You all know the story by now, but let me summarize:

Thursday afternoon, we learned a group of South African scientists had sequenced a new variant of the coronavirus. It didn’t have a Greek alphabet name yet — just B.1.5-something-something — but we knew the covid case numbers (although still a small fraction of what Europe and America were experiencing) were starting to tick up in South Africa.

Friday morning — before the WHO even had a chance to meet and discuss the new variant — we woke up to the news that the U.K. had added South Africa, along with several other Southern African countries, to the “red list”, meaning flights from this region into the U.K. were immediately halted.

Saturday morning, we learned: 1) The new variant is called Omicron; 2) Global stock markets crashed, a sure sign of worldwide panic; and 3) Southern Africans are now banned from traveling almost anywhere in the world.

And most everyone in South Africa, including me, became enraged.

Trixie is sad about the omicron variant
Okay, Trixie probably isn’t enraged — just sleepy.

(This is not really relevant to the post, but I have to mention that this variant is also ruining all my previously fond memories of Greek life during my university years, when I was a member of the Alpha Omicron Pi sorority. Shame on you, Omicron variant, for casting a shadow over the AOPi brand.)

Anyway, here’s a list of the people/things I’m currently mad at:

  • I’m mad at the leadership of the U.K., E.U., United States, and all the other countries who decided to pile on and enact these travel bans. I thought everyone knew by now that travel bans don’t work in stopping the global spread of the coronavirus. I also thought everyone knew travel bans are detrimental to national economies — especially developing economies that depend on tourism — and banning travel to these countries is not only pointless and inconvenient, but extremely damaging and downright cruel.
  • Related to the item above: What’s up with the bans on Malawi, Angola, Zambia, and other African countries not even bordering South Africa that have literal SINGLE-DIGIT daily covid case numbers? That’s rich, coming from all these Global North countries logging tens of thousands — even hundreds of thousands, on occasion — of new covid cases every day. (In case you’re wondering, South Africa had about 2,800 new cases yesterday, up from a couple of hundred per day at this time last week.)
  • I’m mad at all the people in the world, but especially all the people in South Africa, who haven’t been vaccinated. Despite all the international news headlines suggesting otherwise, we actually have plenty of vaccines available in South Africa. We don’t have a supply problem; we have an uptake problem. About 60% of South African adults have so far CHOSEN not to vaccinate, and that is why Omicron is here.
  • Related to the above: I’m mad at the South African government for not doing enough to get people vaccinated. A few ad campaigns, presidential speeches, and threats of future vaccine mandates aren’t enough. We need pop-up vaccine clinics at every mall, grocery store, and petrol station. We need armies of community health workers going door to door and talking to people about vaccines. We need high-quality incentives for people to vaccinate. And yes, we need mandates too. I’m quite sure that if South Africans were required to show proof of vaccination before entering the bottle store, uptake would increase very quickly.
  • I’m mad at covid-19 for continuing to not go away, and for continually ruining everyone’s plans, and for sending me (and pretty much everyone else in South Africa) into a nightmarish “March 2020, 2.0” vortex. I doubt I’m the only person who could barely get out of bed this past weekend (and barely needed to because everything was canceled anyway).

Before Omicron

Whew, I needed to get all that off my chest. Now that I’ve done it, here are photos of a couple of cool, happy things I did in Joburg last week B.O. (Before Omicron).

B.O. Activity #1: Betty Bangles and Riri Rouge Do Brixton

I went to a drag show in Brixton! Joburg drag stars Betty Bangles and Riri Rouge performed at the old Zietsies venue (which has now closed, sadly, because covid) as part of a fundraiser for the Brixton Light Festival (which has now been postponed, sadly, because covid — more on this in a future post).

I hadn’t been to a drag show in years and this was a great one — I haven’t laughed that much in a very long time. And after watching 12 seasons of RuPaul’s Drag Race on Netflix in the early months of the pandemic, watching drag in person was a dream come true.

Betty Bangles performing in Brixton
Betty made us all so happy. I’m really glad this event happened before we found out about Omicron.
Betty Bangles and her flower
Betty flashes her “flower” to my surprised friend Manuela. Believe it or not, this wasn’t even the bawdiest number in the show.
Heather with the queens
Me and the queens. (Photo: Thorsten Deckler)

B.O. Activity #2: Thanksgiving Dinner at Sweet Tea and Chickadee

I usually don’t bother to observe Thanksgiving in South Africa. I love turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, and especially green-bean casserole as much as the next American, but I’m not they type of person to cook my own Thanksgiving dinner. So unless another American expat invites me over, I’m happy to treat the fourth Thursday in November like any other day.

But when I saw my favorite American-style restaurant, Sweet Tea & Chickadee, was serving Thanksgiving dinner in Joburg, I booked immediately.

Thorsten dressed line a pumpkin for Thanksgiving
Thorsten accidentally dressed like a pumpkin for his first-ever Thanksgiving dinner.

I have raved about Sweet Tea & Chickadee before, but let me repeat: It’s one of the best restaurants in Joburg. Natasha, Sweet Tea & Chickadee’s owner, is a culinary genius. This was one of the best Thanksgiving dinners I’ve ever had and I couldn’t have chosen a better way to celebrate our final evening B.O.

Green bean casserole from Sweet Tea and Chickadee
Natasha and her green bean casserole. Only the Americans among you will understand.
Thanksgiving dinner
This plate was my culinary highlight of 2021. Four days later, I can still taste that cranberry and sour cherry sauce. I can’t list all the dishes in this caption, but you can see all of them here.

Take that, Omicron. And happy holidays to you all.

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