99 Things To Do In Bloemfontein…though a beach ain’t one

Cheapflights hired a mommy of two blogger who “lives close to Bloem” to write an article of 6 things to do on the cheap in our hood. Bless her. I tried taking that line but even though the the accounting department was close to the law faculty where I studied, KPMG still won’t give me a job.

More importantly, I was annoyed by the copious comments of people hating on Bloem saying that there was nothing to do in this city.

I often sit in the Mystic Boer listening to people lamenting the short supply of things to do in Bloem and wishing they could move to Cape Town…but when I hit the mother city, I can rest assured I’ll see all the Bloem expats either at Yours Truly or Von Hunks…and either spend a small fortune on parking or Uber if I feel like going to the “free” beach…but hating on Cape Town will be a separate article.

Having lived in Bloemfontein for 25 of my 28 years, I could never remember being bored, unless I was lazy. Most people who get annoyed with Bloem are probably annoyed because they wanted to go home at 2am with a dude at Western Saloon who had Toyota keys sticking out of his pocket because they thought that those keys opened Hilux but they really just opened a Tazz…or they drive a Tazz.

To counter this, I went through my photos from grade 9 until present day and made a list of the coolest stuff I think that Bloem offers. When building this list, I thought it lazy to pinpoint particular places and rather offer categories of things to do where possible (except for the markets). The point is to prove that Bloem doesn’t suck and offer something to those tempted to say it.

I should also mention that there’s no cost cap to this list. I may be an attorney and people assume attorneys are wealthy but since I haven’t practiced in nearly a year, most of my life is spent on the cheap. While there are a couple of expensive items on the list, the majority of the options are either free or more affordable than maintaining one’s DSTV privilege.

Before we get onto the list, I must say that I’ve read many such lists that are simply “meh” and don’t give Bloem the credit it deserves. These lists upset me because they push the idea that it’s cool to talk smack about Bloem. Thus I’ve deliberately left the common things like Naval Hill, Bowling, Botanical Gardens and hitting the gym off the list.

What is on the list, however, are 3 categories of things; first, things that can be done at any time. These make up the bulk of the list. Then things that are particular to certain days and times. Thirdly, a couple of things to do on the long term. Together, these make up the 99. Thereafter, I offer a bonus list of things that Bloem used to have that I would love to have back, in case anybody wants to give me money to start them…so without further ado…

  1. Swing Life Away

    Bloemfontein boasts a number of parks, each boasting a set of playthings. Fortunately, none of them have an age restriction though most have an ass restriction. I wear size 38s so I’ve been relegated from the slides and swings but the see-saw welcomes me with open handles.Hitting the parks at the end of a date seems like a dodgy prospect but it’s super fun. If not, it makes for a great, “well, let’s have date two at the park” excuse to see your date again.What I love about the parks are the pseudonyms; from Redds Hill to Wine Park, each group of friends call the parks something different reflecting their interests and uses for the parks. On second thought, perhaps I shouldn’t have shared our names for the parks.

  2. Geocaching

    With over 200 geocaches in Bloem, many of which require at least 3 attempts, there’s a lot to be done on the treasure hunting scene. If you’re not familiar with the concept, you should read up on it.19875383_10155363683846977_1259877361868078502_n

    What really gets me going is the effort many who have placed caches put in. Learning about Bloemfontein is exceptionally fun this way because most caches tell you about the history of the spot where the cache is hidden.

    There’s even a couple aptly named “Louwtjie en Vroutjie” who place some of the best gems in the city, from Naval Hill (I know I said I wouldn’t mention it) to the tank on Nelson Mandela, caches are everywhere.

    It may get pricey but fortunately there’s an opensource alternative to the official app.


  3. Putput

    Putput is totally underrated and while we may have a putput course on Park Road, it’s possible to use the the feature of the Free State that everybody rips on it for…it’s flatness…to your advantage.

    Much like every tree is a laver-tree, every surface in Bloem is a potential putput course. Corporate put put gifts are available everywhere but if you’ve already got the club and balls then you can fashion a hole out of a 2L coke bottle.

    If you are keen to slum it then most parking lots make for a great time but if you can spring the couple of bucks, trying to get the free game on the 18th hole and hear the hooter is totally a jol!


  4. Skop a braai

    South Africans love a good braai but we19990593_10155378708816977_1981908213378705273_n Free State-ers have perfected the ability to do it anywhere. From a halved oil drum to a wheel barrow, anything is a firepit when viewed through Vrystaat eyes. Not even being confined to a moonboot will stop us from lighting up the blitz. Ever been overseas? You’d be grateful for the the quality of meat we have on this side and being surrounded by farms, we get it oh so fresh. Vegetarian? Shame! But still, your local Spar probably sells mushrooms and garlic bread…maybe

    Finding your favourite butchery is also a great adventure. Personally, I’m a fan of Van Vuurens in Westdene though I also digg the Wollenschlaegers behind Emily Hobhouse Center.

    If you’re too lazy to braai your own meat, there are plenty of places that will do it for you but more on that later down the list.


  5. Taste Gin

    Gin is becoming more popular in Bloem16640783_10154840765936977_7029957634729173483_n as brandy specials have gone from the good ‘ol Second Avenue R9 a double to the new R25 a pop. Every place you can drink at offers gin and if somebody tells you that you should go to the gin bar, they’re probably talking about the Wiltshire and White Horse Company which has a good selection.

    For true gin connoisseurs thought, there is a secret gin spot in Bloem known as the Kitchen at Warm Karoo. Like major gin bars, they not only offer a different array of exquisitely great gins but also a choice of various tonics. I should warn you though that they say gin is the drink of sociopaths (more because of the tonic) so best beware if caught sacrilegiously drinking gin with lemon…gross! #RiseOfTheCucumber


  6. Take the dog for a walk

    So dogs are awesome and Bloem has an infinitebty number of places to take them. If you’re willing to spring the marginal membership fee then 7 Damme is great but a simple walk to the local park and throwing a stick around is also a good go. Don’t have a dog? No problem. You might not be able to take them for long walks but you could still volunteer at New Beginnings to play with the dogs in rehabilitation and awaiting adoption.


  7. Go fishing

    Odds are that if you live around Bloem, you know somebody with a farm who has access to a dam somewhere but even if you don’t, there’s no despair. Kalkfontein is a mere hour and a half away and if that drive is too much for you then Soetdoring  Nature Reserve is only half the distance away.

    What is important is that you do your homework first. Soetdoring no longer allows open fires and before fishing, one must get a licence to fish and of course, there’s the weather to watch out for. Because you’ll be making a mission to get there, take the time to make sure you get everything right before setting off.


  8. Go Camping

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    Ever seen a tent with a satellite dish?

    Once I hang out in Reinheim in a caravan but that’s hardly camping. For festival prep, some mates and I have gone out to a plot and set up some tents.

    You may think that we’re only at list item 8 and things are looking desperate but this was exceptionally fun. We’ve been doing this since some friends threw a make shift fest on a plot just outside Bloem.Get some mates together, bring a guitar or two and things can happen…it’s kinda how Oppi began anyway.


  9. ​Party Up

    The Free State boasts 3241 on-siteburst consumption liquor licences issued. If you’re an avid party animal, odds are you make use of maybe 10 or 20 of those. So why not check out a new place.

    I’ve been around the province trying out different pubs and bars and Bloem has some seriously cool hidden gems but you should explore for yourself.

    Before it shut down, Craig’s Pub was the ultimate place to catch up with the local journos so I loved it for its gossip quality…and fish tank.

    Today, however, if I’m not hitting my typical 2nd Avenue joints, I enjoy a mission to Sechaba’s and Uncle Thabo’s when I feel like shisa nyama. If I feel like some good boere treffers, a hit to the bar of the old Boulevard Hotel (we fondly call it “Die Gat”) is in order. Yup, the Gordon Street hotel might not be in operation anymore but the bar is still going with a snooker table and updated jukebox to boot.

    So the next time somebody moans about only having one place to go, tell them about the 3240 others because each of them have something different to offer and finding something you enjoy is exciting. Personally, I’m excited that I discovered Blend‘s cucumber martini.


  10. Best Coffee

    The rise of the hipster has overrun certain aspects of Bloemfontein and craft coffee has become more popular that craft beer. From Cafe Plenty to Picnic, most artisan restaurants offer a variety of coffees but there has also been a rise of coffee specific joints.

    Royal Rostery in LHP offers a couple of good blends but if you’re keen on some of the best coffee in the country, you can’t go wrong by hitting up Stereo Cafe in 2nd Avenue. Not only will James or Jonno make you an amazing brew but if you’re alone, you’ll likely be engaged in pleasant conversation.


  11. Throw a party…better yet, have somebody throw it for you

    Some of the best memories of my youth12107055_10153457111991977_8332043320291876495_n find place at house parties…something that Bloem seems to have lost sight of. Because so few people throw these anymore, you could opt to do it yourself but hopefully after reading this, a couple more people might be amenable to put their house at risk.

    Of course, it need not be as raucous as I recall those I used to frequent but whatever.

    The point is that fun is generally had when you find yourself around a collection of friends and/or family. Most seem to find it too much of an effort to catalyze such a gathering so get over that laziness and bring your mates together.

    House parties tend to be less expensive than dinner parties because you can get away with using the term “bring your own…” as opposed to cooking for everybody…assuming nothing is broken.


  12. Freshford House Museum

    I may have promised not to mention specific things but this is a museum left off of most Bloem lists and I lament its exclusion each time. It is easily one of Bloem’s forgotten greats and it’s dirt cheap. A 90 minute tour of how the elite of town used to live cost me only 15 bucks last year and the old tannie from Dewetsdorp who took me around knew her stuff.

    I suspect that it’s lost on most is because it’s speaks to the old colonial way of life so marketers might thing that neither Bloem’s boer nor its black population may be interested but they’d be wrong.

    From how the Englishmen of old would treat their servants to how they would treat their spouses, it’s an emaculately kept memory of part of Bloem’s lost history…and you wouldn’t believe where it is…Kelner Street…like right there and you’ve probably driven past it hundreds of times without even knowing.

    Once you’ve completed the tour, the garden is also something to check out. From herbs to roses, living rich back in the 1800s didn’t seem too bad.


  13. Kick Some Ass

    Paintball is a painful exercise I’m not to keen on because if you saw my Counter Strike skills, my kills-to-death ratio is painfully bad. Carrying that terrible aim into the real world always lands me with more bruises than joy but life is give and take so if my mates want to engage in an activity that they stand a chance against me in, I must offer sacrifice of my pride and take a couple of shots. While we often play at Meerkat (because we like to have drinks afterwards in the lapa), Ruins is far bigger in case you have more than a dozen friends.


  14. Ride a horse

    I must admit to never having been on a horse (something about seeing a camel carry my mother away back in Lebanon for a couple of minutes as a 3 year old child and crying hysterically) but I’ve been on the sidelines while my friends did it.

    Bloem used to have a grand horse racing tradition. In fact, you might not know this but if you drive around President Paul Kruger Avenue, you’ll notice your odometer will clock precisely 4km. That’s because it used to be a racetrack.

    Some research will indicate that there are quite a few places to get on a horse and even get some lessons. The scenery and other things available at Die Oudekraal would make it my first choice should I ever get over 3 year old Chem’s fears.


