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!