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!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

March Madness

I am getting tired.


But things continue to be good. I am happy and healthy, but busy. Work is stressful, and i find i arrive home most nights pooped and catching my breath, even thought i have been doing nothing but working at my comp, talking to people and going to meetings.

And i know that everyone reading this is like "Whatever Amy. I do this everyday!" And i have to agree with you. This is not unique in and of itself, and sometimes i am embarassed by my tuckeredness. But i find thissuper-hectic work environment, coupled with the low level stress of Joburg, and at the same time just generally making an effort to get out and enjoy the city and life--- well, it is about as much as my poor 30 year old body can take.

Now you say to me, "Amy, you are a wuss. What is this about low level stress. Whatever!" But seriously!! I can feel it taking its toll. And while i am of course referring to the daily security stuff one has to deal with in the city, i am also referring to other little things that contribute to an over all big effect.

For example, power outages. Apparently despite a bunch of people telling the government that there would not be enough power for the country come 2008, they didn't listen, and guess what?! There is not enough power, and it is 2008. Duh! Governments are so short-sighted sometimes, they trip over their eyelashes. So we have these rolling blackouts throughout the city, and they are supposed to go on indefinitely. They are on a bit of a schedule, of a sort, but sometimes they happen and sometimes they don't. Or they happen late. Or early. And then the electricity is off for 2 to 4 hours and it is the middle of the working day and you have no computer or lights or anything and everyone is freaked out and frustrated. Or it is when you get home from work, or in the morning, and you have no stove to cook on or music or lights or anything. It kinda drives me crazy when it happens, but you just have to deal with it.

Or i can give another low-level stress example: rats. Monday we were late starting work in my small office because we spent a good half hour ridding the room of a giant rat. Seriously. It came running towards me, this giant creature with the tail (the tail!! That is what struck me-- this monster had the longest tail!) and i almost peed my pants. Sigh. Gross. (the rat is gross, not my peeing--- i didn't pee, okay?) And speaking of rats, in the past week, a family of rats has taken up residence on the roof of my cottage. At first i was trying to pretend like it was a cat or something making noise above my head. But after the squeals and squeaks and hearing multiple pairs of scurrying feet, i had to face facts and stop deluding myself. So i have to keep my windows closed, which makes things very stuffy on warm joburg nights, and am kept awake some nights by the squeaking and shuffling of monster joburg rats. Ugh.

These are just two examples of the overall picture of things. And so that is what i am talking about when i say low level stress. I am not as wussy as i sound. (maybe)

On a positive note, the trip next week to Cape Town is coming together, and we have booked our flights, the rental car and our first three nights in Cape Town. We will book some stuff for along the garden route this weekend, but things seem to be coming together and we are all getting excited for the break. Woo hoo!

Otherwise have been keeping myself busy with dinners (went to a great greek place on saturday night with friends), went to the Joburg Art Gallery on Sunday, going to a dance show tomorrow night, etc... Lots to do--- i am thoroughly enjoying the variety of things one can get up to around here. This weekend a few of us might go to the cradle of humanity outside of the city (where apparently human's came from), and then there is a jazz and blues music fest in the park by my house for the afternoon/evening. Not too shabby.

So that is my update du semaine. I may write again before the trip to Cape Town, but if not, i shall write when i get back, in early April. Am anticipating a great time, with lots of nice pics (which i shall post on facebook). Cheers to all, and keep in touch!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Top 10 things I have learned in my first month here...

1. Good car insurance is not a need-- it is a must
2. In South Africa, even cheap wine is delicious
3. Sun burns in February are always a good thing-- always
4. There will be big probs if the government ever tries to impose a smoking ban here-- soooo many smokers
5. Talking about the weather is not as cool as it is in Canada
6. Giant cheap bags of basil are always on my grocery list-- always
7. One needs a gym membership here; otherwise you never exercise--- security issues demand that you drive EVERYWHERE
8. When producing soup thermoses or playing cards or shot glasses or pretty much anything, branding them with "The Big 5" is always the right decision-- always
9. Rubber boots can be used for much more than rain protection
10. A Braai is not a piece of women's underwear

Friday, February 22, 2008

Belated update

So it seems my previous blog entry that I posted on Sunday did not take. Strange. Ahhh... love those sketchy internet connections.

