Say My Name.

When moving to another country one can expect to hear their name pronounced differently. Maybe a syllable gets tweaked by the local accent or they yawl the vowels like a redneck choking on his sister’s g-string. Sometimes they just recycle your name into something that resembles lyrics from the Haka.

I always thought that Shaun was pretty universal thanks to western television. Its not that difficult to pronounce either, is it?

The Swedes have a tendency to pronounce every letter in a word. That kind of makes sense and is just so Scandinavianly efficient. This causes my language teachers to read out my name as “Sah-hoon”. That’s just the Swedes. I study with Greeks, Syrians, Ukrainians and other nationalities which most Americans would never find on a map.

I now answer to names such as John, Juan, Jeanne, Jewan and Sorn. Apparently the “sh” sound from English is unpopular on the Arabic and Greek side of the planet. The mere thought of attempting to pronounce “sh” causes them to restructure their entire sentence in order to avoid it.

I can imagine this concept of pronouncing every letter would drive the French insane. Those lazy, baguette-munching Francophones neglect every third letter in a sentence, yet they manage to sound sexy and intelligent no matter what they’re babbling about. Damnit.

“Bonjour ma petite aubergine. Tes yeux sont comme des blocs de béton et les vers de terre ont de la barbe.”

“Oh my god, Jeanne-Pierre! You’re so romantic and sophisticated. I want your bilingual babies!”

Having a single-syllable, European name in Sweden is far from the worst that could happen. Whenever I meet a Xhosa person back home I grit my teeth and pray that their name doesn’t contain a click. Those clicks are the bane of my attempts at the majority language of the Eastern Cape which, ironically, we don’t learn at school.  Don’t ask me to click a “q”. I can handle a “c” or maybe a “x” on a good day, but for the love of Ubuntu spare my whiteness the embarrassment of failing to pronounce “Ntombokuqala”.

My palms sweat with anticipation as I shake their hand and hope for something like Sandile or Jeremy. The latter is unlikely, but I’m desperate to save face on home ground.

Show respect by trying and most people will appreciate the effort. Reciprocate by not laughing at the attempt and we’re off to a good start.





Island of Gozo

I’ve met people in Sweden who are actually prescribed, by their GP, to visit a warmer country in order to receive a dose of vitamin D. We decided to book our tickets before it came to that.

Stepping off the plane on Malta, into the above-zero air temperatures was a great start to the trip. However, it quickly became obvious that Malta is heavily geared towards northern-Europeans fleeing the frosty climate of their home country. That’s just not our style. Even though we were running from sub-zero Sweden.

Being the bad-ass rebel gangsters that we are, we made use of the fine Maltese public transport system to hop over to the little island of Gozo. After travelling through southern Africa and south-east Asia, moving around a European country felt like cheating. Everyone spoke perfect English, no one tried to scam us and not once did I ride on a rusty tuk-tuk next to a chicken. It almost takes the thrill out of travelling, but relaxing to not plan and research every detail.

Ramla Bay on Gozo


The water was warm. The air not so much.
Coffee and ice-cream makes Maja a happy Swede.
Catching the last rays of sun in Bugibba before heading to the airport.
Colourful doors and bougainvillea in Marsalforn on Gozo.
Fungus Rock. The sea was so rough that the spray from the waves created a salty rain.
Ancient salt pans
The windswept look. Brought to you by Gozo.
Where Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt filmed “By the Sea”. *snore*
Country roads.
Churches are boring and mostly look the same, but their architecture is impressive.
These rocks are sharper than they look!
We loved the colourful fishing boats. I wants one.
The ferry ride to Gozo was good fun with the giant waves rocking the boat. We arrived to find the waves breaking onto the streets.
The water was deep and clear. I need a GoPro.

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Crystal clear water, but it seems over-fished. Great fun snorkeling though.

Hell is Reserved for the Ignorant

I remember, as a school boy, being taught the evils of free thought and veering off the path which god has graciously forced upon me. Acts of disobedience could land me in the fiery pits of Hell with an eternal seat in the devil’s naughty corner. For someone to be punished to an eternity of excruciating pain would surely require an act of unthinkable evil. Offences which come to mind include stealing from the poor and starving or clubbing a village of monks to death with baby-rhino horns.

Apparently the guy in the sky doesn’t quite agree with my perception of evil as just about anyone in his book can and should be stoned to death. If we followed these rules the earth would be under a constant meteor shower of rubble aimed at sinners. In a very short space of time we’d all be deservedly dead due to our trespasses. The last sinner standing (that sounds like the next reality TV show) would have to stone him/herself before joining the rest of us in the brimstone barbecue.

The bible was written by politicians in an attempt to deter the masses from doing anything revolutionary. If one wishes to believe that it was printed and distributed by the Heavenly Publishing Co. PTY LTD then it should be used as a broad guideline while taking new discoveries into consideration. Rules that were written with dinosaur feathers and goats blood can be revised without anyone being vapourised for almighty copyright infringements. The book should also be shortened by a few hundred pages in order to eliminate the contradictions which make it the worst editing job in the last two thousand years. Otherwise the pages make an excellent substitute for Rizzlas.

When considering the bible’s description of Hell and how I would have to live my life in order to avoid its unpleasant temperatures, I refer to my favourite Swedish expression, “Let’s shit in that idea.” I have no intention of attempting to murder people with a rock that I keep in my pocket, just in case my neighbour goes mental and has premarital sex or works on the Sabbath.

