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Showing posts from February, 2008

Back in town

I am back in the UK and starting work Monday. Looking forward to catching up with people soon. And come back here for entertaining tales of culture clash as the weeks pass - my first job is ITU which could not be further removed from rural South African medicine.

The recession

I am in the bank to tie up my financial affairs before going home. The girl dealing with me is fascinated about why I might have come to South Africa to work - all her friends are going to the UK. "One of them came back with a MILLION RAND! And he only worked there for a year." "What work was he doing?" I ask. "Working in a bar!" I would be keen to know which bar pays over £75 000 a year - I might be tempted. She asks me about HIV and whether people "up there" in the rural areas were very sick. "Was it stressful?" she asks as she takes my passport. "At times." She studies my ID photo. Then she studies me. "Well you've definitely got less hair than before."

Robben Island

We file silently into the building exchanging the harsh bright white mix of sun and limestone for the gloom of the interior. As our weary eyes recover and vision is restored the darkness recedes. A tall black man stands at the end of the hall. He watches us silently as we file in. As the last person enters he booms, “You are late!” There is a ripple of nervous laughter. Is he chastising us or is he joking?

“My name is Thulani,” he continues. “And I was a prisoner here on Robben Island.” Everyone shuts up.

There are about 120 of us – of which just 5 or 6 are South African. The rest: tourists, pilgrims really, from all over the world. And all of us have come to see the place where Nelson Mandela, perhaps the greatest man of the second half of the twentieth century, was imprisoned by South Africa’s apartheid regime.

Thulani tells us how he was imprisoned for his involvement in a bomb placed in the intelligence service building in Pretoria. “It was not in working hours – there were 47 minor …

Flying Comedaire

Flew to Cape Town with a low cost airline called Kulula. They are famous for their quirky cabin announcements: fun for the tourist. Bloomin’ annoying if you fly regularly with them. For example:

"To operate your seat belt, insert the metal tab into the buckle, and pull tight. It works just like every other seat belt; and, if you don't know how to operate one, you probably shouldn't be out in public unsupervised. In the event of a sudden loss of cabin pressure, masks will descend from the ceiling. Stop screaming, grab the mask, and pull it over your face. This is a no smoking flight and anyone found smoking will be asked to leave the aircraft immediately.”

Others have reported the following (gleaned from Google search):

"Ladies and gentlemen, we've reached cruising altitude and will be turning down the cabin lights. This is for your comfort and to enhance the appearance of your flight attendants."

"There may be 50 ways to leave your lover, but there are only…