Hey there and welcome to the BigAppleSchool podcast. My name is Sam.
And today we’re asking what’s the craic about…
That’s perfect for you, right? So, our guy, Ryno is from South Africa. We’re gonna ask him a little bit about his home country. Some information, facts, animals, maybe the weather, maybe a bit about the food and any problems, situations. As we like to say in Northern Ireland situations about his home country.
As I’ll sometimes ask my students – are you happy?
I mean, I know you’re content.
Maybe not content, but pretty happy, yes.
Where the heck is South Africa?
Interesting question and something quite a few Russians asked me. It is the furthest or the southernmost country in South Africa, but it is actually a country on its own, it’s not a direction, it’s a country on its own. Maybe better to say the Republic of South Africa. People seem to understand that better.
Is it also a tax company?
There is a tax company, but it’s not the same.
So where exactly were you born?
Heidelberg, it’s a small, little town close to…
So there are a couple of important cities in South Africa, Johannesburg being one of them. A lot of people know where exactly Johannesburg is. Sort of the financial center of South Africa. And Heidelberg is a small town about 60 km to the south of that. Sort of central South Africa almost.
It makes me want to yodel.
It is German! The name’s German.
And it makes me feel like yodeling. And I’m not a good yodeler.
Pronunciation is actually Heidelberg, because it’s German.
Okay. Good. Can you tell us about Heidelberg?
Heidelberg. Not much. It was…
Not many people I reckon?
No! Quite big, it has grown quite big, because it’s so close to Johannesburg. But it used to be very small. I might say about 30 000 people when I was there.
It sounds like my hometown, 22 000.
Yeah, okay. So, small. Very conservative. It was very conservative back in the day, this was pre-1990. It was one of the major conservative parties regions in the country. Yes, very, politically very conservative. And it’s the people were very conservative.
Do they all wear cardigans?
Not that conservative. There’s a very different dress code for conservative South Africans.
The weather dictates that.
Three words you’d use to describe the people in the Republic of South Africa?
Friendly, kind, hospitable.
Hospitable. Not from hospitals.
Not from hospitals, but hospitable, so quite… I’m quite reminded of my people in South Africa when I visit the Russian people who live in, more in the countryside, in the villages.
Kind people, caring people, you arrive, they offer you something to eat and they offer you something to drink. And you leave them with bags of food, produce – very similar to that. It’s changed a little bit, because circumstances are quite… Quite strange.
We’ll talk about that. So I’d say maybe, if I could add one more word, not only three, at the moment quite a few South African people are nervous.
So I would include that in description.
So not so good in that front. Tell us about the capital of South Africa. I think there’s something strange about it.
Yeah. You tell us, you tell us.
Not only one capital, so the rainbow nation.
Very greedy! And in fact not two capitals, but three.
Why not. Cape Town, Johannesburg and… No, I lied! Not Johannesburg. Johannesburg is our biggest city, so Cape town, Pretoria and Bloemfontein.
And what’s the difference? Why three?
Cape town has parliament. Bloemfontein has the high court and Pretoria is where the presidential house is.
Okay, So they all have different functions.
They all have different functions, so Cape town is legislative capital, Pretoria is executive capital, and Bloemfontein is judicial capital.
We’ll google that later to find out.
Yes. I think best you do, because it is quite confusing even for South Africans.
Yeah. Well, there are some similar I think issues with the UK and Great Britain – we have a bit of a ‘where’s Great Britain? Where’s the UK?’ It’s a little bit… Unless you know, it can be quite confusing.
Exactly. And actually quite a few South Africans would I think struggle to define the three different capitals – they might know three, but they might guess which one is which one.
You googled it, didn’t you?
I did. I had a little bit of trick for that question.
What happens if Google’s ever wrong though? What will you do?
I don’t know, I did see a t-shirt once on a man, wearing a t-shirt saying ‘I don’t need google because my wife knows everything’. So I still trust google.
Maybe we should talk to his wife too.
Right. Let me move on. Tell us about, no, what’s your favorite food from your home country? That’s what I wanna ask.
Oy. I do miss my country’s food a little bit. We are very-very fortunate, because our weather is fantastic. Which means we can grow fresh produce.
Only -20 in the summer? Or in winter?
Even better! +16 in winter!
+16? This sounds like an Irish summer.
Absolutely. It’s better than the Irish summer I think. Because there’s no rain.
Oh no rain? How can you live without rain?
Summer rain, not winter rain. So because of the fantastic weather we can grow fresh produce almost year round. So fresh fruit and fresh vegetables are everywhere.
Yes. I miss that a little bit. We love to braai.
And what is braai? Is this.. It’s a verb? To braai?
