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.

17 January 2010

Bonbonierres - Fertility sweets?

Sunday 17th January, 2010

I spent yesterday making sample bonbonierres for my daughter's wedding. I bought netting, ribbon and sugared almonds and set up my dining room ready to await a friend for tea and help. According to Google, the concept behind Bonboniere, originated in France, around 300 years ago, when a small box of sweets (the french word - bonbons) was given away to guests on happy occasions. Over time the idea spread to other parts of Europe, and in particular to Italy and Greece. Wedding Bomboniere (the Italian spelling) consisted of an uneven number (typically 5) of sugar-coated almonds, representing the bittersweet life of a married couple. The five almonds have significant meaning - wishing the new husband & wife: happiness, health, wealth, children & a long life. The Greeks call them 'Koufeta'.

As I prepared for the afternoon's experiment, buying the netting from the Indian factory shop, the ribbon from an Afrikaans woman who is great with screen printing, the crystals from the Chinese market, the sugared almonds from a Greek shop, I thought about the benefits of living in such a cosmopolitan society such as Johannesburg has become. Every single nationality and culture is represented in Johannesburg. There are people here from every part of the world. And since 1994 our diversity is encouraged and celebrated - Nelson Mandela talks with pride about the Rainbow Nation.

Differences make life more interesting I suppose. Especially now that young people ae fusing the various customs and traditions, creating new ones. It was not always so..... no, definitely not. I remember as I was growing up under apartheid only one tradition and one way of life was celebrated or even acknowledged - that of the Afrikaner. Everything was ruled and managed according to the Calvinist tradition. It was a limiting outlook on life - a laager mentality - security was revered above freedom. It created apartheid and we all know the human devastation that resulted from that type of narrow thinking.

South Africa today is one of the freeest countries on the planet - we have one of the most progressive constitutions in the world, which enjoys high acclaim internationally. I feel priviledged to live with such freedom to be who I want to be - and worship whoever and whatever I want - it is a priviledge - and I suppose there is a price to pay for such freedom - the price I am paying for this type of freedom is horrendous crime.

I used to live in a crime free South Africa, where the government regulated every aspect of my life in order to protect me from myself - all forms of entertainment and shopping was closed from Saturday lunch time until Monday morning so that we could play sport on Saturday afternoon and go to church on Sunday. There were laws for everything - from buying of toilet paper to where you could live and who you could marry - all in an attempt to make us a safer society. As they made society safer they slowly chewed away our rights, liberties, and our personal freedoms. Where is the balance? Is a safe zombie society worth giving up our freedoms for? Where is the line between where our right to choose is more important than the government's right to impose their standards on us. Even if it's for our own good?

I am currently undediced about whether the type of security provided by a government that constantly invades my personal choice space is worth my freedom and liberty - I do know however that I am very happy to be able to celebrate my daughter's wedding freely and without restrictions - to be able make bonbonierres for fertility, happiness, health, wealth and long life. Need to go and think more about the price of this freedom .....

Till tomorrow

16 January 2010

An Alien Experience

Saturday 16th January 2010

Last night, I went with a friend to see Avatar. As I am not a science-fiction fan, I went along purely because it is one of those films you feel you must see to keep up with the conversation. We watched it at the Il Grande at Nu-Metro, Montecasino, because it is a block away from where I live and also because it is in 3D animation - and I wore the 3D glasses provided by the cinema. Well I was gobsmacked! What a movie!!

In a true jaw-dropping, Pandora box, experience, I was introduced into a world that I could have not imagined without the help of James Cameron's creature designers, motion-capture mavens, stunt performers, dancers, actors, music and sound magicians, to turn this science-fiction movie into a 21st century fairy tale with flying dragons, magic plants, weirdly hypnotic creepy-crawlies and feral dogs rolled up into a rain forest with a highly advanced spiritual design. The cinematography is dazzling as it blends all the visual elements together with the design, and bring the movie to life for 163 breathtaking minutes. The musical score never intrudes, and the movie maintains a breathless pace that exhilarates rather than fatigues.

The movie is based on the age-old love story that love conquers all. However it does have a clear message - well a couple of messages actually - the strongest of all for me was the danger of mega multi-nationals with power and resources, driven by unstoppable greed. We are shown the importance of protecting the environment and living in harmony with all of nature. But the strongest message was that the heart is the most important weapon we have with which to fight evil.

Cameron changed my concept of aliens from the little green men on Mars, into blue-skinned, golden-eyed, slender giants with long, supple tails from Pandora. It is amazing to note that the Barbie-doll phenomenon is alive and well embedded in the human psyche as the standard for sexiness. I dont know whether this was a conscious or subconscious choice but it will create more anorexic and bulemic girls and boys - my only negative comment on the movie.

However, I did like the big Elphin ears, hopefully for better listening which we all need if we are to stop ourselves murdering one another. This technical breakthrough with its new generation special effects full of action, colour and great sound provided truly sensational entertainment.

Living in South Africa affords me the opportunity to watch world class shows in the comfort of world class cinemas a block away from my home.....
Good enough for me... to feed my movie addiction ..... Tot siens.....

