Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The joy of banks...

I'm in the mood to vent today and it's aimed at banks. I went to Standard Bank on Friday to change my address and I had all the info and paperwork I needed to get it sorted out - FICA compliant and everything. Surely this should be a reasonably straightforward process. But it's not...

Unfortunately the young chap who helped me didn't notice that the address on the form I had didn't exaclty match the supporting document. Now I understand that these things have to be perfect, but surely checking that something like this is done porperly is the simplest thing to do. Back to the point... I then got a call yesterday to say that they noticed the discrepancy and that it needed to be sorted out. It was also mentioned that if I don't I run the risk of my accounts being frozen and whatever else. This was their mistake, or what?

I then decided to head over to Nedbank to find out about student loans. There I couldn't even get the right information out of one of the consultants. He gave me some information I believed to be incoreect (this was confirmed later when I went to a different branch) and even when I double-checked with him and rephrased my question he stuck to his guns...

Now I know that there are loads of jokes that do the rounds about lawyers being parasites and I think most of us have heard a few of these jokes over the years. But honestly, I'm of the opinion that banks should be given the prime spot amongst blood-sucking parasites. They look after our money, making a profit in the process and can't even make sure that the people on their staff know what they're talking about. I don't know if I'm the only one who sees it this way, but aren't the proceeds of our money being used to pay their salaries?

In the end, one thing's for sure and that is that when they're trying to get more money out of you they'll have all their ducks in a row... I'm done... for now...

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

To BE or to DO?

Recently I’ve been corresponding with an old friend I haven’t seen in years – well, more accurately she’s one of my brother’s ex-girlfriends from about 20 years ago. In one email she sent last week she described me using three words which at the time I struggled to see in me – driven, focused and motivated.


At first I couldn’t understand what on earth she was talking about. For the most part I felt like a kind of nomadic hippy without a clue or direction – or is that how I think others have perceived me? I’ve moved between six countries on three continents over the past 40 months or so and haven’t stuck with a job for longer than 5 months during that time. At the moment I’m still not sure I want to do with myself, so how on earth can anyone seemingly that smart see anything that resembles focus, drive and determination in me?


I realised that perhaps this was true, but that I had started to look at things a bit differently. I’d started saying: to BE or to DO, that is the question. My determination has become less focused on what I do as opposed to who I am – that said, it doesn’t necessarily help me to be understood or liked. But that’s not my motivation, in any case.


While it’s obviously impossible to simply BE without ever DOing anything I’ve been thinking about the cause and effect of these matters. Do I do in order to find out who I am or does what I do come out of who I am? I remember one of the first times I had to wrestle with this sort of question back in 1997. I was a 17-year old kid who had been doing gymnastics for 11 years – during which time I had competed regionally, nationally and internationally. When I realised that my gymnastic career was coming to an end I wrestled with questions regarding who I was if I wasn’t a gymnast anymore. Did what I did really tell me who I was or was I trying to extract some kind of identity out of an activity and the associated accolades? The way I see it, the fact that I was struggling to figure out who I was without the gymnastics suggests that I had put the cart before the horse.

I’m still figuring out how the do-vs.-be questions play out in life but I’m determined to BE who I am and to DO whatever comes out of that as opposed to allowing other factors to tell me who I am and/or what I should do. But that’s something to explore another time…


PS: Ms B, let the conversations continue…

Friday, October 9, 2009

This too is Cape Town...

Over the past few weeks I’ve been using public transport to get around. In some ways it’s strange because for most of my life I’ve constantly had some kind of access to private transport. That said though I’d gotten used to using whatever transport was available during my time away from Cape Town


Although waiting for our not-so-rapid public transport is one of my least favourite activities (about on par with listening to Kurt Darren’s music) I actually enjoy watching the world go buy while sitting on a train or a bus. I also find that I’m reminded of things that I have long forgotten about this town or things that I have not thought about in a while.


