Friday, October 23, 2009
So I am staying in this posh hotel in the Sandton and this hotel is one among the favorites for many different airlines crews. Last night I got to the hotel very frustrated and stressed out about work. All I needed is to have a good glass of ice cold foaming beer and a smoke! Though I was out of cigarettes, I did not mind walking up to couple of fine guys and asking them for a smoke. They immediately invited me to sit down with them. I was completely not in the mood to socialize and I almost told them to “piss off”. But then I just asked them “where you from” and they said with that fun flirtatious accent “Australia”. Well I did not need another invitation and I said “ahhh then I’ll just sit with you and pick your brains”. And so we did…from one beer and a dinner it turned out to be 3 beers and 1 bottle of wine. Not only they picked my brains about my whereabouts, my work, my friends, but also about US foreign policy, about how US differs from the rest of the world, the current US affairs, lay off policies, you can imagine the depth of our conversations. I was not too far behind either and we talked about their families and life.
Simon, was a lovely, fun and happy guy that was born in Cairo Egypt, however his family immigrated to Australia when he was 4 years old. He still remembers where he lived and looking outside of his bedroom he could see the pyramids in the distance, remembers playing with his little cousins, as the WHOLE family purchased a HUGE apartment complex which they turned into pent houses. So the whole family lived together, including the grandparents and his father’s siblings with their families. His father was a famous journalist in Cairo and they moved to Libya to cover some issues; however their passports were taken away. During the time in Libya his father applied for asylum in US and Australia. His father said whichever responds first that is the country they will leave for. Though US responded first, he did not take it and week later after going though hurdles to get their passports back they were on their way to Cairo, just to switch a plane to Rome and then Rome to Australia. His father got a job as a chief editor for an Australian Media Mogul (sorry forgot who) and he worked there for many years. His mother, who was extremely well educated, had to also get a job, and she worked in the factory on a night shift building radios so they both could send their kids to private schools to get good education. It was very though time but he did not view it as dark times, rather as happy, loving and fun times with great experiences. His father got eventually fed up with working for someone else and opened up his own consulting company in journalism and freelancing. Simon was working for Quanta’s for 22 years now and he is the manager of the flight attendants crew.
They always travel to so many different destinations and always with different crew. Later on the rest of the crew joined in, 2 lovely women and another guy, whose names I do not recall anymore (too much wine). They were remembering stories from their earlier years of flying and we laughed so so hard, it was so amazing! For example they had a plane where there was a small elevator going below the cockpit and that was the “crew’s bar” so the youngest was always responsible to put the beer on ice for the gents and put the French Champagne on ice for the ladies. Well Simon neglected his duty and the crew responded by throwing “coke cans” shaken not steered with a little hole so the coke was exploding down the elevator shaft to punish him for not complying with the “crew rules”. Needless to say the way he was describing how soaking wet and sticky he was from all the warm coke bombs was hilarious and we laughed so hard that the tears were coming up… the next story continued that that was their smoking area as well and that is where not only the crew but some “privileged” passengers got to hang out on long ass flights. Or another time how they pushed out the carts full of liquor and food out of the plane and though the customs, bribing the guards with bottle of Johnny Walker Black and beers, so they could celebrate their Christmas… just amazing stories… the wine was flowing, the stories were hilarious, the night progressed. Not only they always stay in my hotel and know the staff by their first names…
Quanta’s actually has a special “hang out” room for them that is always opened on the 3rd floor, so the crew can relax. After the bar closed we retired to their “crew lounge” where they had pool table, darts, TV, computer, nice couches and all the other wonderful amenities to make the place more pleasurable. We played pool and more over we exchanged stories and face book contacts. After such hard day at work it was EXACTLY what I needed to release, to socialize to forget about the mad days at work… After this experience I have made an ultimate decision that my work is NO LONGER going to affect me, and I WILL NOT let work overtake my fun here. Simple yet very effective decision. Ok, my dear friends, out for today… speak to you soon.