So here is a summary, from what I can remember: As those of you on facebook may have seen, I have posted pics of a 10k hike I did with some friends in a national reserve about an hour outside of Joburg, on Saturday. It was beautiful, super hot, and there actually some wild animals roaming around which was surreal. Saw some baboons, antelope and zebra (though nothing close enough to get good pics). Other highlights from the previous week included an anti-valentine’s day party at a co-workers house on Thursday, getting my movie card and being able to go to cheap night at the movies Tuesday nights for 20R, or about 3$ (sweet!), making a communal supper on Friday night and eating in the moonlight out on the patio, dancing a jig with the housekeepers delicious little 2 year old Andrea (who I will have to get some pics of--- she is going to be a star!), and generally going to work and being busy. Frankly, I feel like I am living with this constant state of elevated adrenaline—between work stress (soooo much to do-- we are totally understaffed), general security on-edge-ed-ness, and just not having a lot of down time to reflect, regroup or stop, you know? Again, I keep flagging this, but I wonder how it will affect me down the road re: burnout and/or stress-induced stupidness. We shall see.

As for this week’s update, things have been relatively quiet all things said and done. Work continues to pick up even more, while the learning curve feels like it is slowly starting to level off and I am feeling more confident about what I am doing. Went to an African craft market on Sunday afternoon—neat to see what is out there. Of course there are the requisite masks, etc… but also interesting and ingenious things like little toy cars made from recycled pop cans, and bags made out of bottle caps, and some amazing beading. Otherwise, have been up to little things here are there—went out to a movie on Tuesday, cooked a chicken with some gals from the house on Wednesday, complete with stuffing—although it took way longer than expected and we didn’t eat till almost 10pm. Whoops!

Upcoming plans: Myself and two friends, Anu and Yosi, have been making plans for an Easter trip, and have finally booked a few things to go to Cape Town at the end of March. I take 4 days off, but get 10 days vacation--- pretty good! Will probably rent a car and do some of the Garden Route as well while we are down there, which I am really looking forward to. Will be in Scotland in June for the World Assembly, and there is a possibility of attending a conference in Spain in July, so may have a few weeks to bum in Europe (makes more sense to stay up there than flying back down to South Africa, just to come up again 2 weeks later). If anyone will be in the area at that time, let me know!

Am off to Limpopo, a state in the north, bordering Mozambique and Zimbabwe, for the weekend, and will post some pictures on Facebook of that adventure when I get back. Happy trails to all, and keep in touch!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008


Things have been good of late, though bad things always seem to be happening-- seems to be a daily occurance that something is damaged or stolen.

For example, on Friday, after a long week me and two roommates piled into her car for the drive home, only to find that someone had broken in and tried to start the car with a screwdriver, totally destroying the ignition. Lucky the car was not stolen, but it has been out of commission for a week, and we were stranded for a short time in a sketchy part of town at night, and if we had lef tthe car as it was it definitely would have been stolen. Security continues to be an ever-present concern. Luckily, nothing is very physical-- it's all about stealing stuff.

Saturday was fun--- went to a mall with friends to get a few things (still trying to set up my apartment), and then went to a coworker's place for a braai (BBQ) that night. After a lot of awesome South African wine, we thought it would be a brilliant idea to go to a dance club downtown, which was indeed brilliant. Except that another friend had her purse slashed and her cell phone stolen. Again, they didn't get her wallet--- could have been worse. But still. Uber irritating.

Sunday met up with the son of a friend of my mothers (random connection, i know) and his girlfriend, and we went out of the city to a beautiful botanical garden, complete with idyllic waterfall and winding paths. Had a little picnic in the shade and thoroughly enjoyed being out of the city for a few hours. Lovely.

This week has been, as usual, crazy busy at work. But continues to be interesting, independant and engrossing. Can't ask for much more. Went tuesday night to a movie--- keep pinching myself remembering I am not in Huancavelica anymore--- and will be going tomorrow night to a coworkers place for an anti-valentines party. Should be fun. So that is the update. Lots of social stuff and work and being busy, but also lots of security issues and the constant presence of theft threats. A funny limbo---- having fun but always on edge. I am sure it will get exhausting.

Anyway, that's my update! Will write more soon!!

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

The work has started!

So am half way into my first week of work... but let me back up.

The workshop last week ended up well, and Friday, after an afternoon at the office trying to get my computer set up and get a few little admin things done, I moved into my new place in the neighbourhood of Greenside, about 20 mins from work. (I don't have the mailing address here right now--- will post it next time) I am staying in a little cottage at the back of a house, where there are 4 other housemates, including the landlord. It is a place that half of the CIVICUS staff has stayed at at one time or another. So lots of past tenants pop by for visits. I will be posting pics of my little cottage on facebook soon. It is adequate--- small, but comfortable and safe. I am lucky to be able to hitch rides with Karina, another CIVICUS staff member at the house, to and from work most days, and grab a taxi otherwise. I will stay there for now anyway, but will be looking to move somewhere else in a few months I imagine.