  15. Get in 18, or 9 or 1 or whatever

    Rumours abound that the powers that be want to shut down Bloemfontein Golf Club and Schoeman Park but until that manifests, Bloem sports two really great gold courses .But that’s not all. There are some driving ranges. My favourite being Tempe, thought Tempe also boasts a course. Driving down Curie Avenue there is a course though I’m not certain if it’s still operational.

    Basically, you’re not short of options if you feel like being Tiger Woods (in terms of golf…not so much adultery but I wouldn’t write an article advocating that)


  16. Hike it out

    You wouldn’t believe me but there are a couple of cool places to have a hike in and around town. If you insist on doing the Naval Hill thing, you could go off the beaten track and venture into the valley. I’m not sure if you’re allowed to and there are live wild animals around so you might not want to take the risk…certainly not alone.

    With 7 Damme and Botanical Gardens also offering hiking trails, you could make a fun afternoon of it though Pellesier Koppies and Woodlands also offer extensive hiking trails.

    Of course, if you’re up for a drive, Clarens has a lot to offer but about 50km on the old Kimberley Road, there’s a dried up dam to your left that is our feature walk around.


  17. Buy a PS1…sell it 2 days later

    As a kid in grade 2, I remember when Crash Bandicoot 2 came out and Simon and I were super keen to play it. Neither of us owned a PlayStation though but fortunately, Mr Video would rent them out for 25 bucks with a game. Add some microwave pizza and that was our weekend sorted!

    Alas, video stores no longer rent out consoles but that’s not too much of an issue. The second hand market in Bloem is rife with consoles, from Cash Crusaders to Gumtree, you can pick a console up for a couple of hundred bucks.

    If the second hand bug bites beyond consoles then there are great places like Kraaines and Desleys were you can pick up incredible cool gems one the cheap.


  18. Start a Twar

    Pseudo-celebrities in Bloem from hiphop artistsnobody to radio presenters really take their online personas personally. You can hit them where it hurts by hurling insults at them through the channels of Twitter.

    It’s most enjoyable when they return the favour and a full on Twitter war erupts. To this end, as a nobody with nothing to lose, you can simply continue hurling insults and see these guys try defend themselves.

    I found that, from drafting the lessons on how to be a true millennial, the best insult goes as follows, “Your life has more hashtags than likes”.

    I also found it rather hilarious when one Dora (who I’ve never met) attempted to take me on and gave up instantly.

    Do me a favour when you start hurling insults and use the hashtag #BloemBanter so we can follow the Twars.


  19. Maselspoort

    Yet again, another specified location but it’s mas 072important and activities are potentially endless once you’re there. Sure it’s a summer mission and sure it’s something you must budget a day for but if you take the right gear, you’re in for a fun day.

    Our checklist generally includes slide mats, hubbly (which we used to fill with Redds…remember Redds?), a couple of beers, wood, meat, balls (both tennis and soccer) and cucumber and cheese sandwiches.

    Best part is that if you forget anything, you can buy it at the shop there, from ice to blitz…but not cossies, be sure to bring a pair of those if you’re going to hit the pools.Incidentally, there’s also a putput course.


  20. Breakfast missions

    Breakfast! The best part of waking up for usIM000807.JPG fatties. In the days of Barba’s and Second Avenue Cafe, I would look forward to school exam block days because tradition had it that Jonathan and I would meet for cheap breakfast before hitting the books.

    While those establishments have been long gone, breakfast specials are found everywhere from Eurocafe’s breakfast buffet to Urth Cafe to Cafe Plenty. Basically, if there’s an establishment with “cafe” in the name and it doesn’t have a breakfast special, it probably won’t survive long enough for you to notice.


  21. Car Spotting

    So this one may be slightly mean 2006 December (25)but I’m not a fan of the pushy tactics of salesmen so I have no issue messing with them a little, especially car salesmen…especially that one dude who looked at me with that ‘you can’t afford this’ look when I asked him the price of a new Mazda MX5. He was right but still, how dare he? Bloem’s second hand car scene is huge and salesmen are desperate to make sales since a large chunk of their income is based on commission. This means that they’re willing to let you hit test drives if you can convince them that you’re serious about buying a car.

    Some form of divine providence has guided car retailers to all congrigate in the local car Mecca known simply as Church Street so parking your car are taking a walk up the street could make for a full day’s adventure.

    While you’re there, check out the Eifel Tower replica. It also contains a geocache.


  22. Break In

    Look, nobody said this list contained completely legal advice but here goes anyway. There’s been somewhat of an exodus from Bloem’s suburbs and a number of houses are on the market. Since few people are buying, people often leave their houses vacant while they head out to their new abode, where ever that might be.

    While you’d be silly to throw a loud party and get caught, if nobody knew you were there, how bad could it be? Well that was our thinking back in grade 11 when a lovely house in Wilcocks Road offered us sanctuary from the rest of the world and a venue to light a fire and hang out.

    It’s obviously not advisable but if you were to attempt this, know the risks, leave nothing but footprints and take nothing but photographs. On second thought, if you do this, don’t leave prints of any sort and probably don’t take photos either #evidence


  23. Go Asian

    Back in high school, the Asian kids would always have what I thought was weird food packed for them. Bless younger Chem for he was conditioned and isolated from other cultures as are most Bloem kids.

    Then I tasted White Rabbit toffees…Since then, the Asian markets of Bloemfontein have been as appealing to me as the Preller PicknPay is to wealthy housewives.

    Two stand out predominantly being the market at Emily Hobhouse Center and the other on the corner of Aliwal and Kelner Street (next to where the Book Nook used to be…what a loss that was).

    From sushi ingredients to tofu, these places rock. The majority of my waist consists of pork dumplings which make up a meal at least once a week.

    Cooking Asian for your mates not only makes you seem impressive but exotic too.


  24. Visit the Rose Garden

    Bloemfontein actually boasts a rose garden but I don’t think there are any roses left in it. It also had a couple of markets in it which were distinguished from the markets we’re exposed to today because it would feature the work of local artisans without the pomp of imported goods.

    While the loss of the rose garden is terribly sad, Bloemfontein still lends itself to some impressive garden work. A walk though Waverley Road or Innes Avenue or most suburban streets would afford evidence to the incredible flora of our city.


  25. Read a book

    If you’re complaining that the public library has been closed for renovations for over a year and you can’t get a book, stop being lazy. There’re other libraries from Rocklands to Langanhovenpark and it costs less than a coffee to sign up. As alluded to above, a great Bloem institution, the Book Nook has been lost but fortunately there is another great second hand book store, the Bloem Book Shop where you can pick up books at prices that will grant you the feelings you had as a kid armed with R200 when nothing in the Crazy Store cost more than 10 bucks.

    Reading is lost on my generation so if a couple of us can make being smart cool again, it would be lekker. Perhaps there’s a book on how to do that.


  26. Hire a party bus

    Ever since I attended my first annual 2011-11-05 09.31.36Greek Youth Party Bus a decade ago, party buses have had an effect on me similar to the effect of a shoe sale on a diva.

    There are a couple of companies that do it town so you can check various options out. To date, the best party bus experience I’ve had was on a bachelors party where the bus took us to Dewetsorp Golf Club where the party continued until we returned.

    From marketing our university residence during open day to making a trek with mates more enjoyable, a party bus is a great excuse to have a party. Surprised more people don’t do it.


  27. Have a steak

    Steaks are incredible on their own so imagine if a great chef preps one for you. Bloem rocks some great establishments which make amazing steaks.

    Growing up, we had the Beef Baron but since it is no longer, there are a couple of other places to test even the most devout vegans. From the Longhorn to the Shute (seriously, they know how to make a steak at the Shute) to Margaritas, Free State meat finds great places to be cooked.

    As an avid lover of Old No 7, my particular favourite is New York‘s Jack Daniel’s Rump.


  28. Explore!

    Bloem isn’t as small as you think and one is generally tempted to stick to only those areas near to them. Personally, I never ventured further south than the CUT unless it was to go to the Bloem Show (don’t judge, it’s one of the few places that still offer caramel bananas).

    Since geocaching, I’ve taken to parking my car in a different area and walking around a new suburb and not leaving until I find 10 things which pique my interest.

    Doing this, I discovered new parks, geocaches and burger joints…also potential property investments. Now it’s just a matter of exploring and finding some capital.


  29. Hunt Art

    The Bloemfontein art scene is huge yet underground. Following the movement of the Fractal community will let you know when there are new exhibitions but Oliewenhuis is not where all the art happens.

    Cafe Plenty has a great gallery that’s often updated as does Iewers Nice. But one need not look too far for art as the community expands.

    First Fridays has opened art to a greater audience in the city and made art more appealing.

    Moreover, antique shops and the art shop in the Checkers Hyper center in the south have made the art arena larger, wider, more vibrant and much more accessible.


  30. Picnic

    In Germany, many large cities are developed to the point where home owners cannot afford to have gardens because of the price of land. This is remedied by the existence of many parks.

    While we tend to have gardens, we also have many parks which are underutilized. I make a big deal about our parks because they’re really cool so if Bloemfonteiners can get over their pretense, they might enjoy an asset that’s right there.

    Some parks have interesting goodies attached to them such as the Orchid House. Check things out when you are at a park. Just because you can do it all in a day doesn’t mean that it’s bad, nor does it mean that you shouldn’t.


  31. Suit Up

    Bloemfontein boasts a couple of hideouts for cool suit items. From wooden ties to wooden bowties, wood seems to be the ultimate in suit accessory fashion.

    I’m still waiting on wooden cuff-links but maybe that’s the next thing Love Warrior will stock. There are also occasional occasions to don a suit from watching the symphony orchestra to hitting a play in the Sand.

    There are actual suit shops around town but that’s another list item.


  32. Hang out in Court

    As an attorney, this one’s pretty close to me. I get so annoyed at the prospect of 100s of law students passing through the local university without even setting foot in a courtroom despite having 3 different court houses in Bloem but that’s their issue.

    Many people don’t know this but court is an open thing. Anybody can go sit in on a hearing from a divorce to a property dispute. One of my first dates with my girlfriend was taking her to a divorce hearing and predicting each argument (with great success) so that she knows who will come off worse if she ever leaves me…but I digress.

    If you want to hear excellent argument, make a plan to sit in on an interesting matter in the Supreme Court of Appeal (it is the only one in the country). Serious matters attract advocates from all over the country so you’ll be witnessing the cream of the crop in action…for free.

    Sure it’s not everybody’s cup of tea but it’s there and everybody should have exposure to the legal process at some point…and preferably as an observer, not an accused/defendant.


  33. Volunteer at the Cheetah Experience

    There are a number of charities you can get involved in (more on that later) but Cheetah Experience is up there in my favourites tab. Many of the staff whom I’ve met (if not most) are former volunteers (from around the world no less) who love the work so much that they made it their livelihood.

    The place is rather spectacular and well run to the point that the volunteers offer their time, in some instances, from 5am to 9pm.

    Even if you don’t volunteer, you should go check it out. The caracals are more adorable than your granny trying to quote Eminem lyrics in an attempt relate to your generation.


  34. Shop local

    The Bloem manufacturing industry is minute but it still exists and you would do well to investigate it. Of particular interest to me is pallet furniture so Palletfurn is a great industry player that even exports out of the city.

