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! :)