Nov 162008

Keith’s house in Jo-burg
After heading back it was a bit of time to decompress and try to arrange for my job interview to happen. We went off to Keith’s (one of my MBA buddies, and one of the greatest, most stand-up guys on the course) house in northern Johannesburg (Jo-burg, Jozie) for a couple of days. We did very little but have a few pints each nights (OK, more than a few… reminding me that one of the heavy search terms used to find this blog is, after all, “drunk”…) of the local lager and lots of insightful chats with Keith’s coworkers & old friends.

And we found someone who has no issue whatsoever with pollution, global warming, or much of anything else…

The other sign said “Yes, we have Anthracite”… Just in case you want to run your black-smoke spewing steamship.

He used us as an excuse to go and visit his father in kwaZulu-Natal, close to where he grew up. Keith’s father is a fascinating character who left (then) Rhodesia ahead of the revolution and works as an artist in bronze sculptures, doing highly realistic animals. The house is a garden of artly delights. His artist-name is Llewellyn.

Birds by Llewellyn

In Natal, we went to Keith’s old rambling school which was styled after UK public schools, but with much more land and a game reserve. On a drive down to the river, we came across four giraffes sitting down who just stared at us for quite some time– within about 15m of us. It was, actually, really really cool.

The Golden Gate & the Free State
After the brits landed and took over, many of the Dutch settlers headed off into the hinterlands of what would become South Africa to set up their own states. One of these, still remaining as a province, was the Orange Free State. It’s one of the areas with good farmland and which mostly surrounds the country of Lesotho.

Hartman and I hired a car and headed towards Lesotho, but not before spending a night in the Golden Gate park. This was an area where Voortrekkers, Brits, Zulus, and San passed through, as it offered water, shelter, farmland, cover, and all the things that a people need. It’s also stunningly beautiful– Probably the Free State equivalent of the Yosemite Valley.

The other Golden Gate, (minus San Francisco)

A stunning, gorgeous, rough, subsistence-based country entirely surrounded by South Africa. The mountains are so high here that the British and Dutch settlers and even Shaka Zulu pretty much left it alone. After the Difaqane the Basotho people migrated in and Shaka didn’t think it worth it to move in. Their loss.

There’s not a whole lot in Lesotho (pronounced “Le-soo-thoo”)– gem diamonds and water, pretty much. They grow a fair amount of food and sheep, goats, and cows. Wild animals are pretty much nonexistent (although on a hike I’m pretty sure I found a hyena print, and if anything could survive, it’d be the hyena) as everything is cultivated.

They do have water, though. Lots of it. It rained quite a bit while I was there (including one serious 50k/hr wind with huge raindrops for the last 2km of that aforementioned hike– I got seriously wet, though my back was bone dry, such was the wind) and you can easily see the places where the water washes the rich topsoil away– they call them Dongas. A man named Fanuel Musi filled in the ends of the dongas with stones– creating rough stone walls which catch the rich topsoil– a remarkable, simple, elegant, low-tech way of land conservation. His wife or his firstborn son takes you and shows you the work for a small donation, and you get the impression that Mr. Musi was a fascinating character– and stubborn!

Our second and third day was in Malealea, also known as the Gateway to Paradise. one of the many collective-style projects that dot the country. Malealea has a lovely backpackers who nightly host an excellent chorus, and a band who made thier own instruments from oil cans and whatnot, who were also excellent. Unfortunately, they made a CD whose quality is really bad… I’ll have to live it through memories.

Give me that big booming bass, in your face.

What’s that about a job?
After leaving Lesotho (for far too short of a time– I’m itching to go back with a proper tent, water filter, during hopefully the slightly-less-rainy season to do some significant hikes or possibly pony trekking– we headed back to Jo-burg, where I got the results of my my job interview–

I got it!

I’ll be moving to Kampala, Uganda after just a few days back in London for six months. There’s a nonprofit called CEIHD (Centre for Entrepreneurship in International Health and Development) allied closely with UC Berkeley who is leveraging carbon finance to fund efficient cookstove production in Uganda (and elsewhere). I’ll be working closely with their partner (who’s actually developing the stoves) to develop a comprehensive marketing/sales strategy, organisational & operational controls, financing packages, and sales initiatives to drive these things– basically, I’ll be using all the “MBA stuff”, and doing exactly what I went to business school to do, while fleshing out my experience, management skills to do the work that I want to do.

Which rocks. I’m quite excited. If you read this on my blog and you haven’t had an email from me, please excuse me– I haven’t had a decent Internet connection for a couple of months now and am very behind on my email.

The thing most worth doing in Jo-burg…
is the Apartheid museum. It’s even worth spending an hour lost (road signs and maps don’t seem to match too well…) finding the place. This museum traces the situations that gave rise to Apartheid, its history, and its fall. It does so in a very fair way, without needless blame on the parties involved, including self-criticism where appropriate.

Museums filled with nation-building have an effect on me, and this legacy is so close and real to us today– most of us can remember at least part of it, and the legacies of Apartheid are very visible all over South Africa. It’s very moving. They say it’ll take about 2 1/2 hours, but we spent four there, and could have spent longer.

The most difficult to enter room for me– one noose for each “official” political execution. How many unknown Mandelas or Bikos died before they could flourish?

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 Posted by at 02:40

  One Response to “Jozie, Natal, the Golden Gate, Lesotho, and a job!”

  1. Hey Glen – Many many congrats on the job! I’m absolutely glowing for you up here in Norway, it sounds like the perfect fit for you in so many ways! I’m sure you’ll bring a whole new world of knowledge, experience and ENERGY to CEIHD, they’re very lucky to have found you!!!

    Do keep me updated on your adventures, I love reading all about them!

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