Tuesday, September 27, 2011

In the beginning there was you

Monday, September 19, 2011

Taking a crap

I am taking a left turn with this entry. Taking a crap, I know you are taken aback by the title but deep inside that is not how you feel about it. In fact being repulsed by taking a crap is a result of societal indoctrinations. You have been conditioned to feel that way, just like you have been conditioned to use the toilet. Toilet training is a child’s first confrontation with the systematic effort of the parents and society to control their impulses. With this entry I am going to be blunt and say that after sex and good food, taking a crap is one of the biggest pleasures in life.

I will begin by supporting my statement with scientific study by Sigmund Freud. Freud concluded that children betray themselves by holding back their crap until its accumulation brings about violent muscular contractions and as it passes through the anus, it is able to produce powerful stimulation of the mucous membrane. So not only do we know the pleasures of faecal release from a young age but we do everything in our power to heighten the pleasure.

It is the only bodily excretion from which I take pleasure. I personally find urinating annoying, it wakes me up in the middle of the night and at times I find it hard going back to sleep. For some reason we do it many times a day and at unpredictable times such as between errands or in the middle of our favourite movie. Need I say that accumulating urine is excruciatingly horrible? But this entry is not about urinating, it is about crapping.

I remember the biggest relief I ever had, it was in form 3 (grade 9). I had just started studying at Waterford Kamhlaba high school in Mbabane, Swaziland. I stayed at school as a boarder, the hostel was for form 2’s and 3’s, so you can imagine the degree of immaturity of its inhabitants. We were all a bunch of 13 to 15 year olds that had just started puberty. For some reason the toilets had doors as high as those in western cowboy movies. So basically, if you looked down you could recognise the legs, pants and shoes of the person taking a crap. In the morning of my first day of school, I was brushing my teeth and I heard a taunt from behind me, “Haa Bongani, I see you’re taking a crap!!!” and with that some of the kids in the communal bathroom shared a laugh. I did not want to be the butt of a joke (no pun intended), I was alright for that day because I’d taken a dump the day before in the hotel where I was staying with my parents before they went back to Maputo. I was alright the following day too, I didn’t eat much back then either way. The third day however was as though somebody had turned the heat up. I was fidgety and kept adjusting my pants, “are you OK man, you look a bit stressed?”, asked one of the freshers. “I’m fine man”, I lied. We didn’t have free periods in form 3, it would have been quite a plan to do it over a free period as the hostels would naturally be unpopulated. Excusing myself to the bathroom during a school period would arouse suspicion, considering I had not done a number 2 in almost 3 days it would have taken me too long, probably half the period. In form 3 our free times were at break, lunch time and after school and these times were all populated. After school I opened up about my plight to a friend, “I haven’t taken a crap in 3 days!”
-“I know what you mean, it is intimidating”
-“So have you done it since you got here?”, I asked him
-“I have, I shat last night during prep time, it is the perfect time!”
Of course! We all did prep in the dining hall from 7:15 until 8:45pm and during that time the hostel was empty. Ingenious! So that evening during prep, I raised my hand to the supervising teacher, excused myself to the hostel on the pretext I’d forgotten a textbook, I went to the toilet, took down my pants and I took a crap. Ahhhh….that was the most relieving crap of my life, I went back to the dining hall holding a random text book and smiled at the teacher.

Ordinarily, it really is a pleasure too. At times when you close the toilet door behind you, still hearing the toilet flush, you feel like holding a heroic stance, fists on the waist, head up to the sky like Superman straight off the booth. It comes with a sense of accomplishment, you are ready to save the day. Think about it, how much more focused are you after taking a crap? I bet a lot.

It is beyond me why it is taboo, everyone does it! I do it, you do it, the hot girl or guy you fancy does it, the president does it, the Queen of England does it and even Chuck Norris does it. Dogs wag their tail after doing it, fact! I wish we were open about it, imagine coming out of a lecture with a buddy, your buddy would initiate the conversation:
-“That lecture was so boring!”
-“Totally, so where are you going now?”
-“Home, I’m done for the day and you?”
And with utter pride you’d say, “I’m going to take a crap.”
-“Awesome, do your thing.”
You’d shake hands and part ways with a genuine smile, from one comrade to another. Unfortunately in an uptight world like ours, this would be unconventional. I am not advocating filth or perversity. I am simply pointing out the irony, that crapping being one of biggest pleasures like sex is taboo. We parade wearing different masks for different situations censoring feelings in order to fit in. What I’d like you to take away from this blog entry is just one thing: the next time you take a crap enjoy yourself, I know I will.

