Sunday, June 15, 2008


Gotta keep this quick, as am getting on a plane in a few hours. Off to Scotland for a week to participate in the CIVICUS World Assembly (you can find a link to the Assembly on the civicus website, to the right, if interested). It should be a great event, and my program has several activities planned for the week. Will update on it when i am back. Sunday the 22nd I fly to Madrid, where I meet up with sarah for a week of tapas and espanol before heading back home to Joburg. Superduperterrific! :)

Hope all is well with everyone, and will worte more when i get back in early July!

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Busy busy bees

Things at work right now are ramped up in high gear as we prepare for the CIVICUS World Assembly in Glasgow, Scotland, which will be happening the 18th to 21 of June. So much work, last minute preps, delegate coordination, content, etc... So this entry will be a short blip, only to say that I am too busy to really write much.

I am excited to be going though-- will be leaving on the 15th, arriving the 16th, and will be there, crazy busy until the 22nd, when i leave and meet my friend Sarah in Madrid for 6 days in Spain before flying home to Joburg on the 29th. I am looking forward to this bit of travel-- between the work and the political situation and everything, will be nice to have a break!

Other activities of late include a foray into the wild world of the Johannesburg quizzing community. I have drummed up some interest in attending various events in the last few weeks, and we were actually 12 people at the last pub quiz on Tuesday, which was a blast!

And as a brief follow up to my previous posting, re: the violence in town and in the country, things calmed down significantly after the weekend, and life for most people is more or less back to normal now. There are still hundreds of people who have returned to their home countries, and thousands still displaced, living in temporary accomodation or tent compunds. and given how cold it is right now (we are almost into the depths of winter here), there is a lot of need. As the bitter cold sets in, and with food and fuel prices continuing to climb, we shall hope that the relative peace holds.

Take care and hope all is well with you!

Friday, May 23, 2008


So things here in Joburg feel like they are coming to a head. The violence of the past two weeks has subsided, relatively, within Gauteng, but has grown and spread into other parts of the country, with almost every state now reporting incidences of violence and attacks. However, despite the relative diffusion of the violence in Joburg, it is not clear right now if this relative lull during the past few days in the city is a calming of the situaiton, or if it is the calm before the storm.

There are so many rumours flying around about this weekend, and what might happen. Horrible words are being used and thrown out there to describe the potential fall out, and no one knows what to believe. Saturday is Africa Day, and there is some talk about how it can be a unifying force to bring people together and end this, but there are many rumours about how this will be used as an excuse to start things up again. The irony and tragedy of the latter scenario is lost on no one.

This is not just about xenophobia, though definitely there are lots of refugees and foreigners from Zimbabwe, Mozambique and the like who are being targetted. However, this is more than that. South African's are also being targetted. This is not just being drawn along state lines, but also ethnic and cultural lines.

This ethnocultural element makes the conflict not only difficult to diffuse, since there are so many targets of the violence, but it also points to some very worrying fractures within SA society, and makes it hard to see what the long-term solutions are going to be to this uprising. Apparently people have been talking about this happening for a long time, but no one did anything about it (as usual). And now people are dying, and thousands have been left destitute, displaced or homeless.

We shall see how this weekend unfolds. My hope tells me things will reslove themselves. My head tells me there is little chance of that. My heart tells me that there is more tragedy to come. And my gut tells me that this situation, even if it calms this weekend, will not be over.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Safari Recap


So this is a little late.

And for those of you who are on facebook, you have probably checked out my safari pics, so this is a bit of a reiteration. But as a quick recap on my safari week of awesome:

Left very early on Sunday morning (they picked me up right at my house) and drove 4 hours north east to Nelspruit, the biggest town on the way to Kruger National Park. After picking up some people in Nelspruit, and before arriving at Kruger, we went through the panorama route, seeing Blythe Canyon, God's Window, The Potholes and the Three Rondewels. Spectacular scenery (though i have to say, i found Cape Town and the Garden Route generally to be prettier and more breathy-taking--- i am spoiled now). After the sighseeing, we went to a tired, somewhat cheezy 'tribal village' to sleep for the night. The tour around the camp was actually interesting for the history and culture and day-to-day activities of what went on, and the meal they served us was nice. But it was very much a rote thing and everyone was tired of entertiaing the tourists, that was clear. But again, it was still interesting for what it was, and I really enjoyed sleeping for the night in the middle of nowhere with no electricity or water or lights or anything--- very quiet and calm and relaxing.

Got up early (4:30) the next morning, and got driven into the park and to the campsite where i was to spend the next 4 nights, in a tent in the middle of the park. It was a great site--- rustic, but there was water and showers, and the company i went with had their own little gas stove and braai pit and whatnot, so we were able to cook and boil water and relax in the evenings.

