Friday, 26 October 2012

Eat, Sleep & Read

I have been to Kenya 3 times now, all work and no play, decided this time after a conference to take a bit of time out, for my own sanity, and see more of the country.

Took a trip up north to see an island called Lamu, rarely spoken of, used to be the hub for the Arab-Africa goods trade and also used as a transit during the slave trade.
Mombasa is undoubtedly a tropically rich place, but my 2hr trip to Malidi, another holiday destination on the way to Lamu, I was taken by awe at the green lush that consumed the country. I like nature and therefore seeing such greenery was breath-taking especially when the beach/ocean were just a walk away – they kinda reminded me of the garden route on the way to cape town from Port Elizabeth.

Sitting in a matatu i.e. a 14 sitter Toyota mini bus - public taxi, the news reader on the radio station I was listening to commented that the British monarch was apparently not impressed by Prince Harry’s naked photos scandal, she could not understand why they were upset, she and a whole lot of women were certainly impressed with Harry’s pants being down. I burst out with a laughter, and could immediately feel being stared at, clearly I had broken some kind of etiquette, so calmed myself down and stared into my phone as if it would provide some clarity around my little confusion.
Arrived in Malindi, was dropped off in the middle of town, I asked the nearest bus station when the next bus to Lamu is and the earliest was at 07.00 the following day. Had to ask Alex to recommend a place to stay. Sitting at a restaurant, I was told that normally they serve a buffet for dinner but since there was a low turn-out of guests they’ll opt to serve me ‘a la carte’ dinner only , didn’t mind as I don’t eat that much, so without letting him finish his elaborate apology, I asked for rice and beef stew served passion fruit juice, little did I imagine it would cost me 1300KHS for 3 spoons of protein and starch each. Got into my room and realized there is no standard bottle of water and I needed to drink my malaria pills and brush my teeth. The essential factor was the Malaria pill and an easy method of carrying it down my esophagus. I then remembered the bottle of red in my bag which was waiting for Lamu’s beach, atleast the room had a bottle opener, and so I washed the pill with gulp of wine straight from the bottle – bet all the doctors reading this have their eyes popped out…reminded me of all those kids I used to see in Paris walking the streets drunk with a bottle of wine/champagne in their hands as opposed to a can of beer, thought that’s an elegant way of getting drunk or maybe just French norm?

I was told it would take 3hrs from Malindi to Lamu, and since the bus stopped at every little town and I wasn’t aware of its final destination, I started asking my neighbour questions after the third hour…these fell on deaf ears – he was either ignoring me or didn’t understand what I was saying. Panicking, I pattered the front seater’s shoulder and reiterated my question; ‘are we near Lamu yet?’ Delicately he said he’ll let me know when we get there. It took him an additional 2hrs before he said we had arrived.
Lamu bus stop looks like a random ‘round-about’ with shop on the east & west of it, as you near the edge of the ‘round-about’ then you get to see the island and sea water.

Now open water and me don’t mix, hence I haven’t learned how to swim yet – only non-negotiable circumstances would lead me to be in a river, lake, or an ocean. Getting to Lamu was one of those non-negotiable circumstances. To get to the island from mainland is by boat, I had to get into a fishing boat that looked like it carries six yet there were eleven of us…sitting at the back next to the engine and the ‘captain’, I was alert with every turn just in-case I needed grab onto him.
Extremely-laid-back is an expression I’d give to Lamu, perfect vacation spot to just relax and that’s exactly what I had in mind. I stayed at Subira house, a villa guest house with superb hosts.

One odd day I decided to take a walk from where I was staying –old town and headed to Shela where the beach is, a good 45min relaxed walk…if the tide is low you walk some parts on the beach itself, I wasn’t so lucky so took some shortcuts. Discovered some castle built on the far end of the beach and made a collection if shells.
Before I headed back, I decided to treat myself to a great lunch at one of the islands’ most expensive hotel – Peponi! Paid for the lunch with my credit card…LOL. After the good lunch, I walked back and got lost in one of my shortcuts, found myself in the middle of the ‘forest’ and lost, fear had grabbed me by the balls as there were no people anywhere. Scared, I kept on bumping into fences indicating people’s farms. If ever there was a perfect time to be mugged in day-light, it would have been then, with both my phones & wallets and not knowing where I was and too full to run for it. After a while I spotted a boy and asked him how to get to town, panting and sweating I found the buzzing streets and walked into ‘Whispers Restaurant’ and asked for tea – to calm my nerves. That was an experience and a half.

2nd time in Lamu, arrived on Sunday the 14th, this time I took a flight – Fly540 straight from Nairobi, a 2hrs flight via Malindi…I gotta say that turbulences in a smaller flight are terrible. I could actually feel the pilot stepping on the brake pedals mid-air attempting to land. I always try to sit next to the window so I can see death approaching - in-case the engine decides to drop from the wing.

Felt like I was here just yesterday, except now I’m in the quieter part of the island – Shela. The view from my room is great, all I intended to do this time around was sleep through-out my stay, and did exactly on the Monday – slept the whole day, woke up for only 4hrs which were breaks for eating and reading.
It was the first time I’d seen low-tide in such mass scale. Between 10am and 1pm, the sea surrounding the island just disappeared in some places, rocks appeared in the middle of nowhere, sand emerged making the beach seems bigger & longer, and boats had docked on empty ground.