Yes. It’s a verb, it’s a noun, it’s an adjective we use it for many many things in South Africa. And the closest comparison in Russian is shashlik, barbecue.
But we take it to the extreme. There’s lots of meat, different forms, different types: beef, chicken, pork, even sea food we put on the braai. Side dishes, many many many side dishes. Salads, bread, you name it.
And if you can think of it – probably it is a side dish. And of course lots of beer. South Africans love drinking beer. I’m not a particular fan of it.
I’m not a typical Irish, or Northern Irish person, cause I’m not a beer drinker.
You also don’t drink? I don’t enjoy the taste. There’s something about it, there’s an aftertaste which I don’t enjoy. I do like red wine.
I get the feeling, back to this braai, it’s actually a type of grill or something?
It can be grill, can be indoor, can be outdoor. Some people actually…
It’s not a specific apparatus for it, right?
Well, it’s an open container and you make fire in it.
So, but South Africans are very passionate about this process. So for the bad maybe one-two days we have in the country, a lot of people actually have an indoor version of this as well. To ensure…
Just for those two days, so they are sure that they can have their braai when they want to have their braai.
Fair enough. It sounds like the exact opposite in Northern Ireland. You have like two or three like bad days, we have like two or three good days.
Oh we are very very blessed. And of course we love sweet things, South Africans love sweet desserts, cakes, tarts.
Good, good, good, good. Is there any specific dish, apart from braai of course, is there another kind of specific dish that we should watch out for?
From South Africa we have so many fantastic dishes. One that comes to mind immediately is called bobotie. Have you heard of this?
Oh, okay. Interesting. So for a second I thought you know what I was talking about.
Okay. It is maybe I could explain by saying it’s like minced meat almost, like a curry with some raisins in it, and it’s baked in an oven with almost like an egg custard on top.
It’s… We have so many different influences because we are such a mix of nations and nationalities. This is a bit Malay, a bit of South African taste, I absolutely love it.
Oh no, this is a main course.
No sugar. And then of course one of my favorite desserts – tart, if you want to call it that. It’s actually a milk tart. It’s like a baked custard things with a crust, with cinnamon on top. And it’s fantastic.
I love anything with cinnamon.
Custard. You and I know what it is, but not everyone does. Can we explain it?
How do you make custard – what’s in it?
There’s a cheap way and there’s a proper way. The proper actually is a lot of egg yolk, the yellow of the egg, mixed with cream, slowly brought to a boil with some sugar added. And you stir it until it thickens. The egg yolks in it thicken the cream.
It’s a very very traditional way.
It’s a very traditional way of doing it, but it’s absolutely fantastic. Actually, my mouth is watering now, so can we change the topic. Thank you.
But not yet – what about the second way?
So how I make custard and how my family makes custard is you get milk. We use a quarter of a pint, but I’m not sure everyone will understand a pint. We use a certain amount for each person of milk, and then we add what we have custard powder.
It’s the same as corn flour basically. I think there are some additives.
Yes! And it is yellow in color.
But it’s essentially corn flour, just mixed. Крахмал in Russian or something.
It’s starch, it’s starch.
It’s all it really does. So, add some sweet stuff, I mean, sometimes I add chocolate powder, and then you’ve got chocolate custard. Sometimes I add just sugar, it’s white, you know.
This is not the cheat way actually – in South Africa we can buy custard in the shop. So you don’t have to make it.
It’s like low standard custard.
It’s okay. Depends on what…
Yes, its not great for this kind of dessert I was talking about, baking custard. Definitely you need the traditional version of it.
You know, custard was with me all my life. I remember it as a little boy in primary school. The dinner lady used to love me, cause I went back for more custard. Custard and cornflake cake.
Cornflake cake is like a shortbread, like a pastry with jam and then cornflakes mixed with trickle of honey.
Cornflakes I think breakfast.
Yes, but it’s just like a crunchy biscuit. With honey in it and stuff, so. It’s perfect.
Maybe you’ll have to make that for me, so I can take trial.
I’m not so well-practice I think as my… We’ll see, we’ll see. Right, back to South Africa.
Are you sitting comfortably?
I’ve had some coffee, yes.
Have you drunk your coffee?
I still have my coffee. How many languages do they speak in South Africa?
Again, the rainbow nation… Interesting situation…
Maybe the main languages.
Eleven official languages. Yes. 35 spoken in the country.
35, yeah. So I would say that the majority of people would understand English. Maybe a very basic level, maybe they won’t be able to respond in English. But because there is such a mix of languages and nations, English is quite a big portion of…
Yes. They have a common language.
What are some of the other main languages?
Afrikaans is number one, it’s very similar to Dutch, Dutch heritage.
