South Africa, Mar. 2012

First time in South Africa

Mar. 11, 2012

Yes! Just after one week I’m on travel again. This time, for the first time, in South Africa, discovering a new continent. How many tales and legends and mystery fill our mind about Africa. How many things we imagine about this continent and how much of our history is in some way connected with it. I landed in Johannesburg just a few hours ago and my wonderful friend Alberto had already organized a tour of Soweto. He knew that the schedules on this trip are really tight and he imagined that I wanted to lose no time. First time you are in a place you need some time to understand it and to be able to elaborate the feelings that just looking out of the car window spontaneously raise (and the travel between airport and hotel is normally not the most representative of the country). But Soweto…
The mini bus drove us through Johannesburg downtown, a kind of ghost city on sunday at 2pm. This was the firs unusual thing. Downtown is not the most developed, modern, full of life part of the city. It’s in some way historic, it’s the history of a commercial center that during the years moved and left behind a kind of nostalgic flavor of a time that has gone. Seeing a sign  survived from the apartheid times to keep whites out of a shop make you face a part of the history that even if heard many times becomes suddenly real and terribly unconfortable.
Entering Soweto and seeing the hostels, originally built to house male migrant workers, still populated gives you a picture of what this place has been and in part still is. There are “few” slums too, “where only 5% of the population lives” said our driver. But 5% of 2.5 millions of people living in Soweto means abut 125.000. It’s Vicenza! It’s really unbelievable and so far from our standard thoughts… We are used to think that the world is the one in which we live, but there’s so much difference all around and so many people suffering that we should really stop and think a little more.
I visited the museum dedicated to the “Soweto uprising”. It was June 16th 1976,  when mass protests erupted over the government’s policy to enforce education in Afrikaans rather than English. It was June 16th when the Police opened fire in Orlando West on 10,000 students marching from Naledi High School to Orlando Stadium. It was 35 years ago, but it was the same happened last year in many countries in North Africa, it was the same happened in China. It’s the same that will happen in some new place. Why don’t we learn from the past? It’s so easy! Just look at one of the pictures of the Soweto uprising and how can you only imagine to let it happen again?

I know a place in Africa…

Mar. 12, 2012

I know a place in Africa
Where I can feel the sun on my back
And the sand between my barefoot toes
Where I can hear the gulls on the breeze
And the waves crash on the endless shore

I know a place in Africa
Where the mountains touch the skies of blue
And the valleys shelter vines of green
Where the trees spread out a cloth of mauve
And the bushveld wears a coat of beige

I know a place in Africa
Where I can hear the voice of thunder gods
And watch their lightening spears thrown to earth
Where I can breathe the scent of rain clouds
And taste the sweet dew of dusty drops

This is the place of wildness
Of evolution and dinosaurs
Where life began and mankind first stood
Of living fossils and elephants
Where lions roar and springbok herds leap

This is the place of struggle
Of desert plains and thorn trees
Where pathways end and hunters track game
Of horizons and frontiers
Where journeys start and sunsets bleed red

This is the place of freedom
Of exploration and pioneers
Where darkness loomed and light saw us through
Of living legends and miracles
Where daybreak came and hope now shines bright

My heart is at home in Africa
Where the sound of drums beat in my chest
And the songs of time ring in my ears
Where the rainbow mist glows in my eyes
And the smiles of friends make me welcome

My mind is at ease in Africa
Where the people still live close to the soil
And the seasons mark my changing moods
Where the markets hustle with trading
And Creation keeps its own slow time

My soul is at peace in Africa
For her streams bring lifeblood to my veins
And her winds bring healing to my dreams
For when the tale of this land is told
Her destiny and mine are as one.

2006 Wayne Visser

Trip summary

Mar. 17, 2012

Experiencing never ends. The trip to South Africa ends up and I’m at the Frankfurth airport with enough layover time to summarize my thoughts.
First: South Africa is a great country with kind, friendly and smart people. They have unbelievable potentials and are growing a lot. They are aware of their problems and have a pragmatic approach in solving them and a sane proudness of the ones they already solved.
Second: doing Busines is not probably easier than in Italy but fore sure more straightforward. More I travel more I convince that we could be a great country if we didn’t travel with the handbrake. It’s not only a matter of rules, laws and burocracy. It’s even a matter of our entrepreneurial approach. We are smart, creative, hard workers… But we do have two main issues. We try to overcome our lack of job organization and quality with the quantity of worked hours. We are culturally not able to team up fast. Each of us is a “primadonna” convinced to do things better, which would be great is we would be able to keep all this enthusiasm and self initiative aligned with the company strategy and targets.
Third: getting out of the country was an experience more than getting in. I never saw at the airport a specific lane to check in firearms and weapons at the security check and I never had a so light security check. They were interested only in laptops and iPads. No interest in liquids, belts, watches and other metallic objects that I was wearing. Of course the metal detector threshold was high enough not to stop everyone, but I really think that I could have brought in a knife without to much problems. On the other side the passport control at the exit was much more accurate and time consuming than at the entrance and I cannot understand the reason.
At the end a very nice experience in a part of the world where I never had been, but where I need to go back soon.