Part of my reason for wanting to move on eventually is that on Saturday there was a MASSIVE thunder storm, 40% of which ended up on my floor.... not the most rain-proof of roofs. But I went over to the main house and hung out wiith the posse there, we made some dinner, etc... Was nice. Also on Saturday, Michael, the landlord, took me to a grocery store and shopping centre to get some basics, including a phone! Yahoooo! So I have a cell now, in case anyone needs to contact me via phone. The number is: 078 047 0452

Monday was my first official full day of work at the office, and things have been nutsy busy all week!! So many planning meetings, getting caught up with the org as a whole, as well as team building and strategic planning as a CSI team. We are basically starting from scratch in this new phase of implementation, which is both exciting and stressful. But it is great to be able to put your mark on the upcoming processes, and I am so far loving the creativity, independence and variety of the work. Awesome!

Monday night was a surreal night. After work, some people in the office were going to a solidarity night to support the hostages taken in Colombia, and I decided to go with one of my housemates, Yozi (who is part colombian). So we tagged a ride with some other people, and ended up in the middle of Soweto, in what looked like a very sketchy part of a generally sketchy town, at a run-down youth centre. We were all a little confused and a little nervous, to be honest, but in the end it turned out to be an amazing evening. We walked into the dilapidated building, crawling with kids, and lit up a map of colombia traced on the ground with 700 candles, one for each of the hostages. Then the Colombian ambassador came (!) and there were some readings and poetry. Then the music started, and there was this crazy fusion of colombian guitar and south african drums---- wow. And then the kids started singing and dancing--- the boys did this amazing dance---- they all put big rubber boots on, and I didn't know what was going on. And then they started this coordinated dance of slaps of the boot and stomping and clapping---- it was incredible, especially in that small room. Blue man group could learn a thing or two. I learned later that this is an old form of dance that people used to use in the mines to relay messages back and forth, hence the rubber boots. But it was really cool, and I was so excited and thankful to have been there. And when we went back to the car, the tires were still on it--- bonus! :)

So things are moving along, I am slowly getting to know the city (via others... no car yet. Will be a few weeks yet i imagine), getting to know people, getting settled into work and generally getting my life here underway. Will be looking into choirs and the like, hoping to get a book club started, looking into a hiking club i read about, etc... But so far i am really enjoying everything. There are these pockets of stress, these pockets of intense specialness, moments of intense peace, moments of panic.... this is definately a place of extremes, from what I have seen thus far. But I am really enjoying it. I have heard that Joburg is one of those cities you either love or hate, and i have a feeling I am going to be one of those people who love it.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

First week update

Saturday was a fun day. After writing my last post, I had a nap, and then Ben and Frederico (two coworkers) and their partners Per and Ane, all went out for a night on the town. Went for an awesome meal (eating out here is super cheap--- even the good restaurants), then for drinks (had a weird shot of amarula and mint... ) and then went out dancing in a bar downtown. I think i was one of 4 white faces in the place. I get jolted every once and a while by how segregated this place feels sometimes. Lots of talk about balance and integration, but still many examples of seperateness. But it was a great night, and fun intro to the city! See--- you can be in downtown Joburg at night and not be robbed or killed. :)

Sunday, Ben and I headed over to the hotel to get ready for the workshops that have been going on all week. We are inducting 6 new african countries into the CSI project, so there were several logistical moments with planes and taxis and the like (had people coming in from Senegal, Rwanda, Tanzania, Kenya, Guinea and Botswana--- yeek!), but in the end everyone arrived in one piece, and the workshop has been going really well. Awesome people, and has been a great opportunity to really familiarize myself with the project, while at the same time getting to know my awesome work team. People are great, and I really look forward to working with them all!

So I have been been staying in this lush garden retreat all week.... life is so hard! And i have my own room, which is good since i am up all hours with a stupidly long case of jetlag. I am still only getting about 3-4 hours of sleep a night. Frustrating, but what can I do? Moving into my little cottage place on Friday, and hopefully getting a cell phone soon, as I have no way of being in touch with people otherwise. Will also look into getting a car soon. It is a must, it seems, if one is to get around. And I want to. Am already planning on looking for choirs with Frederico's partner Ane, and have seen many ads for karate dojos--- would love to get back into it. So must get a car. Phone first though... and learning how to drive on the other side of the road.... one step at a time.... :)

will update again this weekend!