15 January 2010

The Dream African Wedding

Thursday 15th January 2010

My one and only daughter is getting married. I cant actually believe that my baby is really starting her own family - a woman in her own right and no longer just a daughter. Where have all the years gone? What a cliched question!! I suppose I feel lost and afraid. I used to feel strong and full, like a tree with branches and thick leaves, creating a shade and protection for my children to grow and live under - and now I feel that my leaves have fallen and I am no linger needed and only there to obstruct and get in their way. But no more of that - this is an uplifting blog - it is about the advantages of living in SA.

SA has become the wedding destination for many global Jetsetters - and now that we are in the midst of the wedding preparations, which could have been very stressful had it not been for my uber organised daughter, I know why. SA gives the best bang for your buck, whether you choose a safari wedding, a beach wedding, a country wedding or a city wedding, the venues on offer are on par with any in the world. There are even Winelands Weddings on offer. They are elegant, sophisticated and definitely fit for purpose. Whatever your religious or non religious persuasion, from traditional AFrican weddings, to Greek weddings to Protestant, Muslim or even Bahai weddings, we can offer it. Gay marriages were legalised in 2006. And those who want a quickie with magistrate, you can do that to, without having to run to Las Vegas. In fact ANYTHING goes. My daughter has chosen a fusion which will be part Catholic, part Greek Orthodox in a garden weddding, combining the three traditions into one, creating her very own unique and exclusive ocassion. This is a first for me and I am excited beyond belief.

I must say that the value on offer is amazing. The venue she chose is Shepstone Gardens, in Johannesburg. On their website they advertise it as the best kept secret and I have to say I agree with them. It is absolutely beautiful and most of all affordable.

It is going to be a wonderful wedding made possible because we live in this country..... Will tell you more as we get closer to the date...

Till tomorrow.....

13 January 2010

Finding Value in South Africa

Wednesday 13th January 2010

I revisited the article by John Mauldin, an investment expert who sung SA's praises, for inspiration for todays musings. He reminded me of the huge number of exceptional wildlife regions and game parks, nature reserves, and lodges, forming the heartbeat of the nation, found all over this beautiful land, encompassing every possible landscape from deserts to forests, mountains to coast, teeming with wildlife species.

Many species are under constant threat from poaching, drought and degradation of habitat and the only way to secure their survival is to translocate them to secure environments where, under the protection of recognised nature reserves or through breeding programmes, their future may be assured. Apart form their beauty there are a great deal of valuable lessons we can learn from the wildlife, especially Africa's majestic Big 5 -Lion, Elephant, Leopard, Rhino and Buffalo. In order to survive they need to learn to adapt to changing conditions. It seems to be the only way to survive this century, for man and beast. I should, therefore, not complain about living in a 'nature reserve', a gated community myself. If animals can adapt and thrive in a changing world, so must I. All I need to do is adapt my 'brushstroke accordingly', a beautiful expression I found used by a well-known Johannesburg artist, Grant Netherlands, who is a product of King Edward VII School for boys.

When I feel like an endangered species, which I often do, (because as a white baby-boomer woman in darkest Africa, I am becoming an endangered species), I will focus on all the things that I can do rather than the things that have been taken away from me. Walking is a great example. I love walking. I find it a marvelous experience - a meditative experience - because of the beautiful landscape and the great weather. Walking allows me to be in the present moment, in the 'now', the only moment there is. The amnesic yesterday or the 'who knows' tomorrow are illusions and delusions of the ego. So my walking experience has to change as I can no longer walk alone on the beach or in the park. However I can walk in a group - it requires more effort but it also more beneficial as it improves not only my mind and body but my heart and spirit as well. It requires more planning and less spontaneity, a manageable price to pay.

As long as I focus on the beauty around me and not on the restrictions placed on me for my survival I will begin to find the value in life - not just here but anywhere in the world. Maybe I am fortunate that I live here and have to question these things - its through the questions that I can find meaning and purpose. We humans are complicated beigns, however, we have no choice - we must adapt or die. One thing we all have in common is that we soon take things for granted. I cannot take anything for granted in South Africa, and perhaps this is a very good thing ............

Bye for now .....

Am I a Product of my History?

Tuesday 12th January 2010

Why is it that I have spent a lifetime trying to build a legacy instead of concentrating on my own financial security? Probably due to my education which created a responsibility in me to want to make the world a better place. And of course, I find this such a mammoth task that I become negative.

According to popular pub talk most people are hypocrites - their true desires are not for self improvement or to fight for justice or fairness. Most people just want a job to finance their aspirational lifestyles - and they will do whatever it takes to get the job - if it is a piece of paper that will get them the job, they'll either forge it or toi-toi to get it. They do not want to see past a fancy car, designer clothes, good food, drink, and fun in the sun. No wonder we cannot make a dent in our social problems - marriage and family are not very well supported or respected - hence the unstoppable spread of AIDS with all its devastating effects. Success is measured by money and not by achievement. Most people don’t want to think too much about anything more than how to finance their next item on the conveyor belt of insatiable greed.