I was on a train from Lansdowne to Cape Town station just yesterday and noticed a diverse array of people passing through that carriage. A young couple got onto the train and one of them was carrying a glossy red box. It was the kind from a specialty baker with some mouth-watering cakes or donuts or something. They looked as though they wanted to wait until they got to their destination before the tucked in but it looked too good. She decided to try some of the fresh cream and invited him to try it. Soon she was picking pieces off the edge of one of the pastries. By the time we’d passed Maitland station any self-control that may have been present had fallen out the train onto one of the platforms we’d just left. She had one of the cream-filled (although not as full as it had been) chocolate ├ęclairs in her hands and she was inviting him to dig in.


In the far corner of the carriage a guy sat looking at his cell-phone and occasionally looking around him. He seemed pretty relaxed and his body language while sitting there, as well as when he eventually got off the train suggested that he didn’t have anywhere urgent to get to. But it was the presumably high school learners who caught my attention.


I say ‘presumably’ because they appeared to be the right age for high school, had backpacks and under the multi-coloured layers of clothes there appeared to be the white collar of what could have been a school shirt. The rest of their (lack of) uniform gave no suggestion as to what school they may have attended. There were the pyjama-looking red-checked pants, combined with moccasins and a hoodie. Otherwise you could go with the white hoodie, navy blue tracksuit pants and (probably knock-off) Timberland boots. Alternatively, how about grey school pants, red t-shirt, no shirt and broken white flip-flops. I wasn’t really able to process any thoughts as I sat on that train but I was scared to wonder what ‘home’ could be like for them or what their outlook on life could be when something as easily taken for granted as a school uniform (or something that resembled one) was out of reach.


We have Table Mountain, great wines and Robben Island. But when thinking about what I saw on that train we need to remember that this too is Cape Town.

Friday, October 2, 2009

FROM it but not really IN it…

I spent part of the morning of my 30th birthday on top of Table Mountain – it’s a little know fact that on your birthday South African citizens can enjoy a trip on the cable car FREE OF CHARGE.

I hadn’t been on top of Table Mountain in a long time and I was really enjoying the few from the top. As I looked down at the City Bowl it had a sense of familiarity yet strangeness at the same time. I knew many of the streets, I could see the area where I’d spent the early years of my childhood, I could see some of the familiar tourist spots, yet at the same time I had this sense that it didn’t feel like home. Back in December 2007, while I was living in Cusco, I wrote a blog about the idea of ‘home’ (http://maverickonthemove.blogspot.com/2007/12/home-is-where-well-where-is-it.html). At the time I was wrestling with home is where the heart is versus it being wherever I lay my hat. I guess I’ve come to realise that my heart isn’t in Cape Town the way it was about 5 years ago. But like Cusco back then, Cape Town is where I “lay my hat“ at the moment so this is home. I don’t expect to feel completely settedl or at ease in Cape Town any time soon, but I figure it’s more likely I’m going to learn to deal with feeling like a bit of a detached outsider in my home town.

It’s not as bad as it sounds though. Cape Town, for those who don’t know it, is a great place to be even if it’s not “home”.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Dawn of a New Decade...

On 21 September, just over a week ago, I used my Facebook status to say that I felt as though I was waking up to a new decade because I was celebrating my 30th birthday.

I had, and still have, some mixed feelings about turning 30. in some ways I think it was easier to let go of my 20s than it was to let go of my teenage years back in 1999. I guess if I look at my contemporaries, something I do my best to avoid doing most of the time, I might find myself feeling a bit disappointed at not having aciehved certain things or not having a better idea as to what I want out of life etc. Yet at the same time I’ve crammed quite a bit into my first 3 decades. Some highlights include my somewhat successful, yet short-lived gymnastic career that took me abroad and into junior national colours. I’ve studied; I’ve learned (not only through studying); I’ve lived in different places and seen others; I’ve worked hard and I’ve relaxed; I’ve loved and I’ve lost.

So what does this new decade hold? What lessons learned am I going to take into this new phase of my life? I don’t have the answers to these questions just yet. Sure, I know that using decade markers is somewhat artificial, yet at the same time it helps put things in perspective. One question I ask myself is whether I’m going to carry on in the same way as I have or see this marker as an opportunity to reflect on and make the most of the lessons learnt so far – maybe turn a corner? Whatever happens I have no intention of taking life for granted.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Small Steps and Giant Leaps...

