Tag Archives: Namibia

Wat Sê Jy?

or “scusi?

Quora asked this question recently: “How do you know when you are fluent in a language?” here

I answered thus: My guess is usually you won’t really know. Native speakers are usually polite and will flatter you with a better assessment than is true. Maybe a better question to ask yourself is “When am I fluent enough?”

My guess? When you’re enjoying using it and not really thinking about it. I am fluent enough in Afrikaans and can happily hold any conversation with someone who only speaks that language. But even though I have spoken it since I was little, no native speaker would mistake me for a native Afrikaans speaker.

Confession: I laboured under the mistaken impression that I was completely fluent. No-one told me otherwise. Then at age fourteen I went to Namibia (South West Africa as it was) and visited third cousins I had never met before. Within two sentences one of them blurted out “Jis! Jy kan hoor jy’s ’n rooinek!” (Boy, You can hear you’re English-speaking!). And my bubble burst. I’m now amazed I was so deluded!

Another case in point: My 94-yr old Dad speaks “fluent Italian” which he learnt in Italy in WW2. I asked an Italian schoolfriend a few years ago “How well does the old man actually speak?” and he said “Really well. Really”. Somehow I think that’s politeness (two years in Italy seventy years ago when he was already 22yrs-old – ??). But I have no way of telling, so I’m happy to go with Claudio’s assessment! Thanks, figlio!

Another: I often get complimented for speaking good Zulu. This is definitely not true and is just polite people’s way of saying “Thank you for trying to speak isiZulu to me”.

 

South West Africa

The Kestell bus was like a half-loaf, but still they couldn’t fill it so we Harrismithians had been invited along. Leon Crawley, Pierre du Plessis, Tuffy Joubert and me, plus a few others joined the Kestell boys. It was R25 for 15 days. We said YES!!! and our parents said yes, so we were off!

It was boys-only, a seunstoer, but Mnr Venter of Kestell took his daughter along. She was about Std 4 we were Std 7 to 9. She was very popular and soon became like the tour mascot, second only to Wagter the tour dog – who was actually a found corobrick with a dog collar and string for a leash.

The short bus had a longitudinal seating arrangement. Two long rows running the length of the bus so you sat facing each other.

We all bundled in and set off. After a few hours we had the first roadside stop. Mnr Venter lined us all up outside the bus and said “Right, introduce yourselves”, as the Kestell ous didn’t know us – and we didn’t know them. Down the row came the names, van Tonder, van Wyk, van Niekerk, van Staden, van WhatWhat, Aasvoel, Kleine Asenvogel, Marble Hol. Leon Crawley standing next to me murmured “Steve McQueen” but when his turn came he let out with a clear “Leon Crawley” so I said “Steve McQueen” out loud. Without a blink the naming continued before I could say “Uh, just kidding” so I became “Ou Steve” for the duration.

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We got to Etosha National Park after dark so the Okakuejo gate was closed. We didn’t pitch our tents that night to save time, simply bedding down outside ready to drive in first thing the next morning. On spotting us the next morning the game ranger said “Net hier het ‘n leeu eergistraand ‘n bok  neergetrek“. 1

  on the right of the gate

On our way out of the SW corner of the country, heading for the border with the Kalahari Gemsbok Park we spotted something tangled up in the roadside fences. Turned out to be a few springbok, some dead, some still alive but badly injured. As we spotted them one of the farm boys yelled out “Ek debs  die balsak!” . He cut off the scrotum, pulled it over the base of a bottle and when it had dried he had an ashtray. The alive ones were dispatched and all were taken to the nearby farmer who gave us one. Seems some hunters are indiscriminate and less than accurate and the buck panic and run into the fences.

That night we made a huge bonfire on the dry bed of the Nossob river or one of its tributaries and braai’d the springbok meat. It was freezing at night in July so we placed our sleeping bags around the fire and moved closer to the bed of coals all night long. Every time we woke we inched closer. Wonderful star-filled night sky above us.

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  1. Right here a lion killed an antelope the night before last;

  2. I ‘bags’ the ballbag! or ‘Dibs on the ballbag!’

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more on the 1969 SWA tour here:

https://vrystaatconfessions.wordpress.com/2014/01/23/prohibition-lifted-re-instated/

Prohibition lifted, re-instated

The rumour on the Kestell bus was that in South West Africa the laws pertaining to grog did not actually, y’know, pertain. Specifically, the drinking age laws. You could order a beer in a pub in South West Africa even if you were only fourteen or fifteen, as we were. In fact, so the rumour went, it wasn’t a rumour, it was a fact.

We were on tour in the little Kestell bus. Kestell had been unable to fill it so they extended the invite to Harrismith se Hoer School: Who wants to join us on an adventure? R25 for 15 days! Pierre, Tuffy, Fluffy and I jumped at the chance, our folks said yes and we were off on a historic adventure which included a World-First in Kimberley on the way: The world’s first streak, Pierre and Tuffy giving their thighs a slapping as they raced kaalgat from the showers to our campsite in Kimberley’s Big Hole (or their caravan park anyway). Some historians think streaking started in California in 1973. Well, they weren’t in Kimberley in 1969, were they?

We crossed into Nirvana at the Onseepkans border post armed with our newfound legal knowledge and confidently entered the first licenced premise we found: The Karasburg Hotel. It was hot, the beer was cold and we were cool. We sat in the lounge and supped as though we had done this for YEARS.

We decided to order a refill while that friendly man who hadn’t batted an eyelid when we ordered our first round was still around. He had confirmed the now well-known fact that South West Africa was a bastion of good sense and sound liberal values. I got up to press the buzzer which would bring him back.

Unfortunately, the buzzer stuck and it buzzed too long, which must have annoyed the owner, as he came stomping into the lounge to see vuddafokgaanhieraan.

He looked at our short stature, our short pants and our tall beers in astonishment and demanded Wie is julle? and Waar’s julle onderwyser? He dispatched me to go and fetch our onderwyser and instructed the others to sit, stay.

But as he turned his back the rest of our gang disappeared, taking their beers with them. And like the good mates they were, they brought mine along too!