As i headed out, I take away two things from my visit to this island – it’s still very much ok to give without expectation to receive and its sometimes stress free to just let your hair down i.e. travel without a compact plan. It’s my 5th time in Kenya and I think I should try and experience West Africa now. Nigeria is calling me and I should answer its call eventually.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Globe Trotting

Going to America
I’m reminded of that horrible movie with Eddie Murphy where the royal 'African' goes to America to find a ‘wife’!

As always I was in a rush before flying out i.e. receiving the visa 8 hrs before, going to the office briefly to download emails, changing money at my bank 5hrs before, picking up my bag at home 3hrs before and finally hoping on the Gautrain (first African speed train) 1,5 hrs before, only to meet with Morena who happened to be going for a joy ride with colleagues – doesn’t &%* just have money to waist, you need to spill some in order make some…neh! :)

Let me say South Africa, I was impressed by the way you project managed the world cup, the English media was certainly not impressed that you could pull that one off…they just need some sunshine in their lives. As I hoped on the Gautrain I could have shed a tear of joy imagining if the world cup critics were pissed off to exit the country on a 15min Gautrain ride in European style…instead I opened my bottle of Bonaqua water to drink only to have it splash all over me and my seat. I was warned by some attendant that I need to clean that up or I’ll get a 600 ZAR fine…luckily a lady gave me her tissues to clean up my mess – I must say it was actually embarrassing because the wall behind me had all the rules…one of which is do not drink inside!

Lors de mon voyage vers les Etats-Unis avec Air France…you can imagine my ‘excitement’ of having to go through the ‘lovely-people skilled’ Paris Ch.De Gaulle (CDG) airport, after stripping a couple of times for anything metal and heading to the gate - my hand luggage was stopped because I had Amarula Cream, so I naively asked why do you stop me cause I bought it at duty free…with her arrogant look & broken English she said; ‘ where did you buy it’ and I replied; ‘ Johannesburg’ …then she said; ‘ ahh, well you didn’t buy it here, Johannesburg is not in Europe’ . Stunned with eyes wide open, I asked; ‘so if I bought it in Europe, it would have gone through’? trying to collect her words together to make a sensible English word/sentence I told her to keep it and enjoy!

Sorry William that was your present as my host for the first days!

After 25hrs of flight and gaining time…I prefer to call it ‘going backwards in time’, I arrived. Ohh yes it looks exactly like in the movies, some preconceived ideas were confirmed - I had heard about food coming in huge packs/bulks and so it did (I was full on the 3rd bite of a burger at a barbecue), but the space needle seemed smaller from the balcony window. Saw a 1,5litre mouth wash & a 500g roll-on deodorant for just one guy, the beer bottle was 1litre with 8% alcohol content (drunkards:)).

I was pleasantly surprised by the friendliness of people straight from the airport (beats the Paris airport twice as much), I found Seattle very chilled (I thought It’d be mad rushing town) and learned that Starbucks Headquarters is here also (told….they have a huge market in Istanbul). Life seemed easy i.e there is plenty of choice for consumables, transportation, entertainment, life-style, etc. Everything is sooo explicitly-simply written e.g. in the bus, they tell you where the escape route is, how to escape & graphics drawn on how to scape…thought that was hilarious.
I was was asked for an ID everywhere I went to consume alcohol, the drinking age is 21, I mean I have a body of 16y.o. but certainly not the! Since it’s uncommon for me to be asked for such I hardly carried my passport around – had to bride a bouncer $10 at one club…now that I think about it he was expensive!!

Microsoft headquarters aka Microsoft campus is in Redmond, about 20min bus ride away – a beautiful bus ride over the lake. The Ms campus is a ‘real’ campus with about 120-something buildings, the good thing is that you can take a shuttle all over the place. Spent 10 days with colleagues – real pleasant people and appreciated the time they took out of their family schedule to hang-out after work hours.

I loved my time in Seattle…i gave US a break,next destination for US is NY!!!


Was excited to be back and knowing my way around the airport to get to customs – felt like a slap in the face when the freaking guy made me wait 15-20min while he helped other people then decided to finally stamp my passport, when I asked what the problem was, he said: ‘ no problem’. I got really upset…asked some girl sitting at a desk if she understood English and she said yes, I explained my ‘customs experience’ and asked who should I talk to – to understand procedure because I’ve just been stopped for 20min for no reason. She looked at me and said ‘do u have a problem’…my eyes went wide open with shock and I told her to forget it!

Slept in Bebek (beautiful view when i woke up - pic attached), spent day-time in Levent, and nights of drinks + dinners in Taksim…slept roughly 4hrs each day. The heat was too much though – 30 degrees & 90% humidity – sleeping with a fan but still waking up sweating and walking around with handkerchief was a little overboard…either way I had missed Istanbul’s beauty and I loved the 5 days I spent reconnecting with friends.

When I connected in Paris, I boarded Airbus A380 – this plane is huge i.e. it’s a double story with 5 engines on just one wing…I need to understand the physics of how this big steel bird stays in the air.

Since Istanbul was so hot, I landed in Joburg with shirts and a light shirt - it was freezing cold & I looked odd in the train to Sandton.

