Last week, our au pair visited her family in her native country of South Africa. We were slightly concerned that the house would completely fall apart without her, but we managed to survive. I did warn her that if she didn’t come back, I would fly over there and hunt her down.
In case I actually had to follow through with that threat, I decided to learn more about South Africa, since – like most Americans – I know very little about any country that isn’t the United States.
She did indeed return to us, but that doesn’t mean my newly gained knowledge has to go to waste. I figured I could help educate my readers because I’m guessing that most of you similarly know very little about South Africa.
Normally, last week would have been spent researching my NCAA tournament picks. But I won two pools last year, and that was almost entirely based on luck. In one of the pools, nobody had any of the Final Four teams correct. So I basically won because I did really well in the first two rounds.
I figured that I wasn’t due for that kind of luck again, so I wouldn’t spend much time worrying about it. Sure enough, I was pretty much wiped out of contention immediately as one of my national finalists lost in the very first game. (Thanks a lot, Iowa State!)
Freed from my NCAA research, I was able to do some exhaustive research on South Africa’s history and culture. (I looked it up on Wikipedia) I soon realized that I actually know more about the country than I do about 95% of the nations in the world.
This isn’t really saying much. For all you non-Americans out there, trust me when I say that Americans know absolutely nothing about foreign countries. The fact that I can actually locate Canada on a map puts me ahead of many of my peers.
I was able to locate South Africa on the map. (It was the one that had South Africa written across it!) But even if you’re dealing with an unlabeled map, the country’s name should give you a pretty good idea of where to start looking.
Like many countries around the world, South Africa was once a British colony. (So they drive on the wrong side of the road.) After gaining independence from the British, the South African government celebrated their freedom by drastically reducing the rights of a large percentage of its population. And thus, the apartheid era began.
You know how race relations in America improved somewhat in the 1950’s and 60’s? In South Africa, things went in a slightly different direction.
Instead of being hailed as a hero, and eventually given his own holiday like Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela was thrown in prison, and segregation policies were more strictly enforced.
(I’m aware that this is a drastic oversimplification, but I didn’t think anyone was really interested in a detailed history lesson.)
Speaking of Mandela, I’ve been tempted to show our au pair this skit from Chappelle’s Show and see what she thinks of it:
After giving it some consideration, I realize I probably shouldn’t show that to her.
While apartheid has ended and race relations have improved, that doesn’t mean that South Africa is a happy and cheery place these days. There’s a high crime rate and South Africa often ranks #1 in the number of rapes per person.
In other uplifting news, South Africa is the only African nation to successfully develop a nuclear weapon. This has caused some concern for the rest of the world because although they ended their nuclear program and dismantled their weapons, they’re still in possession of a large stash of nuclear material. The problem is, they don’t seem to be all that good about keeping it safe.
On a lighter note, South Africa was the setting for the movie District 9, and that movie was pretty cool. Maybe I just thought it was a nice change of pace for the invading aliens to actually be stupid rather than highly intelligent.
That’s about the extent of my South African knowledge. Anyone out there have any factoids about the country that we might find interesting?
I’ll leave you with a song from one of South Africa’s most famous bands: Kongos. (Yes, Mrs. Cutter, Kongos is from South Africa.) Here is their hit song “Come With Me Now.”