A Travellerspoint blog

From the soccer to the Mountain Kingdom to Moz and back

Gut rumgekommen in den letzten Monaten!

sunny 22 °C

Dear all,

Its been interesting 2 months or even 3(?) - time flies when you're having fun! Indeed I've been around a lot since the WorldCup started and only noticed now how long its been since my last entry.

In a nutshell - even though I hadn't bought a single soccer ticket in advance, I was lucky enough to get to see 3 matches live: South Africa - Paraguay in Pretoria, Germany - Serbia in Port Elizabeth and finally Germany - Ghana in Soccer City, Jo'burg where we eventually won. for the opening match and the other german matches I went with colleagues to different public viewing sites around Pretoria, which was great fun, too.

Party after SA-MEX draw, Hatfield, Pretoria

Party after SA-MEX draw, Hatfield, Pretoria

WC2010 Opening Match, Hatfield, Pretoria

WC2010 Opening Match, Hatfield, Pretoria

Germany-Serbia, Port Elizabeth

Germany-Serbia, Port Elizabeth

Overall, it was an amazing month and after the final I couldn't quite believe it was over... this sudden emptiness... :-)

Now it already feels far away and unfortunately a lot of the common spirit, drive and togetherness seems to be getting forgotten, which is a shame. this is what the papers say and on Monday I attended a tourism policy drafting meeting at national level, where they also complained that nothing is being done to make any of the achievements sustainable.

Anyway, after the World Cup, I went to beautiful Lesotho for a few days with my colleague Tanja. Late July is the middle of winter and not the time to go to Lesotho, also known as the Mountain Kingdom / Kingdom of the Sky, which gets bitterly cold and snowy and like here, nobody has proper insulation or heating in the houses. But Tanja's contract ended here and she now left, so we had to go then or never. So I packed ALL warm clothes that I have and we drove there in about 6 h. First we stayed in Maseru with another colleague, then went on to Malealea and Semonkong, which are small villages/ towns in beautiful mountain settings. The main thing to do there is pony riding on the special Lesotho ponies, which are more like small horses. They manage to navigate through the rough terrain with steady steps, sometimes almost a little too close to the edge... but we trusted them and they brought us back home safely!

through the rocks on pony back

through the rocks on pony back

The hardest part of the trip was the drive between the 2 places, of which 65km were on the worst gravel road I've ever been on (and I've been on a lot!). Just that stretch took us 3hrs and once my poor little Polo's engine died on a steep uphill slope in first gear... but managed on the second try luckily.

the mountain kingdom

the mountain kingdom

Then again Semonkong was beautiful and almost felt like a medieval village because almost everyone was on horses and covered in thick and warm blankets, which are a unique thing of Lesotho. On the way back we bought some as well and it really was priceless back here for the remainder of the cold days.

transport lesotho style

transport lesotho style

Then after a couple of weeks back home, 4 of us embarked on the next trip - Maputo, Mozambique this time as we were longing for warmer weather and the sea. It was just another long weekend and therefore no time to visit the tropical beaches they have up north. Instead we stayed in the city and for once I felt like in Africa again! Busy street life, everyone was walking (rather than driving), street cafes, etc, etc. Oh, how we enjoyed it! One day we did a walking tour through the whole of the centre (unthinkable in Pretoria...) and one day we drove out to a nice beach a bit further north. Oh, and all the Portuguese influence is still very much there in the form of the language of course but also the nice food (especially the pastries) and the relaxed attitude of people - almost mediterrean. The most annoying thing however was that in 3.5 days we were stopped 6 times by the police. They just see the money when they see South African number plates I guess. But with a lot of talking we mostly managed not to pay for whatever offences they'd made up. After all it was a great trip and I'll certainly go back for more of the beaches up north!!! (when the current street unrests over high food prices are over of course).

Maputo street life

Maputo street life

so that are my latest travel experiences - and there is so much more to do (Botswana, Zambia, Namibia, Cape Town, ....that's only the top of the list). Truly amazing how much this southern part of the world has to offer in terms of nature!

Hippo crossing

Hippo crossing

Addo Elephant Park

Addo Elephant Park

Posted by Brizie 13.09.2010 05:28 Archived in Lesotho Tagged living_abroad Comments (0)

Hallo Deutschland!

and South African soccer spirit.

sunny 22 °C

I wish I'd been better prepared... but there's still time to get more familiar with who actually is in the German team. I have to say I'm not a soccer expert at all and when me and some colleagues drove out to the Atteridgeville township in the west of Pretoria this afternoon to watch them at their first public training session, I really had not much clue who they all were.

