There are some weird travel rituals black people partake in that I’ve never understood.
You’re basically told these things are passed down and one must do them. As a child, you do what you’re told, but as you get older you discover that you won’t die if you don’t practise them.
When I was a child, my aunt used to take an annual trip to the sea, toting five empty two-litre coldrink bottles. The bottles were to collect sea water and bring it back to Joburg.
This water was said to have healing and strengthening properties. All the kids had to take a few sips. I’m sure this was the cause of our gastroenteritis a few days later. This is a common, nonsensical practice among a lot of elders.
Then there are people who want to be modest, so they wear a swimsuit underneath a t-shirt and shorts. One actually swims fully clothed. Once I cringed, watching a woman swim in a full-length summer dress down to her ankles.
The other common ritual is carrying ‘umphako’ or a lunch tin when travelling to a far-away place. People even do this on planes. Usually, the matriarch of the family spends the night before frying vetkoeks, dumplings and chicken and puts it in a tupperware to be eaten the next day.
The point is to have something to eat on the trip. It’s especially useful if you are going on a long bus trip. The disadvantage is the horrible odour of food that has been in a hot container for too long. God forbid getting boiled eggs for trip food.
Black people have a poverty mentality. This means we have a deep fear of starving because we’ve grown up watching people suffer. This even happens when people know the bus offers catering. It’s just a mindset.
Then there’s the situation where it’s mandatory to “leave a little something behind”, when you leave a relative’s house after a visit. Basically, this means leaving money and the amount is up to you.
It’s a tip of appreciation. We call it imali ye coldrink (coldrink money). When you’re from Joburg, all your relatives that aren’t wealthy, assume you are. You’ll be asked for money and you cannot refuse. I’m not sure if this falls under ‘black tax’ but I’m certain it’s some sort of emotional blackmail.
The last one that hardly anyone will admit to is nicking the toilet paper and towels in hotels. I have a friend who would even take the pillows. These things make me cringe so none of these silly rituals will be passed down to my future children.