Allo? Is it Dutch? Sounds pretty much like Hello.
No, it’s okay. It’s only me, until this is being broadcast. And then there are a couple of languages. Mostly spoken I think is Zulu. There is Xhosa, Sesotho, Venda, Tswana, I forget.
Did you click you mouth on purpose there?
For one of the languages?
Wow, okay. Can you speak any of that?
I can speak a little bit of Zulu, but they don’t use as many of the clicking sounds.
*speaks Zulu* That means ‘Hello’. *in Zulu* - how are you?
Excellent. *in Zulu* - means ‘I’m okay too’.
Can you teach me a word in this… What’s the language?
I can teach you to say ‘hello’.
Something like in Ghostbusters, the language…
So I can teach you how to say hello.
And then if it’s a man speaking to you we would usually say Sawubona bhuti.
I’m doing the neck movement. Unjani.
It’s a very expressive language. And I bet the people are quite interesting, they are vivacious and friendly and open and loud. Because they believe in their culture if you speak softly, then you are 00:16:58 saying something that other people shouldn’t be hearing, and it’s rude.
So they speak loudly so that you can hear what’s being said, so that you know they are not talking about you behind your back.
Great. Sounds really interesting.
It is. It is very interesting.
I was gonna ask about different cultures exist, but I think you kinda answered that.
Lots. Lots and lots and lots.
Now a little maybe negative? Let’s introduce a little bit of conflict, something difficult about your country. What is the most challenging thing about life in South Africa?
Well, at the moment it is quite difficult being a white male in South Africa. Post-apartheid ending, at the end of 1990 when a whole political system and government changed completely from the old conservative repressive regime that was there
to this open democratic one vote one person, everyone is allowed to vote. Unfortunately there were some side effects as in any system, if there was a huge imbalance to one side…
Exactly. When you try and fix that imbalance, it usually goes to the other side first before somehow finding some power… So it is quite difficult at the moment being a white male, because we’re not very high on the employable on the employment list.
Because of history. Financially or economically the country is struggling a bit. There’s a lot of corruption and bribery happening. As in most developing countries. I don’t think South Africa is unique there, but it is quite at the fall trend at the moment.
We have learned reappropriation happening at the moment as well where they are trying to balance the injustices of the past by taking some of the land which was taken at the apartheid, by the white people, and then redistribute it to people in need. We are all worried.
Yes. We are all worried that there’s another Zimbabwe happening. Where things just completely collapsed entirely. So we are a little bit worried.
So this is from the 1990s? It’s not really a new thing?
No, it’s a bit close at the moment. Because when Nelson Mandela was around, things were actually really good. He was a great great representative of the country for the county.
He managed to generate a lot of international interest in the country, a lot of financial interest in the country. He was responsible for getting the 2010 FIFA world cup in South Africa.
And that’s where they all had those clackers and…?
It’s called vuvuzela, if you google that one, because it’s quite unique to South Africa. But subsequently, unfortunately, after he stepped down as president, the leaders who followed have not been as humane as he was. And after he passed away, the county lost its way a little bit unfortunately.
He was really the daylight…
Fantastic. Really really good ambassador and good influence on the people and the country, for the country.
So it’s a little bit stressful for us, that’s why as I said earlier. We’re always a little bit nervous - Is my money safe? Am I safe?
Yes, is it….? Maybe you’re safe? Personal safety as well?
Personal safety I think is a problem in almost any major city in the world. There are always areas where you shouldn’t walk at night, where the strange people hang out. So in Johannesburg pretty much the same thing.
Cape town – a little bit different. I lived in Cape town for two years, I live in Johannesburg for 25 years. So I knew, still know Johannesburg actually very very well. And there are certain areas you have to avoid, especially after dark.
It’s the case for every big city I guess.
It’s a part of any big city.
Yes. So, you know, you have to be aware of people who pickpocket and…
This is not necessarily because of your color or anything connected with your background or back history or anything like that?
Maybe a little bit. I cannot…
I cannot confirm or deny that. I can say to you that I understand if your country’s employment rate is 35%, people are desperate. People will do almost anything to survive. And to feed their children at home.
And things happen. Things happen, unfortunately. It’s a little bit challenging there, but it is still a magnificently beautiful country.
You recommend us visiting?
Cape town. Cape town and surrounding areas in Cape town. I think you can be a full-time traveler or tourist there for 12 months and not see everything. It really is spectacular.
We have such diverse climates in the country from deserts to savannas, we have huge big grass plains too. The Cape Town Atlantic ocean side which up there west coast – we almost have desert meeting ocean. It is incredibly beautiful.
