24 January 2010

The Champaigne Breakfast

Sunday 24th January 2010

Sunday has always been church day in South Africa. In fact when I was growing up that was the only thing you could do on a Sunday, except perhaps gowing to the dam, as everything else was closed. But the world has changed since then, and I am happy to say that SA has changed along with it - we now have the freedom of choice on how to spend our Sundays, church is one option among many. A popular form of Sunday entertainment is the Champaigne breakfast - well it turns out to be more a brunch as you really cant have any lunch after that.

I spent a good part of Sunday at a brunch held by Rotary, of which I am a proud member. This event was hosted by one of the members in their beautiful garden. Rotary is all about building friendships and this was a great way to get to know my fellow Rotarians a little better. Sharing the communal cooking, grouped around the 'Scuttle Braais', surrounded by a number of interesting simultaneous conversations, preparing mushrooms, tomatoes, eggs, bacon, sausages and even bananas, is not only fun but also connects people in a way that only food can. And the flapjacks - I cant forget the flapjacks with honey, cream and homemade icecream!! The wonderful weather and the great surroundings added another dimension to my life experience in SA.......

The National Religion

Saturday 23rd January 2010

It's Saturday or more accurately Sports Day in Johannesburg. If you dont play a sport then you watch someone else playing it on DSTV or SABC or even through shop windows. Today is the one day of the week that most people feel South African - as sport unites the country, transcending race, politics or language group, and not just the male half of it. Even when you are not actively involved in sport you get caught up in the spirit of gamesmanship - especially when any of our teams win - the hooting and cheering that goes on in the street, on the roads, on every radio station gets you going. As much as we cheer when we win we get gloomy when we lose - we are bad losers!! But it is sport that has the power to heal the wounds of the past as Nelson Mandela so wisely showed us in 1995 when we won the Rugby World Cup.

I love the fact that I can find any sport I fancy in SA - apart from Rugby and Soccer, there is Golf, Swimming, Cricket, Polo, Gymnastics, Dressage, Yoga, Dance and I could go on and on. It is great to live in a country where everyone is so aware of physical exercise and health - and offcourse the weather helps - to create a country of sports fanatics.

The only sports highlight today was the opening of the new Cape Town Stadium Borefest, where twenty thousand people watched as Ajax Cape Town and Santos played out the first ever match at Cape Town's new World Cup stadium. This game served as a trial run to see whether everything worked for the World Cup in June. Apparently people were bored to near insanity in this dull 0-0 draw game.

Me I partook in my favourite sport .... I did the mall jive - a mixture between sauntering, jogging and sometimes, two-stepping, through the many shops, inspecting the merchandise on offer, trying on, and generally feeding my addiction in a three-hour shopping spree, and ending up in the hair salon for a complete hair renovation....... This is a good life....nest pa cheri???

Rain, rain and more rain!

Friday 22nd January 2010

I love rain. Well not all rain - I love summer rain. I love the cooling and cleansing effect of water pouring down. I feel able to cope better with a world that has had a shower - the rain that washes away all its sins - and all its parasites - insects as well as human. The non stop rain of the past few weeks was wonderful - the afternoon downpour is so refreshing even though it causes more traffic jams and accidents - I still love it. We have had torrential rains of unusual proportions - but hey who am I to complain - my garden is flourishing!

Although it is a small garden, it is filled with annuals such as the Salvia SPLENDENS, with the beautiful cycads and succulent aloes, four huge palm trees, shrubs and tree ferns, colourful ground covers, with the splash pool creating the ambience of a water feature. I have developed a nice little herb garden on my back pation where the basil, mint, origanum, sage, rosemary, fennel, celery and chillies are grown in huge pots. These plants are overgrowing their containers and fill the house with their pungent aromas... and it is costing me nothing to water them all..... how glorious... imagine if I had built a water harvester... I wonder how long I could keep the water for??? Does water go off? I should imagine so ... anyway I will look into it but for now I am loving my garden ... a great reason to live in SA.....

The call of the birds!

Thursday 21st January 2010

I wake up every morning to the sound of birds twittering outside my window - yes real twitters - not the social networking kind you get on the internet, but the call of real birds - the robin chats, the 'mossies' (swallows), the doves, the boubou, and many that I cannot name. They feed, roost, perch or breed in my garden and create for me a little piece of Eden to wake up to. Even those that fly over such as the Hadidas with their annoying calls give me a sense of paradise.

Although Johannesburg aspires to join the ranks of world class cities with its gridlock traffic problems, its continuous housing developments and its out of control crime - it is a city that is still in touch with nature with a number of bird sanctuaries that make it one of the best birding destinations in Southern Africa. Its grasslands, wetlands and nature reserves are ideal places for bird watchers with a number of top birding spots around the city of gold. But I don’t have to go birding to see or hear the birds - I have them right in my garden - and nothing is more relaxing than hearing the call of the birds - I only wish I could identify more of them by their call!!! This is definitely a positive factor for living in SA.......