After hitting the downtown rush hour we arrived just on time with them. There they were and luckily there was at least one 'real' soccer fan in our small group who could tell the rest of us the names of the players. Binoculars would have been handy to have as well, though. I thought of buying some for my next game drive but maybe I'll get some before for the next match.

Team Germany training session

Team Germany training session

Team Germany training session2, Atteridgeville, Pretoria

Team Germany training session2, Atteridgeville, Pretoria

The best part of the training session was the athmosphere. There were a few hundred fans, many of them German but also a lot of (German-) South Africans and locals from the area. Also lots of flags and Vuvuzelas - the South African plastic horn that makes such incredible noise.

Team Germany training session3, Atteridgeville, Pretoria

Team Germany training session3, Atteridgeville, Pretoria

Unfortunately I had forgotten mine at home but I still need to practice more anyway... now only 4 days to go so I better start. At the end of the training, the players threw their t-shirts over the fence and we almost got run over by the crowd that went after them. Luckily we escaped and they went off in their bus.

Team Germany training session4, Atteridgeville, Pretoria

Team Germany training session4, Atteridgeville, Pretoria

Overall, the whole session was very organised - not too many people but a lot of (friendly) security guards, police, mounted police, armoured police trucks outside, and even police in the parking lot who chased some local kids away from our car who asked for some money... They were well prepared as it looked and I hope it'll all go well in terms of security. I'm optimistic though because now I really feel how much people here want this event to become a success. Even though - as the critics say - the money could have been way better spent on other, more important issues than soccer stadiums that won't be used as much in the future, I feel it does bring the nation a little closer together. And this is what is important, especially in South Africa!

My plan is at the moment to go and see 2 matches in the stadium (Pretoria and Johannesburg) and for the other interesting ones check out the public viewing areas - there are a few of these outside Pretoria. For the opening match on Friday I'm off to the German school here in town where they also have big screens I heard.

Today however I noticed that by now - due to many 'soccer shirt Fridays' in the past weekes, I'm well stocked with South African yellow and green 'Bafana Bafana' gear but NOTHING German. So at lunchtime I went outside and walked over to a busy junction where hawkers sell all sorts of flags to put on cars to bu some 'mirror socks'. These are little sock-type flags to pull over the outside car mirrors. Looks very cute and after swapping one with my colleague I now have a German and a South African one. Because they look so cute I wondered why they weren't available in Germany for the last world cup but after I put them on I knew: they wouldn't have been allowed probably because with them on my small Polo mirrors, I can only see half of the mirror when they're on. The German police would probably have banned them immediately but luckily this is South Africa. ;-) And after the soccer I might be able to reuse them as a swimming cap in the pool!

my new mirror socks

my new mirror socks

So, I'm ready now, looking forward to my first World Cup 'live' in a country to begin. The German boys look fit as well, so fingers crossed it'll go well! And also for the Bafana squad who already beat Denmark in a friendly on Saturday.

Ayoba! as they say here when it comes to soccer (or 'diski' as it's called in SA slang)

One last thing - Diski reminds me of the Diski dance I haven't written about, yet. Not sure if its known in Europe but here, its a big thing. The sort of soccer line dance everyone tries to learn at the moment, especially on Soccer Fridays. At my office they even threw a big BBQ outside for all staff and even hired some professional Diski dancers to teach us. Great fun that was (still can't do it properly though...).

Soccer Friday party at work2

Soccer Friday party at work2

Soccer Friday party at work

Soccer Friday party at work

Soccer Friday party at work3

Soccer Friday party at work3

Posted by Brizie 07.06.2010 12:53 Archived in South Africa Comments (0)

Car registration the South African way

or my oddyssey through Pretoria

sunny 22 °C

In many ways things in South Africa work quite similar to how it is in Europe, rather organised let’s say compared to other African countries. Or maybe similar to how things were in Europe just BEFORE wide spread use of the internet and customer service orientation in public authorities speeded up a lot of processes. However, in South Africa you still get away with a lot and controls and checks, say if your car is not registered properly and the tax certificate is out of date, its likely you get away with it for a while because nobody will notice.