So what is it that I want to do about it? I suppose I naively want to put a dent in this flow of consciousness - make people aware of their personal responsibilities to develop real skills, not just paper qualifications, so that we can all help build the country’s assets instead of just plundering them. We need to take up the challenge and compete with the rest of the world on an equal footing - we can do it, we have done it before...

While South Africa concentrates a major part of our efforts in creating more and more government jobs, the gravy train jobs, the slow train to nowhere jobs, the world is galloping past us developing cutting edge expertise. And even though we are spending more GDP on education and training than most countries in the world, it is horrifically evident on the lack of skill that exists. In fact, I see a progressive and evident increase in functional illeteracy, this in the twenty first century, in a world thirsty not only for expertise but more importantly, for state of the art skills. There appears to be a lack of understanding of how the world works. We do not want to accept that the world rewards innovation, productivity, speed, application, relevance. However we reward incompetence, laziness, corruption and stupidity. I dont know why this is because there are intelligent people - many intelligent people around - I meet quite a few.

Ok, so as this is a positive column I will focus on how can I turn this around? Well I don’t really know how - that’s my problem. To find a way to positively influence the status quo, I have to understand the thinking of the majority of the people living in my country, that is the black people. I am reading Antjie Krog’s book, ‘Begging to be Black’,in which she is grappling with the same questions, hopefully once I complete it I will have more insight.

For now I will use Mahatma Ghandi to guide me as he wisely stated that we 'have to be the change we want to see'. If I desire to live in a country that produces people with world-class skills, I have to start with me - I have to become world class. I know that I have enough education and am smart enough (according to Malcolm Gladwell to be successful, that's all I need laced with some luck). However what I do need is a compelling product or service and a strong belief in myself. So here goes…… my positive thought for today is that I live in a country with immeasurable opportunity to develop a world class business – I have the know-how, and there are resouces available to help me do this. All I have to do is go out and do it - I can't blame history, I cant blame anything or anyone, if I cant get this right.... opportunity is there for the taking ..... I just have to open my eyes, open my mind and most of all open my heart to take in all that is on offer...............

Till tomorrow .....

11 January 2010

Land of endles opportunitues

Monday 11th January 2010

Today is the official beginning of the 2010 working year, however as schools open on Wednesday, most of my clients are still in holiday mode - slowly idling along, reluctant to get into first gear. I now have some time to reflect about my business and the window of opportunities that surround me - everywhere look I see gaps - all that is required is for people to have the desire for work hard and some appetite for risk. And yet most people just want a job - preferably a government job where they can do little and earn a lot. And when they dont ge’t such a job they are full of complaints…...

Complaining here is a mixture of pleasure and pain for both black and white. Take the word EISH for example, its used to express both negative and positive as it means surprise, wonder, as well as frustration or outrage. Another word that describes a pain/pleasure feeling is 'shame' which broadly denotes sympathetic feeling, 'shame, he got fired' or a castigating remark, 'shame on you for letting her down' and at the same time it can be used to emphasise a puppy's cuteness by "Ag shame!". There are many 'Sef Africanisms' on


It is safe to say that living in this country makes life's contradictions seem pretty normal. Driving down William Nicol which has become the busiest road in the whole of South Africa, a byway that resembles a highway, I saw a billboard in big bold letters stating that 'Africa is not for sissys' - no better way to describe life in SA. This country has wonderful weather and filled, surrounded by breathtaking beauty, and yet at he same time this beautiful environment is laced with the most violent and horrendous crime as well as crime caused by a careless attitude to life. Sometimes I think that all their energies and risk-taking appetite is wasted on dangerous and self defeating behaviour such as drinking and driving, substance abuse, domestic violence, critical overspending, that there is nothing left to use to better their lives and get out of the poverty mindset that requires instant gratification to keep it alive. Most people around me are conservative when it comes to their livelihood. They are afraid to take a risk on themselves, to start a business, to learn new skills or any of the many opportunities to improve their lives.

I believe that many of us are suffering from a feeling of hopelessness and helplessness, and speaking for myself, it stems from the continuous political avalanche that bombards me daily through the media. There are no leaders who inspire us to a better life for all – they are all trying to earn brownie points by playing many limiting cards – the race card being the favourite but there are also the class card and others. We love to use smokescreens to camouflage the real problems like the continuous degradation of the education system - the public health system has already collapsed. Instead of focusing resources on improving them the solution seems to target what works and bring it down to the same level of dysfunction. Enough of that….. this is a positive column…. And there is no greater positive than to live in a land of many opportunities…..

I see this sea of opportunity for me to make a difference - I can help to change the much of the negativity – in myself first and then in others. I can begin by spreading the information of how the world of work is changing. This is a world wide change. Countries are experiencing jobless growth, which means more poverty or the threat of poverty for many people if they don’t change their thinking and especially their expectations. New technologies are allowing multinationals to streamline operations and outsource their non core functions. The formal sector is not creating enough jobs whether it is in South Africa, in the US, UK, Europe and even China. And yet at the same time there is a huge skills shortage everywhere.

You don’t need to be an Einstein to know that there is a mismatch between what people can do and what the world needs – this is where I come in and offer my expertise …. This is what I can do … I align skills and expectations… I have opportunity galore …. I must just go out and get it….

