Tuesday, 21 November 2017

A rose by any other name...

If anybody ever asks me why I want to leave South Africa, here's a simple answer.

Exhibit A:
Exhibit B:
Oh but that's not so bad, my more liberal readers will cry (those not in South Africa). Apartheid, Nelson Mandela, social change, blah blah blah (I'm allowed to be flippant about it if I've lived under this flavour of 'democracy' for 23 years).

Yes very well, but let me present Exhibit C:
And that's it, don't you see?

Firstly, if you want to do it, just come out and say it. Say "no whites welcome", why not. You think that dressing it up with other names makes it better, or somehow politically correct?

Secondly, there's the very key fact that white South Africans make up less than 10% of the population. Nobody's exactly sure how much less, but as that graph demonstrates white South Africans are emigrating, dying or just fading into irrelevance.

Which would be fine, except when you get continual reminders in public job advertisements like the ones I've shared above that if you're white you shouldn't even dare apply for some jobs.

WTF, really? It's like holding a townhall meeting, and then putting up a sign "freckled redhead Asians not welcome". Is it really necessary? How hard would it be for recruiters to just ignore applications from less than 10% of the population (I sure as hell know it'd make me feel better).

Instead South Africa is this country where race has been weaponized. A lot of people will say a lot about reverse racism, but the truth is that the recruiters who posted those job ads may well be white themselves (makes you wonder - were there any Jews helping the Nazis run the gas chambers?).

And that's just one of the reasons why I want to leave, but probably the biggest. The country has become like a big mean bully who keeps punching the little kid and then trying to make out that the little kid is running into his fist all the time.

Monday, 13 November 2017

Come in, Home Base

Has it really been more than a year since my last blog post here? That blows me away.

Blowing me away even further is that I could practically repost my last post here, word for word: I'm in another new job, it's been an extremely eventful year, and the elusive 'aha' moment of my life that I can still sense is just around the corner is tantalisingly not only out of reach but also out of sight.

And so I keep going. On December 19 I turn 32, which I guess is what explains all my pent up frustration: I'm getting to that point in my life where the rockets blasting me into outer space are either going to overcome the inertia and get me there, or else I'm likely to blow up on the landing pad.

Melodramatic much? Yup. Everything has its seasons, and this may not be full winter but it's pretty damn chilly for me.

However, even in the midst of the chill, sometimes one can see a scrap of wisdom that grabs you by the ears, shakes you around a bit, and deposits you a little ... maybe not wiser, but at least a bit more determined to see it through.

Not like there's a choice, but hey. Like I always say, if life were easy, everyone would do it.

Here's the scrap of wisdom I saw just tonight, written casually onto the window of a shop in a mall selling sporting goods:

Some marketer probably googled 'motivational quotes'. Well hell, it worked. It didn't get me to go into the store and buy a pair of sneakers, but it got my attention and left me feeling that I WILL be ok after all.

I will, because I am. Because I must. Because I want to.

Because this frustrating, too-long story, isn't over yet. Thanks Rango.

Friday, 30 September 2016

Just stop it

A lot has changed since I wrote my last post here (back in May???). I've changed jobs, changed careers, moved cities ... and just generally had my plate full of all sorts of real and imaginary fears and doubts.

If this time has taught me anything, it's that one doesn't truly appreciate the value of confidence until it feels as if it has disappeared like fog on a summer's day. Try as you might, sometimes it won't come back ... and it's a journey.

But then I saw this video, and I think it's extremely relevant (it's something I've already been telling myself with differing levels of success over the past few months).

The hardest part is just letting go. We know this, we've always known this, and yet it's often so hard just to believe it, right?

So join me in listing whatever negative habits have been kicking around in your brain, and just commit to shouting 'Stop it!' whenever they crop up.

Stop it!

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Take five minutes out of your day

This video's core message is so simple, and yet so beautiful, that I just had to pass it on.

Youtube link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f7XhrXUoD6U

We all feel this one simple truth: truly look into somebody's eyes and you start to see them on an emotional level, not just through your usual filter of preconceptions. Yet everything in this world is geared towards breaking eye contact: media distractions, fears about mixed messages, insecurity, anger.

So many missed opportunities for authentic connections with the only people sharing this lonely planet with us at this specific moment in time *sighs*

Thursday, 31 March 2016

Jacob Zuma and THAT Constitutional Court judgement

Source: Mail & Guardian
31 March 2016 is a date that will go down in South African history, and spoken about in glowing terms for longer than I'm going to be around probably.

Why? Because for the first time in longer than any South African cares to remember, there's finally an undisputed victory for the rule of law in South Africa (not to be confused with democracy), against corrupt, self-enriching politicians who laugh at their critics in Parliament and do not deign to actually recognise the harm they have caused.

Which brings us back to today, and what makes it special. Today is the day that South Africa's Constitutional Court ruled that the President of South Africa, Jacob Zuma, not only has to pay back the State's money used to personally enrich himself while his personal compound (in South Africa our president doesn't need a mere house apparently) was undergoing security upgrades; but also found that he AND South Africa's parliament (majority-controlled by his political party, the ANC) have failed South Africa by ignoring an official report by the Public Protector which had already recommended that he pay back money for these unlawful upgrades.

"The president failed to uphold, defend and respect the Constitution," Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng said as he read through a unanimous judgment by the justices in the Constitutional Court.
WHY THIS IS IMPORTANT: Here's the key takeaway that has South Africa buzzing - in world politics, there have been bitterly few examples of a national court condemning the country's president and parliament in quite such a stern fashion.

The reason everybody in South Africa is so thrilled about this is because our Parliament has turned into a puppet show: with the ruling party outright controlling the majority of the seats, they blatantly use their majority to overturn any movement brought by opposition politicians that they don't find to be in their favour (most recently crushing the second vote of no confidence in Zuma).

