Ag in Africa

12 June, 2007

Lost and (pro)found

Filed under: Development worker, johannesburg — Ag @ 11:05 pm

Where I am

I’m always getting lost.   

There’s a strange thing here with maps. They’re not popular. When I travel in my car around Joburg and Gauteng, I consult my map if I don’t know where I’m going. But most folk here find this odd. They have little patience with it. When they are in the car with me, they fling it in the back seat and say, ‘Let’s just go Down There (which is Anywhere), then we’ll ask someone’. That’s how they find their way. And it always works. My most-admired-friend Vincent once picked up my (hefty tome-like) map, waggled it in the air and said, ‘So this is what you people in Europe believe in!’ Yes, I do, and it makes sense, but I also felt a bit embarassed.

I’ve got lost quite a lot recently. I couldn’t seem to focus on why I am here and that’s a Bad Thing when I’m so far away from my home landmarks. And it can get depressing because, when I don’t know where I am, I rely on the things I am so familiar with – partying, socialising, adventures. Although these are wonderful important things, they are not Why I’m Here. Then, through amazing grace, things happen which show me where I am and where I want to go. Tonight it was a film. It reminded me of what I can do and where I want to do it. And why. So tonight I feel eyes-wide-open again, and such strong energy. I can’t wait for tomorrow.

I’m also going to try the African approach – ‘Go Down There and ask somebody.’ This will be really difficult cos (I’ll blame it on Englishness, but it might just be me) I’m not in the habit of asking people, ‘What should I do? Where should I go?’ But I’m very excited about where they might take me.


3 June, 2007


Filed under: johannesburg, south africa — Ag @ 5:19 pm

South Africa is in the middle of an ‘indefinite’ strike by public sector workers. Workers are striking for an increase in pay of more than 10% – they’ve been offered 6%. Inflation is running at 6%. On Friday there was a huge march through the centre of Joburg. They passed right by the building I work in, so I stood outside and watched the march pass by.

It was very different from my experience of UK marches. First off, it was incredibly well organised. Each union from each area had their own space and there was a gap between each group. It makes sense that South Africans know how to organise a good march – they’ve had enough experience. Secondly, nearly everyone was dressed similarly – red t-shirts and caps.

Thirdly, my god, they can sing a good song. Everyone was singing the same songs, with harmonies an’ all, and dancing in a beautiful united rythm. Swaying and bending low and fists-up-to-the-sky, right then left, then round again and again and again. Thousands of them. It was a Movement, in both the political and choreographical sense. Like all true manifestations of democracy, it was awesome and irresistible.

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