South Africa: Mullets, Brus, and Minibus Taxis


When asked to describe why I love being in Cape Town, South Africa for a semester of study abroad, I usually mutter something about the exchange rate and the scenery before whomever it is I’m talking to loses interest. But there is more to living in Cape Town than natural beauty and a currency that is so devalued it feels like I am shopping in 1990.   Here are some exceptional elements of life in South Africa: Mullets America has re-embraced elements of ‘80s fashion — skinny jeans, oversize sweaters, tights — but some things are better left to Billy Ray Cyrus. The mullet may have been consigned to the cultural dustpan decades ago back home, but white South African males are either way ahead or behind the fashion curve, and judging by the popularity of Capri cargo shorts, I’d go with behind. Apparently it’s big in Europe, but when has that ever been a valid excuse? The Bru Closely aligned with the mullet is the “bru,” the fratstars of South Africa.  These guys — excuse me, brus — often have beautiful, blond girlfriends who appear to be actually attracted to the mullet!  If you mixed two parts Euro-trash with one part American Eagle, you’d get a bru, and you’d probably regret the experiment. To be fair, I can’t say I’ve really interacted with many brus because they mostly keep to themselves and stick to their passions: rugby, liquor, and red VW hatchbacks. Car attendants Brus live in the sheltered, pacified South Africa, and although they may complain about an affirmative action program that guarantees blacks a certain quota of jobs, they hardly make up a spec of the 30-45% of the country that is unemployed. The car-attendant might epitomize the anti-bru; dressed in 1990s Goodwill rejects, hungry, and often quite young, car-attendants earn a living sitting along roads and in parking lots, guiding parallel parkers and keeping an eye on their stuff, and expecting a tip for their efforts regardless of whether or not it was requested. There is no way to put a positive spin on the situation; their condition is the result of the gross inequalities that scar the country. Minibus taxi I get whistled at a lot when I walk the streets of Cape Town, but in this regard, I am not exceptional.  Every pedestrian, including ones walking in the opposite direction of the taxi, are a target for minibus taxi callers, whose job is to stuff as many as 16 people into tiny vans that ferry passengers along pre-set routes through Cape Town. Minibus taxis are often the most convenient public transport option for those without any other option, including exchange students. With names like “Prison Break” and “Nate Dawg” and sound systems more mechanically sound than the engine, these taxis charge passengers a mere $0.50 to sit in the lap of luxury. Or, barring that, in the lap of a middle-aged Xhosa woman carrying a giant garbage bag. In conclusion, come to South Africa, grow out the back of your hair, and get ready to live a little.

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