Yours truly

Edgar Munguambe

Friday, September 9, 2011

The international cultural exhibition - The logistics (part 2)

18 August 2011: I woke up feeling the pressure. I had less than 24 hours to put it all together. The day was going to be a long ordeal. I made the first unanswered call to the dispatcher. Then I made my way to varsity. I knocked on Janine’s door at the international office to tell her that the contacts she gave me were incorrect.

-“Those are the only contacts we have in our system”, she said
-“OK so I’m alone, either way I don’t intend to sit through this one, I’ll represent Mozambique”
-“You should, either way it will be a lot of fun”.

So I was alone, I gave that phone number another go, still nothing. There I stood outside of the international office, seeing groups of nationals mingling in their own language. Some Tswana students were congregated outside of the library, some German students were sitting by the benches, Xhosa people were everywhere clicking and laughing. I felt like a man trapped in an island…but a bloody good swimmer. My driving force was there.

I made a call to the Cubata restaurant, saying I would be there in the evening, he said it would be best to get there at 9pm. At least we were getting somewhere with regards to the food. Shortly after I finished my lunch, the dispatcher returned my call. The dispatcher just wanted to confirm my physical and postal address, I asked her if she could confirm the arrival of the delivery for that day, she couldn’t, I could hear her shrugging her shoulders on the receiving end of the call. I was worried, in class my Advertising tutorial leader sensed tension, “You look worried”. I denied it playing the cool cucumber. I excused myself from her class to answer another call, it was that dispatcher’s superior, a Portuguese man. He had sombre news

- “The bag has not left Jo’burg, we tried to give it to passengers, we tried bribing some shot callers to have the bag checked in, none of the airlines accepted it”, he lamented
-“How come, the bag’s been in Johannesburg for 2 days, how is it that you couldn’t find a systematic solution?
- “The airlines won’t take the any unaccompanied bags”

They should have anticipated that, terror alert is at an all time high. We can’t even take a bottle over 50 ml to a plane.

-“What now?”
- “We’ll have to DHL it, it will be there tomorrow at 9 am”
-“9 am!! My exhibition has to be set up before that!”
- “That’s all we can do”

I zoned out in class for the rest of the day. I sent some futile messages to my parents and to uncle Salty. My father replied

“If the equipment only arrives at 9am:
1. Ask the organizers to set- up what you have. Show them good will.
2. You should have spoken to Sululo. Second best”

I kicked myself in the foot, I shouldn’t have dismissed the possibility of Susulo’s help. Media Ethics was my last lecture at 4:05pm, the clock was ticking and help was needed.

-“Jes you offer to help, let’s do this”

Jes may not have been Mozambican, but she was there for me.

Off we went on her Golf, 10 km to Sidnum, with Jes’s housemate Kevin as co-pilot because he knew the place. By reference the stadium faces a lake and Cubata is also a reference, being on the other side literally one block away. From the outside, it looked impersonal, with its high burglar bars and a drug fiend circling the restaurant. As soon as we got inside however, that cosy smell of chorizo and roast meat loosened us up. It had a tavern like atmosphere, visiting flags were up, I could see Italy, Angola, and the UK. I never got the manager’s name, he came over and made small talk in Portuguese, and even asked Jes if she was Mozambican too. So he only had tiger prawns straight from Mozambique going at R170 per kg. We asked for 3kg, a little over the budget but a bird in the hand is worth two in the wild. We were almost set, he brought the prawns over…in their frozen boxes.