There've been lots of changes on my side of the world and I've realised that I haven’t written much lately - in fact I've had one or two friends asking about whether I'm still blogging so here I am...

I'm still in Cape Town and as recently as 6 weeks ago I've had people come to me not believing or knowing that I am actually here and that I haven't left. Well, it seems I'm going to be around for the foreseeable future and I'm actually looking forward to the little steps I'm taking that could be the beginning of the run-up leading to bigger leaps...

I've started working for a local NGO on a part-time in an area that I'm definitely learning about, but I was fortunate enough to be given an opportunity to get involved in something worthwhile. While the organisation’s work focuses on youth, as well as their environment and the key role players in their lives I’m working away from the programme. I’m in the background, yet not because I’m focusing on getting the word out about the organisation. It’s an interesting challenge to come back to this familiar setting, Cape Town, and yet to be doing things that are in many ways foreign to me. In actual fact, apart from my family and the friends I’m still in touch with I can’t recognize any significant similarities between my life at the moment and the one I left behind around 3.5 years ago…

Well, I figure that’s how life should be. Moving on, learning, growing… without it we stagnate. I’ve also decided to enter academia once again. I’ve been trying to get my head around something I found last week in a related field to what I’m going to be studying and I have to be honest that I think it’s going to be a slow grind in the beginning, then again maybe not… nonetheless, I’m looking forward to seeing where these little steps are going to take me. And if the past few years are anything to go by I expect Yahweh to lead me to some giant leaps once again in the not-too-distant future…

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Another Update from the Mother City

So on Monday it's going to be 6-months since I arrived back in Cape Town. So much has happened, yet at the same time some things still feel as though they're up in the air. I haven't blogged lately because my internet access has been limited so getting to an internet connection and taking the time to put a few thoughts in writing has not been at the top of my prioriy list, but I think it should definitely be a bit closer to the top.

So my teaching gig has just about run it's course for now. There's aren't many students arriving this time of year and there are fewer study year students (those who spend 6+ months here at a time) this year than there usually are. So what am I doing with my time. There's a project I'm working on (yes, I'm going to continue being a bit secretive regatrding what it is) but I'm also looking for some part-time work etc just to pay the bills. Now and then I get a few classes to teach and I'm giving entrepeneurship a shot by starting up a small business offering an admin and book-keeping service to small business who can't afford to employ someone full-time. Even though I'm not working I somehow find myself on the go all the time with things to go and places to be. While that's not necesarily a bad thing those things don't pay the bills.

But don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining about my lot in life at the moment. I'm enjoying the freedom that this space ios affording me and I'm making the most out of it for now. That's all for now folks. Thanks for reading.

PS: I'm often asked if I'm back in South Africa "for good" or if I plan on travelling again. All I'll say is that I'm here now and I have no idea what tomorrow holds... What more can I say?

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Questions and New challenges…

It’s been about a month since my last entry and although I have not been on the move, as the title of this blog suggests, there has been some movement in my life. I’m still teaching English at the moment with some of my classes being more challenging than I had anticipated. I went for an interview in the past week for a job at a development agency, but I don’t have the specific skills they’re looking for – in fact I was quite surprised I was even asked to come in for an interview. There are a number of other things going on in my mind, but so far none of these have borne any fruit. So where do I go from here? I’m not actually sure at the moment, but as I’ve said before I’m simply taking things as they come for now.

I was chatting to a Guatemalan-born friend a few days ago and I said that there have been times in the past week or so when I’ve felt as though I left a part of myself in South America. I was listening to some music from a Colombian singer and just listened to the Spanish lyrics I longed to be there in South America once again. I guess at the moment I feel torn between South America, the continent that has left its mark on me, the rest of the world including Asia where I hope to visit at some point and South Africa that has been my home for most of my life.