Let me tell you my story of the month. I bought my car a while ago now and still drive on the dealer’s registration because a) I’ve been quite busy and away a lot, b) the dealer assured me he can make the change easily himself when I hand the car in for a day and c) heard many stories from people that it is actually not that easy to get it all sorted and it needs a lot of documents…

So when I had some time at the start of the month after coming back from Germany, I decided to get it going. The dealer did the roadworthy test as promised and collected my passport and ID copy and gave it all to his office so they could do it. Over a week after no word from the dealer I phoned to find out that they couldn’t do it because a small thing from my side was missing. The oh –so-dreaded TRAFFIC REGISTRATION NUMBER. I had prayed they could pull some strings and somehow do it without it but they couldn’t. This is the thing I heard about from various people – the number you need to get from the Licensing Department to be able to register a car in your name. So colleagues told me to take all documentation and copies of that with me that I can find plus 2 pictures and to be prepared to wait…

I checked their opening hours online and via the ‘customer service hotline’ – 8am to 3pm and decided to get on the way across town just after lunch. Unfortunately there was another big accident (almost as usual on a busy day in Pretoria) on a motorway exit close to the office and after the first 500m took me over half an hour, I gave up and returned to the office. Lucky in a way because when I went to the Department at 8am the next morning, I saw a little sign saying ‘Traffic registration numbers only from 8-12am’. So I would have been to late anyway.

So I got into the surprisingly short queue with only 7 people or so in front of me. But this wasn’t an easy thing and each person took quite long at the one counter that was staffed (out of at least 6…). The closer I came to the front and overheard the conversations, I realised that there was also a form to complete that I didn’t have, yet. To save time, I asked a person at another counter that wasn’t open to give me one so I wouldn’t have to get it first and then queue again. Great, I thought! I had everything I thought– photos, (official) passport, visa, proof of residence, ID, driving license as well as copies of everything. And the form. I’ll be out here by 8.30 I thought… boy, was I wrong!

Form filled in I started listening to the other conversations in front of me again and realised that every single person was missing some sort of document and was turned away after loud, lengthy and quite patronising explanations from the young lady behind the counter. No discussion, no excuses! While still in the queue, I realised I was missing a ‘proof of purchase’ of the car, a receipt or the original car documents. Why you need to have that already in order to register a car (which requires all the original car documents anyway) I didn’t understand. But these were still at the dealer since he was gonna do the registration for me. Bugger! Anyway, I waited til it was my turn in the queue, showed everything and was told that I was missing the proof of purchase. As original, no fax, no email (‘Actually, we don’t even have a fax machine here’, the lady said). Fine. ‘ANYTHING ELSE?’ I asked, just to make sure. ‘No, just that’. Ok, I thought, not too bad. Around 9am I got out and phoned the dealer. Outside, the car park was full of people offering to make passport photos in a small cabin under a tree and the queue there was quite long as well. But these I had luckily. Johan, the dealer, had moved offices since I bought the car but organised his colleague at the old office to help me out with the receipt. So I drove across town to the dealer, picked everything up, got a copy and went straight back to the department. 9.50AM, back in the queue, 10.30 front of the queue. The lady behind the counter was a different one now. Still, almost everyone in front of me had been turned away because something was missing. The biggest problem seemed the proof of residence, which has to be a electricity or phone bill but if somebody doesn’t have that because they just rent a room or so, it gets messy… then you need to take the landlord with their passport and a letter stating that they rent to a police station or post office to get it officially certified (including the copies of course). Otherwise no traffic registration number, i.e. no car. Puh! Back to my case – I got to the front, again confident, this was it now. This time the lady looked and looked through everything, then asked why I wanted the traffic registration number. What??? Was that a trick question? I didn’t want to challenge my luck, so just said ‘because I bought a car and I want to register it.’ ‘Ok’, she said and kept looking through everything. ‘Do you work?’ was the next question. ‘Yes’, I said. And then, despite my ‘working’ passport that stated clearly what I do and where, she wanted to see a proof of employment. My heart fell. No, I didn’t have that and explained where in the passport she find all this information. That wouldn’t be sufficient for her management to approve it. They want a letter – no fax, no email. Same, same but different…

I left the department again at 11am, 1h til closing… it felt like in one of these reality TV treasure hunts. Off to another part of town to the office where I had to argue with the guards at the gate to let me in because the car park was full. They eventually did it, threatening to clamp my car, if I wouldn’t be out again after 10 minutes. No problem, I thought. And it just took me a good 10 minutes to get the letter I needed and then rushed back onto the road, getting annoyed with all the pre-World Cup road constructions that are still in full swing all over town. Back at the department at 11.55 and only one person in front of me in the queue. Everybody else from the morning had probably given up by that time… And that was it then – I handed in my document and eventually, with a friendly smile, the lady behind the counter gave me a little receipt with the date for collection of the traffic registration number on it. That was in 3 weeks time…Just for that number! Crazy…