This was never (just) about the money. As long as the ANC has been around, people have always joked openly about the 'gravy train' of corruption and tender-manipulation that has plagued the ANC at all levels of government. Rather, Nkandla and the ANC's absurd defences of it (up to the point of trying to rebrand a swimming pool as a critical water reservoir for fire safety - I kid you not!) has just been yet another case of the ANC thumbing its nose at the South African public,

It's worth recalling at this point that back in 2008, Jacob Zuma infamously stated that the ANC would rule the country "until Jesus comes back". Admittedly recent elections have had the ANC scrambling after their grip on the voters has undeniably been waning, but on one hand the erosion hasn't been fast enough; and on the other some of the beneficiaries of the erosion have been the most dangerous kind of 'revolutionaries' promising sweeping damaging economic and political reforms (e.g. the Economic Freedom Fighters' wish to nationalize South African mines and banks).

Ok, so all of that background and context out of the way, IS this really the big victory it's painted to be? Is it going to be the lever that opposition politicians and disgruntled factions within the ANC will finally be able to utilise to unseat Jacob Zuma from his chair, ahead of the municipal elections scheduled for later this year? Is Jacob Zuma actually going to pay back the money (and with what money and how much), or is he going to find some other way to weasel out of this?

As always South Africa is a country of more questions than answers, but we won't let that detract from the pleasure of reading of the ConCourt's definitive list of 11 judgements on Nkandla today. Today we have a definitive answer, THE definitive answer, to at least one important question: "Will the Constitutional Court hold Jacob Zuma and the ANC accountable?"

Yes. Yes they will.

And on a lighter note, we can all enjoy this awesome twitter account that has had new life breathed into it today: https://twitter.com/NkandlaHome

Sounds familiar.

Bonus note:
To bring this back to Romania (and you knew I had to), I couldn't stop thinking about this shocking news story that took Romania by storm just a few months ago: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-34720183 Ponta resigned because of a club fire he didn't personally set ... will Jacob Zuma step down in response to the fire he has stoked with reckless and gleeful abandon throughout his terms as president?

Saturday, 16 January 2016

Don't try emigrating alone!

Anybody who's tried emigrating will discover two facts really quickly: unless you're incredibly skilled most countries out there aren't really that interested in you moving to them (New York in the early days this ain't); and because of the aforementioned fact, they're not really too troubled to provide detailed how-to guides on the process.

There are of course some countries that do make an effort - the UK, Canada and New Zealand spring to mind - but if you're looking at moving to Romania, you're still out of luck. There is official information out there (the primary resource being this website from Romania's Ministry of Foreign Affairs), but "user-friendly" doesn't spring to mind.

That's where I can't recommend turning to other expats for help enough: not only those in the same boat as you, who're still looking to move; but specifically those who've already made the jump and can tell you exactly where real life differs substantially from the text-intensive websites (a third lesson you'll learn).

One of the early resources I relied on to get me started was Expat-Blog.com, which has recently rebranded to the far simpler to remember Expat.com (you'll see their spiffy new logo near the bottom right of this blog).

Because back in the early days of this blog it was solely focused on Romania and I listed it on Expat-Blog.com's blog directory for Romanian blogs, I recently received an e-mail from the website's founder, Julien, explaining the change (related to the website's Romanian section).

In Julien's own words:
"The website first started as a directory of expatriates’ blogs all around the world.  After 10 years of service, it has evolved into a real social network for expats in Romania with new features added so as to better serve expats and address their needs. With Expat.com, expats now have a dedicated space to find all they need to live in Romania. Discover their expat experience on the forum or by reading their interviews. You will also find job offers, housing ads and much more!"
Don't take my word for it though, just click here to get stuck into Expat.com's dedicated section on Romania:

Pro tip: Registering to ask and answer questions on the Romanian Forums should be a first stop ... it's great to feel a virtual part of a community you're not yet in, and the access to practical advice you won't find anywhere else online is invaluable!

Disclosure: Julien asked all bloggers to share the news of the site's rebranding on their blogs, which is what triggered this post. However the content (excluding his quote of course) is exclusively mine, and happily written ... I've learned many valuable lessons about Romania over the three years I was registered on Expat-Blog.com, and I have no doubt that the new and improved Expat.com is going to be an awesome resource to you, if you're interested in Romania.

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Generating new business ideas

Here's the thing about business ideas: there is limitless potential.

Let's start with imagining the simple act of drinking a glass of water.

Is it really simple?

Nope. In order to perform the action 'drink a glass of water', you need:

1: A glass
2: Water
3: A table for the glass of water to rest on
4: The knowledge over how to drink water
5: A functioning water-supply and purification system
6: A functioning mind that enables you to judge the distance to the water, reach out and grab the glass, raise it to your lips, and successfully swallow the water.
7: A desire to drink water, instilled by some clever water-centred marketing

... and you can keep drilling down into finer and finer detail.

The thing I've realised about business ideas that pretty much everything has value, and you can combine any of the wonderful nouns in our world with any of the other delightful verbs, and you end up with a magical product. Creation is actually the easy part - the hardest part is selling.

Ok, so that's not news to anybody, but what I'm currently finding really interesting is starting with basic concepts and then poking around the periphery (e.g. starting with 'glass' and 'water' and ending up at 'home-based training videos on strengthening hand-eye coordination for ultimate water-drinking pleasure') for related concepts.

Of course, insanity lies down that road, because there's the aforementioned infinite number of combinations, and the world's marketplaces don't need more noise.

The trick then is to apply the same fuzzy principle to identify new *markets* that nobody else is targeting (so at least you start off the base that whatever you create will definitely sell), and then re-use that skill to provide your new market with a new product they really want (even if they weren't aware of it until you showed them).

Good luck!