adrian is rad


how to write about africa

Filed under: — adrian @ 11:35 am

In your text, treat Africa as if it were one country. It is hot and dusty with rolling grasslands and huge herds of animals and tall, thin people who are starving. Or it is hot and steamy with very short people who eat primates. Don’t get bogged down with precise descriptions. Africa is big: fifty-four countries, 900 million people who are too busy starving and dying and warring and emigrating to read your book. The continent is full of deserts, jungles, highlands, savannahs and many other things, but your reader doesn’t care about all that, so keep your descriptions romantic and evocative and unparticular.

I’ve seen this piece a few times now. Some of it definitely rings true.


more from ingwavuma

Filed under: — adrian @ 5:20 am


Zulus seem to like their meat with fat and bones so lean cuts can be pretty cheap. For instance I’ve been getting fillet for about $3.25/lb. And I’ve been using it for things like curries and stir fries. Fillet! For stir fries!

Tutoring continues. The first matric exam for math was Friday and the other is Monday so this past week has been going through past exams and working through the hard problems. I think some of the students will do well on it.

Visas have been the big story this week. The Children’s Radio Project won a region UNICEF children’s radio award and the goal was to send two kids along with an adult to New York for the awards ceremony. The big problem was that of the six weeks between UNICEF’s announcement and the awards ceremony, that for kids from rural South Africa, they first needed to get passports which took about five weeks. So earlier this week they still didn’t have their visas when the needed to leave today. Wednesday they set off for Johannesburg–a 10 hour drive–to go to the consulate to try to get an emergency visa appointment at the consulate. Somehow they got the visas on Thursday, booked the tickets on Friday and should be on the plane as I type.

Hand washing clothes takes a lot more time than I thought, especially if local water issues demand that water be conserved. While washing my clothes today I thought about how much time the relatively rich save by having things like washing machines, running water, microwaves and cars.

The other day I saw some kids playing on an over-turned, gutted, rusted-out car. I tend to think that parents these days are overprotective and kids should just be allowed to play, but that may be too much even for me.


46 things I saw out the window of a car this weekend

Filed under: — adrian @ 9:08 am

46 things I saw out the window of a car this weekend…

cows; sheep; goats; mongeese; vervet monkeys; a bush buck; the Pongola River; Swaziland; the Indian Ocean; tractors; African Queen Hair Salon; Wenzi and Sister Quick Save; lodges; an Elephant Park; a game reserve; potholes; the clouds during a beautiful sunset; litter; tuck shops; cell phone repair shacks; one-man car repair shops; churches; schools; shopping centres; informal markets; semi-formal markets; “<-- Sodwana Bay"; kids playing soccer; rondavels; shacks; huts; houses; homesteads; white bakkies; boats-on-trailers; Land Rovers with snorkels (that will never be used); new cars; old cars; rusted out car chassis; an ATV spewing smoke; repurposed shipping containers; people walking; people hitchhiking; people carrying water; women carrying sacks of mielie meal or flour; people riding bicycles;


driving on the left…mostly

Filed under: — adrian @ 11:40 pm

The legal side of the road to drive on in South Africa is the left. Well, except for dirt roads. On dirt roads you just drive where ever you think will do the least damage to your car. If another car comes, you move back over to the left.

The other day I was driving slowly down a particularly rocky road and I thought the far right side was the best place to drive. As I was nearing the top of a small hill, another car comes over from the other side, also driving on his far right side. He just flashed his lights at me, as if to say, “Don’t worry about moving back over to the left.” So we passed driving on the right and went about our days.


it’s thunder and it’s lightning

Filed under: — adrian @ 8:30 am

lightning in ingwavuma, by adrian bischoff

It’s been storming here recently. I don’t love the rain, but it’s good for the town because it’s been very dry and there are water problems. And it keeps the temperature down—Monday, the one sunny day this week, was in the 90s.

I’m living in a rondavel on the grounds of the educational NGO that I’m working at. I live alone…except for a lot of ants and a number of lizards and geckos.

I was awakened very early in the morning one day this week. During the heavy rains this week, the rondavel’s ceiling started leaking onto my bed. Of all the places in the rondavel the leak was dripping close enough to my pillow that I could feel the splash on my face. (I moved the bed and put a bucket there. The handyman came later that day.)