Unbelievable. The east coast is warm because of the Indian ocean, so it’s almost tropical and humid.
I’ve never been to continent of Africa. I’ve heard that there is somewhere where two seas, or maybe two oceans, or two sees, completely different.
Cape point, it’s Cape point. It’s where the Indian and the Atlantic oceans meet. And in the warmer weather, if you’re in Cape point, or at Cape point, you can see this line in the ocean, yes. So, another thing worth googling, actually, is Indian and Atlantic oceans meeting point. There are some spectacular photos.
What’s your favorite ocean or sea?
I’m not a big ocean lover. The Indian one is warmer of course.
Sharks? Are there sharks?
You wouldn’t dip your toe in there?
I would dip my toe in there, but would not dip more than one toe in there.
Toe was okay. Toe was okay, nothing more. I don’t enjoy swimming in the ocean, it’s… I’m a little bit wary of the power of the waves.
Fair enough. I’m from a small island, so I think, I don’t know. I’ve been in the sea, not serious or anything, but there aren’t much dangerous… Not many dangerous animals there I think. Occasionally you’d see a shark, but it’s nothing like you have. Maybe it’s too cold, so they’d be away.
I think it’s a little bit cold. We have some shark attacks. But shark nets are placed on regular intervals, so usually it gets quite safe.
Surfers go to Jeffreys Bay, which is an area about three or four hundred kilometers to the east of Cape town, where it really is a surfers’ paradise with the waves. International surfing competitions are there. So, not too many sharks, but enough just to keep interest going.
To keep dipping your toes.
Now, how do you imagine South Africa… Sort of thinking about the problems that you have at the moment, financial and cultural, political – how do you imagine it would be in, say, 50 years’ time?
I’m hoping that in 50 years’ time things will have settled. The country has incredible resources, the people of the country can actually live very very well. The diamond resources are estimated at I think 2.5 trillion dollars’ worth.
We produce… a little bit of money. Gold, platinum, macadamia nuts! South Africa is responsible for 25% of the world’s macadamia nuts consumption. They are…
And they’re not cheap, so there is such potential in the country. There is… The people are fantastic despite what is portrayed in the news and in social media. As we know, a lot of focus is always on the negative. I’m hoping that in 50 years’ time all of this stuff will have gone away.
People won’t have remembered the past and learned from the past, not keep reliving the past to make a point or to punish someone, because of something that’s happened in the past, so I really hope that in 50 years’ time…
I won’t be alive, I’m too old for that, but I’m hoping that I can look down from wherever I am and say ‘At last, this magnificent little country at the South of Africa has settled. And the people are happy and have accepted each other and live together’.
We’ve talked about South Africa, but we haven’t really talked about the animals. So I wanna ask you about that. What animals have you seen in South Africa that you can’t see here in Russia?
Well, with zoos in most cities, big cities we know, a lot of animals are viewable everywhere in the world and you can go and see them anywhere. But there is nothing more fantastic than seeing our elephants and giraffes and rhinos and lions….
Not Rynos. Focus on the pronunciation. Rhinoceros.
You can call them rhinoceros.
Please, don’t. You will get a very negative response on that. And our elephant population is… It’s fantastic, it’s fantastic to see them in their natural habitat.
It’s mind-blowing. And then it’s not only those. We have huge whale population – every sort of September, October, November is peak whale watching season, so from Cape town, far east they come close to the beaches to have their babies.
I’ve seen a little bit of that. I was in Australia, and I’ve seen a little bit of that. It’s fantastic.
It is magnificent. And of course because we have good shark population, the whales – it’s their snack of choice. A little bit of shark meat, they enjoy a little bit of shark meat.
So if you go shark diving, which I have tried, and there are no sharks to be seen, it is because the whale population has moved through that area and had a snack or two.
What sharks do they go for? Not great white, is it?
Can they attack the great white shark?
Yes. They could, they’re quite friendly to humans, but a shark is their snack of choice.
Great. It’s like you and I having crisps or something, or whatever snacks.
For me it’s chocolate. For me it’s chocolate, yeah.
I guess a little bit of everything for me in moderation.
Always in moderation they say.
Okay. That was very interesting.
Thank you so much for sharing. I think… I feel like I know not too much, but a little bit more about South Africa. We talked about the food, now a little bit of an idea – I know that you also like custard, which is the best dessert. And you might have it for dinner too.
Or breakfast! I can have it any time of the day.
We learned about the weather, about three capitals of South Africa. A little bit about the problems that we hope will solve themselves, or improve at least in the future. People settling down, changing their minds, maybe calming down.
Still a great place to visit. If you can get there, a long flight, but if you get there…
So that was what’s the craic about South Africa.