10 January 2010

Movie Magic

Sunday 10th January 2010

Today I will definitely continue with the promise I made myself to do more of the things I love so I will go to movies - the big screen - which I absolutely love. After lunching with my family, up the road, in Dainfern, I will go to Cinema Nouveau at Cedar Square to see Swan Lake - yes its at the movies, believe it or not!!!

I love going to the movies. My particular love is art movies, especially European art movies, and offcourse any movie with Meryl Streep, - I mean ANY movie - The first movie I saw her in was Sophie's Choice, a movie that is imprinted in my being. Since then I have seen her change from a harlot, to a politician, a magazine editor, alesbian, an unmarried mother, a nun, you name the character, Meryl Streep has done it. She is my absolute idol - I wish I had one tenth of her creativity and talent.. Her latest movie is Julie and Julia in which she is Julia Childs, the eccentric food presenter of the 50s - again an Oscar winning performance. In fact I got the idea of doing this blog from that movie. Julie was a woman whose life was going nowhere. She decided to spice up her life by learning to cook using Julia Child's cookery book and videos and then blogging about it. Her thinking began to change one day a time, and offcourse her life changed. I am attempting to change my thinking in the same way, focusing on one positive aspect of life in Johannesburg one day at a time.

Hopefully, in doing so, I can to stop blaming the outside environment for my own shortcomings in not being able to build a meaningful life for myself here. By highlightign the positive I will unfocus from the negatives and hopefully something new can find a place to be born inside my thoughts. I guess that's the theory anyway... My goal has to be to interract with the world around me as best I can without blaming or shaming, or making excuses for my own weaknesses. 'Energy flows where attention goes' or something like that... I used to use it as part of my e-mail signature until I got so fed up of its platitudanal overtones I replaced. All this positive thinking is all good and well but how do you see things that you dont believe are there? How do you stop wanting certain things that are beyond your control?

Back to the movies, which is my great addiction. I must say that Cinema Nouveau at Cedar Square and even Nu Metro at Monte Casino, must be not only world class, but top of the best in the world. The seats are comfortable and spacious with lots of leg room. The aircondition is usually pleasantly cool. The sound and visuals are amazing. I get lost in the darkness, enveloped in the sensual experience of sight and sound, in an ergonomically and easthetically perfected sensual incubator. However, my sensual experience has to include taste, so popcorn and TAB are a must. Ster Kinekor has without a doubt the best popcorn around - I dont know if it is the oil they use or what but no other popcorn tastes the same - and I should know because I have been eating plain popcorn for a long time - no additional salt or flavours - just popcorn - yummy, yummy....

OK, so I love that whole movie experience .... especially now that Cimena Nouveau includes ballet and opera performances. Last year I watched The Met Opera production of La Rondine (The Swallow), by Puccini. Produced by Nicolas Joël, and starred the singing world’s much-touted love couple, the soprano Angela Gheorghiu and the tenor Roberto Alagna. This sophisticated, charming and poignant performance complete with art Deco sets and costumes,set in the mid-19th century Frances,was a first for me.

Although I am a lover of Opera, The Met Production was somethign amazign and different. Not only was the sound quality exceptional, my experience was enhanced by the subtitles, allowing me to follow the story word for word. The Interviews before and after the show, of the conductor, the singers, the producer, the director, and others, provided much information that added to my appreciation of this operetta. For example, I learnt that La Rondine was considered Puccini’s problem child as he attempted to crossover from bittersweet Viennese operetta to a ligh romantic comedy. The story is about a young Parisian, Magda, who is the lavishly maintained mistress of a rich older banker, Rambaldo. A modern yet vulnerable woman who harbors fantasies of romantic love, Magda falls for Ruggero, the earnest and adoring son of a respectable family in southern France. Its very first performance was at the Grand Théâtre de Monte Carlo on 27 March 1917. . . For the next two and a half hours I felt that I was in Monte Carlo.. watching this beautifully sad love story play itself out - that's the magic of the movies...

I am looking forward to Swan Lake as it is one of my favourite ballets...
will report back tomorrow....

09 January 2010

Walking, Walking and More Walking

Sat 9 th January 2010

One of the highlights of 2009 was my walking exercise. I belonged to a walking club that operated from a school based in the luscious suburb of Lonehill. I walked three mornings a week for one hour, very early, before the traffic and the school kids arrived. These walks were wonderful because apart from the health benefits of disease free living, no colds or flue, no aches and pains, they were the times when I got my greatest inspiration. Then the manager got greedy and decided to move the club to another area so that he can catch more members and my walking world came tumbling down. The new venue was noisy and very unpleasant - so I stopped going. And I definitely felt the loss... my energy went down, my mood swings increased, my happiness level dropped. So today I went back to that school and walked for one hour. How absolutely marvelous it was. I felt energised, strong, ready to face the world and hopefully change it for the better.

I cannot live in South Africa and not walk... it is practically criminal. The weather is amazing and the flaura and fauna take my breath away .... when I walk I feel connected to the universe - I get inspired and think up many great ideas. I call it my walking meditation - just me and the universe - I mull over concepts until I find new ways to connect them - my level of creativity zooms larger and larger as my left and right brain reach a harmony, synchronising the millions of unrelated thoughts, creating a melody of my uniqueness . I suppose it is this synchronisation that is the reason for my improved brain power, improved mood and my deeper connection to my spiritual side.

