30 October 2008

What I'll miss.

Ice cream on the waterfront at Kaffee Eis. When Stuart worked at NZX we would meet there for an afternoon break. There is nowhere that has better ice cream or more interesting flavours: chai, ferrero rocher, passion fruit! I just wish they had more reliable opening times.

26 October 2008

Advertising the family

This is not really my style of music, but I have to say that I am pretty impressed with the effort my nephew has made. He is the drummer, and filmed and edited the film with his friends. Another film maker in the family.

25 October 2008

Rip off much?

Now that I finally managed to crack the net lock on my iPhone, allowing me to use it with any SIM card, I am starting to look at data plans here in New Zealand. .

The iPhone really is deprived of most of its functionality if there is no access to non-wifi data, i.e. 3G. It was pretty straightforward in South Africa, where I had a pay-as-you-go card and just converted some of my minutes to data as needed.

Returning to New Zealand I spent an hour perusing the confusing range of plans on the Vodaphone website - YouChoose, Base, Starter, iPhone - until I thought I knew what I wanted. 200MB for $40 seemed ok, and there was no minimum contract, which was important since I am leaving in January. So I call them and change the plan, all well and good. It's when I call tech support to get the access details to allow the phone onto the 3G network that I find out that iPhone data is not the same as normal data. Apparently I can't just use the normal data plan, I need an iPhone specific one. Whatever. But this one has a 24 months minimum running time, so I would have to pay to get out of it. So basically if you have a phone that can really use the data you pay for, you need to commit yourself for two years.
I declined that offer, stuck with my vanilla data plan and so far I have had normal operations. So much for those sales tactics.

24 October 2008

In Conclusion

I've now been back in Wellington for two days and slowly waking up from my zombified jetlag state, I notice that there has not been a bit of blue sky since my return. So, to cheer me up - and for the rest of you stuck in cold climes, here is a slideshow of all my best South Africa photos so far.


Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.

18 October 2008

what people say

Isn't it?! = Really? You don't say?
Shooo (sure) = ok
Jaaaah = yes
Yebo = totally

Mobile Blogging from here.

Blast from the Past: Dubai construction workers

Once I wanted to make a film about a day in the life of a labourer in Dubai. All around us where we lived on Sheikh Zayed Rd were new construction sites and every morning, lunch time and evening we saw endless groups of blue/green/orange-clad young men either appearing from dusty buses or waiting to board them to go back to wherever they spent their nights. It turned out to be impossibly difficult to make contact, find willing subjects or gain access to the sites and hostels where they live. Most documentaries I saw about Dubai mentioned the poor working and living conditions of imported labour on construction in the UAE, but even the BBC didn't seem to be able to get access to show real live footage.

Now a Guardian reporter seems to have been able to do the impossible, and report on it without condescension or hand-wringing: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/oct/08/middleeast.construction

It makes me feel better that this injustice is finally being made visible.


It's been a dry dry winter here according to those who have been here longer than I have, so everyone was very happy about the downpour we had last night. There as thunder and most impressive lightning (which I still don't know how to photograph, so you have to imagine great streaks of light across a purple sky with loud bangs of thunder following 330m/s later). We hoped that the rain would wash away some of the dust that has accumulated on the steps and the balcony, but this morning there was no sign of it having rained at all. No puddles, no mud, no washed concrete. I guess it's too hot, the rain just evaporates.

Melrose Arch Long Long Table


Last night, after two days of constructing stages and stetting tables outside, rigging lights and sound and removing cars from the road, the Long Long Table event took place here. It's a charity dinner for the Starfish foundation which looks after HIV/AIDS orphans, of whom there are far too many in this country. There were fire jugglers and stilt walkers and by all accounts everyone was thoroughly entertained and well fed.


You can see more photos of the event here.

13 October 2008

Shopping in foreign climes

It seems so simple. Go food shopping for two people who eat out a lot: some juice, crisps, some cheese and crackers, fruit, milk and teabags. A doddle. But. You have no transport. And not only don't you know where the nearest supermarket is, but you don't know what it's called, and when you find out the names of the shops you don't know where you get the freshest fruit and what teabags are strong enough and if it's ok to take the trolley out of the shop with you. And then you try to find your way back to the car park in an unfamiliar shopping mall that somehow reminds you of Dubai with the glitzy shops and the designer clothes, but despite checking the map constantly - I can't believe I need a map to get around the shops - you still walk past the same carpet shop three time. And I haven't even started on trying to figure out a currency that has multiple versions of each coin...
I can't wait till I get round to working out how to buy my (pre-paid) electricity and get the broadband set up. I'll let you know how that works out.
Mobile Blogging from here.

Am I Back In Dubai?

12 October 2008

Soweto Architecture

Diepkloof House

One of the posher parts of Soweto, Diepkloof has schools and quiet streets.

New building

The former men's and women's hostels are being replaced with family accommodation by the municipality.

flats in Pimville

These flats near Freedom Square in Pimville are part of the renovation of Soweto.

