19 June 2009

Ndumiso Ngcobo on National Identity in South Africa

We have been recently working on few ideas that focus on identity on an individual and national level. We have thought about questions like what does it consist of and how could it be strengthened. Is there even a national identity in South Africa and if there is or at least could be, what would it be like.

We talked with one of our favourite authors Ndumiso Ngcobo (Some of My Best Friends Are White & Is It Coz I'm Black?) and he shared his views:

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Link: Read Ndumiso Ngcobo's Blog at Thought Leader (Mail & Guardian)

18 June 2009

Re-thinking Work

This is where I had my cup of coffee this morning. Where did you? Click here to see a bigger version of the panoramic shot.
Few things need to be re-thought

A few things need to be re-thought. Of course, I believe absolutely everything needs to be re-thought constantly, but specifically, the concept of an effective working day.

Work as a word comes with a package. It’s a question of status, livelihood, pride or shame and a large part of our life in hours. It is something that should start either 8 or 9 o’clock in the morning and take our time until the early evening. If this criteria isn’t met, it does sound suspicious. But even more suspicious it is should some part of the working process take place in an unusual location. Outside the office or wherever one is expected to sit nicely for all those hours every day. We the people have adopted these rules of work and even if we had a chance, which not everyone does, we would guard our own jail door with a vigilance of the worst prison warden with one unquestioned mission in mind: must look like I am doing something and then, almost definitely, I am.

Ok, maybe some of these words are a bit strong and for most people, there isn’t really a choice where to be when the work takes place. Many probably don’t even care. They just clock in and grind out. Also, for most people, there might not be anywhere nice nearby where they could come up with better ideas. I, however, am lucky enough to have plenty.

Cape Town is a big city that combines urban and natural within a smallish area. The mountain and all the beaches are accessible especially if you have a car and a bit of time. There’s some of the most amazing places up there on the hill and I can see our house from there. That’s how close they are.

So, today we decided to have a strategising meeting up the mountain. Or somewhere on the way to the top. To have a nice cup of coffee in the most amazing natural environment in quietness while watching down to the buzzing highways of the city and the stressball that is the city centre. It’s a healthy exercise. In order to see, one needs to metaphorically take a step back and look at the context and the bigger picture. This is exactly what you can do up here not only as a figure of speech but also literally. The active hiking reduces your stress and uses the energy in things other than frustration should that be the case otherwise. It leaves you with you, the nature and your ideas.

It’s pretty great. I feel we had a very productive meeting in the most positive atmosphere, and enjoyed a very refreshing cup of coffee from the flask and took in the winds of the two oceans. It’s easier to think outside of the box when you step out of it. Isn’t Cape Town great sometimes.

Amkelwa on our coffee break. Notice the new hair do.

14 June 2009

Book Fair '09

I was thinking about writing something incredibly witty, informative and all around top notch stuff here, but then I decided against it. I sometimes try it - actually almost always - but now I surrender to the tiredness and that's just fine. Still, I wanted to post some photographs from Cape Town Book Fair '09, which we attended this weekend. Last year we were on the scene like James Brown every day of the event, but this time, as the book store chain's bonus card only provided us with a moderate discount and no free entry like last year, and in all honesty, the offering didn't look as good as last time, we decided on one day visit. After initial inexplicable, yet distinct sense of awkwardness we went to listen to some pretty cool talks and panels. That's where the event really is. Rest of it is quite elitist and self-congratulatory.

At some point I will finish editing some audio we recorded with Ndumiso Ngcobo. He's definitely one of my favourite South African writers.. the books and the blog and all. We talked with him last year as well. He's a cool guy. Not one of those times when meeting your favourite whoevers will ruin enjoying their stuff because they were unbearable.

Ndumiso Ngcobo talking, signing and with Amkelwa.

Another talk we attended was a panel about a book called The Prize & The Price. The book is a collection of writings on sexual equality in the society. We initially wanted to hear Professor Kopano Ratele's views, but ended up enjoying a good variety of speakers.

Professor Kopano Ratele from UNISA

As said, the audio material will be uploaded as soon as it's edited.

4 June 2009

Four Years of This

Early June 2005 was warm in Finland. I remember it well. The story in itself might sound a bit grim, but I have fond memories myself. I was in hospital somewhere halfway through my chemotherapy. The hospital ward in Helsinki is on the 7th floor of the building. That might not sound too high up, but considering that the city isn't built upwards, the views are good and there's nothing much to block them. I sat down in the corner of the communal meeting space where the new computer had been installed with a free internet access. From a window I saw the Baltic Sea and the seagulls flying near the coast line and its tall trees next to the rowing stadium of 1952 Summer Olympics. I had been thinking about blogging a lot for some time, but now, a drip in my hand I decided to start my own.

After that a lot has happened and quite a lot of it is recorded here. Some periods were more quiet and some quite active when it comes to writing, but all in all, it's been one of the best hobbies I've ever had. After opening this blog I've also had five other blogs, some of them still ongoing, that I've managed, I've created few more and contributed to some others as a writer and photographer. It's been an addiction of some kind.

The look of the blog has changed few times and most recently it did last week. I liked the previous one as well, but unfortunately the code had some trouble that I didn't manage to fix so I decided to change it once more. Now I am rather happy about it.

While my blog celebrates its 4th anniversary on 8th of June, two days before that on the 6th Inner Sense, my wife Amkelwa's blog has its first birthday. I find that to be really cool as well.

Thank You for coming and do come back. I intend to be here for some more time.

2 June 2009

Prepaid Existence

A bit of moaning here. Or maybe it is just a lesson learned. Prepaid everything is the way to go in South Africa. I have decided to minimise the amount of signed contracts because they are hard work and in my empirical study, some would call it just life, a full hundred percent of them have caused me unnecessary bureaucracy, a lot of faxing (many companies are yet to figure out the beauty of emails) and basically just a lot of time and money wasted. I've been blamed, guilt-tripped and ignored, but most of all sent bills for services I haven't used in a flat I haven't lived in in a long while. Oh, and of course those faxes I mentioned generally get lost at the offices so they had to be re-sent.

We are still trying to address some of our past mistakes of signing the dotted line with all kinds of companies, but currently we have prepaid electricity, broadband and of course mobile phones. It has been a great relief as I haven't had to make one phone call or send one fax and everything has worked really well. Also, getting the prepaid services generally is much less stressful exercise as it doesn't require any copies of passport or an ID book, your grandmother's maiden name or a pencil test.

Now our broadband cost has gone down nearly by half and electricity by 75%! Also, I haven't yet spent any of my prepaid mobile phone airtime to plead anyone to fix their mistakes and I haven't had to fax one copy of any payment as a proof that it's been made (as if the bank wouldn't communicate this anyway). It might sound insignificant, but I used to spend few hundred rands a month to be transferred from one uncaring person on the phone to a next one. That is a lot more than we now pay for a whole month's electricity. I wish this would have happened a long time ago.

I started writing this post feeling a bit angry at a specific electricity company, but while I am still waiting for them to rectify their mistake from February and give us some money from deposit, I actually realise that our current situation is pretty cool. How nice.