Saturday, January 26, 2008


Just a quick note for those of those interested that I have arrived safe and sound in Joburg! It took an extra day to get here as I got stuck in Montreal due to snow, but I got here Friday (it took 4 days!) and have been getting oriented. Enjoying the sun (which is lucky because it is usually rainy this time of year), and have been thoroughly welcomed by CIVICUS, and especially my co-worker Ben and his partner Per. Ben has had to work a lot, in preparation for the big workshop we have all next week, so Per has been wonderful showing me around, treating me to the fresh fruit of the area, taking me on tours in the car and generally making me feel very welcome. I am staying with them now, but will be moving tomorrow to the hotel where we will be running next week's workshop. Busy busy! After that, on Friday of next week, I will move into my new place--- i went to see it today, and it looks good. I will write more about it when i have been there more than a few mins...

Basic first impressions of Joburg: extremes between rich and poor. Duh... i know. Not rocket science. But it is still distracting to notice such extremes, and in sich close proximity to each other. Accordingly, one does become very conscious of security. Everyone you meet has stories of having had things stolen--- and not just keys and money. Laptops and cars, etc... So I will be extra cautious until i learn the ropes a bit. Id rather be paranoid and safe for the first bit, than start off on the wrong foot and get robbed.

Also, I am struck by the flora. Apparently there is very little indigenous to the area, so most everything is imported. However, because the climate is so great, EVERYTHING thrives here! So you get oaks next to palm trees, passion fruits and lavender and carpets of thyme, you get bougainvillia and every kind of flowering bush and tree. And because the growing season is basically constant, there is always something flowering somewhere. Beautiful!

Anyway, everyone seems very friendly, and I have no reservations thus far. I am a bit nervous about eventually getting a car, etc... but I am assured that it is not a big deal with the driving on the wrong side of the road, and the bad traffic, etc... once you have started driving. Well perhaps, but it feels daunting after only your first few days here... But i will have to figure it out, so there you go!

So that is it for now. Will be quite busy this coming week at the workshop, so check back next weekend for a new post. Hope all is well with everyone, and keep in touch!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Welcome to my Joburg Blog!

Hello friends and family!

So, as you know, or have recently discovered, I am now off to Johannesburg, South Africa for the next step in my ever-varied career path, and have been advised/compelled/guilted into starting up another blog so that people can check up on me and what I am doing there. So enjoy!

A few words of introduction: I will be working in Joburg for an organization called CIVICUS, whose link you can find to the right of this posting, along with a link to the website dedicated to the project I will be working with: the Civil Society Index. Instead of trying to explain everything here, I thought it would be way easier (for me...) to provide the links to the websites, and those of you who are interested in learning more can check them out. Please feel free to let me know what you think, or if you have any questions! I cannot profess to be an expert yet, but I have been working as a consultant for them since September 2007 while waiting for my work visa (as many of you know) and so have a sense of what is going on and what I will be doing.

In a VERY small nutshell, CIVICUS is an international organization working to promote, develop and advance civil society around the globe. My project, the Civil Society Index (CSI) has several goals, including developing a database of civil society of every country, capacity building within civil society, etc... As the Spanish-speaker on the team, I will be in charge of Latin America and the Caribbean, as well as a variety of English-speaking countries. Thus, in addition to the desk work I will be doing from Joburg, I will get to travel around a bit to give workshops, etc... in various places around Latin America, Africa, and hopefully Asia. I will, of course, keep this blog updated with my trips and work and what is going on.

Thus, in short, I imagine this blog will be documenting my life in South Africa, which I am anticipating with great relish as I have heard many a wonderful thing about the country, but also my work-related travels around the world.

Just a note: I will not be posting many pics on this blog--- it will be pretty text heavy, unless can figure out a better and more efficient way of uploading and placing pics within a blog post. For those of you on Facebook, however, I will continue to post pics up there. So not to fear: there will be visuals available, if that is your bent. Just don't expect too many of them here.

So have fun, and check back every week or so. I will do my best to update regularly. You are welcome to nudge me if I get slack. And please don't be shy to post a reply, or drop me an email once in a while. I want to know what everyone is doing too!!!

And with that, i end my first posting on what I anticipate will be a great adventure. I will be leaving Saint John, NB on Tuesday, January 22nd, arriving in Joburg on 10am on Thursday, January 24th. From there, I hit the ground running, with a big CSI workshop being held in Joburg starting the next Monday, Jan 28th.... yikes! So wish me luck, and keep in touch!