-“Camarada, I asked to have them prepared”
-“If you want them prepared, that will cost you”, he said rubbing the tips of his fingers
-“How much?”
-“I charge exactly R170 per kg of fried prawns, so it will be double”
I was ready to swipe my card, Jes grabbed my hand and said, “wait, we need to think this through”
A box had 20 tiger prawns, 3 kg of tiger prawns was not going to cover 80 plus people, even if we only wanted them to sample it. Maybe 5kg would but that would have been way over the budget.
“We could buy fresh shrimps by the harbour and make it ourselves, it would be much cheaper”, she reiterated. Jes had valid points, we could buy prawns at retailers such as fruit and veg and Checkers at half that price saving us a lot of money. Prawns are fried in just 5 minutes, all we needed was a stove, a massive source pan filed with oil, and butter, garlic and lemon to make the sauce. The Portuguese man agreed that it would be more favourable, “It is that simple”.

I thought I had this one, but it seems like if anything was going to be done, it would be in the nick of time. We left that place to the harbour hoping to get a quote, it was 10 pm.

-“I told him yesterday I wanted the prawns cooked for 80 people to sample, he didn’t say he only had tiger prawns, and at that price!”
-“Welcome to life! Don’t you just love it?” exhaled Jessica
-“You live and you learn”, I said
-“Don’t you think it would be fresher, if we made it ourselves on the day?”

The harbour was closed, but I got a number of a Fresh seafood supplier from a sign post. The number rang for a while then led me to a fax machine dial.
-“James’s dad sells seafood, he probably has shrimps. You guys could call him early tomorrow to get the quotes”, said Kevin
-“OK, Edgar give me the money and I will get up early and find out the prices from James’s dad, Fruit and veg and Checkers”, said Jes
-“I’ll be up by 6 tomorrow to see if I can get quote from the harbour. Make sure you keep the receipts”
- Jes replied, “Yes mommy”
-“Hehehehe, were would I be without you?”, I told her this repeatedly over this episode. The tasks were divided between us, she would run get the saucepan, garlic, lemons and run the errands to get the shrimps, I’d supply the stove, butter and stay on top of the pending materials. We all stopped by the Engen petrol station in Summerstrand for some ice cream. They say it makes you happy.

19 august 2011: D day. I set the alarm for 6:20am, got up at 5:30am, couldn’t go back to sleep. At 6, the suppliers at the harbour still weren’t picking up. I gave Jes the green light to find the best offer. 4kg for R100 per box from She was very quick on her feet. Fish and veg was . I put on my custom made capulana trousers and waist coat over a plane white T-shirt. I took a long look at the man in the mirror, I guess to gain momentum, “Good luck buddy”. I left the house at 7:30am with only two jars of salty cashew nuts in my duffle bag.

The venue was the Krall on South Campus. The represented flags were mounted on the screen of the stalls and over the banister on the upper level. A stage had been with seats for 100 people. There I saw Sid wearing an Umbhaca. Sid’s band Vudu were the opening act, I’d seen them perform their urban Jazz sounds a couple of times, they hadn’t yet disappointed.

-“I like your trousers, I’m stealing them”, she said.

My trousers were the only thematic items going for Mozambique. Botswana, Namibia, France, Malawi, Ghana, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Tanzania, USA, Iran, Ethiopia, Mauritius, South Africa, Uganda, Seychelles, Nigeria, were all represented here. Most of the stalls were either set up already or close to it. The only empty ones were Uganda and Mauritius and Mozambique. I was on the phone frantically, trying to reach the only contact I had, of the case’s dispatcher. Again it just rang. I could imagine the dispatcher looking at my number on the caller ID and rolling his eyes cussing out, “Aargh f*** this guy!” . He just did not pick up the phone. Sid came over and gesticulated a watsup with your stall.

-“Don’t give me that, I’m stressing out here, my stuff’s only arriving at 9”, I said.
-“It will work out in the end, it always does”.

I don’t usually hear her saying these things, so coming from her those were some mighty encouraging words. All the stall had already been set up, even Uganda and Mauritius. The girls from the Seychelles had palm tree branches around their back screen, a coconut, a pineapple, frangipani flowers, a snail shell laid out over some topical leaves. They had their own shooters, they even brought sand. I was seated and looking at my sole cashew nuts embarrassed. It was 8:50. I felt suffocated. ‘I can’t stay here’, I thought to myself. I got up and went to the labs hoping for an e-mail from the post office notifying me of the case. There was no such thing on my inbox, just some forwards on “reasons to be proud of NMMU” to add insult to injury. 9:00am. In a haze I walked to the post-office. The lady there shook her head, “there is nothing here for you”. My heart was racing, my thoughts were ‘I’m going to be disqualified…’ I walked back to the kraal decided, I was going to forfeit the exhibition to save myself from embarrassment. Mozambique can’t deliver, in fact it is in our culture to “deixa andar” (let it be), and I am Mozambican. I was in front of the Kraal about to face the inevitable, I looked to my right and there was Janine Wagenaar with a smile accompanied by a man with a suitcase. “There you are, I told him this is something Edgar will be happy to see”. I let off the biggest sigh of relief. The package signed and delivered. It was 9:07 am. Inevitable is just a word. I began setting up my stall as I was about to represent Mozambique in this exhibition.

