South Africans living the dream in Whistler 

And no, they don't ride elephants to work


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"Everything's so structured here," Conway said. "We were in Vancouver for two days, we walked on and we waited for the green light, we waited for the hand to go away and everyone walks together. It's all structured, but back home its just chaos."

"Can I be blatantly honest?" Lewis said. She laughs nervously. "Um. Well. My first thing was the amount of drugs that goes on here. Not in a bad way or anything but it was just...."

We all know what's rocking the bloodstreams of Whistler party animals but for foreigners visiting from countries with stricter regulations on drugs, the ready access can also be a bit jarring, so I was curious what drugs they were referring to.

"Cocaine," says Mark Conway. "And weed." Everyone in the room laughs. "Weed is more common here than beer is back home."

"When we wake up and we smell weed, then we wake up and we smell weed," Lewis said. "We have it in South Africa but it's just like, um, if you get it it's like" - she slumps her shoulders and darts her eyes from side to side, imitating hiding in a back alley or ducking behind a parked car -  'Oh my gosh, I'm going to go organize to get weed,' rather than walking up to the nearest person and being like, 'Hey, you have some?'"

But perhaps more than anything, they're impressed by the absence of gates and walls protecting their homes. Gates are everywhere in South Africa. Everywhere. It's normal living.

"It just feels weird, it feels like varsity (without them,)" Lewis said.

"It feels like a holiday," Wentzel said.

"It's crazy, actually," Motlogelwa said.

Each of them, like other South Africans I have met, exude a slight self-consciousness when discussing their heritage, as they have to constantly scrub away the myths about South Africa whenever they go abroad. No, they don't ride elephants to school, and no, every other person is not a murderer.

"I had a big talk with a guy on the gondola," Lewis said, "and I said I was from Johannesburg and he was like, 'Oh my gosh, how is it there?' I was like, no it's fine. What I explained to him is that we have a different way of living... Tourists aren't aware and they come to our country and they don't have that sort of mind set and that way of living... The crimes in our country are more opportunistic."

Said Wentzel: "People think of Africa they tend to think of places like Central Africa, countries like Malawi, Tanzania, Congo, all those poor countries. They come to South Africa, Johannesburg and they're like, 'Whoa, this is a big metropolitan city.'"

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