A Travellerspoint blog

December 2007

Yes, in fact the views can really kill you

Living in a township means you can not leave your house the way you are got used to. There is no way you can go for a walk or stay outside of your property either during the daytime or nightime (I don't mention high walls with wires on top of them around properties as this is a standard safty infrastructure in South Africa). Therefore my priest friend arranged a driver for me so I could easily get to the center of Cape Town or any other places I wanted to get to. Her name was Margaret (the woman dressed white on the photo below) and she was locally born so she knew the area very well.
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Without my priest friend knowledge she brought me to the most dangerous places in the township to let me see the real life of blacks and coloured living together in their shacks. It was an eye opener to me and I will never forget the scenes of volience on the streets, the poverty and ever present dirt (even in the air).
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The time came I asked my friend driver to take me to the Cape of Good Hope. Well, being in Cape Town and not to witness the meeting of the Atlantic and Indian Ocenas and the fairest Cape in all circumference of the globe would be unforgivable.
So we three got in the car. We were three because Margaret took her neighbour's daughter as she was never there in her life. There was no problem from my side.
We drove the way and I looked around through the windows and admired the beauty of the landscape, wathing carefully all the passing details that were absolutly new for me. In the meantime I took the opportunity and overwhelmed Margaret with hundreds of questions regarding politics, aparthaid, football as South Afirca is going to be the next world cup host etc. Well, honestly speaking within this two weeks I made her life very diffucalt by asking her always hundreds of questions driving with her to school and back again everyday . This time it was not different despite the fact that it was weekend :-)

Suddenly, I noticed in a distance a nice, colourful view on my left hand side! I was not sure what exacly it was by then but once we got closer I refreshed my memory. Well, that was the view I had seen a couple of times on postcards after my arrival in Cape Town and in books and internet sites before leaving my hometown. Beautifuly placed sandy beach with number of wooden cottages/cabins painted in various colours flooded with people searching for sun and ocean bath. I asked Margaret to stop a car and parked it on a left side-space of the road. As she did we took a long second to stare at this beach as we were hypnotized.
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I got out of the car and slowly crossed the road to get to the other side. My idea was to take a photo from the closest possible distance. I was seduced by the view! There was one meter high wall I had to climbed on the other side of the road that did not stop me from moving futher towards the beach and then the view was perfectly shaped so I could easily find the right photo spot. I was walking on the railway tracks back and forth with my camera and yes, I eventaully got the spot. My little skills of taking photos made me busy for some time to set the camera properly so my dream come true landscape would be immortalized. While taking a few first shots I heard Margaret calling me but because she stood by the car and the traffic was relativly high I could not hear her at all. Besides I thought she had wanted to hurry me a little so I did not rise my head to let her know that I was just about to finish it. Suprisingly her voice was getting lauder and lauder by that time and then I clearly heard her calling my name. Well, it would be unkind not to react any longer so I raised my head in her direction. I saw her chaotic and cofusing geastures she nervously made to me. I realized she had wanted me to look behind so I turned my head. To my surprise I saw the train coming towards me. The distance between me and the train was that long as I only could look at my left hand side to see what was there so I could jump out from the train rails I stood on. There was a high cliff on the left and my way was a long way down. It could be a three meters high cliff or so with a sidewalk made of concrete at its bottom. Yes, so I jumped out of the rails and flew down to touch down the conrete with a terrible pain in my legs. My body rolled a few times on the side walk to stop finally on the lawn.

The day after my whole body was full in colourful bruises, my legs were in terrible pain so I could merely walk without a help of others. By then I knew how stupid I was and how much luck I had !!!

Posted by tomik 05:29 Archived in South Africa Comments (0)

Views can kill

Have you ever seen that beach view? Is it a beautiful view? Yes, it is! Tomorrow I will take some time to tell you how beautiful views might first seduce you and shortly after cause a deadly danger !

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Posted by tomik 11:00 Archived in South Africa Comments (0)

A fishing-rod and the magic sequance of development

I am always glad and very much impressed to see people helping others out gratuitously. Why? It is a way of showing others the magic abilty to share. It's an extraordinary ability. I am very much a supporter of giving the world good examples of those who possess that magic power so others can follow them. In business/marketing language people use the term 'best practicies' and that reflects all kinds of well done work and remarkable people's performance so in many cases you don't have to kick the opened door and just apply the good experience of others. Theoreticlly speaking if all people would follow those who help others our world would turn into paradise, well, it sounds well but needless to add that this is an absurd or at least imaginary ideal state.
However, if we come to a point one day that it would be nice to help somone/some people without asking anything in return I wonder how we could things get started. Well, it's not a banal question, however, at the first sight it indeed seems very easy to answer, isn't it? Omnipresent mass media delivers 'the dark side of the world' message 24 hours a day. Intiuitonally I would say that there is far more negative communication compared to promotion of postive people's performance in massive media. Poverty, unjust and human's tradegy are all around us. Who should I help first to make my efforts as effective as possible?