After 17 days, 58 hrs of flight in 3 countries & cities - where i experienced winter + summer, wish the guy on this link would have been on all my flights to make them bearable...!/video/video.php?v=93370772375&ref=mf

Wednesday, 17 March 2010


I packed in about 30min (…selfish me – thanks Rosa for the help). One year of living in Istanbul equaled 3 suitcases and one backpack (this excluded the clothes I left behind), weighing approximately 56Kg i.e. 46kg for 2 checked-in suitcases and 10kg for the hand luggage suitcases + backpack. You can imagine that dragging these monsters aint easy – thank you Burak for helping me all the way to the airport.

Apparently I had spent 1 extra day than I shouldn’t have on my visa, to me the visa said I have 31 days but I was supposed to have spent and left on the 30th day,I think a visa should coming with a manual, anyway I payed about $105 for the one day…I think they forgot that in that one day I contributed to the economy – wine aint cheap and not so great either…so after payment I proceeded to the ‘ penalized’ people’s gate #16 meant only for diplomats & NATO status individuals , and I’m like… WOW it only takes $105 of penalty fee to have a diplomatic route for 5minutes?

Landed at OR Tambo International Airport (Johannesburg) and got lost, I had to ask the patrolling police where the post office & toilet were, that was embarrassing! I am glad though that the airport is looking good. My brother was shocked by my luggage needless to say the guy who came to pick me up in his petite ford fiesta which was clearly not suited to carry my luggage so we sat with them on the seats.

The summer heat can give you a tan within 15min, fresh mango smell in downtown Johannesburg is divine and on my way home to my mother’s house i.e. Free State province - the sundown gave the open savannah and the harvested corn field lands a golden reflection which reminded me on how beautiful South Africa (Mzansi) really is…

I made a resolution to travel within the country and see the beauty we are blessed with before/during Easter, thanks to
here for showing me what I have been missing.

I must admit that I miss Istanbul’s transport system as compared to here, there were many options i.e. taxi (cab), dolmus (10 or 14 seater - Toyota kinda taxis), metro bus, undergrounds metro train and boats across the Asian and European side. These options made travelling a bit easier to counter the traffic at peak hours, Johannesburg traffic is just as bad…actually worse now, so you either own a car (which I would advise) or you take the taxi – with drivers that are rude and don’t obey rules or you take a cab which will cost you a minimum of $10 just to move 100 meters. I need to finalize my license and get a car period! This victim state I am in is frustrating.

South Africans a nicer I must say…its standard to greet when you get into a taxi (in any of the official languages) and you will get a response, you can rely on getting assistance when asking for directions and you will definitely get service with a smile – even if its bad service…it will come with a smile and you will pay 10% tip on the bill :)

I had forgotten though how sensitive we are about security and how much we prioritize it, this is visible by the high gated walls with electric fences that are nicely part of the house decoration, the dogs that guard the yard and the armed response signs put everywhere in residential areas …it’s understandable though – even all my senses became alert upon landing.
…can a South African tell me why there are so many people standing at the door when a plane opens its doors – is this JZ’s employment alternative . . . they are blocking the freaking way!

I still yet have to get accustomed to how expensive life has gotten lately. A cheap meal in the northern suburbs starts at approximately $7, fuel at about $1.50 for a liter and accommodation for a 2 bedroom apartment starts at $700 whereby a bachelor studio is $450.

The other day after work I went to catch a taxi, I could not help but stare at the ‘rush hour’ traffic that was stagnant or should I say moving at a ‘bumper-to-bumper ‘pace. Then I remember Nancy (a German girl we used to live with in the Auckland park house) when she said she has never seen so many German cars i.e. BMWs and Mercedes in just one city as in Johannesburg. Staring for a duration of about 10min within 50 meters I could see only fancy cars i.e. BMWs 1 series, Audi A6 & A8, Mini Coopers, VW’s EOS and Mercedes. South Africans are materialistic and I had forgotten that it’s about what you drive!

I am settling in slowly and surely and will update about my 2010 projections in the next round.


Tuesday, 01 December 2009

Realization - Actualization.

‘Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like hard work.’ Thomas Edison

The quote helped me answer some questions I was having a dilemma on. Below is a brief note on some highlights as my blog is long overdue on an entry.

  • Opening facebook account
    Is social media a fad? Or is it the biggest shift since the Industrial Revolution?
    Watch the above video and get familiar with the World of Socialnomics.
    This is the title of the note Luca sent me in his persuasion to make me join facebook, after much contemplation I succumbed and this is the email exchange I sent him:
    “I have resisted facebook because I prefer my life private - facebook presented itself to me as a virtual gossip column hence I have not joined ever since I heard about it 4 years ago. I still refused to join because all people I talked with always spoke about pics of people drunk or in awkward positions, etc…and that is not for me. I do however acknowledge that my block is insufficient to keep up with new acquaintances & current friendships…so to put matters to rest I will join facebook but keep it discreet - It has taken you almost 2 months to convince me to join and so you get the acknowledgement for breaking my unwillingness & stubbornness.

  • Eid
    As some of you will know it was Eid and a long weekend for the Muslim world, this means family time as the streets are dead and everyone has gone to their home town – only us who do not have family here would be bored to death, luckly I spent it with a Turkish Family. A couple of months I had made a pact with Berker that I will spend Eid at his house for the cultural experience, having completely forgotten about it he texted me a day before asking if I am still coming – remembering I had made a bet, I said yes of course I am coming.