As this is the beginning of a new year, I promise myself that this will be a year of walking - a minimum of three one-hour walking meditations a week. I love walking so much - so I will walk. Hopefully this accomplishment will help me change my mindset to doing more of the things I love.... somehow I seem to have lost the ability to have fun ... especially since my house invasion (in a gated complex) where I was robbed at gunpoint in the middle of the day. I know that I am a product of my destiny and destination. I know that I am a product of the interaction between what I can control and what I cannot control, what I am born with and what I create, through my actions, my behaviour, which ultimately all stem from my thoughts. I know that the true gist of living is to get to know who I am through these interactions, so that I can take control of my thoughts as well as responsibility for my actions. But knowing does not mean that it is easy to do… hence my daily reflections in my blog…..the tool that will change my disposition….or so I think…

Walking is great, walking in South Africa is even better. I have not experienced the same walking euphoria anywhere in the world so I have to admit that this is a very good reason for living in SA.
I cant believe that I have actually found one positive factor for everyday bar one.... guess the one day at a time thing actually works... till tomorrow ...

A Rose by Any Other Name

Friday 8th January 2010

My maid returned from her Christmas leave. How absolutely marvelous to have domestic help. At one stage I decided to do away with any help and do my own housework, however I soon realised that if I could I should give someone a job in order to help with the country's huge unemployment problem. Having help at home also makes me more productive at work. As long as I pay a fair wage and provide decent working conditions having a maid in South Africa is a good thing all round.

Another dilemma to overcome is my reference to her. Is she my maid, the char, my helper, or my domestic worker? My black friends usually refer to their domestic workers as their helpers, whilst most of my white friends call them maids, but I wonder if mine is not more of a char as she works comes to me only two days a week? Why am I even talking about this? Obviously it must mean something to me if I am even thinking about it? I suppose that how I think about her will determine my potential relationship with her. As I am a recruitment consultant I prefer to refer to her as my domestic worker. Well, no matter what I call her, a rose by any other name smells just as sweet. Her name is Veronica and she really is such a lovely person. She is half Zimbabwean and half South African.

Veronica arrived back from Zim after her vacation sad as she had buried her grandmother on Christmast day. Her grandmother was more a mother to her, firstly because it is an African custom to be raised by your grandmother - the parents go out to work in the cities and send all the children home to be raised by the grandmothers in the rural areas. Secondly because Veronica's mother died when she had just started high school. This meant she Veronica had to leave school and find a job to support her brothers and sisters. This is a common story in this part of the world - there are over a million CHH (child headed households) in South Africa caused primarily by AIDS related diseases.

Veronica is very happy to be back in the city. She like many others has come to the city in the hope of a better life for herself and her children. Her stay at home was not a happy one as she encountered extreme poverty and she spent the Xmas period burying people - one of them being her older brother who was in his early forties - also probably AIDS - difficult to say as the death certificate will not state the cause of death as AIDS and hence not easy to convince people that AIDS kills and so thousands of people are dying everyday ignorant of their status, leaving those behind continuing with their often promiscous lifestyle. I have to say that this new government is doing a great deal more to educate and protect people howeover I am not convinced that much of this intervention is aimed at the rural areas.

As Veronica chatters away and relays colourful stories about her life and friends I feel extremely happy to know that I can now leave the day-to-day chores in her capable hands and continue with my work. This is the greatest plus factor for living in South AFrica ....

Till tomorrow ............

07 January 2010

The Biggest Man Made Forest in the World

Thursday 7th January 2010

'Despite the relatively dry climate, Johannesburg has over ten million trees,[and it is now the biggest man-made forest in the world..... planted by early (white) residents who moved into the areas (Parkhurst, Parktown, Parkview, Westcliff, Saxonwold, Houghton Estate, Illovo, Hyde Park, Dunkeld, Melrose, Inanda, Sandhurst) now collectively referred to as the Northern Suburbs retained many of the original trees with the encouragement of successive city councils. In recent years, however, a considerable number of trees have been felled, to make way for the Northern Suburbs' residential and commercial redevelopment' Wikipedia.

Wow, this project of mine is definitely getting me to learn about my country.... I did not know that I lived in the biggest man-made forest in the world! No wonder I am addicted... think of all the extra oxygen created... I always thought of Johannesburg as a concrete jungle as I need to be 'uber' vigilant all the time - just like in a jungle - and offcourse there are many, many monkeys all around found driving on the roads. South Africans must be the worst drivers in the world. No-one really cares about other drivers - try changing lanes, no-one lets you in. SA drivers are aggressive, arrogant, immature and downright stupid most of them because their infantile behaviour kills more poeple than AIDS or violent crime. The taxi drivers are the worst as they feel entitled to claim right of way everywhere - and if you dont let them they will ride over you. But it is not only the taxi drivers - most Joburg drivers are aggressive in their driving - in fact I was talking to a truck driver and was horrified at the stories I heard - how people cut in front of them so suddenly and then slow down - which is really a very dangerous thing to do. But enough of that, I am digressing....