Anyway, from about 6:30am we started our first of 5 days of game drives, and each one was an amazing experience. Seriously. We would drive around the park in the back of a converted pickup truck, in a group as small as 3 and as large as 7, and just look for animals all day, until about 5pm. And we saw sooooooooooooooo much! Lions and zebra and elephants and antelope and hippos and anything and everything else--- things i had not even expected (chameleon, some amazing birds), and some experiences that blew me away (being about 10 meters from a herd of elephants crossing the road; hearing and watching as lions mad etheir way through a freshly killed gnu). I loved the experience--- very rejuventaing to be out of the city, fresh air, sun, nature, etc...

Two other things I did while in the park: I went for night rides (2) and got to see some things that only come out after dark: hyena, jackals, saw some rhino, bush babies, etc... My last day, on Friday, I also got up early that morning and went on a 3 hour guided walk through the bush. You can't get out of your cars during the driving around parts, except in designated areas to cook or whatever, so this guided walk was really a cool experience. The guides had guns in case we came upon anything that could eat or harm us, but otherwise it was very calm. It was so quiet, and to walk around on the group and see signs of the animals up close was a really different perspective. We ran into a herd of giraffes, and got to see them up close which was pretty special. So the walk comes very highly recommended for those of you who might be thinking of going to Kruger.

Anyway, so it was a fascinating, refreshing, and packed trip. I loved it, and would totally do it again. Apparently you can book trips into the bush that are just for haiking for three or four days--- i may look into doing one in the future--- would be amazing!

Other things going on:
- my car is now on day 9 without breaking down. Could i have finally fixed everything that was going wrong, and now it will run smoothly for a while? Stay tuned for more details on this thrilling saga
- i have finally been able to join a gym. Am getting up around 5:30 or so a few days a week to be able to get there before work--- getting there after work takes some wrangling and planning that is hard with this job. But i am enjoying it despite the early mornings, and am happy to be back lifting some weights and moving my body a bit
- the Scotland conference is fast approaching (will be leaving June 15), and am looking forward to a super-busy but interesting time there, and then a quick stopover on my way back to joburg for a week in Spain--- woo hoo!
- started a little spanish club for people to meet up and talk--- it is self-serving as I want ot be sure I keep my spanish up before i start dealing a lot more in the language-- have been workign a lot on french lately and am worried about losing my skills
- Have found some scrable clubs which i am pumped about. Am going to try to make it to a meeting next weekend. Have also planned a CIVICUS quiz night with a local geeky quiz and dinner club in the city. I know. I am a dork.

So that is my update du semaine. Hope all is well with everyone, and keep in touch! :)

Wednesday, April 23, 2008


Hooray for South African public holidays, of which there have been many in the past two months (the Garden Route trip was possible with only 3 days of vacation time spent)! And the trend continues next week, when there are three public holidays during the week. So, I can take 2 days of vacation time and get another 10 days off for play and sightseeing. Highway robbery. But who am I to ignore the opportunity? It would be foolish. The highway is just BEGGING to be robbed! :)

So, on Sunday, I am off to Kruger National Park for a 6 day safari adventure. Kruger is in the north east corner of the country, bordering on Mozambique, and is a HUGE park, apparently. Tons of flora and fauna, and home to the big five, as well as hundreds of other creatures. I am going on a budget tour thing, by myself for a little head space, staying in a tribal village one night, and then in a tent in the park itself for the rest. Should be interesting, though loud, i am told, with roaming hyenas and other yipping, annoying beasts wandering around camp. We shall see!

Am also pretty excited to get out of the city for a bit. If i have to be woken up in the middle of the night, bettet to be woken up by wild dogs than rats or car alarms.

So this is what is going on. Otherwise not much new. Work continues on-- things are busy, but it keeps me interested and engaged. Social life continues to satisfy, especially after last year in Peru-- I imagine I am easily satisfied after that, but even objectively, there is always lots to do and people to hang out with and/or meet. In fact, I am actually looking forward to doing this safari thing by myself. I would have been happy to have someone join, but frankly, I didn't look too hard, and am looking forward to a little quiet/nature/simple time.

So will write when i get back, after the 3rd of May or so. Hopefully I will return refreshed, rejuventated, and my camera will be filled with pictures of big animals, and me giving them thumbs up for being awesome. One can only dream at such a photo collection.... :)

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Garden Route Rocks!!

In a nutshell, the Garden route :

- is the most beautiful car trip I have ever been on
- spans the coast to mountains, hills and plains, rocks and vinyards.
- is breath-taking on so many levels
- contains cool animals such as penguins and ostiches (thumbs up!)
- is fantastic!!!!