    It’s exciting to see things happening in Bloem that have use beyond the the borders of the city and putting the city on the map. If they get more exposure, it would do wonders for the growth of the manufacturing sector, especially promoting startups.


  35. Maths teaches us that there’s no such thing as flat

    Bloem gets a bad rap for being flat but that’s not particularly true. Any fan of 4am missions to “Liggies” before the police closed it down would know that there are awesome views of our city from our city. Some of my favourite views are on the side of Hennie Potgieter Cres, especially when we’re graced with a fabulous huge full moon. There are other places but those are for you to find and maybe Alexia and I will run into you there (I’ll give another one away later down the list).


  36. Hip Hop

    Great musicians are born in Bloemfontein and often they leave but the hip hop industry is alive and well with parties being thrown regularly.

    The corner  of Kolbe Avenue and President Avenue often has a big poster advertising these parties but you don’t have to look far to find hip hop artists.


  37. Get on air16195114_10154751638551977_7040040154809318936_n

    Radio in South Africa is struggling for content and with listenership dropping across the board, presenters will feature anybody with something to offer.

    It works like this; you go on air and tell your friends you’ll be on air and then they listen. Hopefully they enjoy it enough that they listen to the next couple of shows even when you’re not on.

    Even if you don’t have any interesting things to offer, make something up and make it interesting to listen to.

    I’ve been on Kovsie FM as an expert of hubbly etiquette, CUT FM as a legal strategist, CliffCentral for living in Hillbrow, ANN7 for making a Facebook post and OFM to discuss policies during my SRC president days. Nowadays, I make fewer appearances on radio with made up titles because when I want to take my shot at a more permanent position on air, I’d need them to take me seriously.


  38. Have an Instawalk

    What’s that you may ask? It’s a gathering of people around interesting photogenic places where they walk around taking photos and uploading their best ones with the same hashtag, say #InstaBloem.

    Given that Bloem has such incredible architecture, it’s odd that nobody has done this yet but if you’re reading this, then perhaps you could be a pioneer. Let me know, I’ll join. The ones I did in Johannesburg were incredibly fun.


  39. Get yo hair did

    There are tons of places in Bloem that do hair and beauty so you can take your pick. I used to have my hair and beard done at BAB Barbers but when they told me I needed to make an appointment, I couldn’t take them seriously as a barbershop.

    Seriously, the vet at Brandwag doesn’t even require appointments and that dude has the title of Doctor. Kudus to them for being so busy though *smiles*

    Today, the ballie at Free State Barbers in Northridge styles me out and also stocks my oil of choice.

    I have friends at Hair@Bennies who I also let touch my scalp sometimes when I’m keen to make a drive to LHP.


  40. Spa Out

    I’m not one for spa therapy but recently, my IMG-20170522-00052girlfriend took me to Emoya spa and the massage was incredible. Since then, I’ve been checking out other spas and noticed we’ve got a couple.

    There’s even a Thai spa in Wilcocks Road but I’m yet to try it out.


  41. Night Trails

    Another thing I discovered in Jozi, night trails is when you leave your exposure on the camera open for a couple of seconds at sunset so you get the New York-esk kinda picture.

    Night trail photography hasn’t made it to Bloemfontein yet but there are a couple of reasons why. Firstly, instagram doesn’t have that feature and secondly traffic hasn’t hit Bloem until recently.13719594_10154138656061977_2263942287561784504_oI’ve found the best place to do this is on the ridge next to John Williams motors on the side of Nelson Mandela Road. It’s another cool viewing point I used to end dates during my days of courting.


  42. Old Presidency

    The Old Presidency museum is also one of those goodies left off of the list. I’m not as much of a fan of what’s inside it as much as the building itself.

    It also boasts a cool art gallery and sometimes a theater.


  43. Sk8

    Admittedly, I’ve never been able to skate but I was always in the punk rock scene so all my friends were skaters. I usually just followed on my bicycle and worked the camera. From Bobbies Park to the Skate Park out on the old Kimberley Road, there are plenty of dedicated spots featuring some of Bloem’s maddest talent.

    That being said, there are some unofficial spots where one can skate too. The community is also very accommodating and helpful so even if you bail (I did a lot), you won’t be judged…much.


  44. Pine cones!

    As a kid, I went to a lot of parties and one of the coolest things we did was at David’s party. His dad took us out on a bakkie to Happy Valley where we collected pine cones.

    These things make for a great fire (though you need many). Sure it’s childish to do and you could just go buy wood anywhere on the side of the road but there’s something exciting about making a fire with fuel you’ve collected.

    It’s the same feeling you get from eating springrolls you’ve made as opposed to eating the yummy Pat Pong ones.


  45. Visit the elderly

    The best advice ever offered to me came from my client and entrepreneur Steve. Steve told me to go to an old age home and speak to a retired person who worked a job their entire life and see the regret in their eyes about how they lived their lives.

    After doing that, I quit my job.

    More than that though, I found that the elderly contain so much wisdom and they’re all too often willing to speak to those willing to listen.

    Our generation venerates the youth at the expense of the elderly much too easily and you could do yourself a great service by taking the time to hang out with them.


  46. Catalog street art

    Awesome dude extraordinaire, 978-0-7643-4657-6_small-768x506 Cale Waddacor cataloged Johannesburg’s street art and published a book on it, Sure, Bloem’s not as vibrant but I’ve seen some great art all over.

    If somebody were to catalog it, it might inspire more and we might create another tourist attraction but right now, great art is going to waste.


  47. Check out the cob houses

    Now I’m not one to promote poverty tourism so don’t read it like this. There are some people who make incredible houses out of cob with great art.

    This sustainable form of house building has incredible properties. It’s really cool in summer and super warm during winter.

    Some good people teach and train others to make these houses and empower the unemployed to establish their own house making businesses.


  48. Go to church

    The churches here are pretty majestic and incredible to look at. Of course one could seek out the cathedrals but there are a couple of little gems around town.

    My favourite is what seemingly is an abandoned chapel just past Route 66. But there’s also the Klipkerk, the Saint Andrew’s Chapel and many others just steeped in history.


  49. Juice yourself

    My girlfriend gave me a juicer and juicing has been so much fun but not as fun as hunting for juice ingredients.

    Sure you can pop down to your local but where’s the fun in that? Bloem offers stacks of places to grab fruit and veg. One is even aptly named Fruit and Veg City.

    Opposite the abattoir though is Metro Food Market which has all you could need all in one place.


  50. Grow a succulent garden

    So succulents are an awesome grow and they are found all over Bloem. Driving around looking for ones to take cuttings from can be a lot of fun when you’re looking for something specific.

    Of course this requires research. If you have an idea of what you want, going around hunting for it makes for an interesting treasure hunt.

    I won’t admit to having taken cuttings from the Botanical Gardens but I am disappointed at the state of their nursery. The dedicated succulent garden there does however give a good indication of the variety of succulents and will give any gardener an idea of what’s on offer while providing some inspiration.


  51. Get a room!

    You know what we have a lot of here? Guest houses! If you’re in need of a holiday but can’t head off somewhere, booking into a guest house is nearly as good as a holiday.

  52. Meet your new friend on TinderTinder may be known as a hookup tool but if you put something interesting in your bio about what you’re looking for, it makes for interesting friendships.A close friendship I fostered out of Tinder was with somebody touring from the United States who in her bio stated, “I’m just here to tour. I have a boyfriend who I love but keen to meet new people. Show me your city. Show me where to get good weed and where the best parties are”

    I may have disappointed on the weed part but I appreciated the gusto and so it was that it became a great friendship with no romance.


  53. Check out the Franklin Game Reserve sdr

    Okay okay! I know I promised not to mention Naval Hill but I consider the game reserve on Naval Hill as separate to the rest of the the Hill.

    Featuring Geoff and Ugna the giraffe, a couple of buck, some ostrich and a whole lotta other cool animals, it’s so awesome to explore (many geocaches too).

    Be careful though because the animals are wild and you’re invading their space which they might not appreciate, especially if you deviate off of the paths.


  54. Eat a Boerie

    Yeah you can get this at any market but there are a couple of guys who are super fun to speak to and you might end up ordering another one just to continue the conversation.

    From hitting rock bottom to stories of just leaving corporate South Africa to live a simpler life, John outside PicknPay at Bloemgate, Gys die Slagter at Reizis Square and a man who calls himself Mr Hamburger make for the most pleasant lunch time conversation.

    Mr Hamburger even has a stall outside party places so he’s also a lifesaver in instances where your 4th flaming Lamborghini has been spiked.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O_YYNvefZDo


  55. Be faster

    Strava is my running app of choice but there are a few. There are over 11 running clubs in Bloemfontein but you can take your choice as to when to run thanks to technology and still be competitive. The city is full of running trails so it’s possible to do an infinite number of different runs.

    Compete with yourself or with others.

    Special benefit is that the air in Bloem tends to be cleaner than most big cities so run in the morning, afternoon or evening. It’s all (smogless) good!


  56. Get you some ink

    There are stacks of tattoo joints in Bloem, from Costa at Tattoo Republic to Seth at Beyond the Flesh. They tend to do piercings too.

    Like having a lawyer or accountant, you should establish a long term relationship with your tattoo artist so that they better capture the art you want on your body.

    Personally, I make use of Mona at Skin Art for the one tattoo that I do have. The great thing is that we’re spoilt for choice in terms of not only studios but artists as well.


  57. Tannie Mossie

    Joan Abrahams is the mother of Bloemfontein and an incredible woman with a wealth of knowledge. She’s written two books which are rare finds but if you can find one, you’ll find some extraordinary stuff about Bloem.

    Tannie Mossie used to be a huge support to the military boys during the border wars and a teacher.

    I still have the coin she gave me in grade 8 which has a historically significant backstory.

    Check her writing out and if you ever get the opportunity to take a tour with her, take it.


  58. Be a vigilante

    Sure there’s a Bloemfontein Park Like a Doos page that you can report terrible parking to but there are other ways you can be a civic member.

    Be creative. Go beyond the placing of “no illegal dumping” signs and wear a cape.#nameandshame


  59. Get healthy

    Health is important and Bloem has the resources to maintain it. Sure you can gym and juice but once you’ve done the research, you’ll find that there’s more you can do.

    There are a number of health shops throughout Bloem but the tried and tested option is Emagemes at the Waterfront. What I appreciate about Marna and her crew is that while they stock everything you’ll need, they also make sure you’re equipped with the knowledge of what you’re doing to your body with all the things you put into/onto it.


  60. Spanish Trade

    Most of us have stuff we’re willing to part with and instead of selling it or giving it away, exchange it for something. Again, Bloem has the capacity to do something that’s not currently happening but should be. We don’t have Spanish trades but no reasons not to?

    Two or more friends should surely be able to swap stuff out so there’s no reason why not to engage in such. Girlfriends do this all the time with sharing dresses because it makes for more efficient use of the item.


  61. Let them eat cake

    As Dylan Moran said, “Cake is the language of love” so getting cake is always great. You could make it yourself but why bother when it could be made for you.

    In great Afrikaner tradition, Bloem boasts a tuisnywerheid around every corner, each of which has such a selection of cake…and, of course, milk tart.

    While one cannot exactly collect cakes, one can try them all. Bloem’s shops totally help in that department.


  62. LP

    True music fans hate mp3s because they compress audio but taking out the frequencies that the human ear cannot hear. This is why they love flack files.

