Tuesday, October 25, 2011


If weather affects human behaviour, then aggressive and frequently violent Joburg is certainly a case in point. Weather is never polite in this city: rain pounds down and hail is common. All this action is accompanied by high winds, thunder and lightning which is why what happened yesterday is even more remarkable. Clouds rolled in in the late afternoon and the sky became very dark. I should have left work immediately, but wanted to wrap up one last thing. By the time I got on the highway, hail was pounding down so hard that I couldn't hear the car radio. My impulse was to stop under the nearest overpass and wait it out. And then the most amazing thing happened: drivers who are known for their blatant disregard of traffic laws began to slow down and everyone put on their hazard flashers making it easier to see the car in front during the heavy rain storm. This uniform reference to safety is unheard of in Joburg and left me feeling much calmer as I slowed with cautious traffic pace. As I reached the first underpass, cars had not only stopped on the shoulder but were also parked in the two slow lanes. In the end, I decided not to stop as I was too afraid of being rear-ended. This is Joburg after all……

Friday, September 30, 2011


It's Friday and I couldn't be happier! Eight more weeks of work and then we pack up our house and head out for a two week holiday in the Cape.

My 12 week Bootcamp ended two weeks ago and the outcome has left me discouraged-- I had hoped to introduce our Producers to the concepts of planning and professionalism and have failed miserably. I have been struggling away trying to write my final report-- emphasizing the positives-- but am sadly forced to conclude that we are facing a systematic malaise that pervades Soweto TV. It is a culture of excuses and blame. It is going to take more than 12 weeks of me emphasizing "solution oriented" work to change this approach. I know the reasons for this behaviour are cultural and complex-- more than one little Canadienne can solve! So, with my final 8 weeks, I will do all I can to improve show content and get them delivered on time, contributing what I can to this highly challenging community station.

It's Friday and few people have showed up at the station. Thursday is knows as "Pusa Thursday" here, one of the main nights, along with Sunday, to go out and party here in Soweto. My colleagues here at the station tell me that many clubs don't even bother to open on Fridays and Saturdays! All I could think is that means that Mondays and Fridays are write-offs in terms of work-- that's how middle-aged I've become.

On a sunny note, we transitioned from winter to summer about a month a ago-- the weather is perfect this time of year-- cool nights and sunny days (about 25C). Soon the glorious jacarandas will be covered in their unique mauve blossoms. But summer is the rainy season here in the highveld. Rain is not a gentle occurrence here-- in Joburg it pounds down in a chorus of thunder and lightning-- we are enjoying every day until the rains start.

Glen and I had hoped to get away for a weekend as he has been tied to his desk most weekends for months finishing a major report on how to improve throughput rates for engineers in South Africa. We weren't able to get a booking as it's a school holiday, so instead I suggested we have a little holiday at home-- steaks on the braai tonight followed by a fire in our portable firepit, massages tomorrow, a stroll through Art in the Park at Zoo Lake, and a movie. October starts tomorrow and we know time will continue to speed up as we head to December and our departure for Canada.......

Sunday, September 25, 2011


More than ever, our lives are determined by the calendar.

The most recent date of note was August 23rd, but not because it was my birthday. After 18 months of waiting, Glen received his approval for Canadian Residency! This most wonderful birthday present could not have arrived in a more mundane manner: a simple email arrived asking him to bring in his passport to the Consulate in Pretoria so that his immigration visa could be inserted. So much for "Welcome to Canada"!

The next date of note was the first weekend of September: a long anticipated family trip to Kruger National Park to begin what Glen has dubbed his mother's "birthday season". She tuns 80 in December, so we flew her out from Cape Town for a visit and then drove to Kruger Park-- about 5 hours away. We were joined by Glen's daughters and their partners, his son from the UK and his sister from Durban. Although we will see all of them (except his son) again before our departure in mid-December, this will be the last time that we will ALL be together. Time, and our lives, are marked by these important dates.

Kruger was a wonderful trip and such a treat for all. I had found a big house for rent not far outside the park. The best part of it was that the house was located in a small private game reserve, so as we sat out on out large porch in the evening, there was a parade of animals including warthogs, zebra and kudu. It was almost as much fun as being in the park-- and much more relaxed as we sipped sun-downers and watched the wildlife. The animals were accustomed to humans, so they slowly made their way forward-- just a few feet away from us. We were all unnerved when a warthog decided to join us right on the porch! Even more unnerving was when a kudu (the size of a small horse) approached us and didn't stop until his head was about 18 inches from Glen's!

We had great luck game viewing in Kruger the highlights of which were seeing a lion kill-- 4 female lions had brought down a buffalo and were devouring it right at the side of the road. We were close enough to smell the stench of the kill (intestines? meat rotting in the sun?). The lions devoured it with such gusto that a head would disappear inside the body cavern of the buffalo as every desirable morsel was consumed.

We were stopped for about 20 minutes in a buffalo crossing when a herd of several hundred took their time crossing the road in single file. There were lots of elephants, hippo and crocs, but the best had to have been the rare sighting of a leopard strolling across a dry sandy riverbed. As I watched this gorgeous creature through the binoculars, a switch clicked in my brain and there in that moment, all of my time Africa was embodied in that perfect moment watching this gorgeous creature.

And now, we know that time will only speed up as we finish our jobs in late November, pack up the house and take one one last (for now at least) road trip in South Africa. The most important part of this race through time is that it is not a singular one as most of my adult life has been. Instead, there is my wonderful loving Glen at my side as we share, evaluate, and make decisions about yet another momentous decision: our relocation to Canada. What a joy it is to share these moments and keep each other calm as one starts to fret about all the risks and challenges of the next phase in our shared life-- but oh how exciting it all is too!