As I live in a cluster, my garden is very small and yet it is full of trees. The year before I actually had to cut down at least ten trees because my little garden was starting to look like a forest - I did not realise that my garden was part of this man-made forest in Johannesburg. On the plus side, and there are definitely many, many plusses for living surrounded by trees, it is great to wake up every morning and look into this wonderfully greenery. Now come to think of it I do need to get rid of four more trees, they are big palm trees and they are taking over my garden. I was told that there are companies that will buy them from me - will come and take them out and replant them ... I must make enquiries - I do love the palm trees - they are beautiful but far too big... I was never very good at letting go of things.... am a hoarder by nature....

Gosh we do love to complain, even about too much of a good thing.... I am very happy to discover that I am addicted to living in this forest man-made or not - it makes the armed robbery I experienced two years ago bearable when I can balance it with the beauty of the ten million trees...

Besides their obvious value as producers of timber and food, trees provide sanctuaries for wildlife - no wonder we have so many birds in our suburbs. I wake up every morning with the sound of birds tweetering and I take that for granted. In most cities in the world you I wake-up with the screeching sound of busses, trucks or trains. Trees are also wonderful makers of places of comfort and recreation - there is nothing more fulfilling than sitting under the trees reading a book or just thinking .... something that I dont do as much as I should - its freely available and so I take it for granted..... until I no longer have it. Aren't we humans a strange species.... don't you just love it... to know how silly we all are and yet we take ourselves so seriously....

Enough philosophy for one day... gosh that sounded just like my children.. so its not only my parents talking to me in my head, now I have my children controlling my thoughts... I really need to go and sit under the tree ... till tomorrow.

06 January 2010

The Fruit of the Gods

Wednesday 6th January 2010

I was really stressed out yesterday because I was unable to find one more positive factor for living in SA. After a good night's sleep, I woke up thinking that this is because I was trying too hard... I was looking for something big. However, it is really the small things that influence the quality of my life, it is the small every day pleasures that add up...like the mango... my goodness that is really the fruit of the Gods.

Although the mango is a native fruit of Asia, it does so well in South Africa that I truly believed that Johannesburg was its home. In fact, last year, in London, I attended a Toastmaster's meeting and was asked to speak off the cuff about SA. Well the first thing that came to mind was the mango. I introduced my speech with: 'Hi everyone, I am bringing you greetings from the Big Mango, Johannesburg.' If New York is known as the Big Apple, why not Big Mango for Johannesburg? Everyone and I mean literally EVERYONE in Africa, aspires to live in Johannesburg, known by other Africans as the New York of AFrica.

You see the mango is the kind of fruit that only needs one bite to get you hooked for life, and Johannesburg is pretty much like that. It is not really a pretty city, not compared to Cape Town or even Pretoria. The people are rushed and clicky, the streets, everywhere you look there are high rise developments, are full of potholes and crime.... but my goodness, once you have lived in Johannesburg, you get hooked for life, you cannot live in any other city. Johannesburg is such a vibrant, cosmopolitan city, made up of so many different ethnic South Africans, Mandela's rainbow nation, and laced with the flavour of every other nationality on the planet. In fact it is safe to say that it is a microcosm of the world, with its traffic, its malls, its restaurants, its coffee (the best in the world) and its increasingly costly lifestyle. I love its aliveness and its fast paced lifestyle...definitely addictive, no other explanation for living here.

Back to the mango - I dont know whether I want to classify it as a fruit because I love to eat on its own or as an accompaniment to practically everything - in salads, as a sauce for fish (that is quite orgasmic), grilled and baked with practically any meat chicken or vegetable, in desserts, in coctails, as a health drink, however and with whatever, the mango is delicious - the hot days of summer look and taste like a mango. In fact, on a Sunday, I love taking a drive to 'the Dam' (Harbeespoort Dam) to eat a mango chicken salad at an exclusive little boathouse restaurant - such a simple, inexpensive meal, but my goodness, so delicious....

My favourite way of eating a mango is with my hands over a sink. Nothing nicer than a cool mango out of the fridge, after a swim in the pool on a hot summer's day, eating over the sink, with my hands, juices running all down my chin, licking my fingers, sucking the pip, really gives me pleasure... it makes me feel so young and carefree.... I love it. Nowhere in the world have I experienced the same pleasure.

So I am happy to say that the mango is a good enough reason to want to live in the big mango... till tomorrow

05 January 2010

Disappointed ....

Tuesday 5th January 2010

I have spent the whole day trying to find something positive without success. Some friends and I went to the China Mart this morning. I was convinced that this would be a great positive to write about. A little China within the SA context is a good sign of how well this country is handling the diverse population - Mandela's rainbow nation, but alas our exotice shopping experience was a fiasco because after a 30 minute drive in the pouring rain we only managed fifteen minutes shopping before the outages began - we waited half an hour for eskom to reconnect but when that did not happen we left. Outages are definite negatives whichever way you want to look at it.