    Meeting the parents at the door was a bit of a surprise for them - having no house gift to salvage the situation it was a bit awkward to try and feel at home…but they were overly nice after the initial shock and extremely hospitable.
    The same night, I got preparation on how to behave and pray for the following day when we would be at the mosque for morning prayer – it was a fun exercise and I was paying a lot of attention not to fart as I bend & pray :)
    …having slept 4 hours we went for the morning prayer (a bit of a shock for the people at the mosque – the children could not stop staring at me), then went back to the house to prepare to visit relatives (it’s a time reconnect and share moments with family and friends ), at the same time the house ended up receiving guests aswell…it was kinda strange but interesting to be introduced to the guests of the family, I am sure they must have had to make a lengthy explanation of who I was and what I was doing there – it was in Turkish so luckily I escaped the interrogation :D. The most fascinating experience was when everyone had to leave we would stand around in a circle from the oldest to the youngest and would kiss and momentarily place the hand of the eldest member of the family on our forehead as a sign of respect…I did it for Berker’s grandmother and that was humbling.
    Once we visited some other family members, I was so exhausted from the lack of sleep and activities of the day that I kept on dozing-off during the conversations, I could not help it and it was embarrassing! Imagine the first time I come to your home I keep on dozing off (even if the conversations was in Turkish and I didn’t understand)’s just rude – I am sure my first impression was not very impressive, but I apologized.
    Besides my little moments, I really enjoyed my time at Berker’s house…thanks Berker, these are the kind of experiences that make my time in Turkey tolerable and memorable.

  • Morocco
    I went to Morocco 2 weeks ago, the second country in North Africa and it was incredible. I landed at the airport, the declarations people stopped thr row of people from Istanbul because thez had caught a women who didn’t declare anything and she was being dramatic and making so much noise. Next to us was another row of a flight from France – since I was carrying a package on behalf of my roommate for her house in Morocco, I jumped into the row of people from France, while I proceeded to exit I noticed I was holding a plastic bag written ‘duty free – Istanbul’…I just ignored it and continued walking – if they had stopped me I would acted very dumb J. I got out of Casablanca airport and caught a train to rabat thanks to the guidance of a moroccan guy who came to visit family from france – I always feel humbled & overly thankful when i meet helpful people in times of confusion and misdirection and they don’t want any kinda of compensation for their help.
    Arrived in Rabat, met really cool people and chilled at a beach house, with a nice beach, blue/white cold Atlantic Ocean watching the sunset on the horizon…I had not had that in a very long time. The first two days I spent it with Amine’s family and it was a hospitable environment…thanks Amine – say hi to your parents for me, they finished the cookies before I even finished unpacking.
    Then I was chairing a motivational/leadership conference of AIESEC in Morocco for 4 days i.e. 3hrs sleep max, innovations, adjustments, frustration and good conversations…thanks you guys for having me – I am still waiting for my sugar cubes.
    I am definitely going back to Morocco, too much unexplored!!
    On the flight back, an Italian and Moroccan guy decided to go at each other in the middle of the flight i.e. have a loud verbal fight, which almost got physical but thanks to the flight attendants’ intervention it never went that far – that was interesting. Due to my exhaustion I took a nap but was woken up by three guys in front of me praying themselves with some strong cologne…OMG that shit was strong – I had to breathe through my scarf to survive for a good 5min…tell me what the hell would you need a cologne for when you still have 2 hours before your destination – you wanna cut the oxygen supply on the flight?
    As always the Turkish Airlines was late to & from Morocco but I have miles with them now… atleast I get a return on my investment.

  • Garanti Bank
    I bank with this bank not by choice, incompetence is an understatement.
    Can you believe it took them 6weeks to find and bring back MY money they had misplaced in angogold ( – it’s the third time they are so generous to Anglo and now they are charging me $37 for their misplacement…terming it ´interbank transactions´ WTF (What the Fuck)!
    I am livid …and makes it hard to scream at someone who doesn’t understand what you are saying e.g. ‘Do you speak English, no thank you! ‘ Argghh!!!!

  • Randomly Reminiscing
    Being in the job market is actually tough…who ever told you that it’s not is playing with you…you go through all sorts of ups & downs and you get to challenge and be challenged to the core of your being which leads to a lot of introspection and self actualization. You go through a point of exhaustion yet you still have to recover – rise – and deliver.
    This is it!
    Since I heard about the movie after MJ’s death, I thought it to be more of a DVD than a cinema movie, but after watching it lying down on my bed with my laptop on my knees I curse the fact that I didn’t go to the cinema instead cause the movie brought a different light to the guy that was harassed by the media in the last years of his life – he was truly the greatest entertainer of his time, RIP MJ.
    Ø Nobel Price for Obama
    Ohh yes he did…win the Nobel Price! The questions, criticism, jubilation, and enthusiasm came and passed but he has it.