    Similarly, music fans prefer LPs over CDs because of the greater depth to the sound…even if they’re being pretentious.

    So where does one get LPs in Bloem. That’s a challenge worth taking on. Desleys holds a few as do the antique shops but I think the biggest collection in Bloem is sitting in my house.

    If you find a great source that’s bigger than all the little ones around, let me know.


  63. Let international come to you

    Thanks to the university and a bunch of other things, internationals come through to Bloem every now and again and it provides a great opportunity to expand your horizons.

    I find that most internationals are drawn to the Mystic Boer but if you know the right people, you could get an invitation to the international houses and do some exchange…maybe a melktert for an international meal.

    You could meet anybody from Germany to Isreal and learn some global things along the way.

    One of the Isrealis selling sea salt in the Waterfront once asked my then girlfriend (at that time) if she’s ever been with an Isreali. She responded that she hadn’t but she’s dating a Lebanese guy. It got awkward from there on…


  64. Rent a DVD

    In the age of ThePirateBay and DSTV, we rarely have the adventure of a movie night anymore. Recall the days of going to Mr Video, arguing for over 20 minutes about what to watch and then settling on a film neither of you liked but could both tolerate.

    What’s great about renting a DVD is that because you go through that effort of going out and getting the film that you’d go to the effort of making the movie night a great time.

    Instead of just blomming on the couch watching whatever’s there and eating whatever you have in the kitchen, this way you go out of your way to ensure the popcorn is fresh, the movie is tolerable and the company is right.


  65. Be pretentious

    Again, taking on the salesmen of the world, going to the fancy dress stores (especially the one in the Waterfront) and trying on all the nice suits you have no intention to buy is a perfectly satisfying way to spend a Thursday morning.

    Alternatively just wear pretentious suits for no reason and notice how people treat you differently. There’s something about a suit in Bloem that makes people appreciate you more. Perhaps because it’s an easy association but either way, it’s super fun to go try stuff on and pretend you’re rich enough to rock it.

    Whatever hey. It’s not like Instagram shows whether you own the clothes or not.


  66. Be cheap

    A huge reason for businesses to leave Bloem is our idiot (and unsustainable) desire to haggle on every line item of a budget. If you can get soap at R2 less elsewhere, you’re going to do it.

    Business interests, quality, networking and sustainability tend to always come second to cost. This is why the club with the best brandy special survives (until it doesn’t) longer than its competitors, regardless of the dangers of the race to the the pricing bottom.

    But that’s not the point here. Consider the last time you walked through Sandton City and got the looks of disapproval for not having spent the requisite 2 hours in front of the mirror, taken the 4 instagram and 2 snapchat selfies captioning them, “be your best self today” and applied your most elegant gait prior.

    Minimum accepted dress in this town is shorts and a tshirt. Shoes, socks (and I assume underwear) are optional.

    Sure, you’ll get looks from all the ladies who used to be farm girls but then married rich…but they’re just envious of the life they left behind.

    It’s the most liberating thing since nudism but this liberation struggle won’t get you thrown in the tjoekie.


  67. Get your hobby on

    Hobbies are great and there are a couple of outlets that allow you to get it on. Personally, I’m a fan of building model planes so even the toy store in Mimosa is up my alley but for the more intense hobbiests, there are a few specialised places.

    One worth mentioning is the hobby store in Fleurdal because it stocks all you need to build an actual flying model plane and fly it.

    I must mention that I’m talking about proper model planes and not these new drone things that make RC flying the next best way to stalk your ex after they block you and your additional fake account on Facebook.

    When remote flying was still an accepted recreational sport, these guys were there and they know the ins and outs of it all.


  68. Sushi

    Most times when exotic cuisine comes to town, the locals look at it with scorn, consider it not to be on par with braai kos and then forget about it. Peronally I miss the Cafe Orient but I understand why the population of Bloem didn’t want to sit on cushions, smoking hubbly while they eat.

    Sushi is the enigma in this equation because it seems to have caught on in the 5 years that it’s been around. From the Na Go Yas to the Full Houses to the rather unfortunate and offensively named Haro, sushi is everywhere and if you were cool, you’d make it yourself but sometimes the laziness gets to you and you outsource your coolness to those who specialize in it.

    But I take who I outsource to very seriously so when possible, I always outsource to Jackie, owner of Dala Mala at Showgate. I know it’s cross pollination of cultures but you can always tell a good sushi place by their chicken sweetcorn soup and whatever measure you wish to implement, Dala Mala comes out tops.


  69. Climb a rock

    Yeah okay, I’ve never done this in Bloem but I did climb the rock in Umhlanga and have a lot of friends who climb rocks here while look on and sip from my hip flask. It looks like they’re having a good time and despite not understanding the appeal, my friends having a good time doing it warrants it going on this list.

    So rock climbing is seemingly the solution to any spiderman fetish one may have but from the looks of those who do it, it also acts as an alternative to the gym.

    Seeing as you can climb any rock and be proud of yourself, serious rock climbers have taken it to the next level and manufactured their own walls to control the difficulty of the climb.

    Major rock climbing walls can be found at the UFS and the CUT and one would have to join some form of club and do all the health and safety things surrounding it before assenting.

    Just don’t fall or you’ll be dangling from a rope and even though walking around town barefoot isn’t embarrassing, that is.


    We arrive now at the portion of the list which entails things to do at specific times. This portion of the list aims to respond not only to the “there’s nothing to do in Bloem” moaners but also to the “nothing happens here” ones.

     

  70. Sunday Night Live MusicSundays have become my favourite nights insdr town. Primarily due to my unemployment, I have no reason to fret the upcoming Monday but also the live music on offer is great.Scarlet Room happens to be my staple and you can almost guarantee a good time with a good band because they’ve got an excellent rotation. (Bloem actually really does have great musical talent).

    I’m particularly keen on Shared Address but really it doesn’t take a lot to excite me when the blues is on offer.

    Once you’ve had enough of Scarlet, Boudoir also offers something cool on Sundays. Jason Coetzer brings out his guitar and gives a platform to other artists who wish to have a spot to play.

    Sometimes, Boho also does a Sunday jazz night but the also have live music regularly.


  71. Chicago bands Friday

    Increasingly, live music comes out on Thursdays too at Chicago but you’re also in for a treat on Fridays.

    Since beer comes in at 18 bucks a pint and a Californian pizza will cost you less than 70, you could feast on the cheap while listening to good music.

    Quick warning to those with rubber arms; the bar staff can be incredibly persuasive and a bottle of tequila later, your next morning self might not be too impressed with you.


  72. Quiz Night Thursday17991128_10155063538526977_8965976156383264952_n

    Quiz nights come and go so it’s important to keep your eyes peeled for what’s on and when. When Mensa was still active in Bloem we used to go but after we started losing, we had to change our name from Mensa to Anne’s Hide and Seek.

    Since Duncan Bayne is the second funniest person in town, I love him as a quiz master. Of course he’s no Quizmaster Vazz (Your Mother’s Favourite Quizmaster) but we can’t expect to draw all the talent to Bloemfontein. Duncan hosts the @Office monthly quiz night which tends to be the most difficult in Bloem in my experience.

    A more frequent quiz night happens on Thursdays at Blend where you’re incentivised to score high in the rounds with free shots.


  73. Model Trains Sundays

    If you don’t have kids, you probably have access to kids whom you love and care for…nephews, nieces or kids of your friends.

    Kids love trains and those at Modeso Park make for a perfect Sunday outing to take the kids. My nephews love it and so too do all their fellow passengers. If the train is too full or they have gotten over it, there’s a park right next to the train and if you’re keen on a break, there’s also a geocache nearby.


  74. Hit the drags

    [I just caught the ambiguity of that title] The Bloem drag racing scene is nowhere near as zef as one might imagine. I remember my first time at the illegal drags back in 2007 when the cops would continuously stop the activities. The crowd was so welcoming and accommodating and everything seemed relatively safe.

    Being on a public road near an abandoned factory did scare me slightly but I was new and just a spectator. I had no clout to crit.

    Anyway, since then the drags have gotten more legal, their own track and are advertised regularly.

    Of course, sometimes, some people just can’t wait for the legal drags to happen and while I can’t share with you where they meet, I can say they might desire to check if there’s any Coke left in the old factory off Church Street to quench their thirst. They’re pretty open about this on the Facebook pages anyway.


  75. Ready Aim Fire

    Shooting ranges and archery clubs, while not many in number, exist in Bloem.  If you can get in, of course Tempe has a club but there are a couple around the city which offer different things and packages.

    It’s worthwhile checking them out since a day on the shooting range is probably more pleasant than a day on the driving range. It just seems that even if you miss your target, you’re still holding a gun and that seems more cool than hitting a ball with a stick.


  76. First Fridays

    The art scene is gaining more traction and the organisers of First Fridays (modelled on Cape Town and Johannesburg’s Thirst Thursdays) have given platform to the art world of Bloem to showcase their pieces.

    First Fridays happens generally in and around 2nd Avenue so you’ll be able to follow them on their Facebook page and see which bars are showcasing art and enjoy art and drink and food all at once.


  77. Get some culture in

    This is a broad one since there’s always a bunch of disjointed cultural activities taking place that few people know about yet we’re exposed to daily.

    Just look out on the street lamps and you’ll notice upcoming performances of the Free State Symphony Orchestra, performances at the UFS Odeon (usually these are free) or even something happening in the Sand Du Plessis.

    Bloemfontein boasts a couple of theaters and there’s generally something going on in at least one of them in any given week so just keep your ears to the ground.


  78. Board games

    I’m more a fan of hosting board game evenings at a home but I agree that sometimes that’s just too inconvenient. When such a time comes, Coffee Talks hosts a weekly board game evening on a Thursday night.

    The cafe offers a range of artisan food and juices and coffees and the like. For most, it will be quite a drive but if you’re invested in having a good evening and you take some friends along, the returns in terms of fun will be worth the investment.


  79. Support your teams

    When people think Bloemfontein,16640723_10154851294796977_8264225744622130364_n the immediate association is the Cheetahs and sure, cool. We should support them since going to the rugby is fun. You know what else is fun?

    Hitting the oval and watching the Knights or hitting Seisa and watching Celtics (seriously, Celtics supporters are serious about their team). But we tend to be a one sport community and thus only support one team of our city instead of all of them.
    So, identify your sport and challenge yourself to support the local teams of the other disciplines. Who knows? You might end up wearing a Roses FC or Shimlas Jersey.


  80. Pretend to buy a house

    *laughs in evil* Sundays were always fun because we used to dress up as if we’ve just come from church…people take you more seriously when they think you’ve just come from church…and inspect open day houses. Sure, we were never going to buy them but we have accumulated lists of what we want in our houses when the day comes.

    Perhaps it is wrong to give the real estate agent a sense of false hope but if you don’t take it too far, they still sell it to another person at the end of the day and get their money…win win.


  81. Join a cause

    There are so many causes in town that need hands. To name a few there’s End It, New Beginnings and of course the organisations that support causes like Round Table.

    If there’s an issue you care about and you don’t want to be bored, see how you can exchange your boredom by giving back to something on your heart.