For now though I’m looking forward to taking on some new challenges. To some extent, at least with regards to vocation, I have been in limbo for at least part of the past few years. So, watch this space for new developments…

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Thoughts about short-cuts…

“There are many people who arrive at the result of their lives like schoolboys; they cheat their teacher by copying the answer from the key in the arithmetic-book, without bothering to do the sums themselves.” – (Kierkegaard)

Just over a month ago, not long after I first arrived in South Africa, I was thinking about this excerpt from the writing of the thinker Kierkegaard. Far from referring to anyone else as a schoolboy in this sense I came to realise how easy it is to become like that. I had been doing so many “sums” over the course of my time away from South Africa that I wanted to look for the easy way out at least for a short while…

I came across a similar thought in the famous (or perhaps infamous) book by Paolo Coelho, book by Paolo Coelho, The Alchemist. In the story the idea of a “personal legend” is spoken about as well as a treasure that comes with living it out. At one point in the story someone remarks that many people want the treasure without living the life (or personal legend) that results in the treasure. At times, I still think that I just want things to happen or that I want things to work out and for everything to be easy or okay or something like it. Coelho’s characters suggest that this is not the way to live. Additionally if I look at one of my favourite biblical personalities, David, I see that even he had a long road to walk before the promises Yahweh made to him were fulfilled. So realistically who am I to think that any less could be expected of me when the man who was said to be a “man after God’s own heart” had a trudge a long road to see his destiny fulfilled. In fact he even had to fight numerous battles on that road.

If I think about my ups and downs along the way I realise that had a taken short cuts (if that was an option) there would have been so much that I would have missed along the way. Once again I find myself in an all-too-familiar situation where I could (and sometimes do) wish that things were moving a bit faster in some imaginary “better” direction. But in reality we’re all moving into the future at a speed of 60 minutes an hour so why not enjoy the journey?

Friday, January 16, 2009

Same journey; Familiar location…

It’s been over a month since my last update and I’ve had at least one request for news from Cape Town. Yes, I’m still in South Africa at the moment and it appears I’m not going to be leaving just yet. I hope you had a great Festive Season (and holiday if you were fortunate to have some time off). I guess in some ways certain aspects of my Christmas etc was the run of the mill. I had lunch with some close family-friends (whose globally-scattered children and grandchildren were together for the first time in 10 years). I spent New Year’s Eve with some friends and the first day of the year with some family.

In between the usual events I was able to attend a really good friend’s wedding. We’ve been really good friends for a while now and it was good to be able to be there on her big day. One of the strange things was that prior to the wedding I had only met her husband twice just before I left South Africa back in 2006, so in some ways it felt as though it was sudden. Obviously though they have been together for a while. Another good friend (and his wife) arrived in Cape Town from Seattle on the day of that wedding so we spent quite a bit of time hanging out. I was supposed to be his best-man 2 years ago but couldn’t attend the wedding because of the joys of US bureaucracy (sarcasm intended).

So what am I still doing in Cape Town and am I going to Asia etc? This is a question I get asked at least once a week at the moment. The best way I can put it is that the journey is continuing but in a familiar setting for now. in a pervious entry I believe I spoke about Cape Town being the best gauge I have to see how much I have grown and changed etc. this is more true than I thought it would be because even though I’m still in touch with many of the same people and the city is largely still he same (albeit with some significant cosmetic changes in some areas) it really feels like a different place. I have come to realise that the reason for this is that the ways in which I have changed have made me see this place significantly differently. It’s a strange experience but something that is so necessary after all this time. Yahweh (aka God) has done so much over the past 3 years, I have experienced so much, I have grown and I have been forced to become wiser. The process of becoming a bit wiser has involved some mistakes and speed bumps along the way, but that’s life. So for now I’m not leaving Cape Town just yet. I’d still like to see Asia and other parts of the world at some point but I figure that considering the ways in which I have changed and the changes I have been through it could possibly take a different shape when it happens.

That’s all from me for now. it’s early Saturday morning and I’m going on a walk/climb up Lion’s Head (one of the mountains surrounding the Cape Town city bowl). So thanks for reading, hasta luego (see you soon) and sala kakuhle (stay well)…