  • Ramadan….and Ramazan in Turkey!
    A while back was Ramadan - my first Muslim religious experience was on the 22.08.2009, and being in a Muslim country I had expected dramatic changes in working routine, people’s behavior, general way of life…well not much changed – not many people at my office were fasting but a good friend was and I always mistakenly asked her out to luncheon - everyday (I swear I forgot everytime) !
    As Sultanahmet is a historical place – half of Istanbul goes there i.e. about 7 million people (…total exaggeration but I wanna give you a glimpse of how pact it is) to break the fast for the day at about 7.30pm. All the 5 times I’ve gone there it’s a food festival but the social setting makes it a pleasant experience for me. One of the nights the company organized a ‘breaking the fast’ dinner at ciragan hotel (one of the most expensive hotels in this country) and I lost my sun glasses (dem mak me nice) which have gone through continents & countries with me – I’m gonna miss them :)

peace out for now...

Sunday, 28 June 2009

The good and interesting, the bad & the ugly

It has been a while since I last updated the blog, in layman’s terms it’s called being lazy and I am in a country that is newsworthy…. So in ‘ pulling my shit together’ I have broken down the article in 3 different formats i.e. the good and interesting (i.e. anything not offending), the bad & the ugly!

The Good…

…I and a couple of friends have been discovering little heavens in this amazing place, There is a nice restaurant in yildiz park (between Besiktas & Ortakoy) called Dahill…you can go there and get the best service I’ve had ever since I arrived in turkey 5 months ago, a great view of the bridge that connects the Asian side and the European side of the city while having a great a buffet…we had a bit of drama getting there though – a taxi driver dropped us in the middle of nowhere and we walked one hour uphill before finding the place with empty stomachs and when we did….boy did we eat :) !!!

After that me and an Australian colleague went to Istanbul modern art gallery in Topane…not for the art though…they have a restaurant that has an amazing view of the bosphorus aswell (but this time our view was distorted by huge cruise ships) and but we enjoyed our white wine anyway…
Then we headed on to a suburb called Cihangir (a trendy/cool place where all starts hang out…has nice cafe’s) for a Cay…it kind reminded me of Melville in Johannesburg.
This past Friday I was on a boat party along the bosphors, this city is nice at night – what a spectacular view…in our admiration I reminded a flat-mate that the night hides all the dirt & chaos that you’d see during the day though…I think I made that comment after my 3rd glass of red wine – don’t remember the brand but it was okay enough to have had a third glass…well actually I had no choice unless I wanted to jump ship and swim to a nearby bottle store – which cannot happen as I cannot swim so I enjoyed the glass of wine and it was not bad :) .

I must say when I got here during winter - I was longing for summer, but now that it’s here OMG…and someone told me that it’s going to get hotter! I get woken up by heat in the morning, when the sun comes up its already blazing its rays into the window and balcony sliding door of the room so I have no other choice but to wake up…otherwise I’ll be fried for breakfast because our room at that time is already getting hotter like a stove increasing heat on an omelet. I was joking with someone Turkish that I bet during the ottoman empire people used to walk naked because they had no air-conditions…and this is humid heat u can’t run away from it unlike dry heat which you can be safe from if inside a house or under a tree. I was telling family back home that I am getting darker by the day due to the heat – I look like I cook copper coins for some doggy government somewhere in the world….then i showed a friend in Switzerland my recent pic and she said I look sun-baked.

…been singing that I need to buy a hat, and will sing that song until thy kingdom come I suppose…

….and the interesting part…

I got the opportunity to be in Antalya…a really nice place with a stone beach (which was nice because you don’t get the irritating sand on your feet when you get off the beach)… during my stay there I got to interact with a couple of people and where is what transpired … the conversation is in a dialogue format - the names have been modified to protect the rights of the :

The 1st conversation
Honey: …so where are you from?
Me: South Africa
Honey: which country are you from?
Me: …thinking she did hear me the first time…; ‘South Africa’!
Honey: ohh…
Me: yes…a country at the end of the African continent

The 2nd conversation
Dick: which country do you come from…?
Me: South Africa
Dick: ok…we have like 5000 Nigerians at our University, I hear you have many languages. Do you all understand each other?
Me: In Nigeria maybe not sure, in South Africa we only have 11 official ones and are broken down into categories which means some are dialects of others.
Dick: ok…but English is what you use to understand each other, right
Me: Where in Nigeria or South Africa? …Nigeria is West Africa and South Africa is very south, but yes for both countries English is a medium of instruction and very well understood but I cannot tell you what Nigerians do as I am atleast 8hrs by flight away from them.

The 3rd conversation
Hairy: hi…where are you from
Me: from South Africa or rather the republic of South Africa
Hairy: no I mean which country do you come from….
Me: there is the region Southern Africa and there is a country called South Africa…google it!

The Bad

It was a nice summer day and therefore headed to this place called Limonlubahce (lemon garden) which was impressive as it felt like a little lemon backyard…they even had some tortoise and cats on the premises…it really looked like someone’s garden and was nice for a Sunday morning with the Herald tribune & Hurriyet international newspapers…and while reading I came across an article called ‘ deep abyss of discrimination in turkey – gender discrimination still exists today’…thinking to myself …well that’s nothing new – I was stunned a bit by the findings though:
74% - being a housewife is as satisfactory as working and earning money
59% - men are better political leaders than women in general
71% - The man should be the leader of the family in our society
67% - some wives may deserve to get beaten by their husbands
89% - It is acceptable that men can have more than one wife …where I come from this is legal & my current president is a best case practice - was wondering if I should say that out loud!
58% It is a sin for a women to walk at seaside or on the beach with a swimming suit…I remember being in Egypt at a resort – I was chilling out at the swimming and a women dived in fully dressed in black, my jaw dropped with horror & that was my first cultural experience about the dress codes of the moslim world.
84% It would be right for women to ask for approval of their husbands to work at a job
62% A muslim woman should cover her head outside of the house
78% It is right to stone an adulteress to death
I disagree with this, let he/she who throws the first stone be pure and not a sinner and besides who has a right to take another person’s life in this world?