21 January 2010

My Chinese Experience

Wednesday 20th January 2010

Only in South Africa can people make money without knowing any of the eleven official languages - and yes I am talking about the Chinese. At last I got to the China Mall and the China Mart. What a great shopping experience in spite of the fact that most of the shop owners do not speak a word of English or any language we can understand - so we communicate with sign language. What is amazing is that every single item sold in these shops comes directly from China. For those of us who love going from shop to shop, examining merchandise, this will be paradise. The products are endless and the prices are ridiculously low. However a word of caution - be careful not to get carried away and buy stuff you dont need because it is so cheap.

It is like going to China - a little bit of China in Johannesburg - the food, the cold drinks, the biscuits are all from China - very foreign looking and tasting. I felt quite adventurous and I sampled a number of the items - some I liked and some not.

I must say that I really enjoy the multiculturalism that is SA in 2010 - I enjoy learning about the different ways people think and see the world - it makes life worth living.... and I dont need to travel to far off lands ... I can do it here in SA .....

The Private Swimming Pool

Tuesday 19th January 2010

Even though my swimming pool is small - a splash pool really - I love the experience of jumping in on a hot summer's evening - it is a wonderfully refreshing moment when I lie on my back in cool water gazing up at the stars floating away to the horizons of my dreams. I love water so much.... I often forget how much..... and take my pool for granted. Is it not strange how we hunger after what we don't have but forget to use what we do have?

Now a swimming pool does not take care of inteself - it requires quite a bit of TLC - it is at times when the motor breaks or the creepy crawly needs replacing that I think of getting rid of it. However sanity prevails - with so many wonderfully warm days and nights, a pool is great. A braai around the pool creaes pleasant entertaining opportunities. I love my pool and I suppose I take it for granted and forget that this is another good reason for living in SA...

19 January 2010

Go into Flow

Monday 18th January 2010

The ebb and flow of daily activities take over my days, one after the other, in a steady rhythmic movement that does not allow much room for dreaming. As I focus on the present moment, the only moment there is, I do question whether there is something more - some deeper experience that will enrich my life. How can I find some value in the more mundane, routine things of daily existence? Like a boring commute or doing the dishes, or filing or the endless typing cvs? How do I find joy in doing the things that don't excite me but must be done again and again? Is there some way that I can structure these routine activities so that I can achieve 'optimal experiences' even from the most inane tasks?

Yes there is and I found it. It is called 'Flow', the concept discovered by Csikszentmihalyi in his groundbreaking book, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience (Harper & Row Publishers Inc., 1990), This is a book that is life changing because to know how to get into the 'flow' which happens when I'm fascinated and invested in what I am doing, gives me the tools to create a more productive and satisfying work experience and hence a better life. When I am in high flow I never miss a day. I never get sick. I never wreck my car. My life just works better and I am much more creative, which is essential in this innovation-centric world.

When I am in the flow, I am engaged so completely in what I am doing that I lose track of time. Hours pass in minutes. All sense of self recedes. At the same time, I push beyond my limits and develop new abilities. Indeed, my best moments usually occur when my body and mind are stretched to capacity, that's why I like walking so much. I emerge from each flow experience more complex and become more self-confident, capable, and sensitive. The experience becomes its own reward and improves my life by improving the quality of the experience.

One of the chief advantages of flow is that it enables me to escape the three states of entropy - distraction, depression, and dispiritedness - that constantly threaten me. However there are serveral preconditions before I can get into the flow. These include having clear goals and a reasonable expectation of completing the task at hand. I also need to pratice concentration for longer and longer periods. Because I need to receive regular feedback on my progress, I am constantly invite feedback and try to accept it without defending my actions - quite difficult to do but once you get the hang of it it becomes easier. And finally I am constantly improving my skills so that I have the neccessary ability for that type of work.

The best way to get to flow is to draw up a "performance contract" with myself that includes an assessment of my strengths and weaknesses and a set out,very specific action plan that includes skills upgrade and practice (10,000 hours to become world class. It all sounds pretty standard, but there is a kicker: I need to monitor my progress constantly, at least once a week. I also have a mentor, actually I have more than one, to talk me through my 'stuck' stages.

Flow is great - it has become the centre of everything I'm doing - it synchronise every aspect of my life and it gives me purpose and meaning - espcially when I am working on goals to better society. And South Africa offers me so many avenues to better society - it is a country that is hungry for improvement..... I am at the right place and time to do the most good.