A one-way ticket to the dungeons of damnation, which baffles me out of my tree, is that of homosexuality. Science has put this debate to bed and ruled in favour of common sense. Gay men are born fabulous. Their superior fashion sense and ability to charm women was given to them by god. A twisted joke to frustrate straight men. To condemn homosexuals to death, for their genetic make-up, would be like ganging up against gingers in protest of their freckles and rosy complexion. “And god said, ‘Love thy neighbour, unless that bastard is a ginger! Then throw rocks at him!'”

Recently the Dutch Reformed Church voted in favour of ordaining gay ministers and blessing same-sex unions. Progress! Yet certain people feel offended by this momentous step in the right direction. On what do they base their disgust? Quotes from the holy book which speaks against homosexuals. One cannot support claims by referring to the source which provided those same claims. That is ignorance defined. Yet people continue to do so. They do so out of fear and hatred. Ignorance breeds fear. Fear leads to hate. Don’t pray for the gays to right their ways. They’re doing fine. Pray for the ignorant.

Buddhists believe that Hell is a temporary place which is created by the individual. There are living people who have created their own Hell on Earth through the ignorant and hateful thoughts in their minds. These people can navigate out of their self-made misery by adjusting their way of thinking through education and understanding.

No one is going to Hell for being tolerant of other peoples’ ways of life, nor will anyone burn for not obeying a poorly written book, desperately in need of a revision. However, those of us who hate, judge and attempt to ostracize “god’s creations” are already on the grill.

Summer Train

Sweden is not well known for its sandy beaches or amazing waves. Probably because there aren’t any. However, these Scandinavians have more lakes than they know what to do with.

Being out on the water with no one else in sight is a great feeling
Being out on the water with no one else in sight is a great feeling
Maja chilling on the jetty
Maja chilling on the jetty
Sit down paddling
Sit down paddling

During the summer months they pull out this antique steam engine and run it between the lakes and Uppsala. The whole operation is run by volunteers. Mainly pensioners, kids and train enthusiasts. The tickets are also dirt cheap. The locomotive is named Lennakatten, apparently after a cat called Lenna that used to ride the train every day. Very cute.

Maja's favourite spot on Lennakatten
Maja’s favourite spot on Lennakatten
The cabins are all teak
The cabins are all teak

The forest is definitely worth a few hours walking. It’s beautiful in there, especially near the end of summer when all the berries start ripening. Free fruit!

Getting lost in the forest
Getting lost in the forest

Camping is laughably cheap. We pay 30 Crowns ($4) per night and have access to all the necessary facilities. We are always the only people camping in the forest. Having the woods to ourselves is great! Well, we’re not completely alone. We share it with about seven hundred million mosquitoes.

Spending a weekend by the lake in our teepee tent
Spending a weekend by the lake in our teepee tent
Meeting the locals and making friends. They can't resist a scratch between the horns.
Meeting the locals and making friends. They can’t resist a scratch between the horns.

Neo Viking

So we don’t look like vikings. Not the ones that Hollywood portrays anyway. Vikings probably didn’t wear life jackets. Maybe they would still be around if they did!

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We have traded in our larger, more luxurious ways of sailing for a 606. The little Nordic water-rocket has a much lower profile than what we’re accustomed to. Similar to drinking Budweiser; it’s very close to water.

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Signing up to the Uppsala Sailing Club gave us access to use the dinghies whenever we desire. Except during winter when the lake is solid ice. Why sail when we can walk to the next village for a quick conquer and pillage session.

When we were Sailors

Not all adventures play out the way that one would hope. That’s when we pretend to be mature adults and tell ourselves things like “Expectations are the root of all heartache” and “We can look back and learn from the experience.” What I learned is that I want my own yacht and I want it yesterday!

Engineer's tan
Engineer’s tan
At anchor for the night
At anchor for the night
It's definitely this way.
It’s definitely this way.
Or that way.....
Or that way…..
View from the yacht
View from the yacht
When in Rome
When in Rome
Deck hand
Deck hand
Relief from the heat
Relief from the heat
Old School
Old School
Such is life
Such is life

Green Mamba

The Green Mamba (Passportias worthlessias), also known as the Common South African Passport or Boerewors Book, is an A5-sized and highly venomous passport species of the African genus Eishidontknow.

I applied for my Swedish residence permit over a year ago. The paperwork and questioning was supposed to end after attending a second interview in Pretoria. The Swedish authorities have now turned their attention onto my Swedish partner. Although she is a citizen returning to her home country, she is being interrogated regarding her intentions in Sweden. The reason for this is because she will be accompanied by a most hideous creature holding a South African passport. Every precaution must be taken before allowing one of these sub-human specimens into the proximity of normal, decent people. A European citizen importing such an animal can only be doing something illegal.

Imagine being questioned by the department of home affairs about your intentions of returning home. The correct and only answer to that question should be, “None of your fucking business, arsehole!”

The poison contained within the South African passport does not only affect the bearer, but also those associated with that person. As all African passport holders are immediately assumed to be either criminals, terrorists or diseased, anyone accompanying the savage will be guilty by association.

It’s as though the authorities have added an extra item to the “dangerous cargo” list. “Good morning ma’am, are you carrying anything sharp, flammable, toxic or African with you today?”

If I were to regain my Dutch citizenship there is a chance that I will have to renounce my South African passport. They need not ask me twice. I would quickly become a smoker in order to roll up each page of the tokoloshe diary into a neat spliff and flick the ashes into the Rhine, with clogs on my feet, a bite of gouda in my mouth and a smile on my face.