Working on my computer I get frustrated with the slow speed of the internet even though i have an ADSL line - so this is definitely a big negative. Everywhere I look I see one negative after another. I think I am going to give up to-day - perhaps tomorrow I will find something....

03 January 2010

The Mall and the Coffee Addict

Monday 4th January 2010

This is the first day of the working year. Many will go back to work today and I am supposed to write one more positive factor for living in South AFrica. It is raining cuts and dogs outside - the normally sunny sky is dark and gloomy - and I have ran out of positives.

Voila I have found one more thing. The Good News South Africa website http://www.sagoodnews.co.za/ has published an article about John Mauldin, an investment expert, who visited SA recently and had a great number of positives to report, one of them being that 'Johannesburg is a world-class city, on a par with New York or London or any major city in terms of facilities, shops, infrastructure ... and traffic.'

Yes I have to agree - I love shopping in the malls - from books to clothes to food -Sandton City must be equivalent to any in New York, London or Sydney. Hyde Park Mall is more exlcusive and terribly upmarket and Fourways Mall more down to earth and easier to navigate, to mention but a few of the endless choices the many, many malls around. In fact the whole country is scattered with shopping malls - from cities, to towns and townships - you can find the top global brands fightigthing it out. We have developed a mall culture that can be quite addictive if we don't watch out, because it is so easy to overspend and buy stuff we don't need just because they look so good under the sophisticated lights of the malls and the joie de vivre atmosphere created to lure us shoppers into a hypnotic state to buy and buy and buy......

We have the opportunity to dress well, eat well and live well, for a fraction of the price that it costs those in the developed world. And I must say I prefer our locals when it comes to service. I know we always complain but when I was in London last year most of the shop assistants were foreigners and could not understand what I was asking - very frustrating it was indeed.....

Another positive about shopping in SA is that there is always parking at the malls. Yes I know that I moan about parking but that is because I am actually quite spoiled and want to find parking right in front of the entrance, which I have to say, I often do. I remember one year in Athens, we drove around for over an hour to find parking for our rented car and when we did find a space, eight blocks away, we were reluctant to move the car out of it - the result was that we used public transport. How bizarre that was!! We only realised a day later that we were paying for a car that we could not use because refused to endure the huge frustration and time wasted to re park it - so we returned the car and struggled with shopping bags thereafter - try lugging a watermelon and a two-litre coke bottle for a couple of blocks and then you'll understand the value of accessible parking. Taxis are never around when you need them and they particularly avoid people with parcels or luggage!!! London is even worse - cost of parking is prohibitively expensive so you have to think really carefully before you decide to shop until you drop because you will have to carry all your parcels through the quite intricate and exhaustive public transport system.

The best part of shopping in the malls in SA is the watering holes or eating places, especially for a coffee addict like me. Shopping is a ritual that I cannot and will not rush. Besides purchasing what I need, I like to stroll, pick up my post, visit the loo (which is free and very clean, compared to many in the developed world) have a cup of good quality coffee - cappucino, americano or latte, and a salad made up of the wonderful varieties of fresh garden vegetables, often organic, which is something I take for granted until I am in another country and discover how expensive it is to eat fresh salads.

I have to say that I need my shopping fix at least once a week - and it is quite a pleasant fix at that... Difficult to get my fix anywhere else in the world, so I guess this is a great personal positive for living in SA.

One more day successfully completed............will speak tomorrow...... chao for now...

The Spirit of Nelson Mandela

Sunday 3rd January 2010

Okay so I am scraping the bottom of the barrel but I have come up with the Jewel of the world. This is the 3rd day of the year and I have to find another positive thing to say about living in South Africa, which I am finding to be a daunting task. However as this project is my ONE and ONLY New Year's resolution, I will do everything in my power to stick to it, reminding myself that self discipline and commitment are great tools for building character.

Today is Sunday – I want to focus on a spiritual aspect, and immediately I think of Nelson Mandela, the greatest man that ever lived in my lifetime. The first time I heard the name Nelson Mandela was in 1990 just before he was released from prison. I followed his release in the news and then read his book, Walk to Freedom, and was overwhelmed by such confusing feelings as admiration, fear, trepidation, especially as a white South African woman who grew up in Pretoria in the 60s and 70s.

I went to see Invictus, the movie, in Durban on vacation last week a non-beach, rainy day, with a friend. This hugely inspirational movie contributed to my decision to undertake this project of finding 365 positives for living in South Africa. If Nelson Mandela can spend 26 years of his life in prison and come out with such a magnanimous spirit, creating the space for the miracle of a peaceful transition to take place, I must also do something, anything, no matter how small, to help his dream survive.

The movie is based on the iconic moment when one man, has the character and foresight to save the country from bloodshed and destruction by appearing to millions in and out of SA, in support of the Springbok National Rugby Team, the symbol of pride and joy of the people who had jailed him. When Nelson Mandela appears in the distinctive green and gold jersey, including the cap with the Springbok logo, raising the William Webb Ellis trophy after they defeated New Zealand in the 1995 World Cup Final, it was more than a seemingly simple act of reconciliation, more than a demonstration of his unifying leadership through the power of sport. At the a pivotal moment in SAs long struggle to a democratic, unified country, this was the embodiment of a fully developed human being – a man who understood the bondage of toxic emotions such as revenge, hate, jealousy, anger, greed. A man who was able to abandon his mental shackles and chains and free his spirit – such a man can create miracles around him, a purer life, a larger life, a truly happy life.