The study was conducted by interviewing 1,715 people both men & women in 34 cities in turkey….as you can see the interesting part is gender equality or gender inequality…I must admit though that the number of people is too small to have reached this conclusion as Istanbul alone has about 15 million people…

The ugly

A while ago when taking a walk from a café along the bosphorus, we passed with horror as some 12 year old kid got up from a picnic sitting with family – marched to a woman wearing a vail (I assume it was his mother as she was the elder one amongst the other 2 ladies) and started punching and kicking her…OMG I had never seen something like that…a kid beating his mother. Anyway another boy intervened to protect I assume and got a beating himself then one of the ladies calmed him down by a slap and a thorough injection of her nails into his arm skin…he calmed down like an electrical device losing battery power…. I was stunned…loss of words – if he was home he would have gotten a beating of his life by some male authority passing by…even the police would have spanked the shit out him. I still believe in corporal punishment – these kids of today don’t have manners and respect & a good hiding always brings a child back to the straight line…some of us didn’t turn out so bad due to a good hiding now & again!
Let me know how you softies feel about corporal punishment, would love to hear how i should negotiate and have a round-table with children isntead of spanking them...

Sunday, 26 April 2009

Settling – In


  • Hamam – Turkish bath

…I have been bugging the people here (whoever had ear to listen) that I want to go to a Hamam. A hamam is a traditional Turkish similar to the sauna concept but different in the sense that you undress totally then wrap a sarong around your waist but high above your knees (unlike Nordic saunas where you sit-in naked J) – by this time you should look like you´re wearing a mini-skirt (something a lady of the night would wear), then you walk into a hall-like room cemented with ceramic tiles around the walls and on the floor and head straight for the tap where you will see a bowl for you to soak yourself…and I mean pour hot/luke-warm water on yourself as if taking a shower. After this period a heavy looking half-naked guy would come in and ask you to lie on a table-looking marble and you would get a massage i.e. you will be soaked with shower-soap/foam and given a thorough massage while wet, after 15-20 minutes of the massage you head back to the tap and soak yourself more. When tired of having water running into your ear and nostrils - head for a section where you lie on an extremely warm floor and reminisce. This process can take an hour to ten hours, just depends on your enjoyment, schedule, company – I would not recommend that you go alone, it can be a social thing, that’s if you prefer socializing half naked…it was funny just writing that J. Remember though that this is a traditional-conservative society so the baths are separate for men and women but they have mixed ones for all you kinky people out there.
After that experience – I felt light for a whole week.

  • Food

The cuisine is generally great much to my surprise, I had no expectations so I have been really impressed – hasn’t made me sick yet but it is a bit awkward that at some restaurants I have to point at what I want cause the menu is not in English and the waiter can’t do much in assisting as they don’t speak English either, so I point at what I want and hope it’s not an endangered animal on my plate as I take a dish with meat 90% of the time. Fortunately the dessert is super good and pointing it out is no problem at all.

  • City’s busyness and energy

I live in Johannesburg, a city of about 10 million but the busyness, energy & traffic is different and at another level here, there are about 15 million people living here so that makes the routine to work in the morning and back a bit of a trip. Another city I have been to that would equal this kind of human energy is Cairo, would love to go to Lagos – Nigeria & Shanghai – China to feel the vibe there aswell.
Big cities usually give one a wider variety of choice in consumer goods & services and the manner of deliverance is usually efficient, but the down-fall of this life is the human contact/relationships – they are kept at a minimal range because people are either too busy working hard and/or making money…hence city people usually die alone if they don’t have family from the outskirts.

  • The fusion of two seas engulfing the city

…summer is going to be amazing. Now you know that the city is divided by a Bosporus/strait from the black sea into the Mediterranean sea and that is that why İstanbul is said to be ´east meets west´ i.e. has a European side and an Asian side.
After picking up a colleague from Morocco from the airport and partying until 5am, we woke up at 10am, took a boat over the Bosporus to the asian side where the other expats were waiting for us for breakfast – can´t remember how many nationalities where present at that breakfast table but it sure was many and I sure was hungry. The city´s areas around the Bosporus are amazing even in winter so you can imagine what I will see in summer.

  • Troy

The events that happened a couple of hours before this theater play were very dramatic – a topic for another day!
Anyway we were invited for a theatre play of Troy, my first theater performance since I arrived here and I strongly recommend it – the belly dancing part of the show was amazing, I fully understood what they mean when they say belly dancing is an art of seductionJ. I guess in summer this city will be alive with more arts and I am certainly looking forward to that.