Soweto stadium

The renovation work for the 2010 World Cup is coming along. Johannesburg is getting 6 stadiums, two of which are in Soweto.

Soweto and gold mine slag heap

Some people still live without electricity or running water in the shadow of ginormous slag heaps left by the gold mines.

You can see more Soweto photos here.

11 October 2008

Maropeng and the Sterkfontein Caves

Our weekend trip took us to the Cradle of Humanity. I'll let Stuart tell you all about it in his blog:

10 October 2008

Three Soweto Entrepreneurs

All throughout my youth I had heard of Soweto, the South Western Township on the outskirts of Johannesburg, hotbed of ANC activity and location of frequent uprisings and clashes with the Apartheid regime. So I was pretty excited to finally be going to see it. I had heard all sorts of descriptions and been given advice, from the "you can't go on your own, you'll get mugged" to "why do you want to go, it's just a slum" to "you'll love it, it's such a hip and happening place". So thoroughly confused, I took a drive there with George, the father of a friend of a colleague of Stuart's. George is my first entrepreneur. He is 70 and retired from a job at a bank. He took a course with the Tourism Authority and now drives tourists through his home suburb. Apart from his in-depth knowledge of the area, having lived there since the 70's he also has some interesting stories about life under Apartheid and some pretty definite political views: "I don't give a man food, I give him the means to get his own food." I met my second entrepreneur (or rather both of them) as we were driving through Pimville, a small part of Southern Soweto. As we were driving along, I saw a large red elephant by the side of the road. It turns out that Lebo and Isaac had collected steel reinforcing rods, wire and red onion bags and were building a life-sized elephant. They had based it on a photo found in a magazine and drawn designs based on this to decide where the steel rods should go to form the base of the elephant. After covering the frame with onion sacks there were going to smooth it with cement to make a realistic-looking animal. These were then for sale. Pretty cool. If you want to buy one for your garden let me know and I'll give you their mobile number. I met my third entrepreneur at lunch. A cousin of George's (who seems to know everyone in the neighbourhood) Robby runs a B&B/restaurant/marketing firm. He co-ordinates with the large car companies such as Mercedes, Audi and Lexus to showcase their new models to potential buyers in Soweto. Despite it's large and increasingly well-off population and the building of many shopping malls in the last decade, Soweto still misses out on car showrooms. So Robby fills that gap by putting on a party and drawing in the customers.

09 October 2008

The Constitutional Court

This court has been deciding such important human rights issues as the right of gay people to marry and adopt children; the duty of the government to provide pregnant mothers with retroviral drugs to prevent infection of their babies at birth; abolition of the death penalty... South Africa has the most modern constitution in the World, forbidding discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and disability, for example.

constitutional court

All the justices of the first court inscribed their names into the concrete of the new building.

constitutional court

Nelson Mandela said this about a democratic and free society at the Rivonia treason trial:

"It is an ideal which I hope to live for and achieve. But if need be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die."


He then proceeded to spend 27 years in prison. The days of his and other political prisoners' incarceration are marked on these slabs.


Each of the articles of the constitution is carved into the front door of the court, in all the official languages of South Africa, as well as Braille and sign language.

More pictures from Constitution Hill

The Awaiting Trial Block - 2

One of the remaining staircases from the Awaiting Trial Block

Women's Prison - 02
This is the layout of the sheds built to deal with overcrowding at the women's prison. 4-6 non-White women would spend up to 23 hours a day in a cell built for 2. Women's Prison - 04

The inside of the women's prison. Prisoners were not allowed to cross the central space.

Number Four Prison - 05

Crockery was shared and cleaned once a month

Number Four Prison - 08

The isolation cells at Number 4, the non-White men's prison

Local humour...

It's an article about White wine titled "White Supermacy". Pretty close to the bone when found in the cafe inside the old prison.

Mapping memory

One of the projects helping to visualise the reality of the apartheid prison was to run workshops with returning prisoners to elicit their memories and capture the past. Everyday objects became meaningful when viewed through the decriptions of the ex-prisoners. This woman talked about the difficulty of opening cans brought in by visitors.
Another spoke of being arrested because she forgot her passbook on the way to buying fish in the market.

Constitution Hill

The complex housing the South African Constitutional Court is set next to and around the old prison, an architectural and political stroke of genius. Part of the site is the Old Fort, where White male prisoners were held, the women's prison for White and non-White female prisoners as well as Number 4, the prison for non-White male prisoners. A lot of effort was made to keep political prisoners apart from 'common criminals', non-Whites from White inmates, men from women, in case they realised that there really wasn't all that much difference between them. The whole complex is quite depressing with the tiny cells and sorry conditions prisoners were subjected to. Male prisoners crowded up to 70 in large rooms designed to sleep 30, sharing two toilets. Women shared tiny shacks between 4 or 6 when they were designed for two. Bedding allowances were different for White and Black prisoners, and they were fed different quality of food.