To be continued…

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The international cultural exhibition - The logistics (part 1)

10 August 2011: It was an ordinary day at University, I was checking my e-mail at Aberdale labs. I received a forward form the office for international education about the international cultural week, it read:

“Dear International students
In response to a request from Prof Swartz, the Vice Chancellor of the NMMU, for a strategy to address organizational culture, the Centre for Advancement of Non-Racialism and Democracy (CANRAD), in conjunction with the Office for International Education, the Transformation Office (Monitoring and Evaluation), Alumni Trust, HR Equity, Art & Design, Language and Literature, Social Development, Foundation Studies, Faculty of Education, Arts & Culture, Law Faculty, the Sports Bureau, Student Governance & Development, and Marketing & Corporate Relations will host Diversity Month during the whole of August, in which International Diversity Week will take place from 15-19 August 2011….”

We had events like this at my high school Waterford Kamhlaba, I never lifted a finger. My peers would set up stalls with treats from their countries and I would just walk around and feed off them. Fast forward to today, I’ve become a much more hands on person, who finds satisfaction in showcasing the arts. The international cultural exhibition would be on the 19th. Mozambique has so many milestones our neighbours don’t even know about. We grow and export Cashew nuts, in Africa only Kenya and Tanzania have the tropical temperatures to grow them. In 2011 we were the third largest exporters of Cashew Nuts behind Brazil and India. We have Cahora Bassa, the fourth largest artificial lake in the world. Built there is the Cahora Bassa dam, the largest hydroelectric scheme in Southern Africa. It was built in 1969 during the Portuguese colonial government, it is now proudly ours as we bought most of the shares from Portugual in 2007. We inaugurated our first multi-use stadium up to international on 23 April 2011, which we will use as the main stadium for the 2011 All-Africa Games. These will be the 10th annual games, and the first hosted in Mozambique. Our beaches are unparalleled, 2000km stretch of paradise, it is the reason we are called the pearl of the Indian Ocean. It played in my mind, I could see myself, the flag, the stall, the treats, photos of our milestones, the socio-cultural exchange, it would be great for, my own self development, self-fulfilment, my curriculum and it would be legendary. I called my parents and asked for their help with some contacts.

11 August 2011: The minister of tourism provided my dad with the number of the CEO of the National Institute of tourism. My dad relayed the number to me, and under it the words “Go for it! Grab the beast by it’s tail”. The man’s name was Tomas Psico (PhD in Management). I contacted him and politely asked to call back explaining my lack of airtime, given I’m a student. He called back, asking about the state of my health first, “Primeiro de saude esta tudo bom?”. I replied positively, he was pleased and then we got to the chase. I talked about the event, he thought it would be a great way to share our country, the only one we have as he put it, with other nations. He told me his secretary would call on Friday morning. I thanked him, the man said “Nao, obrigado digo eu por pores Moçambique no mapa” (No, I thank you for putting Mozambique on the map). I gave feedback to my dad, he replied by text,
“Well done Edgar! You are building yours and everybody’s FUTURE.
Keep going!

12 August: At NMMU, I went to the office for international Education. Janine Wagenaar the event co-ordinator was pleased about my intentions to participate, saying that it would be the first time Mozambique participated in the International Cultural exhibition.

I signed up, I had a peek at the other countries on her file and there were they had a lot more than one name signed up. I knew we were at least two on South campus, but I was not in touch with the other Mozambican and let me tell you why. Last semester, when I was new I saw this girl once at the office for international education. We were in line to pay our tuition fees, she was in front of the line, seeing that she held a Mozambican passport, once she had been helped I greeted her as a fellow compatriot, “Ola minha compatriota”.