  • People

Once you break the barrier and get to know people, they are very much hospitable and nice. I have spent afternoons with some people who could not speak English but their welcoming note was humbling and much appreciated – it reminded me of home where you are offered food even if you are not hungry & you don’t dare refuse as it may seem impolite. You do basic things like get off a chair in a public place for the elderly and you will have someone cancel their schedule just to show you around town and places you need to go – thanks Hande for the bank favor….much appreciated :)

  • Mistaken Identity

Ehehmmm….I have had incidents where people (esp teens) would pass-by and call out Obama in my direction, a bit surprised and frowning at the outburst, I usually think to myself maybe I should tell them that he is my uncle and lives down the street from me…wonder if they would believe me…it would be extremely funny if they actual did. The outbursts have gotten to a point of irritation but I will take it in good faith as I am not sure whether they’re friendly remarks or not….


  • Getting Sick

There is nothing as bad as getting sick in a foreign country and having nobody to babysit & spoil you ….but serial travelers like us have learned to survive I guess – crying is not an option. A colleague got sick and the response given was very offensive to me as it made it clear that people have very little knowledge about Africa & its people – the very same region they claim to represent & ‘think’ they know something about…never mind the insult of being called Africa like its one country instead of the 50-odd number of countries it represents.

  • Opening a bank account

It took me a month just to open an account; the English language is a serious problem & I think the city needs to address it especially in business areas. Something which could have been done is less than a week took that long cause I kept on being referred to someone else. The latest incident was when I walked in a branch – it was empty – 5 tellers doing nothing and I asked for assistance and nobody spoke English and the bank claims that they are international and English is a language of usage…I was expected to do a 360 degree turn around and just walk away…which I did, it’s useless to have tantrums they wouldn’t what you are going on about & you don’t want make a fool of yourself either. These things prompted me to ask a colleague to come along to translate and I really don’t think that should have been the case.

  • No proper pavements for pedestrians

I live in Osmanbey area, which is alright but every rainy morning I get to work wet not because I had no umbrella but because there are no proper drainage systems and the water just stays in the middle of the road and the pedestrian part of the road is taken by hawkers and it was worse when it snowed…I got to work with the bottom part of my trouser wet like I was crossing the nile river during the rainy season…the pedestrian crossings we see are too few aswell – and cars here don’t have wait for pedestrians – pedestrians wait for cars….otherwise you will be minced meat before you know it… if dare and walk across oncoming traffic at your free will.

  • The intensity of being looked at

I have been looked at for no apparent reason in many of my travels – I guess I will have to get used to it, it’s fine when a child just looks as if to have noticed something out of the ordinary – atleast I am content that it’s a child at its all innocent but its usually strange when an elder looks the same way as I am not sure whether its genuine interest or dislike when they are facing my direction so I try to avoid the gaze at all costs.
Chocolate/caramel skin is a sense of attraction as I have gathered - sometime receiving a positive welcome and mostly a negative reaction. Countries in Africa; South America; some European countries e.g. France and the US + Canada should not be surprised as diversity is their middle name.

  • Communication is a big obstacle

This I don’t mind, my first days in Lugano – the Italian speaking part of Switzerland were the same, it just means that I have to adopt and be open enough to learn enough to communicate my needs…but I must add that certain places really have to upgrade by using the international medium of instruction i.e. English …it needs to taught to employees especially at banks because this is such a tourist city and because of the fact that the country wants to be part of the European union.

  • Being ripped off by taxi drivers

This seems to be a continuous phenomenon and the drivers pretend to not understand when I show them that they are cheating me – this I absolutely hate!
How do I tell a 50 year old odd guy that he is being a dick by cheating me…there should be enough old age sense of respect to know that what he is doing is wrong…

  • The dirty water from the geyser

Obviously we order water and it comes in a bottle …you know…like the water bottle you find at work! But I cannot go to the bottle everytime I want to brush my teeth or rinse my mouth. The thought of that water every morning taking a shower gives me shivers but when you have had a 5 hrs sleep and are late for work that is the least of your worries and besides it is extremely hot – would have killed all the germs as everytime I walk into the bathroom the geyser temperature is usually 100%...anyway I am being too dramatic – the water just looks like it had a brush of dust only. The only other times I was not to drink from a tap was İndia and Egypt and I could see why :)

  • Invasion of privacy

When withdrawing money from an atm, people are just behind you like you are in a queue for a vaccine and have the audacity to want to view the screen while you are busy withdrawing & have a conversation while you are at it – the only thing missing is an offer to put my pin on my behalf...i really don’t get that especially when I am broke :) There is no personal space none whatsoever.

....I was sitting at filicor café on istiklal – busiest street I think in the whole of turkey and browsing the internet when suddenly Lira (a South African soul singer) started playing in the restaurant – that just made me patriotic and proud of her as I know how she battled to get into the business and now the recognition & distribution is very much global.

Friday, 27 February 2009


Johannesburg - Dubai

My goodbye luncheon with friends at Rosebank left me heavily intoxicated; thanks to my brother – who packed my stuff - I only collected!!

Got to the airport, sobered up rather quickly when I could not find the forex branch of ABSA bank to withdraw and exchange money. The forex apparently doesn’t exist anymore as they didn´t get the tender (an airport official said) – which left me irritated and confused as exchanging money became a bit of a hassle. Got on a flight anyway – very sober :) !

Emirates is certainly a world 1st class flight – it was my first time in it and it was gentle , the entertainment options are many with top technology, how many airlines give you 10 movies to choose from?!?!