So when I left and they closed the doors behind me, I was exhausted. And it was only midday. And I asked myself the question – how many days would this take you when you on public transport, if haven’t actually bought a car, yet (because some dealers require this number BEFORE they will actually sell you a car!)? So I was probably lucky after all?
Well, I only believe it when I have the number in my hands… let’s hope they don’t catch me with my expired registration in the meantime.

Sorry about the lack of pictures in this story - next time I go there I'll take my camera. :-)

Take care everyone!
xxx

Posted by Brizie 18.05.2010 07:59 Archived in South Africa Tagged living_abroad Comments (0)

Arriving in Pretoria

Is this really Africa?

28 °C

Dear all,

Another year, another job adventure, another blog.

It took me some time to decide whether to write another blog like for Cambodia but after many encouraging words I decided to go for it again. I wasn't sure whether to do it again because last time I didn't get much feedback but that's how it goes with blogs. However, this time its possible for everyone to write comments without having to register, which I hope some of you do from time to time.

I've been in South Africa for 3 months now and so far been completely absorbed by all the new impressions, people and things to organise. This is why this comes a little late but I also had to get my head around everything and develop my own view of how to see things and how to write about them. Still, I'm often not sure yet what perspective to take as you'll see.

I arrived together with another colleague I already knew from the preparation in Germany and who works in Lesotho. We met in Frankfurt airport and checked heaps of luggage in before embarking on the 11h flight to Johannesburg. I'm not a friend of long haul night flights really...

Ankunft Pretoria, 15.01.10

Ankunft Pretoria, 15.01.10


Arrival at Jo'burg Airport

When we eventually arrived at 9am, we were picked up by a colleague and driven to Pretoria. My first impressions in the airport and then on the road (they drive on the left here!) were along the lines of:
- there is road construction and building sites everywhere - a lot to finish until the football starts
- there is a LOT of traffic and some very unconventional driving methods (read: nobody really sticks to the rules)
- I thought they only had 6 lane highways in the US...? Apparently not!
- most drivers seem to be white people in new and big cars
- is this really Africa???

DSCN0444.jpg
Lost contrstruction worker?

To be honest, it was a bit of a shock arriving here between Jo'burg and Pretoria, which clearly is the most densely populated area in South Africa. Probably about 1/5 of the population live here and it really feels like a different planet from the rest of the country. In the city, it looks like a mix between US and some European culture and maybe a little bit of Africa. But there are also big differences between different areas of the city and even though Apartheid officially ended in 1994, its still very present in the way people live here. There are many distinct upmarket "white" residential areas with neat houses with gardens and pools and surrounded by walls, gates and electric fences. Black people live in other areas of town or outside in the townships, coloured people again in other areas. Of course there are exceptions but the general pattern is clearly visible.

DSCN0485.jpg
Pretoria Church Square

Blue Bulls, vs. Oz, Pretoria Rugby

Blue Bulls, vs. Oz, Pretoria Rugby

As long as I hadn't found my own place, I stayed in a shared house with other colleagues. This was also in an enclosed security compound where all the houses look the same and you don't see your neighbours very often. It is a requirement for all of us in the major cities to live in a compound like this but I didn't really want to feel enclosed behind walls and fences and eventually managed to find a lovely house with a wild garden and no fence (but in a security complex) where I settled in quite nicely.

DSCN0493.jpg My new home - very Euro-Scandinavian, I think

Social life in the city is often centred around what's on offer in the numerous shopping malls but the longer I live here, the more I get to know the 'nice' spots as well, like cool cafes, bars, parks, etc. and by now I refined my views a little bit - there is a lot of nice nature within short distances from the city.

Mountain Sanctuary Park, North West Province

Mountain Sanctuary Park, North West Province

Fountains Valley NP, Pretoria

Fountains Valley NP, Pretoria

I've also been on a couple of trips to the coast, which was really great - there are many pics in my photo gallery and I'll write more about it in another story SOON (I promise!).

Take care everyone, sunny greetings,

Britta

Posted by Brizie 25.04.2010 09:26 Archived in South Africa Tagged business_travel Comments (6)

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