Tag Archives: culture

A river swells from little streams

Movement for Change

The title of this post is the tagline for The Movement for Good, a group of companies and individuals that have joined together to help foster moral regeneration. The tagline speaks exactly to what I understand their core philosophy to be, and that is that if you and I start doing good things, stop breaking even the most inconsequential laws, and start being "good people", then that will have an effect on our country's general morality.

I'm sure that they don't mean that not picking wild flowers, not speeding, and not watering your garden during water restrictions will prevent violent crimes in the short term, but I rather imagine that the philosophy says that failure to abide by the small laws and sense of morality promotes slightly more significant crime and moral degradation (perhaps in others), which in turn snowballs into a lack of respect for other people's possessions or even lives.

Sure, it's quite a leap to get from contravening small laws and senses of morality to the big issues of theft and violence, but kids learn from their elders and if elders instil good values into children then I really do believe that it could stop the snowball and have a positive effect on crime and morality in general.

Add your stream to the river, visit their website, read up about their focus areas (Safety, Education, Environment, Health, and Youth), and join the movement!

Christianity and perspective

Church tower

According to a 2001 census, 80% of South Africans view themselves as Christian. Of course, what is considered to make one a Christian differs from person to person.

Some South Africans would say that if you go to church every week you're a Christian, while others will attend church only on Christmas Day, and perhaps over Easter. Yet others would claim that going to church means nothing and that it's your belief that makes you a Christian. A large proportion of black South Africans declare themselves Christian even though their Christian beliefs are often a mixture of Western-style Christianity and traditional African culture, beliefs, and ancestral practices.

It seems to me as though this large Christian contingent is quite a mixed bag of variations on Christianity. If you were to dig your hand in to pull out a Christian, each time you did so you may end up with a Christian who believes something vastly different to the previous Christian you pulled out. :D

Lock up your valuables

Yale lock

I always find it amusing when we have consultants over from the USA or Europe (at my day-job, that is), and they don't bother to lock up their laptops when leaving their desks. I'm always having to warn them to lock up, and, without fail, I get a quizzical look in return and the question, "Why, do you think someone would take it?". While the folk working in our offices are perfectly trustworthy, we have many random people in and out, and laptops and cell phones have been known to go missing. They're so easy to steal and sell!

I'm interested to know if you experience the same kind of trouble wherever it is that you work.

MXit, taking instant messaging into deepest Africa

MXit Evolution

MXit ("mix-it"), a mobile-phone-based instant-messaging company born in Stellenbosch, could be one of the most successful South African technology startups in our history. Over 18 million registered users around the world, and over 20 million log-ons per day, make them a significant player in the instant-messaging world.

I mentioned in my previous post that we had the opportunity to visit two technology startup companies in Stellenbosch - the first being FireID, and the second being the larger MXit. I'm not sure if you can see it clearly from this photo, but the view from their offices is spectacular, seemingly the perfect view to stimulate creativity.

The exciting thing about MXit is their vision of expanding their operations in Africa. South Africa and Africa in general have a huge number of mobile phone users. It's perfectly normal for people in even the poorest townships to have mobile phones, as they are generally the only way for folk in these communities to keep in touch. MXit offers a *very* cheap alternative to SMS text messaging, as well as a host of other features and services.

Across the world, the internet has become a tool of learning, a way to make money, and a means of cheap communication. While many initiatives exist to use computers to expand internet access into deepest Africa, the reality is that due to infrastructure costs it's going to be many years before computers (and stable internet connections) become as ubiquitous as mobile phones. The introduction of MXit into countries such as Zambia, Rwanda and Ghana creates a dirt-cheap means of communication and access to education and information.

Find out how to get MXit on your phone or computer here, and if you'd like to learn a little more about it, click here to read the Wikipedia page about their history and services.

Christmas Pavlova

Christmas Pavlova

Look, I'm not going to lie. I'm exceedingly proud of this dessert. I should confess right away that I didn't make the meringue shells from scratch (I did have to put in a heck of a lot of effort to actually track them down, though, so I think I deserve at least some of the credit), but I did make the Chantilly cream, cook up the blueberry coulis, and assemble the whole decadent, sugary creation. I also managed to cut it and dish it up, which, as you'll know if you've ever tried to cut a meringue, was no mean feat either.

I'm also exceedingly proud of the fact that Paul and I managed to do every single bit of our Christmas shopping, food and all (we hosted Christmas lunch at our house this year), between 7.30pm on the 23rd and 6pm on the 24th. Without any screaming matches or nasty incidents of trolley rage! For two people who are severely organisationally-challenged, this is quite an achievement. (Want to know the best part? The entire house was clean again by 9pm. Every dish washed, every piece of wrapping paper thrown away.)

This year, I was feeling particularly nostalgic, so I made sure that the menu included reminders of family members who are no longer alive and the Christmases we shared when I was little. For instance, there were smoked oysters and TUC biscuits for my father's parents (TUC biscuits were a staple snack food in their house), sage and onion stuffing for my mother's mother (I'd always thought she made it from scratch until one day I saw my mother buying a box of ready-made Paxo mix at the supermarket :P), and pickled eisbein for my brother (the last two Christmases I spent with him both involved eisbein, and he was an absolute expert at cooking it).

If you celebrate Christmas, I hope you had a really special day. For those of you fortunate enough to have your whole family with you, treasure these days and moments - one day the memories you're building will become more important than you could imagine.

District 5, aka De Waterkant, aka Cape Quarter

District 5, aka De Waterkant, aka Cape Quarter

Most locals would know that De Waterkant is also known as the Cape Quarter. I never realised, though, that it had previously been District 5, sibling to the infamous District 6.