  82. Park run14212751_10154282118561977_4904126150763610246_n

    Ahh yes. Naval Hill Park Run. Those who haven’t already done so will take the traditional photograph alongside Mandela to present when accused of racism. Excitement permeates the air with the knowledge that most will be collecting their first Discovery Vitality points that week. As the crowd gathers to a critical mass, mobile phones will come out to record the insurmountable 5km run of each individual in an effort to inform potential suitors that despite the 2 bottles of brandy consumed 14 hours ago, the individual is extraordinarily well built.

    LHP Park Run was recently established but Naval Hill is the long established run. Heidedal also boasts it’s own park run. This is almost as cool as being mentioned in that 2009 JR song about making circles bigger.

    Since Park Runs extend beyond the usual Saturday morning fixture, a week can easily get more condensed by partaking in the 5km journeys.


  83. Boeremark

    The long established weekly market of choice on a Saturday morning and also home to Kerry’s Kaas, creators of the best cheese in town. From crystals to melktert, you can find anything at this market.

    Recent additions include sushi (with chillies…weird I know…but delicious). A definite must for any out of towners who want to see what the locals have on offer. Be sure to arrive early


  84. Reizis Square Market

    A monthly market held where my dad kept convincing me that “whoever builds here is very brave”…a decade later and my dad is eating his words. Be that as it may, this market draws a lot of people for what it offers. A couple of ethnic food stores and some craft beer and easily 500 people pitch.

    It goes to show that you don’t need much to set up a market and have the people have a good time.


  85. Westdene Market

    Westdene market used to be a thing of beauty and then died down some 5 years ago. While it continued running, interest dwindled until very recently when, I suspect just based on better marketing, the market is buzzing.

    This monthly Saturday morning market is the more nature orientated market with fresh produce and holistic living and of course, much art.


  86. Emoya Market

    To most Emoya is an inconvenient drive especially with those annoying, yet essential, speed humps that they’ve just placed on Lucas Steyn.

    The market is worth it if you’re not going shopping but you’re just keen for a day out in the sun.

    Unless there’s an attached event, such as a karate show or a New Beginnings dog parade, there’s nothing that this market offers that you can’t get elsewhere save for the exquisite venue so if you’re keen on just chilling for the day, this is the place to do it.

    It helps that the Famous Brew and Still has a stand there. Their gin is to die for.

    20170325_120353


  87. Urth Café Market

    Have you also just started to notice just how many markets there are in Bloem? The Urth market up north is a night market which generally boasts a blonde lady singing to backing tracks followed by a band doing covers and arts and food stalls.

    Easily the most family friendly of the night markets, it’s got places for the kids to play and also the Famous Brew and Still for the adults. Have I mentioned that their gin is to die for?

    It’s also hosted at the nursary so prettiness abounds as do the steak filled rooster koek.


  88. Botanical Gardens Market

    The market with the highest cover charge but generally worth it because it gives you something to do on Sundays before live music time.

    Of course there’s live music here too but some dude singing to back tracks doesn’t quite do the Sunday live music evenings justice.

    The market sports a range of kiddies activities, hallumi fingers and varieties of spring rolls (peppadew and feta…yum).

    More importantly, they also feature the Famous Brew and Keg. If you can get your hands on their whiskey, it’s to kill for.


  89. Startup Grind

    Recent addition to the Bloem scene, Lesley Jennings brought us Startup Grind. It’s a live talk show hosted in a pub/bar with a local business personality sharing business insight and ideas.

    Even if you’re not a fan of the content, the networking opportunities are growing as more and more people get wind of it’s value.

    Certainly more valuable to attend than a JT Foxx talk and great to hear stories of local successes.


  90. Scout the bikers

    Bloem rocks a couple of bike clubs so when I’m bored on a Sunday morning, I’ll hunt them down and watch the procession of bikes. Yeah, it’s probably the most desperate thing on this list but still worth doing.

    I know that some of you reading this, like me, have gone and watched planes take off and land. There’s something redeeming about it.

    Checking out the bike procession is just a version of that.


  91. Music Bingo

    The best thing on a Wednesday night happens at Scarlet Room. Of course their burgers are amazing but on these nights, all the fun happens.

    Music bingo is when you’re given a bingo card but instead of boring numbers, they have songs on. The DJ plays songs and if you have the song on your card, you cross it out. A line gets you a shot and the first to have 2 lines down and 2 across wins a bar tab.

    Sometimes the songs are themed which makes it more fun. Anyway, in Johannesburg, life was haphazard but the one continuous thing was that Wednesday nights would always be at the Jolly Roger. I’m glad I found something local to plug that hole.


    The last portion of the list is Long Term Investments. These are ideas to keep you going and improving and not just spending time on once off fun



  92. Learn an InstrumentWhatsApp Image 2017-05-22 at 8.14.55 AMMany people are aware of Transnet being a jobs program for poor white people in the days of Apartheid but Bloem boasted another white upliftment project, the Musicon.The Musicon was developed to foster kids into the arts and develop a symphony orchestra from it. Of course since democracy, it was no longer exclusively white and the upliftment continues through the work of the dwindling number of dedicated teachers and instruments.

    Hiring a R40 000 instrument costs about R100 a month and the lessons are nearly as cheap. It’s no wonder that such great artists come from Bloem. It’s sad that they leave but the resources are here to develop musical skills so sign up.

    More importantly, we should make me CEO of the Musicon because I have so much I want to do with that place to foster the arts in Bloem and SA #GiveChemTheMusicon


  93. Join a League

    Initially I merely wanted to point out that we have great indoor football facilities at Fives but then I recalled that we have action netball, action cricket and a bunch of other sports leagues that one can partake in.

    So if you haven’t played squash since you were slammed 9-love in that Free State open tournament back in grade 8, dust off your ego and pick up your non-marking shoes.


  94. Art it out

    Once, while geocaching at Oliwenhuis, I saw a friend doing pottery. In addition to the many art schools, there are a couple of groovy art shops around town so you really have no excuse not to be creative, unless you’re not creative…in which case you should try be more creative.


  95. Fly

    I’ve been saving money to do my pilot licence and glider licence for awhile now but Bloem boasts a great flying climate.

    It’s no wonder that the endurance 1000km glide starts in Bloemfontein. The aviation school here is highly rated and they seem to take their work seriously, which is kinda what you want when you’re a couple of hundred meters in the air entrusting your life to a machine and a pilot.


  96. Enter the pizza debate

    Pizza is a tremendous way of shoving 2000 calories into your body so if you’re going to do it, you’d want to do it right.

    Of course, back in the 90s, there was only one pizza and that was made by Silvano.

    Today we have a debate raging as to where the best pizzas in town are found. Standing out are Bella Cassa and Kerdoni’s (incidentally brought to fame by the return of Silvano…who since left). Recently I’ve found myself loving Chicago pizza too.

    I’m told that there’s good pizza at Avanti though I’ve never tried it and Eatalia may be owned by a Greek but he’s specialized his Italian craft.

    So together, we need to establish what the best pizza in town is. Probably use #BloemPizza and let’s see how far we get.


  97. Get Cooking

    From the CUT Hotel School to FBI, trained chefs come out of Bloem on the regular and so too they need work. Often they host schools or courses on making something or another.

    Just the other day, Cafe Plenty’s Patso hosted a how to make pasta course and will soon be hosting one on sushi.

    Learning to cook has never been this accessible so whether you want to eat or you want to impress, cooking is a great option. Learn how to.


  98. Dans

    If you dance the night away at the Mystic Boer, you’ll notice the inscription from the great Jack Parrow song about dancing. But dancing to the screams of Francios van Coke is not the only way.

    From tap to Spanish to modern and even pole, every dancing style is accommodated in the multiple dancing schools of Bloemfontein.

    I’m not entirely sure which I’d pick but it’s genre specific so talk to some people and do your homework and you could be a sex god tapping away to Rick Guard’s Stop it I Like It.


  99. Start a cause

    Finally, and in a dedication and apology to my elder sister Tracy; People in Bloemfontein are generous. They may not have disposable income to give away but they tend to help where they can.

    Tracy identified this years ago and began One Man, One Coat where she’d just made a Facebook page and stand on the streets in the cold and collect coats and jackets from passersby to give to the poor.IMG-20170612-WA003

    Having misread the Bloemfontein community, I thought it was a waste of time that would get no traction nor attention and maybe get three jackets. When I saw the three cars full worth of clothing, I realised I could not have been more wrong.

    Today Tracy lives in Cape Town but Zelda of OFM and her friends have taken on the baton to run One Man, One Coat and it taught me a valuable lesson; if you expect to fail, you’ll be blinded to the possibility of success. Similarly, if you expect your city to be dull and boring, you’ll be blinded to the possibilities of what’s around you.

    Bloem might not be as buzzing as other places but it’s not dichotomous. In other words, just because it’s not as buzzing doesn’t mean it’s not buzzing at all. Sure, not everything on my list will grab you but it’s my list and if I can make up a list of 99 things in a single day, imagine what you could come up with if you put in the effort.

    There are still a couple of cool things Bloem used to have that it’s since lost such as the ice rink, lazergames (which had a bitchn Bimbos next door) Gigazone (which made incredible cheese and ham toasties) and the ultimate rock band gigs at the Andre Huguenot Theatre on Friday nights. All these things died out but it doesn’t mean we can’t revive them.

    Similarly there’s no reason why the Bloem Beer Pong League can’t be reestablished, together with the weekly poker nights and the Sunday morning soccer sessions at Oliwenhuis. The stuff’s there, we just need to work with it.

    So here’s a shout out to Bloem, the city that gave me an upbringing I’d never change and that offered me enough to be who I am today. Slow, timid and open to innovation, other cities may profess to be my house but Bloem will always remain my home.

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Unemployment Update: Intermission

It’s been awhile since I posted a reflection but that’s because I thought them to be too self-indulgent. Being so, I figured nobody would want to really read them but having spent some time in Bloemfontein and the surrounding towns, many friends were lamenting the lack of updates. I’ve thus decided to publish my remaining updates but I’ll have to make a couple of amendments in order to make them less like personal diary entries, add my flavour of humour and make them read slightly better.

To get me back in the writing for others mode, I’d like to share the story of a bicycle trip I took before my travels. I had just come through to Bloemfontein and my best friend, Julian, invited me his farm for some hanging out and Sunday lunch. Getting to his farm, which is 70km away, is easily accessible by car but why would I do things normally? I’ve always toyed with the idea of doing a long distance cycle and never got around to doing it. The Friday prior, I went drinking with some friends and contemplated the idea.

Knowing full well that I would cop out and take my car when I wake up on Sunday morning, I had to come up with a way to compel myself to take the bike. Thinking back to some online strategic economic management classes I took years ago, I recalled the value of a contract. Of course being an attorney, I know that contracts aren’t as valuable as what they used to be but the point stands. When other actors in play have tangile reason to believe you will engage in a certain way, they will be able to prepare reaction accordingly. For example, if you agree with your supplier that you will sell x amount of product or lose the contract, your competition will know that you will place marketing resources into the product and will likely focus their resources on a competitive product.

In my instance though, it was merely a matter of drunkedly telling everybody at the bar that I was going to do it and they should follow my journey on social media. Knowing my ego, I knew there was no way I’d back out of a social media challenge, even if self-inflicted. From the moment I declared it, I knew it would happen and there was no copping out then.

