, the Coral Sea is afloat with adventure on the high seas!

Skirmish Passage at sunset

What are some of your favourite place names, and what images do they conjure up?

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

G'day, Hallo, Xin Chao, Molo, Hello, Ahoyhoy!

First off, I'd like to wish everyone a prosperous 2010. Hopefully it's the year that sees:

Newcastle return to the Premier League, Bafana Bafana lift the golden World Cup trophy in July, Australian house prices plummet, Kyle Sandilands exiled to Christmas Island, the climate suddenly cool itself, pirates stop their shenanigans along the Somalian coast, jobs created and houses built.

More likely, however, would be if Julius Malema was suddenly kidnapped (along with Tony Abbott in his dick togs) by Somalian pirates and marooned on an isolated island that shrunk daily as melting ice-caps caused ocean levels to rise, only to find it already occupied by Bafana Bafana who were exiled there by the people of South Africa thanks to their poor Woza 2010 performance.

I guess I'd settle for a happy medium.

Anyways, I have vowed 2010 to be "the year of the blog", so articles and photos will follow shortly...


Wednesday, 16 December 2009

A holiday Hiatus

I will be taking a short break until the new year, when this blog will be back with a vengeance. I already have some great post ideas and photos to match so I'm really excited about blogging in 2010. These last few months have been more of a (sporadic) test run to see if people would be interested in my ramblings from Oz and have largely been successful. After all, a blogging is mostly personal anyway and a great therapeutic stress relief.

I'll be heading back to South Africa for three weeks tomorrow so happy holidays everyone and see you in 2010!

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Outback Business Ventures

It’s been four whirlwind months in Oz so far, with its ups and downs. Ups include working at the international language school of the University of Queensland, teaching such a mishmash of nationalities, and learning so much about other cultures every day its difficult to explain how different every day is. For example, yesterday I sat in class evaluating short presentations whilst eating imported dates from Tunisia and drinking Arabic coffee, listening to arguments over which is the best shopping district in Tokyo (the Japanese students have very strong opinions on this), what kind of kimchi is best for your health, if Iraq or Saudi Arabia’s soil is the most fertile for producing the best palm dates and whether Colombia is best known for its drugs or coffee. All, of course, from citizens from these respective countries. It really is a fantastic job, but it does come with a lot of pressure and expectation.

One interesting story I heard was from Mohammed, a Saudi student (and class clown), who we ran into on the train after class. He was telling us how he wasn’t really interested in studying English but was more preoccupied with setting up business contacts in Australia for export purposes, as the ever-present cooler bag of bush honey samples at his side which he has started exporting to Saudi Arabia proved. He claims the Qur’an states honey has healing properties and is thus very sought after in the Islamic Kingdom. 

What really interested me was his next business venture, which sounded like a bit of a joke at first, but made sense after he explained it: he’s planning on exporting camels to Saudi Arabia! Double-take, sorry did you so TO Saudi Arabia?! Land of sand, oil, camels and well, not much else?! Yup, apparently camels go for around $15 000 there, whilst he can purchase Australian camels for about a thousand bucks apiece. A sound business equation if you ask me, and I don’t claim to be a business guru by any means, as my 15% for first semester Economics at university can attest.

I remember first reading about the million odd camels in the Outback in Bill Bryson’s classic travelogue “Down Under” (not to mention the havoc-causing wild rabbits and cats he so hilariously wrote about), and recently the Australian Government have made it known they plan on culling the ‘ships of the desert’ by means of sharpshooters in helicopters through their “Aerial Predator Control” programme. 

They are seen as a pest by many outback farmers, trampling vegetation , eroding the soil and damaging water pipes in their search of refreshment, and the population is set to double every nie years according to some news sources. Of course, some animal rights groups are outraged at the inhumanity of it all (not to mention the $20 million odd set aside to put the plan into action), offering alternatives like birth control to render the gentle giants impotent.

Another alternative is looking into other uses for the camels. Supposedly there have been talks of “camel burgers”, as male Bactrian camels carry substantial amounts of meat, weighing up to 650 kilos, not even to mention the delicacy of the fatty hump. Also, on a recent BBC Newspod podcast, there was a story espousing the virtues of camel milk,  long used in North Africa and the Middle-East, and now with Europe’s first camel-farm in the Netherlands following the age-old tradition.

There has been research in India into the milk’s curative properties like helping against diabetes and other chronic diseases. The only problem is the camels only give milk if they like you and are totally relaxed. Sounds a bit like those Kobe cows in Japan that get to chug down beer, listen to music and receive daily massages. What does it taste like? Well, according to one taste-tester; “I think it’s a bit weird, I don’t feel like a little camel, who I think the milk is for”.

But I digress, I think Mohammed has just used is keen business sense to carve himself a niche in a previously unheard of market and it might just make him a lot of money, especially if he decides to venture into the food and beverage industry with his camels.

I can just see it…tumbleweeds blowing across the red, arid land…tattooed desert train truckies with dust in their mouths lining up at “Mohammed’s Outback Desert Desserts Diner” just waiting for an ice-cold camel milk soft-serve or a double humpburger with feral fries. Sounds like our man Mohammed could probably sell ice to Eskimos. I should talk to him about that….