So I think I have mentioned earlier that I have acquired a local friend “African” named Jaco with whom we share great passion for spirituality. Jaco is an “herbalist”, energy healer, and he also does Tarot and Herbal card reading. I met him one lovely Saturday afternoon on my stroll though Sandton and Village Walk which is a small shopping mall. You all know that I absolutely despite to go shopping, but for whatever reason I was lead to this mall to go browse some stores and I came upon a lovely “spiritual shop” called the “House of Isis”. I walked in and the loving energy of this shop was addicting! They had a great selections of rocks and crystals, lots of great spirituality books, dream catchers, Buddha and some other Indian statues, wonderful selection of incents, reading cards and Wiccan items… well let’s just say I felt right at home. I ran into Jaco in the shop and decided to have a Herbal card reading from him. We connected immediately as he has been working in the “magic” for over 25 years and me in past 10 years, therefore we had lots of in common and thoroughly enjoyed the conversations and the energy balancing. We quickly connected and became friends for life. Over few times we met out for a beer and spiritual discussions and decided that this weekend we will go and visit a place called the “Sanctuary”- which is a holistic retreat to soothe one’s soul and reconnect the mind, body and spirit. On Friday I went to stay in Jaco’s house just to be grated with 2 happy going dogs and a charming little cottage next to a true African squatting settlement. My room was full of herbs and little bottles of essences and it just felt so magical to be surrounded by this great mother earth nature treasures. I was exhausted from work and I felt asleep listening to the sounds of drums playing in the nearby squatting settlement and sounds of the crickets outside. I slept like a rock!
Ahh all these lovely places are in an area called the Megaliesberg Area:
Goblin Cove: http://www.goblins.co.za/
Thursday, October 22, 2009
Pilanesberg National park... what a beauty...
Don't they look so amazingly peaceful...just to reach out and pet them ;)
My Portugese Friends:
- Tiago, Miriam, Joana, Afonso
- Miriam, Joana
That night I went out to eat with my European friends, and when we came back I went to the lobby of my hotel to have a last beer and I saw the Portuguese folks hanging out so I stayed and started to chat with them… Well forgive my ignorance they really did not like the fact that I was confused on their heritage and placed them together with the Spanish gang… I had to remember not to do that again if I wanted to get rides to/from work! Though later on as you all know me…I did keep picking at them that they originated from Spain…J Through our many conversations we discussed the origins of Portugal, their culture, Lisbon, and of course the Fado music and great wines!!!
Actually you all know what is the BEST thing about my job? The fact that I get to meet SOOOOO many incredible people from all over the world and we can exchange information, talk, pick on each other, learn about our diverse backgrounds and cultures, we pick up each other habits and slang talks…really that is the BEST part of my job as I will never be bored with learning form others…the other best part is of course the traveling part, then the next is the fact we can open windows in the offices to get the fresh air, also we do not user Styrofoam cups for our coffee, but we use the “office mugs”, which our coffee lady picks up form our desks and washes it every day so we do not pollute our mother earth!
Bumping rides from them was a great win win for me as I got to go out for dinners with Joana, Tiago and Alfonzo after our mad days at work! For the most times we went to Nelson Mandela square for dinners and dancing on Thursday night in “Fashion TV” club. We became really good friends and we certainly all agreed that Portugal is the next on my “to go to” as now I have lovely friends to visit and stay with...
- Mamma Africa Restaurant
Everything here is for sale even the “door knobs”
Are they leaning from the Americans??? (he he he)
But truly amazing design work (Michael take some notes!!!)
Night view from my hotel
Nelson Mandela square
Lovely African Restaurant
Well I have mentioned that I am in Joburg, but yes of course it’s only bit over 5Mil people here so where the heck I really live now? Lucky or not for me, I am staying in the part of Joburg called Sandton. It very much reminds me of our “Buckhead” neighborhood, very modern buildings, lots of restaurants, shops and pretty people around… it is described as the richest neighborhood in Joburg, and it certainly is. Very far from the reality of the rest of Africa. People here drive fancy cars, wear fancy clothes and it’s very pretentious…
When I am in the office I feel as I am really trapped and confined to the space here… because after work or rather after dark NO ONE dares to walk around here! I miss the walks to the restaurants and clearing my head after days of work. We drive everywhere to avoid possible robbery or worst! The square is heavily guarded and everyone sits outside in the restaurants in the evenings enjoying the bit of freedom after the confinement of the offices with lovely drinks and great food! This part is fun! After the dinners, we usually go back to our hotel, which is lovely as well, has the best breakfast bar ever and I have been truly taking advantage of the smoke salmon plates and amazing array of freshly squeezed juices and fresh fruits. Yummy…at times we all from the project meet up in the lobby for a cocktail and heavy discussions about anything and everything….so the next time I’ll tell you about the folks I met here and with whom I hang out with.