Come the hour, come the man. Those who were at the bar would be expecting confirmation that I’d be doing this and those who were not would expect a reason. Of course, I had no reason so one had to be made up:

 

 

I had told Julian that I’d be meeting him on my bike but he did not believe me. When I stopped to check my bike a kilometer or so in, I checked my phone and saw the message from Julian telling me what a bad idea this was. At this point, I could have turned back, jumped in my car and done the journey with relative ease. I had, however, committed to my Facebook friends that I’d pursue this ride. Backing out was not an option.

As I continued and hit the 20km mark, I began feeling slightly uncomfortable but the serious discomfort was more emotional than anything. I hadn’t considered the return leg

 

 

Realising that the return leg was a “tomorrow Richard problem”, I became slightly more reflective. Part of the reasoning why it was a bad idea was that the road is rather dangerous. People I knew have been killed on that road and as I began thinking that this is a bad idea and perhaps I should just hit the shoulder and get a taxi, I realised that an element of danger shouldn’t prevent one from achieving their goals. This realisation came in the form of a memory of a former mentor who was killed in a motorcycling accident and the his diary entries explaining mortality.

 

 

I pushed on, being encouraged by the road signs constantly telling me that I was getting closer to the rendezvous point…until the signs began telling me I was getting further. Free State signs aren’t reliable so at 40km, I took a break to consider what I would reward myself with at the end of the trip.

 

 

It was at about this time that Alex called me. I figured he wanted some legal assistance with his restaurant and bar, Boho Bistro. If I could do something as cool as cycling to my friend’s farm, how much cooler would I be if I could be giving legal assistance while on my bike?

Turns out not to be so. Alex merely wanted to laugh at me for actually following through with my promise, which I had forgotten I had made when at his bar. My desire to prove the world that I could do this renewed, I used my refreshed vigor to carry me on until my bike couldn’t handle it anymore. I blamed it initially on Kloppers, the shop I had bought the bike from but honestly it was my fault for pushing it too hard.

 

 

My bike repaired, I complete the last leg and although the entire trip took me all of about 4 hours, the accomplishment was worth it. It was worth it in the sense that I came to learn that bicycling is a ridiculous idea.

 

 

Obviously you’re wondering how I got back. Let’s just say my bicycle is still on Julian’s farm

Unemployment Update: Day 3 – Wine and Cheese…and running

…Before we get onto the story of my biting incident, it bodes well to elaborate on my health at the time. I was feeling healthy, so healthy that I managed to stay true to my threat aimed at Beth that we’d go jogging. Elke was supposed to join but…

When we got back home, I revelled in playing with the dogs while Beth and her housemates got ready for work. I was planning on doing a self-guided walking tour of Worcester but as the last of Beth’s housemates egressed and I closed the bottom half of the shed-like door, the dog wasn’t happy being left alone with me. Actually, we think she just wasn’t happy with me separating her from her owner. Whatever her reasoning, that dog went for my leg. Fortunately, the growling attracted the attention of her supervisor who came directly to my aid.

After we calmed the dog down, the house grew quiet as I tended to my wounds. It really wasn’t that big of a deal but, in typical small town typicality, in less than an hour it felt like the entirety of the place was familiar with my incident. I even got picked up and taken to the hospital for the compulsory tetanus shot.

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It wasn’t exactly a free life but I was happy to take it

After I arrived at the tourism center, I wasn’t too disappointed that my walking tour was delayed. It turned out that there isn’t really that much to check out in Worcester itself. Most of the goings on happen in the surrounding district. My options included, and were limited to, the school for the blind (very cool initiative), a gallery which happened to be closed and a glass blowing facility of the legendary James Harris. By the time I’d been through the town and all the attractions among the old cape dutch architecture, Beth and Elke had gotten off work. It’s nice in the Cape where a Friday ends half way through the day.

What were we to do with the rest of our day? Wine Tasting! To Robertson and beyond we went. I learned a little trick. It transpires that wine tasting is generally free if you find yourself on the right side of the mountain…the fancy places still charge a nominal fee but you can get super drunk super quick on super good wine if you find yourself on the right side of the mountain.

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Wine…Wind…Worcester

At Rooiberg, I had an epiphany which was rudely interrupted by a Mark Sham phone call but he’s good people so all was forgiven. What wasn’t forgiven was when PK insulted me for being on the cheap side of the mountain after I posted the following

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Unemployment update: Dear friends with your corporate jobs constantly valuing your life on all the money in your bank account you’re too stressed to spend so you measure your success on what you earn rather than what you do….I used to be like you

It would result in a wine tasting expedition with PK with a high set bar.

Returning to mainland Worcester and after exhausting the entire surrounds of all their KFC, we contemplated what was for dinner. As we arrived at the local supermarket, we bickered as to what we should cook. Elke was adamant on one thing after she saw it on the shelf…but because artichoke is expensive, and there’s practically nothing you can do with them, a veto was successfully instituted.

Giving up, the ladies made for the car leaving me to determine dinner…the choice was obvious…mozzarella sticks.

Leaving my mark in the stomachs of my friends is unfortunately not enough. I had to leave an impression on the kitchen too.

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No spatula shall be safe in any kitchen where you mix Chem and oil.

More wine and beer and that was the end of the night…my last in Worcester but the residents were happy with my cuisine so there was at least some mission accomplished.

 

Unemployment Update: Day 2 – Office on Tracks

…Nigel is an awesome oke who gave up a cushy life in Midrand to live in Hillbrow and do great community work. He was added to the Chemwork when we appeared together on CliffCentral talking about living in what is widely considered to be the most dangerous suburb in South Africa (it’s not true). He was on this train in unfortunate circumstances as he was part of a group heading to the funeral of Maruwaan Scullard. While I never knew Scullard, his story is truly inspirational. Having just turned 21 and kicked an awful substance addiction, he was part of a group walking 1494km  from Johannesburg to Cape Town to raise funds for their Love out Loud project; a project aimed at counselling and assisting at-risk youths so as not to fall into the same social ills as he had.

Unfortunately, as they were taking a lunch break during the 60 day journey, a car crashed into them killing Scullard instantly and injuring teammates Jaryd and Jonathan.

It was evident that everybody in the party on the train was still shaken but from the conversations, Scullard was a tremendous guy whose legacy still inspires. I’ve had many friends succumb to drugs; some benign like nicotine, others more serious and I still haven’t been able to place what the key element/s is/are differentiating those who kick the addiction from those who don’t. It’s obviously easy to sit back and dismiss all druggies as bad until you learn that one of your best friends is having problems and you’re forced to either throw them into the ether of judgement or review how you judge drug users. Ultimately, people are still people and whether we like to admit it or not we all have our vices. Who is the oke addicted to coke the drink to judge the oke addicted to coke the powder?

The train manager had placed me in a room with two elderly gentlemen who didn’t seem too keen on conversation but rather sleeping. Fortunately, Nigel had a spare spot in his compartment so I engaged in conversation with his company. We had some fun, played some music and planned to save the world

In the morning, in good Christian spirit, I was offered a sandwich breakfast by my adopted train hosts despite the mood being dampened by news that Nigel’s phone was taken. While I still had my phone, it was dying. I was reminded of the train trips we used to take on derby days at school. There were always 3 kings on the train; the guy who smuggled in the booze, the guy who organised the cigarettes (sometimes weed) and the 6 who had the electrical point which functioned in their compartment (there was always only one). If you thought township illegal electricity tapping looks dangerous, you should see what access to only one electrical outlet shared by 100 model C teenagers with phones looks like; multiadapter upon mulitadapter. If you ever want to make it as an entrepreneur, rent charged power banks on the train…but I digress.

The dining cart had functioning electric outlets so we were able to use those. While I was doing some work, I realised I had only made plans where to sleep that evening and telling myself where I’m sleeping tomorrow is tomorrow’s problem became slightly concerning. As with all good millennial strategies, I took to the Facebook and posted a not too distressing distress call:

As the responses came in, I waited out the hours working in dining cart. Not only was the passing scenery incredible to witness but the company was grand too.

Mixing business with scenery on the train

Mixing business with scenery on the train

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I met an elderly lady who regaled me with stories of her successful business ventures. She also happens to come from Riebeeckstad, the Camps Bay of Welkom in the Free State.  It was a welcome conversation to me considering my upbringing. In my traditionally Lebanese family, the values were set to old school; Mom would cook the bacon Dad would bring home. I suspect these values translated to what some might consider a patriarchal subconscious which I’ve been consciously trying to address within myself. Unfortunately, confirmation bias exists and I think I unwittingly judge women doing stupid things harsher than a man doing stupid things even though I know everybody does stupid things. Anyway, it’s good to be around inspirational women. There aren’t as many of them around me as I would like so any opportunity I can get, I try to take to work the bias out.

When Beth and Elke picked me up from the station in Worcester, Beth asked me to wait while she greeted her aunt who was on the train. Wouldn’t you believe that her aunt was precisely this woman I was speaking with in the dining cart? It was at that point that I realised that Chemworking must be made into a thing.

Beth and Elke used to work in a pub with me back in Bloem. I used to date a lady who worked there and to maximise time together, I began working there too. Weird how real friendships outlive the relationships they were based on. I’m not complaining though, they’re cool people and amazing hosts. We made straight for the Dam, a pub so creatively named because it’s located on the banks of a dam. Braving the winds, we enjoyed the beers and scenery until we were blown to shelter.

Party at the Dam, Worcester

Party at the Dam, Worcester

Because of the Chemwork, when I checked-in to Worcester, I discovered some other friends live in the town. As we finished our drinks, it was time to head to Beth’s place for a snoek braai. One of the primary social skill sets in demand is the ability to braai a snoek. Non-South Africans may not understand this but, “I can braai snoek” over a beer is as powerful as saying “I can code in Python” at a Google interview and “I can increase efficiency by 130%” when doing a management consultancy pitch.

I had my bottle of Time Anchor Distillery rum, or at least what was left that from the bottle I had on the train, which went down with great enthusiasm, as did the meal. I’d tell you more because I’m certain there was a lot of reflection which took place late into the evening but recalling it has been a problem.

What I can say with certainty is that it would be the last night I would sleep without the marks on my body from where some bitch bit me…

Unemployment Update: Day 1 – Diamonds Never Fade

All good roadtrips are built on companionship, not distance. I’m yet to do a roadtrip over more than a day but the key ingredient to all the good ones was always whoever was tagging along for the ride. Having just written an exam in Bloemfontein, my friend, Werner, offered to take a roadtrip to Kimberley where I would catch the train.

A young, dynamic and heavily skilled and ambitious musician, Werner, like me, places more value on his relationships than most others would…also, he’s up for adventure. Between us, punctuality isn’t really a thing but even though our trek was delayed, we caved to the temptation of exploring just 15 kilometers out of town. How could we not? The last time we had seen vast salt flats was when Top Gear went to ‘Merica.

Gutted that he never brought his skateboard and that I wouldn’t know what to do with one if I had one, we contemplated over the arbitrary emptiness. The fields around where the former dam is were all green and dams around the place seemed full. It was just this one.

 

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Chillin’ with Werner while Cecil looks down on us at the Half

Back on the road we made for Kimberley, a city which is to diamond mining what Cecil was to the Empire. Indeed when considering our first stop, it only made sense to make it the infamous Halfway House. Wrongly cited as the only drive through pub in the world and formerly of great Kimberley party glory, it now no longer houses, feeds and inebriates the cool kids. Nevertheless, we enjoyed a hearty lunch and made for Kimberley’s claim to fame, her big hole.

