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.