I transport myslef back in time to 2006 and those two weeks of mine I spent in Republic of South Africa when I met a young South African English teacher. He was 5 or 6 years younger than me. He wasn't a proffesional teacher but you know at the high season the demand for people who are willing to teach English to foreigners is so high that it is quiet easy to get a temporary job. He was one of the temporary / seasonal teachers in the school I went to.
He did not impress me because of his teacher's skills or the way he could test my skills, evaluate them and finally help me to improve my language gaps that needed to be improved. As I took individual tution with him we gradually moved the gist of our conversations from very formal to private topics. I think we managed to find a mutual ground for private conversation.
He was a charity worker responsible for fund rising in London. He worked for one of charity organization settled in England to make fresh and clean water availble all around the world. Water was according to him commodity of first neccessity and should be put as a number one priority to all charity organizations worldwide. He gave me a lot of examples and evidence that clean water supply is fundamental for human's life.
I was sceptical first but then slowly I thought he had been right.
Can you imagine a child walking everyday in the morning a distance of 40 km one way to get a bucket or two of fresh water. Have you ever walked a distance of 40 km with a heavy backpack, if you did you know how tired you were arriving finally in the destination and how cheerful you were to see a pint of beer on the table in front of you. However, this boy while arriving home with water he has a long list of futher duties like doing homework etc. In most of the cases lack of fresh water availability limits the families to develop and move higher in social hierachy because what they utmost care is water.
There are a lot of charity organizations delivering aid to people by sending them cows or sheeps so that they can breed them and live on them. However, the problem is that if there is no water supply the animals won't survive long.
To me my young SA teacher was right that water goes first and if no water there is no next step in the development sequance.

The Republic of South Africa as a relatively new democratic country deals with so many problems like poverty, low level of education and illiteracy, rasizm and very high crime level. Well, surley I could easily continue to mention more problems people of South Africa face in their everyday life but that's not the point. You see my young teacher would have his hands full of work in his own country that was my first impression after hours of conversations with him. Nevertheless, I am still far from being critical on him. On contrary, I realized that my teacher had a unique ability to look at the world globally (most of us still look only locally) and to focus on primary and fundamental problems if they continue to remain unsolved there would be no further development possible. Today I very much support the efforts to secure a supply of fresh and clean water all around the world and to put clean water avavilbity on top of the agenda of all charity organizations.

What if we try to help people by giving them a 'fishing-rod' so that they can sit by the river and catch a fish by themselfs. If we give them a fish first they will just eat it and the day after they will feel hunger again.

If you feel like helping others think well what's fundamental for people to let them improve their daily life so your effort / time will be rewarded with long term effect either you see the world locally or globally.

Posted by tomik 08:08 Archived in South Africa Comments (0)

Africa

impressions and considarations

I have been to Africa once. I flew to Cape Town in 2006 and spent two weeks living in parish house in a township. Townships were created as living areas for non-whites in old political system of Aparthaid. The one I stayed in was not even recommended for guided tours as the crime rate was one of the highest among all townships around Cape Town. To give you a picture how unsafe the area was I have got two examples at hand.
Firstly, when I was out to have a few drinks in the downtown with people I met at school ( I attanded an English course to improve my English) and it got late, well, it was midnight and I wanted to find a taxi to take me back home. Everytime I got in tha cab and told the driver where I want him to take me they all at once refused saying that that is the part of the city they don't drive in. Eventually, after 10 minutes of talking to cab drivers, I found a young guy who agreed to drive me there only because he said he had known I was not a local citizen otherwise he woundn't have dared to go there.
Secondly, at the last day or one day before last day of my departure the rector of the parish I stayed in (the only white in the township) took me to vist one of his closest altar servants to have a cup of tea and show me what is a middle class standard of living in the South African township. The conversation flew nicely and I found this family as very clever, intresting and open people. Just before we left the house a man (the altar servent) asked me weather I knew the nickname of this township. I did not have the foggiest idea so I enthusiasticly encauraged him to tell me and you might imagine how surprised I was to hear the answer. 'Kill me qucik' he said shortly. I was luckly I was leaving soon and I looked with far more respect to the priest who was a guide of unknow world to me. His mission was to live there and until now it has not been complited yet.
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Last week I watched two great films featuring Africa and Africans and their everyday problems. I refer to 'The last king of Scotland' and 'Blood diamond'. Both of them impressed me a great deal and left me with so many questions its hard to find clear answers. I feel so sorry for people living in the South African townships, those being killed senselessly in Uganda and abused, tortured and injured in Sierra Leone diamond conflict.
To generalize I could say that the modern history of African countries and their independance is very bloody. Is it because their leaders are not ready to take a moral responsibility to lead their nations towards democracy or the blame game we should start pointing a finger at the former colonial powers like Great Britain and others. Are there any other factors that influance the reality of Africa ?
I am sure there are.

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Posted by tomik 13:57 Comments (0)

At home - introduction

semi-overcast

I am sitting at the kitchen table now and thinking of sharing my work-life observation with you. Travelling is part of my everyday life and I enjoy it either being on business trip or entirely privately with my family and friends. That's my first attempt to sit and write a few sentenes that perhaps might be of some value to some people. There is no real pressure coming form deep inside of me to write this blog where the source of this pressure is in my wife who thinks that my observation and remarks are very accurate and reflect the reality well.
I hope you are going to enjoy the way I see the world.

There are a lot of aspects of travelling but there is only one that always suprises me. I am sure most of the people who love to travel the world (if not all) admire the time before setting off, the time when one plans the route, books accomodation and searches for the best available flight offers. You go to a book shop to buy a tourist/traveller guide to find out as much as you only can about your up-coming destination and in most of the cases that's only a first step in building your know-how before leaving your hometown. Certainly the internet comes with a helping hand of hundred or thousands sites where you can hang-out for hours. All in all, no matter there are weeks or months before you get on plane to explore the world you are always busy in planning your trip and this time is like you were studing the taste of a chocolate cake without tasting it and the time of tasting is just around the corner.

When the moment comes the enthusiasm that had been a part of my life over last few weeks just flew away. Why? The advanture is at my arm's lenght now and no one can really spoil it.
I am on the plane but from now on a thought of missing my home and family accompany me permanently.

The only cure for homesick I have found is to take my family with me :-)

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Posted by tomik 10:55 Comments (0)

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