Since my jetlag got me up at 2AM, I felt back asleep just to wake up to annoying alarm clock and really cold room. Hmmm thinking to myself, I am in Africa is it NOT supposed to be hot here??? See, we westerners come with all these misconceptions…and predefined views of other countries, just to find out that the opposite may be the truth. YES it was cold in here as the spring was just entering into summer…well good for me I love the summers and since one just finished in US I do not mind starting another one all over again. I managed to throw some business attire on as I was meeting my manager for breakfast, could not exactly recall her face but somehow I trusted I would recognize her… first meeting bit backward, but when ice melted we managed to have a lovely breakfast and headed out for the office. Let’s just say the BEST thing I found about the office is the fact that we CAN open the windows, and the balcony doors, just to let the fresh crisp air and sun light come in…what AC who needs it! The WORST part about the office is that there is not a spot for parking, unless I learned to bribe the guards to let me park right in front of it. Depending on the guard, his mood and my smile anywhere from 5-20R is a good bargaining option. I meet my 2 lovely co-workers who are consultants and will be assisting me with the duties… one lovely Olivia sweet heart as can be, and the other on NQ-short for Nqobile, I know now how to pronounce it as it only took me ½ a day to click and smack my tongue against my mouth to elute a sound as when she said her name. She is also from the Zulu tribe and my first day she though me how to say “frog” in Zulu language which produced a splashes of laughs across our little office, well good ice breaker I guess…anyways rather than writing about boring corporate projects and “work”, I have made the executive decision to leave the “work” part out of my blog, so I do not bore you all to death, but rather instead I will write about the nifty new experiences I am going through on daily bases…
Arrival to JoBurg’s airport was not a biggie, pretty extensive immigration lines, but luckily there was not much going on. Got my passport stamped and visas issues, changed some money to have for tips and looked for my driver to take me to my hotel and my new home for next few weeks until my company arranges for the apartment. I truly expected the airport to be chaotic, full of people and up to teeth armed gun guards and army personnel. Before I left Jane (our political and world issues, world travels and news guru) told me about it from her own experiences, but nothing like that! I the midst of little madness I located my driver whom I found very interesting and my FIRST REAL South African person to whom I could talk to! Well what an opportunity!!! I think I questioned him almost on everything just get the glimpse of the “true living conditions” of some of the less privileged folks!
From what I gathered in those 15 minutes, that he is from Zulu tribe, that Soweto is a fun place to go and more importantly where the “old man” (Nelson Mandela) was born, that he did not like that the “old man” allowed all the immigrants from other countries to come with such ease, as they take all jobs for so much less money than the “south Africans would”, that he was not much fan of Zuma the current president because of all the corruption in his party and the mystery of poor wages and huge rewards for all the big CIO’s (seems to me as ALL people may have a problem with the way CIO’s get rewarded NOT just me!), then he told me he worries for his job as there is not enough jobs for all folks and they are very poorly paid. I could sense the frustration with the system and the fact that there is NOTHING he could do about it, just hope for better future. I know he was very much looking forward the world coup and he said though it appears as the economy may improve for the folks, he said it will ONLY improve for big companies as they will monopolize the market and they will not care or give to the ordinary folks...simple conversations like these this just keep me in check every day how blessed we are!
