Monday, October 18, 2004

Lonely Oaks Lodge, Polokwane (was Pietersberg)

Monday, October 18, 2004

Service: * * * *
Food: * * * *
Ambience: * * 1/2
Babe Count: * * * * *

Brand, our camera-person. He shaves his head, and normally wears a fez, specifically to keep his head warm in winter. But probably also to cause a bit of mischief.Brand has decided not to eat. "Not hungry," he says. "I'll see you guys in the morning." It's about eight o'clock, and even though I've just taken a shower, I'm hot and sticky. Polokwane is a very hot city. Brand leaves, and Refiloe and I are left alone at the table.

I'm acutely aware of the number of moustaches in this place. And they're all twitching at this white guy with this black babe. "You should have seen the looks we got when Brand and I arrived in here," says Refiloe.

Brand is our camera person. He's somewhere in his fifties, and he shaves his head, and he kinda looks like he could be Refiloe's guardian uncle.

We've just been shooting stories at the HP i-Community Centre in the nearby township. It's an unbelievably awesome project to bring sustainable development into the area. When the program I'm working on goes to air on 20 November, you'll be able to see the fruits of our labour. The show happens on Saturday afternoons, from 5:30pm till 6pm, on SABC2, and it's called GO_OPEN. It's about open source technology and the open source movement.

Rhameez phones. "Hey, Roy," he says, "I'm just gonna chill. See you in the morning."

Which leaves me and Refiloe to have a long discussion over supper about racism and white men and black women and affirmative action and anti-semitism. I make the thesis that even though I'm not black, and even though I haven't grown up with apartheid, I tasted a little of it growing up Jewish in Germiston in the seventies.

I recall having a fight almost every single day of my life during primary school, with people calling me "Jewboy" and stuff like that. (Of course, my memory is exaggerating things a tad. Couldn't have been DAILY fights. But that's how I'm recalling it.)

I clearly recall my ex-best-friend at the time, Gayton, and his buddy, Sascha, trying to force me to go into a Lutheran church one day on our way back from school. I punched them both and ran all the way home in terror. And never spoke to Gayton every again.

"Yeah," says Refiloe, "but you don't know the EXTENT of it!"

"That's true," I say, "I don't. But I know a tiny bit."

"Have you ever had a black girlfriend?" she demands.

"No," I say.

"Proof!" she says.

This is Karen. Alas, we've just broken up, due to us not reallllllllly connecting. Sigh. She's just as tired of dating as I am, so we're both a tad bemused by all this."Of what?" I say. "All it proves is that I've not had the opportunity to fall in love with a black woman."

We decide to can this conversation. It's just getting heated, and there are no real answers anyway.

The food arrives, and that shuts us up. I've been very specific about ordering a half portion of the oxtail stew. A three-legged potjie arrives. That's mine. "No!" I say, "I asked for the half portion!"

Sharon, our waitress, says, "I know. This IS the half portion."

"Are you sure there hasn't been a mistake?"

"You should SEE our full portion," she says.

I'd rather not.

What I AM glad about is this. First thing this morning when I woke up, while Rhameez was showering, I phoned Ronelle, our production manager. "Hello Ronelle," I said.

She said, "What's WRONG????"

"Oh," I said, "nothing much. Apart from this terrrrrrrrible place we stayed in. I've spoken to Brand and Rhameez, and there's no way we're staying here tonight. We've gotta have separate rooms. And not here."

"Okay," she says. "I'll work on it."

The reason we were sharing in the first place is that this is quite a low budget shoot we're doing. We kinda figured that we should save money on the luxuries. But I can tell you this... next time you're planning a shoot, make SURE that your people have separate rooms. You CANNOT work with people all day and then still share accommodation. It's just too much. No down time.

As we were driving into town this morning, Rhameez spotted a sign. "Hey! I've stayed there before," he says. "It's not great, but at least it's got separate rooms."

I phone Ronelle. "There's a place Rhameez has stayed at," I say. "It's called 'Lonely Oaks'. He says it's okay. And it should be a similar price."

She phones back and says, "You're booked in there tonight. No sharing."

Refiloe and I say goodnight. "Let's just watch our backs on the way out of here," I say. Those moustaches are bristling. This is white-might territory. "Can I walk you to your room?"

"I'll sms you when I'm safe and sound," she says.

The sms arrives two minutes later, and I don't have to worry about being a Jewboy here in the heart of the great racial divide.

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