When I landed in Dubai my high expectations were very much shattered, people who I have talked to while visiting or on transit at the Dubai airport always talked about how amazing it is and well…I found it rather superficial – huge paintings with gold frames on the walls, pine trees with a fountain in the middle – giving a it a jungle look and very expensive stores but the contrast was that people were sleeping on the floor like in the Indian train-stations and the luggage trolleys looked like the grocery trolleys used at supermarkets. I had to change money so I can go to McDonalds and the interesting thing was that the coins were all written in Arabic – was not sure how much to pay for my meal and had to therefore give all the coins to the cashier so she could sort me out.

While waiting for my connection flight at the other side of the airport, I passed through a group of guys from West Africa (I assumed west as their body features looked typically west African i.e. tall, masculine-heavy looking, and dark skinned) and sat a couple of benches in front of them, then some Arabic guy (I assume he was an airport official) dressed in a white traditional veil was going around to the black people only and asking for their papers and the ‘West African’ group was rounded-off – he came to me and by then I was highly irritated by what I had seen him doing – he asked for my papers and I gave him my passport with a look that he is disturbing me and it took him a minute to waltz-off but I felt bad for guys even though they probably are not innocent.

Dubai – Istanbul

Obviously my first time to the middle east region even if I was not there per se but in a flight over it. I made sure I watched the screen showing the map in the flight and got a bit nervous when we flew over Baghdad in Iraq, I was wondering if they are not going to shoot the plain from the sky – I know that’s highly unlikely but hey I am the kinda guy who thinks about a plain crash everytime I fly.

When I got to immigration at Turkish airport, the 1st official looked at my passport then looked at me then passed it to the 2nd official who then invited another official to browse through aswell. They kept on looking at me and my passport picture, then scanned my passport if it’s not fake, I then offered my identity book aswell to confirm that it’s really me but I had to submit my ticket aswell. The people behind me in the queue were getting restless and then I finally asked if there is a problem – the official asked me what I am doing here and finally before handing me my passport he said I look too young to be here on a business visa – weather that was a compliment or not, I was just highly irritated and annoyed for keeping me for so long and saying that I am a kid.

Istanbul, Turkey

Merhaba (Turkish for hello)

…don’t know where to start – I have been here 5 weeks and can write a book. Well I’ll start with work and then write about my personal experiences and opinions.

It took me a while to understand what we do exactly – there are so many things going on but now it’s atleast starting to make sense. I am a Community Affairs coordinator for the middle east and Africa region – the work involves strategy development, project-budget-plans coordination, software donation, and etc… The company is great so far, besides getting and using all the latest software which are or will run our lives e.g. the other day we were demonstrated a touch screen model laptop made by HP – the only model existing in Turkey at the moment, you can book a massage every Tuesday for 15min, there is a fridge on all the kitchen floors stocked with refreshments – except alcohol of course, ohh and fresh fruits everyday between 3 & 4pm – so managers if an employee disappears during that time, you know where to find them :).

I normally work 9 – 6 but me and my team (an Australian girl and a Romanian guy) lately have been working until 8pm sometime as there is a project in the pipeline but all the benefits above I guess compensate for the long hours and the fact that you can work from home aswell if you ask your boss – I should try that soon.

The other things is that I work with a Turkish keyboard which was confusing at first and still is – so please forgive me when you see an email that contains characters with an I that has a dot and one without a dot, the other things is that when I get home I have to readjust my thinking as my personal laptop has a german keyboard while when I was home I was using the English keyboard…..see its confusion – confusion!!!

On numerous occasions when I have been travelling, some people would ask – after having gathered enough courage to talk to a foreigner is where are you from and what are you doing here…and my reply would be I am from South Africa (…but they always miss the South part and say ohh Africa) and I work at Microsoft (…an eyebrow would be raised & an acknowledgement sound made as if to alleviate me from a tourist pact to a class of intelligence…so funny).

Personal XP

The cats here are everywhere and soooo well-fed (fat), seems to be common practice to just throw ‘left-overs’ fodd through the window or leave it at a corner in the streets for cats to find…the SPCA in south Africa will be happy that people are actually feeding them but upset that they are not sterilized. Kinda reminds me of the many dogs running around Mumbai, India.

I found it rather baffling though that most tellers in Banks can’t speak English even at places where you’d expect, for example, I have been trying to withdraw dollars and only certain places have that option i.e. airport area, Levent, etc… and this is a city of 15 million people. I work in Levent where I’d expect dollars and English but I had to take a colleague for translation.

There is a great spice market – rather strange that its called that because it sells everything – I mean from spices to a broom and you can negotiate for everything aswell. You just have to go there early enough even though you would not have enough time still, its right by the river so you can pop-by the fish market or a fish restaurant after an exhausting shopping spree.

The transport system is well…different, but not bad at all comparing to south African system, there is a taksi (cad), metrobus (joburg kinda metrobus), metro (the one platform subway arriving every 10min).

The center of Istanbul is called taksim – that is where shops, clubs and restaurants are, then I live in osmanbey area and I go to work in Levent so the metro passes through all this places hence it takes me only 20min to get to work and can also be 15min if I run like I did the other day.

…well the pen is running out of ink and I thought I should get this out to clear way for other stuff.

Hope you liked the chaotic writing :)