While chatting with him, looking outside of my big safe caravan transport I saw large and huge city spread in front of me in between rolling hills, glittering lights in the background, lots of steaming and interesting billboards and commercials, 8 lane highways, fancy AND expansive looking cars, shacks on the side of the road, mad people running in the middle of the highways (never figured out why), scary looking wild faces searing into the window of the caravan at the stop lights, making me cringe every time our eyes met as if they were the hunters and I was the pray, who knows perhaps I was just tired after long ass flight, perhaps I was overwhelmed with the polarity and the unmistakably HUGE gap between the poor and rich, or whatever else, but I was glad when I finally arrived in my hotel. I wondered afterwards, if my driver found me a very annoying American chick or if he thought I was truly and generously interested to suck up all the knowledge out of him because I wanted to learn and live South African!
Regardless, I was glad to get to my hotel, where I was greeted by glass of champagne and lovely happy wide open smiles and white teeth folks. Got a lovely room on the top floors overlooking Sandton and after a dinner in a Thai restaurant I completely blocked and passed out from all the travels and emotions of the day. YAH just to wake up at 2AM not being able to go to sleep…Ahhh I just LOVE jet lags!
Since I have just returned from Costa Rica last night and my mind knew I had gazillion things to get accomplished today I kept waking up in my sleep, had nightmarish dreams of being robbed at gun point and somehow intuitively I ended up sleeping upside down. I found myself sleeping head where the feet are, and feet where the head usually is… who knows what in the world I was thinking or better yet NOT thinking but perhaps the visions of the upcoming adventures or the depressing thoughts that I am back from Tamarindo (Costa Rica where I just spend the BEST birthday of my life) or maybe it was just the pure fact I wanted to be close to Simba (my kitty-BIG ORANGE kitty) so he could purrr me back to normal sleep…who knows and who cares right?
What… my personal blog??? Me? The ANTI Internet and ANTI electronics gadgets free spirit and social butterfly enjoying life to fullest extend and outdoor enthusiast….having my own blog??? Well my friends yes, I figured it be the fastest way to keep everyone updated on my whereabouts…oh, I almost forgot to give you a brief background of where in the world I am going and actually how it happened or better yet WHY I have decided to have my own BLOG!
Though I am working in Information Technology Industry for one of the leading consulting companies, I often find myself anti computer and “fancy new things” challenged. I do not really care for new gadgets like the face book, the tweeter, the blogs or GPS and IPods… though I can tell you few days prior to finishing a project for one of my clients in I have received an email from one of our Senior Managers asking if I would be interested to work for a client in South Africa! What??? South Africa? Me? You did not tell me the name of the project or the work assignment? Who cares! Yes I’ll take it! Thanks and can I fly out tomorrow???
I guess truly at this point I really did not care exactly what I’ll be doing as long as I am living in Johannesburg and traveling…oh wait, they told me to “work” not “travel”. But I figured, it will be a great opportunity for me to come and live in Joburg, experience the culture, the folklore and the people while living here and hopefully if my company does not slave me to death, have a quick weekend getaway trips to the most amazing national parks and neighboring countries. For me that was like a winning a traveling lottery…I also told myself that this would be my last large project prior to my move to Costa Rica…well Joburg and South Africa here I come!!! And since I have lots of wonderful friends, family and just incredible folks in my life who love to share my adventures and traveling stories and I’ll need to keep in touch I decided to have my own blog! Ok fine that was actually my 2nd reason…
My 1st reason was the thought that danget, perhaps if I keep capturing my experiences on the paper, I’ll get to publish my own book with tons of cool pictures (Yes, I do take fine pictures!!!) and then I’ll send the copy to Oprah so it can become an international best seller and I can give all the money to the poor kids and mothers that are HIV positive in the African countries and help them out somehow…who cares about the money and the fame, to me I rather help…so Oprah if you ever read my book or my blog, know this is really not for me but for the kids. Yap perhaps a wild idea but JUST WAIT if this book will truly get published! J
And THAT my FRIENDS how my blog and adventure started. I welcome you to join my journey and share hopefully only the funny, fun and happy stories and adventures. If you find my language bit awkward or the spelling messed up at times, too long of sentences, or whatever else that my “tickle you fancy” or may be against the “proper” English language codes and grammars, oh well, just be aware and know that the “charming Slo-English” just come with “Miriam” since I was born in Slovakia and lived in US for past 17 years or so (seriously lost the count after the 15th). I feel very blessed for this opportunity thanks to Universe and the higher power for it every day.