Welcome back china!

It’s January. Time to go home. Gautengers are hobbling to their SUVs, ruing their decision to buy their sons the boogie boards that came crashing into their shins all holiday. Everywhere, trees are being mutilated with the engravings of summer lovers: “Merrick en Shenay 08”, “Gryzinia woz here”, “Rutger loves Karabs”.

In Eland’s Bay, residents breathe a sigh of relief as the influx of tourists – four surfers and a birdwatching couple – finally leave their town in peace. Richard’s Bay waits for its first ever tourist, its residents quietly cursing Richard, whoever he was, for making a home so far from everything.

Not everyone went on holiday. I checked my Facebook recently to find a friend request that was sent late on Christmas Eve, and at least three friends had posted photos of just about every single thing that happened to them on their respective holidays. Here was Kyle eating a burger (wow), there Marc pointing at a hill (amazing). I was most relieved to see that Megan had recovered from a light sprain to her ankle. Phew. You had us worried there Megs. Lol.

That’s right – my distaste for Facebook is no milder in 2009, and if you are wondering why I don’t just throw in the towel, you must have forgotten that online Scrabble is now an obsession without which I would not clearly see the point of living. It’s nerdy and it is marvellous. My older brother has taken to challenging Spaniards with poor English and names like Jesus and Raul to matches, then beating them mercilessly as they chip away with words like “cow” and “hello”. It’s become something of a sport of its own.

New Year’s resolutions didn’t really take off at the party I attended. I heard someone at some point say he had decided to put on a lot of weight and teach himself to smoke. In fact, after having our party a day too early, our New Year’s bash hit the gravel at around 11.15 – the only thing stopping us from using Australian time and calling it 2009 was the fact that for a horrible instant we would have to imagine ourselves in Australia. It was easier to sit and wait.

So the year rolled in. There was good news and bad news. Somehow, now more than ever, with the economic crisis in the balance and a new leader about to take over one of the world’s most important jobs, it feels as though there is more uncertainty in the air. It may feel more comfortable to know, but it is more exciting not to.

Perhaps in years to come we will have done away with cash and coins, and people will trade in print outs of Extra Virgin. Everything’s possible. Just hang on to them in case.

Matthew Freemantle


Engrish - Matthew Freemantle
“Good Testes Wine & Cigar Bar”; “Sweat & Sour Chicken”; “The Male Sex Toilet”. Just a few of thousands of classic “lost in translation” moments photographed and posted on www.engrish.com. Go there now – there’s at least a full afternoon of mindless fun waiting for you.



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Competition winners 2008
You entered in your droves. You waited by the phone. For the following names, the phone rang and you won R2500. Chin up now, the rest of you, chin up: Not being the winner doesn't make you a loser. Let's applaud the fortunate few (and grin jealously).

Competition Winners




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