Many Blacks were arrested for violating the pass laws, which required them to carry a registration book stating their entitlement to be in a certain area at a certain time, to carry out certain jobs and to live in specified areas. Between the 1940's and the 80's more than half of all non-White prisoners were pass offenders, or as one of the displays (under)stated: "Without meaning to, it was quite easy to break the law if you were Black".
A passbook
The only building that was completely knocked down to make way for the new court was the so-called Awaiting Trial Block, which once housed famous prisoners such as Nelson Mandela and Mahathma Ghandi. All that is left is a marked outline on the floor and the four staircases reaching up to the blue sky. One of those has been cleverly incorporated into the back of the court chamber, and the bricks gave been recycled to form the wall of the court and the Great African Steps. The design of the court is based on the traditional African concept of justice under a tree, where the chief would receive complaints and discuss matters of state I'm the village square on the shade of a tree. From the lamps to the carpet pattern to the shape of the windows this design is carried through.

Mobile Blogging from here.

08 October 2008

Our new place

Looked at two flats today and true to form (Dubai we looked at three before choosing the one we loved to live in for 2.5 years, in Ipswich we looked at two before buying the second flat we viewed, ok, so Wellington was a little harder, I ran around for a good two weeks) we have decided to move into the second place we looked at. Stuart's employer is keen to find something for us, as the hotel, while fabulous, is excruciatingly dear. So here are a few photos from our quick look round: The living space. Behind the location is a large glass table for dining, which goes into the kitchen. Behind the sofa on the left is the main bedroom and bath, where we will install a screen to separate the bedroom from the living room. Master bedroom. The bathroom is on the left. Biiig bath. Stuart happy. Ergo, Fiver happy. The pool. Maybe finally I can learn to swim proper lengths. The block is two minutes walk from Stuart's work, so he is very keen on it. It's located here:
View Larger Map

07 October 2008

Cool chairs

All over the hotel there are weird places to sit, apart from the 'feet in the pool' cafe I mentioned the other day. Not all are comfortable, but the black lounged built into the stairway is brill. You have to be sociable to sit there, though, as everyone stops to ask how it feels.

Nelson, larger than life

Our first trip to a shopping mall last night, and who should be there but old Madiba himself. The square of course is called Nelson Mandela Square, what else. Just as well we went to buy some books on South African history

05 October 2008

Watching wild animals

For the last couple of years my birthday has been sadly neglected, but this year I followed Stuart to South Africa and he decided to treat me to a special trip: a weekend in a fancy game lodge looking at elephants and lions. As it turned out there were loads more animals to see than we expected, more on that later. From the private deck with views across the valley to the mosquito-netted bed to the massive bathtub decorated with flowers and candles, the lodge was out of this world. It’s a small place, only five huts grouped around a communal space where all the eating and meeting takes place, although it also has a pool and a little remote deck where you can watch the waterhole and see if anything comes to drink. The people wo run the place were incredibly friendly and helpful, arranging a private dinner for us on the first night inclusive of a massive pink birthday cake that we couldn’t do justice to, and a bottle of champagne. We got up every morning early (easily done when one is jet-lagged) to be taken on a game drive. The lodge owns an over-sized Landcruiser customised to allow everyone to see and stay out of the sun. There was much ribbing when the driver found out that we are Landrover fans, unfortunately the Landcruiser never got stuck so we had no opportunity to gloat. We also went out in the evening a few times, to watch the sunset on the veld (what they call the bush here). We saw an amazing range of animals, more than we thought possible: elephants, white rhino mothers and their calves, a lion, a leopard and a cheetah, giraffes, warthogs, wildebeest, various kinds of antelope (one of them dead, having been killed by the cheetah), zebras, baboons, and hippos (although of latter we mostly saw their ears, as they stay underwater to keep cool during the day). It was just incredible to see all these creatures so casually living their existence right next to us, mostly ignoring us as we pointed our binoculars at them. The giraffe was more concerned with keeping an eye on the cheetah stalking it, and the zebra with feeding its foal to be bothered by us. More photos on my flickrstream:

04 October 2008

Before and after

My birthday was quite the success: I managed to scored lots of DVDs as well as some balloons and chocolates. Oh, and then there was the trip to the game lodge. More on that later.

02 October 2008

Motorway services construction sign

The toilet sign is unrelated, but I couldn't resist. They are actually building a whole new services, in the meantime shops and toilets are housed in containers.

Wet feet with your coffee

The pool at the Melrose Arch hotel has extended beyond the standard swimming usage. This afternoon I am the only person here, I am told it is too windy. Oh, and there are clouds, too. Compared to windy Wellington this is the perfect climate.

Recycled flowers

All over the hotel we find these coke can flowers, pretty.

Leaving Sydney

Limbo for a day as I fly from Wellington to Johannesburg via Sydney. That this is even possible. Used to be I got excited about flying home to Germany from the UK, now continent hopping becomes a frequent occurrence.

Posted by ShoZu