Way back in the 1700s and 1800s it was the home of many Malay slaves, and then in about 1966 the government of the day forcefully relocated these people away from their sea view and mountain shade to the comparatively barren and flat Cape Flats. Unfortunately for the government, and definitely not according to their plan, it was not the upper crust that moved into District 5 - it was the bohemian liberals, free-thinking students, and proudly gay population. *snigger*

Today De Waterkant is still an energetic and colourful area with old buildings and cobble streets. It's an area that you should spend at least an afternoon exploring. Here's a map with a place marker to help you find this road. :)

Careful with your cash

Careful with your cash

I'm not saying that the subject in this photo is a conman, but I have often seen someone who looks a lot like him wandering around the V&A Waterfront area, apparently asking people for money. I don't think it's common to see this at the Waterfront, so it's kinda weird and unexpected when someone asks you for cash. I think people are often taken by surprise and hand out their money to guys who use this as a regular form of income.

Perhaps it's bad of me, but I've become a lot more skeptical of people asking for money than I previously was, and the internal battle rages on, as I try to decide who's just a chancer and who deserves a break.

Filling stations in South Africa

Filling up with petrol

I understand that in many places around the world motorists fill up their own vehicles with fuel. Lazy South Africa still enjoys the privilege of having a friendly attendant to fill up your car, wash your window, pump your tires, and top up your oil. Well, I say friendly, but I have to admit that they're not always friendly. Considering that the job isn't a stimulating or enjoyable one, I guess that's understandable.

If you visit South Africa from another country then you should bear three things in mind when filling up your hired vehicle:

  1. You'll have three types of fuel to choose from: Unleaded, Lead Replacement (LR), and Diesel. Normally hire cars use unleaded, but if you're not sure it's normally indicated somewhere near the filler cap. Mixing diesel and petrol is a bad idea. Seriously. :)
  2. In July this year a law was passed allowing motorists to purchase petrol using an ordinary credit card (previously we could only use garage cards, debit cards or cash). However, not all petrol stations have implemented this system yet, so you may very well still need cash to pay for your petrol. Often filling stations have ATM machines where you can draw cash with your debit or credit card.
  3. We usually tip the attendants. You don't have to, but if they are pleasant - and especially if they wash your windscreen - it's a nice thing to do.

I'm interested to know whether you tip filling station attendants, and if so, how much.  Please leave a comment, anonymous or not, and let us know.

Western Cape Metro EMS

Western Cape Metro EMS

The Metro Emergency Medical Services is a government organisation with about 1400 staff, that provides emergency response to the public.

The reality of the situation, as I understand it, is that the Metro EMS ambulance services are over-extended and unable to respond quickly enough to many time-critical medical emergencies and so, even though my dad's medical aid generally only covers the use of state ambulances, his house doctor requested a private ambulance to transfer him to the hospital. Sadly, some people have no option but to rely on state ambulances, and while they do successfully assist many, in times of crisis they're sometimes simply not able to respond in time.

Apart from being short-staffed, all ambulances continuously have to deal with other drivers (unbelievably) doggedly standing their ground, refusing to let ambulances pass in any kind of hurry. I often see drivers not paying attention to emergency sirens, and I've honestly seen drivers on occasion just not make an effort to open a path for ambulances. Unbelievable? Believe it.

Football World Cup logistics, organisation, and the vuvuzela

Greenpoint football stadium

The Green Point soccer stadium, seen here from the Cape Town Waterfront area, looks to be fast approaching completion. There are still tall cranes looming over the empty stadium, but far fewer than you may recall in photos that I posted in 2007 and 2008. Just take a look at the progress made since June 2007!

If you've been following our recent posts you'll know that we're away from Cape Town on holiday for two weeks, and that Mandy J Watson has been kind enough to help out with a couple of photos, including this one.

This evening Kerry-Anne and I were privileged to watch South Africa and Spain battle it out in a Confederations Cup match in Bloemfontein; since this tournament is a trial run for next year's World Cup, and in light of this photo, I thought I'd give you a reportback on my experience from a logistics and organisation perspective.

First, I guess I should state that I'm not a sports fan, so I think I'm able to view the situation objectively without the excitement that allows fans to overlook the negative aspects of the experience.

So, objectively:

  • It was easy to find parking and it took a matter of 5 minutes to get into the stadium, and head up the stairs to our seats.
  • Finding our seats was fairly easy... we just looked at our ticket, consulted the boards, entered through the correct gate, read the signs, and we were good to go.
  • Apart from the signs giving directions, it seemed that at almost every turn there was a friendly official ready to point us in the right direction.
  • The venue wasn't too crowded, and the seating wasn't cramped.
  • The queues at the ladies' toilets were VERY long at half time. This is normal, of course, but that doesn't mean it's okay.
  • I've never been a fan of the vuvuzela (that long plastic trumpet that South African supporters blow at soccer matches), but to be honest, it really wasn't so bad. They weren't too loud and I have to say that they did add to the atmosphere significantly. They are an integral part of South African soccer culture and it just wouldn't be the same without them.
  • The only time that the trumpets did become annoying was after the match while we were walking through the Loch Logan shopping mall next to the stadium. Googols of fans blowing trumpets in a confined space made of reflective tiles and glass isn't good for one's ears!

My only suggestions are:

  • Think about where you will park your car before the time and how congested the area will be after the match.
  • Buy ear plugs from a music store - you'll still be able to enjoy the atmosphere, even if you find a vuvuzela positioned right next to your ear. :)