Archive for July 3rd, 2008

customs

Thursday, July 3rd, 2008 at about 10:52 am

Last night’s romp through a Gothic nightclub behind me (and, thankfully, an early taxi ride home so I could get up for work this morning), I spent today working on the Wireless ISP in a Box project we’ve got going at work. Progress is slow, but noticeable. If I find the time I’ll post a summary of what it’s about, as it’s actually pretty interesting I think (or at least to anyone interested in tech and/or the developing world). But for now, Landman (the guy who remained unnamed in the God’s Window epic) is having a braai at his house, which is quite close to here. I’m curious, and, I mean, who doesn’t love meat. I think it’s the equivalent of Sunday barbeque & beer in the US, but we’ll see.

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by j. android

day to day

Thursday, July 3rd, 2008 at about 4:41 am

My existence is transient here — I never know quite what’s going to come next, even to the point of not knowing how I’m going to get to work in the morning. Things just keep working out, though. And what’s more, every time I think I’m about to have a little downtime, which might be the start of a long period of nothing to do (I was beginning to fear, last week, that I’d be bored here, since all there is to do is work and sit around the palace-prison of a house), something comes out of the blue and occupies me thoroughly — whether it’s another guest at Villa Africa, or Hendrik and his friends calling, as they did last night just minutes after I got home and was anticipating a quiet evening (my first in a while). They’re going out, he says, and would I like to join them. I can’t possibly say no, but eventually I could really use some downtime.

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by j. android

Company

Thursday, July 3rd, 2008 at about 4:38 am

The first week here I spent largely with Elektra and Sebastian, two German uber-techs working on the same project I am (Sebastian is essentially leading it). After the weekend, though, they went back to Germany, leaving me to sort of piece through the project and what to do next on my own. That’s been fine, I’m actually enjoying the work immensely. Elektra was at Villa Africa when she was here, so it was nice to have someone to go to work with, etc. That role was briefly filled early this week by Larry, an ineffectual Australian socialist-academic type also working with Meraka to try to get some grant funding for a project. He was kind enough to give me a ride to work every day, which was nice since I didn’t have Sebastian’s bicycle yet, and we went out to dinner on Monday and Tuesday. We got lost in our own subdivision trying to walk to the restaurant on Monday, despite his insistence that he knew the way, but this annoyance was temporary. I got some good recommendations of where to go in Amsterdam, to boot.

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by j. android

God’s Window

Thursday, July 3rd, 2008 at about 4:26 am

or “Defining the Roadtrip”

Woke up on Saturday with nothing to do. A pity, but make the best of it: ask for a cab downtown, to go check out the government buildings. “Oh, you want to go on your own? Or do you want a tour? Jaco’s brother, he’s 23, he gives tours”. Sure, why not. Forty minutes later he’s here, Hendrik, in a ten-year-old Mercedes. We head out. “First we’ll stop by my friend Puly’s,” he says. Puly’s a Rastefarian bus driver and mechanic who lives in Mumeradi, the township to the north of Pretoria. We get there around 11am. It looks a little like Mississippi, people in the streets, shack houses next to areas of newer government-built houses.

We drive around the townships some more. We drive all over the place. We stop for a drink at a kind of strip mall, get sodas at the South Afrian equivalent of a KFC. Continue on. As we’re driving through a market in one area we make sure to lock the doors. “I was hijacked the other week,” Hendrik says. We get to see the government buildings I was going to go to originally. Quite pretty, up on a hill with views of the city. Not many people around at all.

We head down towards Hattfield, the student area near the University of Pretoria. Get out of the car and walk around a bit. Stop for a drink at a bar, brandy and cokes while a rugby games blares on the television. Australia vs. France. I don’t know the rules and the announcing is all in Afrikaans, so it makes little sense. We move on.

We go to the downtown center of Pretoria. There’s a lot of people, almost all black just like in the township areas. A group dancing by a fountain in the square. We get a late lunch at a small restaurant on the square, sitting at a table outdoors. Move inside when people start hassling us.

One of our last stops is a park in Pretoria East, near where I’m staying. We walk around for a bit. Hendrik’s been on the phone with a friend of his off and on all afternoon. They’re considering going ot a concert out in the bush, a festival. “You can come if you want”. I’m there.

We stop by Villa Africa, where I’m staying, so I can quickly pack some clothes. 30 minutes later we’re in the car, picking up Hendrik’s friend. The three of us head for mountains, 300km away where the concert is. They have a mutual friend in Nielspruit, quite close to the concert. Hours later when we arrive, after a car ride spent pleasantly but in relative silence (no radio, since it got stolen when Henrik got hijacked). We pick up their friend, drop our stuff at his house, and head for the concert.

The concert is all Afrikaner music. We see the last two bands. One’s pretty standard rock (prime circle), the other a weird hybrid of electronic, rock, and goofy — DJ Ossovald is 4 guys, one in a kind of yodeling getup, one with an accordian, the other two slightly more normal. They sing some upbeat music in Afrikaans and say something nasty about the English during one of the breaks. We make it back to the house in Neilspruit. Around 4:30 I can’t take anymore and crash. The others soon follow.

Wake up at 10 on Sunday morning. After a semi-repulsive breakfast of cold hotdogs with cheese on buttered buns, side of eggs, we go to God’s Window, way out in the bush. It ends up being almost a two hour’s drive from Neilspruit. We get lost a couple times, but mostly need to go slowly because of the incredible mountains. It was beautiful. We first go to Pilgrim’s Rest, a small town near the attraction. 40 kilometers later we’re to the place itself, a tangle of trees way, way up a huge bluff overlooking a long valley. It’s a quick climb to the actual attraction, a series of sites where you can look out over the entire valley below through the trees and some walls of the bluff. It’s stunning.

We then climb back up to where we were and further, past the viewing areas, out onto the actual top of the bluff. We emerge for the trees into the bush proper, just grass and the occasional rock, along with scattered aloe plants. In all directions the land stretches down away from us, to our left slowly sloping, to our right dramatically down the bluff face. The sun is beginning to slant down as the afternoon wears on. We need to head back. We want to get as far out of the mountains as possible before darkness comes on.

We drop Edgar off, have some quick food, and get back on the N4 headed for Pretoria. 300 kilometers later we’re there, at about 11:30 at night. I’ve got to get up for work at 7:30 the next morning. I phone Elaine, talk to her for a while. Half past midnight I finally crawl into bad, illuminated by what I thought would probably turn out to be a boring weekend.

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by j. android