This movie captures simply the height of the human spirit in the person of Nelson Mandela which is more, much more, than the spirit of ubuntu and social justice. It is a true example of what is possible in each and every one of us if we remove the layers of negativity and pessimism - free ourselves from their bondage of fear and hate, creating the reality of abundance.

The Greeks said that character is destiny, and no better example of this than Nelson Mandela. Every time I hear some politician or ‘wannabee’ politician puffing himself or herself up with self importance and unquenchable greed, I will not allow their words to poison my soul; instead I will bring to mind the spirit of Nelson Mandela. I will keep asking ‘What can I do for my country?’ rather than ‘What can my country do for me?’. I will 'become the change I want to see'.

Wow - I feel more powerful already..... thank you Nelson Mandela!

02 January 2010

The Braai and the Boerewors

Saturday 2nd January 2010

This is only the second out of the 365 days and I am already battling to find a second SA positive.... This is very stressful..... I googled for help and inspiration and all I can find is a bunch of negatives - mainly racism - whites blaming blacks for job restrictions because of affirmative action and blacks blaming whites for apartheid. Even foreigners are complaining - mainly about extreme crime which they attribute to weak government control. What am I going to do? Please help... anyone out there care to give me a positive....

OK... I got it - the BRAAI!! Today my daughter and her fiance are coming for a BRAAI! That's a true positively SA tradition that cuts across all race groups, class and education levels. The Braai is more than a 'barbeque' - it is the one tradition I miss when I am travelling outside the country. It is a great way (if not the best way) to entertain because it connects people in a very special way. It is an easy, simple way to cater for an unlimited number of people in a healthy fashion, experiencing great South African outdoor living - whether in peoples' gardens, around their pools, in campsites or parks all over the country - anywhere and everywhere at any time in the day - breakfast, brunch, lunch or dinner - at any time of the year summer, autumn, winter and spring.

This healthy way of entertaining consists of food that is either grilled (no fat but soaked in tasty marinades) or served raw. It includes a variety of meats(South Arican meat is considered one of the best in the world whether beef, lamb or pork), chicken or fish, served with salads and fruit, however the signature ingredient of the braai is the 'boerewors' a truly distinctive sausage - you only need one bite to get hooked for life. A more modern contribution to the braai is the 'garlic' bread. South Africans only began eating garlic after the 70s - in the past us'continentals' were mocked because we ate garlic and olive oil - thankfully this state of affairs has changed - now everyone eats garlic - in fact our late Dr Msimang, the previous health minister, really understood the amazing powers of garlic and went as far as encouraging the whole country to eat garlic, particularly as a cure for aids.

The braai is truly a positive factor because it is not only a very tasty, very healthy way of eating, it is also a way to connect and bond people together as everyone is expected to participate. And as the host, I don't have to be kitchen-bound - all I have to do is prepare the raw food, cover it, set the table, and sit back and enjoy the afternoon - yes it is an all afternoon experience - a braai is never rushed. The men light the fire and cook the meat and everyone chips in with the cooking, serving, drinking beer or wine, and talking and very often, if you are lucky, the cleaning up afterwards.

Most of all it is one of the few cultural traditions that is enjoyed by all in the new rainbow nation that is South Africa today - black, white, coloured, Indian, vegetarian, continental, straight, gay, rural or city dweller. Our weather, our wonderful year round selection of fruit and vegetables, our great tasting boerewors, our good quality meats and our great open spaces make the braai a life enhancing experience.

Yes, I can truly say that the BRAAI is a second positive for living in South AFrican - somehow it never tastes the same anywhere else in the world...

Hew... I managed to complete my second day task.. 363 positives to go!

Posted by Frances Kazan at 9:16 PM 0 comments

01 January 2010

Glorious Open Spaces to Move, Live and Think!

Friday 1st January 2010

I woke up on this first day of the New Year tired from a late night, to face a cloudy day. Is this some kind of cosmic test? The first thing I was going to write about South Africa that is wihtout a doubt a big positive factor, is the weather. Now I have to find one other positive - just for today!!

So what is positive about living in South Africa today.... What can I feel grateful about today, the 1st January 2010???

The Space.....yes the great open spaces – room to move and live. Looking around my home, although I live in a cluster, it is still pretty spacious. Later when I will be driving to the family lunch, using the highways and biways that are comparable to any in the first world (bar the portholes - no negatives Frances!!!) listening to the New Year music programme on Radio 702.... wow not bad, in fact quite positive, pretty powerful stuff!

And it goes without saying that there will be space to park my car when I get to my destination.

Yes 'space' is definitely a great plus for living in Johannesburg - a city with ample space - where the competition for 'open spaces' and 'development' is still in favour of 'open spaces' - not many cities in the world can claim that. And space is important for a quality life...

I am happy to have found my first positive thought for 2010!
Posted by Frances Kazan at 8:06 PM 0 comments