All she said was, “oi tudo bom?’’ (hi, how r you?) and left. Naturally if you meet a fellow compatriot in a foreign country you are welcoming towards the person. Compatriots are birds of a feather, but given the indifference I thought that one had broken wings. I saw that girl again randomly, said hello and she ignored me. Whether she didn’t recognize me or just didn’t feel like talking to me is unknown to me. I too ignored her next time we crossed paths. Then I never saw her again. This brings me to the 17th at Janine’s office. I told her I knew there was at least one other Mozambican and asked her to find her and other Mozambicans so that I could get in touch with them for the sake of the exhibition.. Janine was glad to help. Before I left she gave me an envelope with R300 advance, the expenses I had to return in slips; and a list of all the equipment they’d provide us:

1 Trestle Table
1 Black Table cloth
2 Chairs
1 Felt Divider/Back screen
1 Flag on the screen of your country
1 Signage strip of your country name
1 Chafing dish
2 Spririt Jellies to keep food warm in the chafing dish
1 Serving spoon
1 pack containing the following:

- Toothpicks
- Serviettes
-Plastic cups
- Plastic teaspoons

Sweet, I was on my way. Dr Psico’s assistant called me, I explained everything, reiterated the fact hat we’d never been represented at NMMU. She asked how the transportation costs would be met. I thought it was cheapish of the national institute of tourism not to offer to cover these costs, after all it was for the good of the country. My options were, (i) give the materials to a trusted regular light traveller, so that he can give to my uncle in Johannesburg and trust him to courier it to Port Elizabeth or (ii) Contact another uncle, a big cat at LAM - Mozambican Airlines and trust him with the full transportation of the equipment or (iii) DHL the materials from Maputo to P.E. After talks with my parents, we agreed to go with option (ii) uncle Felix Salty.

13 and 14 August 2011: This was a very odd weekend, I’ll get to that in a different blog entry

15 August 2011: Monday I had lunch with Jes, my friend and fellow Media student. I told her of the cultural exhibition. She was thrilled at the idea and offered to help. I had to think it through I told her I’d get back to her later. I was still waiting for the other Mozambicans to pull through. In other news, Uncle Salty agreed to dispatch the suitcase with all the materials, the show was on the road!

16 August 2011: The case was on its way to Jo’burg, and due in P.E in the evening. I got an e-mail from Jenine with contacts of 3 Mozambicans, 3! It is bewildering how I’d been in Port Elizabeth for 7 months and hadn’t yet been in touch with these people. I sent them the most patriotic e-mail, calling them comrades and compatriots, I even signed off with a “Viva Moçambique!”. The show was on the road! However, the show was in for a 180 when it came over its first pothole. I got a mail delivery error from the server. I tried again, proofreading the names of the recipients. It would not go through. I remained cool, Jenine had also given me a phone number. I called it and the man who picked up was distinctly Xhosa and made sure he emphasised it, “I am 100% South African!”. He added that I wasn’t the first one that called him looking for a Mozambican. Not quite knowing what to say I said, “If you see a Mozambican let me know”. The day came and went, the suitcase did not arrive.

17 August 2011: My dad caught wind of a man called Isaias Muhate who made a presentation on Investments and Business in Mozambique in the field if transportation. He left the equipment at the South African High Commission in Pretoria. Dr Sululo was the number two at the Mozambican high commission in Pretoria. My dad gave me his number to contact him for additional equipment and pointers. I gave my dad a few nonchalant “yeses” and “um umh’s” over the phone. In the end I didn’t bother to call Dr Sululo.

I was thinking about the food for the stall. At home we savour Mboa, it is a cooked mashed up pumpkin leaves with tomato and coconut white. But making it in SA would be difficult, for starters I’d never seen pumpkin leaves in South Africa. The Cubata was a Portuguese restaurant I’d heard of by the North End stadium. I called the manager explaining asking if he made any traditional Mozambican dishes given our countries’ special relationship. All he had were prawns from Mozambique. I explained him my intentions and said I wanted to order the prawn speciality for roughly 80 people to sample. He just told me to show up so we could talk face to face. I agreed, in terms of food that was the plan, to be executed on Thursday straight after Media Ethics, my last lecture.

