And You Think Your Friends Are Superficial?


Anyone who has known me for more than five minutes knows that I have a plastic lawn flamingo that I purchased at a Target in America 2 years ago that accompanies me on all my travels. Rodrigo was named after a Mexican Scuba-diving Instructor and has been to 6 different states in the USA. He has also traveled with me to the Bahamas, the Turks and Caicos, England, France, Switzerland, Italy, Greece, Slovenia, Slovakia, Austria, Czech Republic, Germany, Holland, Belgium, and now lives with me in South Africa. It was in Venice on our Europe trip last year that the paint on his nose melted off.    




As I was painting it back on, I started to think of my travel-mate prior to Rodrigo and how I have neglected her. You see, when I was in high school we had an art project where we had to make a table that reflected our personalities. I can’t recall why, but for some reason I felt that if my personality was a table, the table-top would be flower-shaped held up by three human-like mannequin legs. (Yeah, I had issues.) Anyway, I asked my mother who worked at Edgars at the time, if she could get me any discarded mannequin parts. Unfortunately, none were available and so a major part of my personality was instead represented by a plumbing tube.

Then one day, when it was way too late to be useful, they decided to clear out the stock room and discard a truck load of mannequins. My mother managed to get me one and even though my art project was long complete, I was quite excited.


 In the beginning, her presence in my room, staring at me in the darkness didn’t even cause me to lose that much sleep!  My friends were surprisingly accepting of her too. It wasn’t long before she was cast as a friend of mine’s girl-friend in a church play and named ‘Nicole’ (after the character in Days of our Lives).

That was not her last visit to church nor was it her last play. She was used for different things at two other very different churches, the second of which used her in some sort of “stations of the cross installation”. (Yes, I know, I don’t believe them either.) When she was returned to me, her head had been removed and glued back on. 

Her second play was quite an upgrade from her first. She was used in a drama school production at university. My parents didn’t see the point in helping me buy a car and so I was forced to use the Metro bus which, for anyone who has ever had to travel on it, is an experience that requires its own blog. Anyway, it turns out that it’s not just children but also fibre-glass legless adults that travel free! I obviously had to document the experience and I even used the photos for a Television Studies assignment (because they wouldn’t let us play with anything that wasn’t a cheap disposable stills camera until 3rd year). We turned quite a few heads that day.







Nicole gained quite a lot of popularity among my friends. She attended a number of birthday parties and even received her very own personalized invitations at times. At my own 21st she got more action than me!


At the height of her popularity Facebook started to catch on (wow, we are old) and she got her own Facebook profile. She made friends with other mannequins from all over the world. She had mannequin friends in America, Australia, the UK, Eastern Europe and even Lebanon. She was a fan of the band 'Jacks Mannequin' (or more like a member of the group way back before they had pages). She was also a member of a mannequin group. One day, the mannequins decided to have a competition to see who could dress up as the most convincing pirate. They were going to get a real Facebook pirate to judge the uploaded pictures and then the winner was going to win the right to choose the next theme. Nicole was one of the two mannequins that ended up participating.


We still don’t know who won because one tragic day someone reported her and she was kicked off Facebook forever. I still don’t know who that was but I’m angry at them. It’s not her fault she was born fibre-glass! That was the beginning of her decline. - Everyone knows that if you don’t have a Facebook page you don’t really exist. Over time she stopped being invited out, her acting career dwindled despite the fact that she appears to not have aged at all, and then when I went overseas, that was the last straw.


Unlike Rodrigo who can fit conveniently into a carry-on, Nicole’s size made her quite awkward to transport.  If that was not the case, I would have taken her with me on my travels. Rodrigo probably would have spent the last 2 years on someone’s lawn in Alabama, and after being chewed by the neighbour’s dog, he would have been recycled and would probably be a straw or a coke bottle or a plastic garbage bag right now. Nicole was just too big and heavy to travel the world with me. The closest she came was the time when we went to the airport together in our pajamas and she proposed marriage to another friend upon his return from the states. (And we didn’t even get arrested!)

In the time that I have had Rodrigo, Nicole hasn’t journeyed beyond my bedroom. She has collected some hello-kitty earmuffs from Lusito Land, a gay pride tag from last year’s festival, a bindi from my last Bollywood-themed dinner, a moustache from that Anchor Man party I went to …and a lot of dust. She has no Facebook page, no friends, and she doesn’t get invited to parties anymore. It’s been years since she has performed in a play or made use of public transport. Even the Christians no longer take her to church. Her entire purpose in life has become that of an awkwardly shaped hat stand. All she sees with those fake-eyelash-donning eyes is the same wall and that pink plastic bird who gets to have all the fun. Poor Nicole.



And then I finished painting Rodrigo’s nose and had another cup of tea.

Speaking of that flamingo, to find out more about his adventures, be sure to check out September’s Go magazine – On shelves already!
You can also follow him on Facebook – ‘Rodrigo the world-traveling Flamingo’.

(And by the way, the next time you complain about me bringing that lawn ornament on our road trip to a destination 2 hours away, remember: It could be worse!)

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Sharon Waugh

Sharon is a writer, cruise ship entertainment host and freelance unicorn wrangler. She is currently taking a break from her seafaring adventures to explore some more landlocked locations from her homebase in Johannesburg, South Africa. She likes to photograph a plastic lawn flamingo 'Rodrigo' on her travels because it seemed like a good idea ten years ago and 53 countries later, it’s probably too late to turn back now.

 Sharon greatly dislikes reading 'travel blogs' by people who are just rephrasing press releases or composing lists like '15 ways to travel the world for cheap', specifically formulated for SEO, with absolutely no evidence that the writers have ever left their bedrooms. (This is not one of those blogs.) Sharon also dislikes bigotry and referring to herself in first person, apparently.

To find out more about Sharon and Rodrigo’s travel aspirations read this.

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