After reflections on the scale of the ditch and attempting to consider the value of it to the people who went in with spades and shovels, we needed a drink. The old town around it provided a pub known as the Ox which afforded us not only an ale, but also some insight into the nature of the state of old…basically lots of old white men taking photographs of them seemingly looking important, it was quite adorable.

Of course, during this time I had informed social media that we were in town and social media reverted, informing me that the cool kids now hang out at a public house known as Cheers. As is traditional, a minor social media scuffle broke out between friends who formerly colonised the city only to egress years ago. I’d refer to it as the great brain drain of the Northern Cape but I still have friends there who were kind enough to meet me at this Cheers place after Werner had dropped me and departed for Bloem.

There is tremendous power in social media to bring people together. I met friends I used to work with in the UFS law faculty, friends I used to study with and Jade, a friend whom I’d not seen since finishing high school back in 2007.

Drinks with former colleagues

Drinks with former colleagues

After we had had our fill of bread and wine…and burgers and beer, I could tell why Cheers was the new place for the cool kids; the food was great, the setup open and conducive to interaction, the tech efficient and would put most first world city pubs to shame and the owner, who we met, seems like a kiff dude.

When responsibility took hold and one of us had the gusto to proclaim “no more shots”, we made for Jade’s place where I was introduced to her father and awesomely energetic dogs.

Even when you’re not romantically involved with a person, meeting their parents tends to be difficult venture. One instinctively would like to leave a good impression lest the elders believe that their offspring have grown into drug-peddling Mafioso minions, or worse…hipsters. If one can overcome that fear, it’s tremendously thought provoking to engage with somebody who has lived a longer life and garner some perspective of their experiences with it. I spoke at length with the gentleman and had a rare sense of a life happily lived.

A good friend and incredible entrepreneur Steve, who features later in this story, once gave me the best advice to motivate for living a fuller life. He told me to go spend time at an old age home and talk with some of the people but look deeply in their eyes as they speak and note the regret most people have when recollecting their earlier years. It was enough to inspire injecting more life into my own though it’s more inspiring to hear the stories of those who lived so fully that their regret is minimal. This gentleman was of the rarer latter kind.

Our conversation was cut short as my train was scheduled to arrive so we made for the station. Jade, ever the kind soul, opted to wait and ensure that the train was running on time. To my mind, one that hasn’t been on the train before, I couldn’t fathom how something as simple as a train, which is on tracks, and computerised, and has been operating for years could ever be off schedule. The “I told you so” look on Jade’s face would be enough to make even the most patriarchal man blush in shame and self-loathing.I’m still taken aback about how good a person can be to another despite having maintained little contact for a better part of 10 years and considering what that means in terms of being a good person to others even if one doesn’t know them.

Despite winning the “I know trains better” informal contest, the spoils of Jade’s victory were to take me back to her place and wait it out until after midnight when we were told that train was to arrive…although nobody could say exactly when and unlike missing a flight when you could just hop on the next one in a few hours, the next train would only come in the next few days so missing it was not an option. We had gotten a number from the ticket master at the station to call to confirm the extent of the delay closer to midnight but naturally nobody answered.

Jade went for a power nap and left me in the company of the Crime and Investigation Network. Stressing that I’d miss the train, be stuck in Kimberley and that Cheers would absorb all my savings, I did what any self-respecting white, classy, cis, heterosexual…male would do. I took to Twitter and demanded an immediate response. To my surprise, that’s exactly what I got. Not only did 3 PRASA representatives respond to me, they also gave me assurances of the time the train would arrive and offered me free sandwiches and coffee while on board. While my access to Twitter shouldn’t give me access to freebies over the people waiting in the station, I still appreciated the gesture. It reminded me of something Michael Jordaan said when he was still CEO of FNB, “Don’t be afraid to admit liability. Be afraid of not dealing with the issues.” I’m glad to see more organisations taking this approach though given the conduct of SA’s Twitteratzi, I can understand why.

Appreciative of PRASA representative’s late night responses, I was feeling confident that this was going to be a good train ride despite doing it alone. I was excited. Jade woke to take me back to the station, dropped me off and there I was…waiting…the train was already 3 hours late and I had completed every Plants vs Zombies level available. When the station manager called, “Cape Town!” nobody moved presumably because they’d just been so accustomed to waiting, or they were just drowsy and asleep. When he repeated himself, this time yelling, “CAPE TOWN!” everybody rose to their feet and headed towards the platform.

We could see the train coming. This was exciting. My first train ride alone. The people on the train also seemed excited. Some were standing in the doorways as the train was slowing, ready to jump off and quickly stretch after a lengthy and delayed journey. One such person had a large frame and I was concerned that he’d fall off so I looked at him more closely until I realised…”Nigel!?!?!?” I exclaimed. “Richard!” he retorted…

Unemployment Update: Day 0 – The Reason

“Never underestimate the redeeming power of saying ‘fuck this!’”. I have 5 primary mentors in my life and that nine word phrase is probably the most influential thing any one of them has shared with me. As with all powerful devices, depending on who holds possession of the phrase, it could be used for good or for evil. Evil people see the old lady being robbed, apply the phrase, conclude the situation doesn’t apply to them and walk away. Good people see the old lady being robbed, apply the phrase, conclude that robbery should not continue and intervene. My kind of people apply the phrase, help the old lady, conclude that there’s no reason why you can’t take an old lady for a drink and proceed to find a pub and evoke interesting conversation.

There’s a lot to be said for informal learning. In an age of saturated academic outputs, addiction to gadgetry and electronic communication, the need for social physical engagement to share knowledge and experience is greater than before. This is why things like Suits & Sneakers, Massively Open Online Content and extensive pub quizzes excite me…all of them being an opportunity to take away whatever I can and want, with no obligation to report back on what was learnt…no tests…no exams…no thesis…all my own development at my own control…pretty empowering.

Throughout the development of my beer belly, I’ve discovered that there is no better source of informal learning than from the people you keep around you. On reflection of every pub I’ve sipped at, every concert I’ve indulged in, every town I’ve visited, every competition I’ve debated in, I realised I’ve amassed a vast and varied pool of friends…from people working in health in Hong Kong to data ops in Silicon Valley to the increasingly common teaching of English around the world.img_20160830_215104

Living in Johannesburg is has relatively lonely and secluded. People tend to remain in their small nucleic friendship circles and to get people together takes more energy than many are willing to spend after working as hard as most there do.  Maybe it’s my age but the days of  successfully arbitrarily calling up an arbitrarily selected group of people on an arbitrarily selected night, like a Tuesday, and saying “LET’S HAVE A BRAAI!” seem to have escaped me.

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At 27, single and without any debt, I figured I could stay in a job that hardly pushes me with a boss constantly referring to themself as such and using me as a buffer when things go wrong, earning comfortably or I could go out, meet up with old friends, make some new ones and learn some stuff from them, sometimes over drinks, other times over pizza.

You’re reading this in the knowledge that I obviously picked the latter so here we are. My privilege doesn’t extend quite so far that I’m able to afford overseas travel but that’s okay. Many of my friends are around South Africa and why waste time and money going down the road before checking out your own back yard?

I’m travelling South Africa crashing on as many friends’ couches as possible carrying only my backpack and harmonica. There will be tales of wine, life lessons and advice for what we’re actually supposed to be doing with our existence. Existence is the most difficult aspect for me to deal with and a large part of me believes that I’m also doing this to confirm that my existence has an impact on the existence of others…to whatever end that might be but it feels like that’s a good value to have.

Political correctness often gets in the way of conversation and so to this end, I’ll be avoiding conversations with those who meaninglessly apply the three PC crush words “woke”, “problematic” and “space”, if only for my sanity. I should also avoid using uber because the cost of convenience is often the a lost opportunity to witness something, whatever that might be.

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There is only one hard and fast rule on this journey: I’m not allowed to sleep on the same bed/couch more than once. I need to maximise the number of people I can engage with and can’t allow myself to be complacent and take a “stay with me for a week” kind of offer.

Along this journey I’ll be documenting and reflecting, not only on who I meet, but also what I learn from them and what I see. Because this is a reflective exercise, the posts will only be written about a week after the fact.

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So here I am, armed with a backpack, harmonica, a couple of years of savings and the most amazing friends in my network…the Chemwork. Let’s go!

Stand up for Stand up

 

I’d never really cared for the local comedy scene. The last time I gave it any attention Hilton told jokes my dad would appreciate, Parker abused any crass aspect he can lay his hands on and Noah succumbed to telling jokes that cater to low common denominators. We lacked the stimulated comedy of a Moran, the one liners of a Write and the musical talents of a Lynch. Of course there are local outliers who I love like Riaad Moosa and Schalk Bezuidenhout but I’d go out to watch them specifically and not support SA comedy in general. Last Sunday, my faith in the local comedy scene was restored and it was depressing.

After my weekly, hangover curing, Sunday sauna, the urge to pass out in a movie theatre overcame me. I made for the cinema, purchased my prestige tickets, large slush and popcorn and readied myself for the latest Kevin Hart facial expressions Hollywood had spent millions on preparing for me to consume.

The film never put me to sleep as I had hoped but I did have the occasional chuckle which, I suppose, is the standard result to be expected from R150.

Coming out of the theatre, my millennial mind kicked in and realised that it had been over 90 minutes since I checked my phone. Frantically I checked my socials to do the subconscious cost/benefit analysis of how I spent the last few hours, what it cost me and if anybody else had done something cooler. Fortunately, my FOMO was misplaced in this instance. I did however learn that my comedian friend from Cape Town, Phil de Lange, was in Johannesburg and performing that evening. He was the first oke to give me a radio interview after my SRC election and he plays a ukulele, if I didn’t owe it him to go to his gig, I at least owed it to myself to hear a ukulele.

Later that evening, I kicked my dinner guests out prematurely and headed for the Pop Art Theatre in Maboneng. Tickets were a mere 50 bucks and the theatre held maybe 100 people so there wasn’t a stack of money to be made. I figured Phil would perform and maybe one or two others. I was just going to see my mate so I hardly bothered looking at the program. The event seemed to be a regular Sunday night thing hosted by Goliath and Goliath so one of the Goliaths opened the stage and what followed was 180 minutes of delight.

By the time the third comic was done we hadn’t even gotten to the interval but I was already so bleak that I had wasted my money on that movie earlier. It paled in comparison to what I was witnessing. My earlier chuckles were now ab workout laughter and the content provided related much better to the audience than whichever way Kevin Hart manipulated his face.

Over and above seeing my friend and his ukulele perform, we were treated to comedy heavy weights in the form of Ndumiso Lindi (who should win an award for best MC), Loyiso Gola, Schalk Bezuidenhout and a 16 year old Panch Gasela amongst others. The show also featured this nut in the front row who kept insisting on high5-ing the comics…but he just gave us more to laugh about. In total there were ten comics on the stage throughout the evening and while I had seen some of them before, there was hardly a hint of an old joke that I remembered hearing before. These comics work hard.