Well let's also talk about Cape Town which, for those of you have seen the pics, is an absolutely beautiful city-- a perfect storm of sun, surf, and mountains. I really loved the city, and plan on starting a petition to get the CIVICUS office moved there. Striking when we first got there was also the lack of security measures. You could go around MUCH more easily than in Joburg! You could walk in the street!! It was such a weird feeling after two months living in such a security-conscious city, and very welcome!

In the middle of Cape Town is a giant mountain. I am not sure what the logic was in settling in such an awkward location, but nowadays it makes for some pretty amazing views. It is a flat mountain (hence the name, Table Mountain) which you can see from wherever you are in the city, and which is sometimes covered in a layer of clouds, called the table cloth (wokka wokka) . On one side of Table Mountain you have the city and the harbour, and on the other you have some amazing views and spectacular beaches. Awesome awesome awesome. Again, pics say it all, but it really a very nice city, and is so close to so much other natural beauty in the area.

Which leads me to the Cape of Good Hope. After about three days in Cape Town, we then rented a car and started our drive to the Garden Route, starting first with a drive down to the Cape, which as everyone knows is the southern most point on the continent. And seriously--- as cheezy as it sounds, to stand on the edge of this continent, knowing that the only thing between you and Antarctica is, well, nothing--- that was really special for me. And in any case, aside from any surreal import you may assign the place, the scenery is amazing. Again--- check the pics. Blue sky, blue water, white beaches, rolling hills, jutting mountains. Stunning.

From here we went to the wine region of the area and imbibed accordingly. Stunning, almost pastoral views, relaxing vinyards, delicious wines, etc... Took another day along the coast, saw penguins (thumbs up!) and meandered around the rolling waves and rocky coastline. Next day headed up the Overberg through Route 62, which took us inland and into the mountains--- more like an altiplano really. Stunning in its big-sky-ness, wide expanses, we drove through the clouds at some points, etc.... Lovely. Back down to the coast for most of the rest of the trip, before heading back to Joburg on a plane from Port Elizabeth.

So that it is the trip in a nutshell, itinerary-wise. (If anyone is travelling here and wants a more detailed idea of where to go and what to do, let me know--- i have LOTS of ideas!) But there is no way to talk about the amount of breath-taking scenery you can see in this area. They say it is one of the most beautiful places on earth, and i can totally see why. Seriously. Awesome.

Otherwise, things are good. Big news on the day-to-day front is that i have a car! I decided to chicken out and go for an automatic--- i just couldn't see myself learning to drive a standard car on top of the security and driving on the other side of the road, etc.... I am happy with the decision. So got a '91 Honda--- a bit of a beater, but drives well, and am hoping it will last for awhile. Got some help from a friend of a friend who is a mechanic, so feel like, with his help, i at least made an informed decision. So now in the process of registering it in my name, getting insurance, etc.... Weird to think i have a car now. Still getting used to the idea! :)

Anyway, nothing much else going on. Am happy and healthy and doing well. Lots of get togethers, parties, etc... One of my roommates moved out last week, so we had a big bash for her leaving. Now have a young British kid in her room--- he is nice, easy going and should be a good addition to the house. Have another potential vacation break at the end of this month--- can take 2 vacation days off, and then with the public holidays, get 10 days off total. Seems it would be a waste not to take advantage, so i will see if i am able to resist the temptation (I doubt it). I looked at one point into going to MAdagascar, but couldn't get the flights to work date-wise. Bummer. So may go safari-ing in Kruger park to the north east of the country, or to Mozambique. We shall see!!

So that is my update. Hugs and hope all is well with everyone! :)

Thursday, March 20, 2008


For the past week, we have been getting a taste of the upcoming winter months, and they taste like soggy lunch meat: cold and damp. Ugh. Since Sunday it has been raining pretty consistently, and the temperatures have dropped significantly (at least 15 degrees, often more at night). Weird to go from running a fan to running a heater in the span of two days. Apparently it is a little early for all of this mess since we are just moving into fall now. The worst of the cold is apparently in July and August, but I have seen my future, and it is not very warm. But oh well! It is back to being sunny this morning, with that delicious, almost vibrating blue sky, and we may get up into the mid 20s again temperature wise. So I shall take what I can get for now. But all of my gloating to friends and family about the awesome weather here... well... it may be coming back to karmically bite me in the butt.

I leave for the other side of South Africa tomorrow with friends, to Cape Town first, where I hope it wil be warmer and sunnier, and then renting a car to travel along the southern coast until next sunday (March 30), when we will flyback to Joburg and resume normal life. Will post again upon our return (hopefully not with stories of rain-soaked days and teeth-chattering nights). Happy Easter!