I got a call from SAA, the man on the other end told me the bag would arrive in P.E. with the 18:20h flight SA 145. He gave me a tag number. That was during my African film viewing, the viewing was not compulsive but critical to the model. You can’t make an omelette without breaking some eggs! So I bunked the viewing and hopped on a cap to the airport, I got there at 18:30. The passengers had already arrived and the carousel was clear. I spoke to a gay Indian man at baggage claims. He had two unclaimed bags by his counter, none of them had my name. He checked his computer for my name, all he got were closed flights from the holidays in June/July. There with my name. He called his counterparts in Johannesburg attempting to track the bag, his hands moved in a very flamboyant lady like fashion as he talked. I'd seen parodies of gay Indians by Russell Peters on TV, but reality was I’d never seen a gay Indian up close until this day. Anyways, there was still nothing. He sighed, I don’t know if it was because he was attracted to me or because the trail was going cold, “what does it look like?”, he said with a smile.
-“I’ve never seen the bag, it came through on SA 145 this evening for me”
-“The bag came unaccompanied?”
-“Yes, it has materials sent to me”
-“Oh, then this is the wrong place. You should go to cargo”
-“Where is that?”
-“Make a right from Avis, then left, you’ll see a warehouse at the end. You have to sign to go in”
-“Alright, thanks”

So off I was to Cargo. Pang, the taxi driver had this to say, “These people always f*** with you, they make you chasing your own tail”. The guards there at Cargo were idling away so Pang just drove through. There I spoke to a lady, as usual in these places I established that I am Mozambican, to cut them from starting a Xhosa monologue. She couldn’t find the tag number, said it wasn’t one of their flights. She wanted a tracking number, I wasn’t given one. I redialled the number that had called me earlier, it just rang and rang. She spoke to her colleague, who spoke to another colleague, who spoke to another colleague but not before cracking a loud joke. Nothing checked out or rather checked in my favour. Pang was getting impatient, he left the cap, “how much longer are you going to take?”
-“they can’t track it”, I said
-“Sisi what’s do you need to find the bag?”
-“I need a tracking number”, she said
-“well I don’t have one”, I repeated
Pang just stormed to the two Afrikaans speaking people (of the two lighter demographic shades of South Africa) on the other side. They Afrikaansed it out and then the man turns to me, asking the same questions the sisi asked, only faster. I was in a puddle, I reached my phone and dialled uncle Salty in Mozambique. No answer. I started darting my eyes plan-less. More of the same questions were asked in the next 5 minutes then I got a returned call.

-“Uncle Salty, it’s Edgar.
-“Sorry Edgar I was in a business meeting, what’s the situation?”
-“I’m at the airport and these people can’t find the bag. I got a call giving me a tag number that doesn’t check out, what could be the problem?”
-“It should have arrived, I’ll find out immediately, then I’ll get back at you”

Further waiting, at this point Pang was pacing on the phone, he seemed to be swearing, but then again every word of Afrikaans sounds like a swear word. The Afrikaans man called me into the warehouse to check if any of the bags were there. The warehouse was largely empty, except for a few crates, boxes and cases. None of the cases had my name.

-“This is what you should do. Go to the first building outside to your left, speak to the man, he unloaded all the bags, he can probably help you”. He spoke to Pang outside in Afrikaans, by the body language giving the same instruction, a call came through from Mozambique, uncle Salty.

-“Edgar my colleague said the bag’s still in Jo’burg, it’s only coming through tomorrow. But you don’t have to go get it, it will come to you.”
-“OK, I’ll wait for it. Is there a contact I can save to track the delivery?”
-“I’ll send you a business card with the dispatcher’s number”
-“Ok, thanks for the feedback”
-“Take care”

I got in the cab and broke the news to Pang, “I just got the most f***ed up call, the bag’s still in Joburg, it’s only coming tomorrow”. He replied, “Welcome to the new South Africa my friend”.
We went back to Summerstrand, along the way he retorted, “Here they’ll give you the job if you’re black and you’re stupid, it doesn’t matter of the white, coloured or Indian guy is better qualified for the job”
-“If you’re stupid period you should stay at home”, I responded
Funny enough I never mentioned the race of any of the dispatchers. He charged me R120 for the wild goose chase. The heat was definately on

To be continued...