As I realised this, I felt terrible that I only paid 50 bucks for this level and length of entertainment. In my corporate law days, my firm charged me out at over 1000 bucks an hour and I was just an entry-level employee. That means that I paid about 2% of what I would charge for 2 and half hours, to be highly entertained by 10 comedians…who would probably have to split that money after sound, lights and rent were paid.

That’s not even the saddest bit. I then lamented the fact that preference amongst the general public would still be to go to the movies and watch something out of a country beginning with the word “United” but I was encouraged by the fact that this small theatre was filled to capacity. I was also excited to learn that Goliath and Goliath have opened a comedy club in Melrose. I was ecstatic when I walked out, reflected and understood that SA underground comedy has evolved beyond simple accent jokes. Clearly the demand for and presence of local comedy is on the rise so you may want to abuse the cheap prices while they last. By contrast, tickets in Manhattan cost me the equivalent of R250 and that was for 5 comics.

I’ve been to underground Comedy Central gigs in New York, I’ve done the London comedy pub thing but nothing would make me happier than to see our comics evolve beyond their international peers. If you asked me while I was sitting in New York, I’d say there was no chance. If you ask me after my experience on Sunday, I’d say we’re almost there…but they need our support. If you haven’t made the effort to see some live local stand up or you haven’t had the opportunity in awhile then forfeit your next movie and take your homies to a stand up gig. You’ll be the coolest one in the group for suggesting it.

Liverpool lost, but we’re still the best fans

Those who attended Bible school may recall the story of Christ performing his first miracle. A subtle nuance in that story was how the guests were impressed that the best wine was saved for last. As kids we could never appreciate the full extent of that detail because we were too young to fully understand getting drunk. All that changed for me last night when a couple of friends and I resolved to watch the Europa League final at Ridgeways Racebar, home of the South African Liverpool Supporters Club; the official best Liverpool supporters club in the world.

As Liverpool fans, we were deeply disappointed in ourselves that this was our first time making the trip to the East to get to this place. In our defence, anything would need to be pretty special to convince us to go to the East (boet) but this really was. For people like me who cannot yet afford the pilgrimage to Anfield, the atmosphere was enough to make me consider taking out a loan for a flight to Merseyside yet left me comforted to know that until I go, I’ll can get as closest to the experience as possible in Johannesburg.

Televisions are mounted everywhere so you won’t miss a kick no matter which direction you’re looking but for the true connoisseur of Liverpudlian talent, the hall in the back is for you. Making our way through the passage, passing the bikes and Reds memorabilia, there was a sense of terrifying trepidation…the kind you feel when the protagonist walks through the restaurant to the backstreet poker game; What if we didn’t know all the right chants? What if we weren’t wearing the right kit? What if I accidentally let slip that Wolves is my second team?

Our fears were allayed instantly as we stepped into the hall and immediately determined that this place would be where we would spend at least 90 minutes a week from July. Unfortunately, our resolve was not as powerful as that of the regulars and no seats were available in the super fan zone despite arriving three hours before kickoff. We did take the opportunity to take it all in and observe the sights of the home of the South African Liverpool faithful; from signed shirts to flags the only chance we’d get to avoiding seeing red was to find stare at one of the few people wearing the away kit.

We decided that we should ease our way into the supporters club more gradually and made for the regular restaurant area which itself was filling with supporters; supporters spanning the vastest array of people I’ve been around since my trip to the United Nations. Of course there is the obligatory occasional presence of a git appropriating the culture in an attempt to please a client or something mundane. Fortunately, those are easily identifiable as the ones who wear none of the kit save for maybe a scarf (or other easily retractable garment which is stowed away in their trunk along with those of other teams for similar occasions) and spend most of the game staring at their phones…and still think Michael Owen is the captain. Once you’ve identified who to ignore, the rest of the crowd is as jolly and pleasant as I’ve ever experienced.

The last of my thoughts before my memory gets slightly blurry is that of learning new chants and belting them with not a modicum of care for my voice in days to come. I ventured off to experiment and spent a couple of minutes with different groups of supporters, all of them welcoming me in to chant with them.

John 2:10 states, “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now”. I’d always thought it was this way because when you’re too drunk you won’t taste the difference between good and bad wine but when I started drinking, no matter how much I drank, Zappa would always taste awful and Jack would always be divine. I learned last night though that it was not the ability to taste the good stuff but rather the ability to recall a way to describe it the next day.

The menu was notably particular of a pub menu and the excitement I felt when I saw the V8 burger was well warranted when I dug into the egg, bacon, and huge patties (yes two of them). It was however the beer towers that elicited the most joy. We were not aware of the Benn Koppen Lager so we went with the usual commercial beer.

After the unfortunate 3 – 1 loss, I discovered the Benn Koppen and, after my friends left, indulged in some sorrow, which was emotionally trying but the beer actually tasted good. I wish I could describe it to you but I can’t remember why it tasted good, only that it tasted good. Similarly, I can only describe why I was having such a great time up to about 40 minutes into the game. After that, I can only provide confirmation but the memory is too staggered to provide reasons.

Save to say that even if it is a mission, it’s a mission worth making to head to Ridgeways Racepub and join the Liverpool Supporters Club for a game. If your experience is anything resembling ours, and it’s likely to be, you’d probably be scheduling going there at least 38 times between July 2016 and May 2017.

If I don’t have land, can I still give it back?

…and if I had land, should I exchange it for 10% of a cup of coffee? Ntokozo Qwabe has raised the issue by, with a colleague, refusing to tip a white waitress in Obz, Cape Town. He subsequently bragged about the deed and the ensuing social media debate is fascinating. It’s proven to be an outpouring of rage, lived reality and many other things foreshadowed by the term “unashamedly” but the depth in analytical thinking seems to be lacking.

On the face of it, one would think the Oxford scholar and Rhodes Must Fall leader was simply being a Richard; no way this waitress has any statistical chance of being able to “give back the land” even if anyone knew what give back the land really means. You’d be forgiven for thinking that the patrons were being cheap, but you’d probably still be wrong. I don’t know. I wasn’t there.

Given the benefit of doubt, let’s assume they wanted to take on a larger agenda; that the Facebook post wasn’t bragging but drawing attention to an important topic and that the deed wasn’t to spite the waitress but she was collateral damage in a greater cause. Following the commentary that ensued on social media, even consider the high instance of racism of Cape Town.

Even with the perfect conditions above, what could possibly be the result of their actions?

We can reasonably assume that the land isn’t going to be given back by holding off on a R20 tip. The waitress, in statistical probability doesn’t have land to give back. The owner of the café can always find another waitress if she gets hurt and resigns, the landlord of could always find another tenant and Number 1 has some corruption charges to worry about right now. The “attack” on the waitress doesn’t further the get the land back agenda directly.

Perhaps indirectly then, the action taken was intended to start some form of uprising and, by the looks of social media, it has. What’s the endgame though? Who does this affect?

If it’s supposed to affect those who have the power to give the land back then I’m happy to call the waitress a martyr and be done with the issue. Unfortunately for Ntokozo, it doesn’t have that effect. The oaks at the top probably don’t give a damn about a waitress and if they did, they’d sent her a fruit basket and consider the matter dealt with.

What this does is push the narrative of “us” and “them” on racial lines and while that line may already exist in many instances, it’s certainly not a line we should perpetuate unnecessarily…and these actions do exactly that. Those with land still have little incentive to “give it back” and some without remain being chastised for owning what they don’t. This begs the question, if one will be reprimanded regardless whether or not they’ve committed the act, why not commit the act? Put differently, if one will be considered privileged regardless of what they do with their privilege, how much less likely would you let go of your privilege?

The social outcry is valid. The lived reality of black people perceiving Cape Town as racist is something even I’ve experienced and challenged. This is not a piece to attempt to shut down the cause and discussion but rather introduce a particular view.

What’s most dangerous about Ntokozo’s actions is that the assumption is created that land is owned on racial lines and again, while this is mostly true, there is an increasing number of defectors from the dominant ownership group.

It’s these defectors that Ntokozo finds solitude in lumping with the entire group for the sake of simplicity but in reality he does the cause a lot of damage.

The damage is already there because there is little incentive to denounce privilege, “give back the land” or join the struggle.

The damage is worsened by not acknowledging, or even attempting to acknowledge, those who have denounced their privilege, who have “given back the land” or who have joined the struggle.

The damage is done because by knowing I’ll be lumped with all white people regardless of whether or not I denounce privilege, “give back the land” or join the struggle, I have one less reason to.

Death on my doorstep

Years ago, my late mentor was giving a philosophy class on moral duties. It featured a thought experiment wherein we had to imagine ourselves on the upper floors of a tower, looking down on somebody being robbed and reflect on how we would react. He kept changing the variables though; what if it was in a crime-ridden area, different ages, races and genders. Despite remembering the content of the lecture well, none of it prepared me to witness the mob justice killing that took place at 21h15 in a dark street on the border of Hillbrow and Berea.

After my daily walk back home from Constitutional Hill, through the smells of a litter removal strike, sounds of street commerce and sights of struggle I’ve never been made to endure, I encountered a fellow tenant of Ponte Tower. A gracious invitation to dinner followed which was met with gratitude and acceptance. Following a preemptive stint in the gym, I collected a bottle of wine and made for my neighbours’ apartment. As we waited for the tagliatelle to cook before adding the proteins, a bottle of champagne made an appearance, followed by bottle after bottle of wine foreshadowing a feast and evening of grand fellowship.

The easy progression of our delightful conversation was abruptly severed by the sounds of a fracas 170 meters below us. We peered outside the window through darkness of the nonfunctional street lights to notice a loose mob of people rushing to collect at an epicenter of mystery. We weren’t certain for the reason of the collection but the sounds described the event as violent and hateful.

The pasta was ready.

What else could we do? There was wine, food and conversation to be had. As I shoved my fork in and rotated it the requisite three times, I recalled the thought experiments we’d done with Stephen years ago. Feeling powerless, as the thought experiment foretold, I exclaimed to my hosts that I wasn’t sure what we could do. We were certain that somebody was being killed below us. We also knew the police were aware because there was a road block closer to the hostility along the ground than what we were to the action in the air.

As the police arrived the aggravators and potential witnesses began to run, leaving a body lying in a street lane outside a service station with only the moon and a police van headlight making it visible to us. Moments earlier it was a he or a she but now, it was simply it…laying there; its sole purpose to cause inconvenience to motorists. It lay there, drained of life and the dignity associated with it, for about an hour before being dispatched to the morgue.

We were disconnected. It seemed like the safer option to take…the psychologically healthier option. It was also easy to be disconnected; we knew not the identity, the reason nor the preceding events. We only knew that there was wine to drink, food to eat, card games to play and what you know is safer than what you don’t.

This morning, my walk to work met with a more sombre reflection than usual. As I endeavoured the 2 kilometre journey,  I neglected the usual Offspring lyrics blasting through my ears, clipped my shades to my shirt and took greater cognizance of the same route I’d been travelling since February…the sleeping people huddled under blankets in the streets, the smells which must be penetrating the homes of the half a million people in the area, the refuse translating into treasure for the many willing to wade through it…each of them a person with a story I’ve been too guarded to pay attention to. I have been surrounded by all of this for over a year now but keeping emotionally distant has been easy and appealing.

The lack of a news report on the issue…not even so much as a tweet…is equally telling of how we like to keep so distant. Amazing how a nonevent in the lives of the rest of the world can equate to the loss of the life of another.