I’ve noticed a change in Ingwavuma since my first visit in 2007 and even last year: there’s quite a bit more relative wealth here. There are still many living in abject poverty but I’ve notice more new houses and new cars and nice clothes since last time.

For the first time since it was built (I’d guess 5-8 years ago), the rondavel has been hooked up to running water. It’s only cold water, but a flush toilet and a (cold) running water shower is a big step up from carrying water up the hill 25L at a time. A huge step, in fact.

I haven’t had any adventure weekends yet but I’m thinking about some of the following in coming weeks: Mozambique beach town, Kosi Bay or Sodwana on the coast in South Africa, Swaziland, and Tembe Elephant Park. This weekend some people and I drove half an hour to watch the Currie Cup semi-finals. My team won their match handily so they’ll be in the final in two weeks time.

Next weekend, though, I’ll be camping in Ndumo Game Reserve with some family friends.

There hasn’t been a lot of work for me on the radio project yet so I’ve started doing some tutoring a few afternoons a week to help students in their final year of high school get ready for matric exams in November. My first day was Thursday and I was honestly shocked at how difficult the example questions were–at least given that I hadn’t touched a lot of the calculus in ten years. But it all started coming back to me pretty quickly.

One thing I love about weekends in Ingwavuma is that after people hand-wash their laundry, they hang it to dry. And because there isn’t really enough time to wash during the week, it’s always done on the weekend. So if you look around on the weekend you seen multi-colored lines waving in the wind all over the place.

ingwavuma homestead
a homestead in Ingwavuma with the laundry hanging



Filed under: — adrian @ 11:22 am

I lived with James aka ob1 for a year at ye olde frat. I knew a great many things about him: he was a triple major; had a fiancee; captained the gymnastics team; played guitar in a rock band; walked up the unstable banisters of the center stairwell on his hands; tried to imitate tricks he saw Jackie Chan do; was built from pure muscle. Then he went off to circus school in Montreal. What I didn’t know was that he’s a good writer, too:

Ten years ago: Circus school teaches me how to drink, how to smoke, and how to love a woman only until morning. My classmates and I are the shaggy, unshaved future of the circus arts, sleeping in the hardwood corners of each other’s apartments. In the candlelit Montreal winters we vow to fight the good fight together. “The future of circus,” we tell each other through late-night veils of smoke and alcohol, “is whatever we make it.”

Six years Ago: Our growing collective of circus artists dedicated to theatrical expression through circus arts has been tapped to receive funding and international tour support from the French government but is forced to disband when two of the four members accept Cirque du Soleil contracts.

Four years ago: I am homeless in the streets of Tokyo until an expatriate Flamenco dancer from Madrid takes me in. She teaches me how to seduce a woman and how to dance with her close. “You smell like cinnamon,” she tells me, and then, like a gypsy curse, “you will be the boss of your own company someday.”

Two years ago: I am the boss of my own circus company with projects in fourteen countries and annual revenues over 300,000 dollars. The future of circus, it seems, is business.

Three months ago: I drink absinthe beside Bangkok’s Chao Phraya River with one of my best friends, a French acrobat. Seven years ago we were street performers on the Ramblas of Barcelona. “The future of circus has forever changed,” he tells me. We are the last generation of artists who knew circus pre-Cirque du Soleil – just as the generation before us was the last to know the great circus families of Europe in their full glory. The trunk has been severed from its roots.

Last time I saw him was in Taipei in 2007–that’s in the “two years ago” section of the time line. It was surreal even then. I’d gone to grad school and worked in Silicon Valley. He’d gone to circus school, busked in Europe, started his own company and lived out of a suitcase. We watched football and played foosball in a sports bar in the Xinyi district of Taipei, not far from Taipei 101. In many ways we picked up where we left off, but our experiences were so different in between.

It’s worth checking out the whole article.



Filed under: — adrian @ 10:21 am

It was a pretty good day, my first full day in Ingwavuma.

  • Radio project work
  • Grocery shopping
  • Soccer on the hospital air strip (again); seeing a number of people for the first time since last year.
  • Driving a guy home and back to get his spare keys because he locked his in his car.
  • Make dinner
  • Blog
    [projected schedule for the rest of the day]
  • Eat dinner
  • Shower
  • Shave
  • Unpack a little bit more
  • Bed

I can’t complain.

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