Sunday, August 21, 2011


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Yesterday, Glen treated me to an early birthday lunch at The Cradle Restaurant. The last time we were there was the morning after our wedding--- our first day waking up as a married couple! All our other wedding guests attended that day as we had spent the night in cabins on the property. The Cradle is located on a small private game reserve in an area called The Cradle of Humankind and as we pulled up to the gate, there was a giraffe crossing the veld-- I took it as an auspicious sign for the beginning of a perfect afternoon which it was!

Spring is in the air and The Cradle provides the most wonderful view over the highveld-- as it's the end of winter (the dry season), the tall grasses were golden and crisp in the warm afternoon sun. We enjoyed a leisurely lunch on the grand patio, while remarking on the perfect view and sharing a bottle of crisp South African Blanc de Mer (white wine). While we chatted how it has been nearly a year to the day since our arrival back in Joburg (on my birthday last year), our talk turned, as it often does these days, to our future as we wind down our time in SA and head to Canada at the end of the year-- a thought that is both exciting and terrifying as neither of us are heading to jobs! We also talked about how it seems so much longer than 8 months ago that we sat in the very same spot having our wedding breakfast-- it is distant, but very happy, memory. Certain dates have held importance for us-- we felt we really wanted to marry before the close of 2010-- starting a new decade together. As of 2012 we will begin living together in Canada-- Glen, will not arriving as a visitor this time, but as a permanent resident. For the first time since his year in Penn State, he'll be trying out life in a new country.

While we sipped wine and nibbled on venison carpaccio, we recalled the excitement of seeing a giraffe in the distance at our wedding breakfast-- the first siting of African animal in the wild for our American relatives which caused great excitement! I suggested we take a drive through the reserve after lunch to see what we might find. Within a few minutes we spotted some buck (see pic) and some so-ugly-they're-cute warthogs who were far too skittish for me to get a pic. We continued along the rough trail-- this is when Glen always points out to me how great is is that he has a Land Rover! I was hoping to get another siting of that giraffe and then as we rounded a bend, there was the pick of the day: the biggest rhino I have ever seen! We ooh-ed and aah-ed but Glen kept rolling as the rhino, who was not far from the Landy, lumbered toward straight toward us. It was massive, so we moved cautiously. Soon after the trail circled around and brought up back to the main gate. We left on a high note, never thinking that there was a rhino wandering not far from where we shared an elegant lunch!

In two weeks, we are off for a family trip to Kruger National Park and there was no better way to whet our appetite for game viewing than this!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011


Yesterday was our first Monday at Bootcamp, renamed Lekgotla (meeting place), by the participants. By 9:15am, 6 stragglers had shown up. I simply cancelled class and said if they didn't bother to pitch, I wouldn't bother to teach.

Today was a brand new day: 18 out of 20 showed up more or less on time. The other two contacted me in advance (one via sms at 5:50am!). We talked about show ratings and whether their show fell into the Top, Middle or Bottom Ten of the ratings (we produce 30 shows a week-- even I can't understand how we do that with such limited resources!). The discussion was lively and engaged and solution oriented! Amazing!

The class ended on a high note: Terry Mokoena had followed up my suggestion of organizing a pay day raffle. We agreed that class would end with the draw. Phumelele won the jackpot of R220 (about $35) and shouted "god is great!. Even more excitement ensued when Terry presented each Lekgotla team member with a name tag for tomorrow's event-- by the cheers, you'd thought they'd all won the lottery! The photo is of Terry wearing his nametag

SADLY, THEN IT TURNED BAD…. About an hour after we broke for the day, Derrick assaulted Phumzile. She has charged him, as she should. In class we had just finished a short time previously, the two of them had be leaders of a fantastic discussion.

All in a day's work in Soweto…..

Thursday, June 23, 2011

You are my Dog

Yesterday was Day #1 of a 12.5 week Bootcamp that I proposed and created for young Producers at Soweto TV. I l found an unused room at the station with a collapsed ceiling and after a certain amount of arm twisting convinced our parent company to spend the money renovate it into a sparkling clean freshly painted space-- by far the nicest space at dumpy overcrowded Soweto TV. Twenty excited young Producers filed in and despite the power outtage leaving the place very chilly, they were keen and excited. The big bosses arrived from the city and to their credit, gave inspiring talks about the future of the station and the focus on individual development. The Bootcamp was up and running and everyone was on a high! What a grand way to start!

Later in the day, Titi, a fellow who has the saddest face in the world, greeted me with what sounded like "injaiyam" but told me I had to ask someone else what it meant. When I did, I was informed that it meant, "You are my dog" and felt rather disturbed to receive such a message from such a kind and mellow fellow. My interpreter then told me that in township language this means, "you are my hero". Gawd, I now I have to live up to that....thank you, Titi. I will do my best

Here's are pics of our sparkling new room filled with sparkling faces.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

I heard voices.....

I came in early to work today at Soweto TV to catch up on a few things. The place was nearly deserted-- only a few keeners had arrived. As I sat at my computer, the most amazing mournful music came floating in through the window-- there was a funeral taking place at the church next door. The place was full and everyone was singing in a powerful slow manner-- it was sad, but not dirge-like, and carried with it a thin underpinning of hope.

I had to leave my desk to go outside for a few minutes and just listen. The voices were so unlike what I'd grown up with in the Catholic Church where a few worshippers stumble half-heartedly through hymns. Here in this modest yellow Sowetan church, every single person was singing. And it was beautiful.

Amazing things like this happen everyday here in Soweto and I must make time to record them before they evaporate.