Because

So, I’ve encountered a bit of a problem. I’ve not finished the rest of my blogs about the trip (there’s about 10 outstanding) and I start exams this Friday. What this means is that I will be studying and I cannot complete these blogs, at least, for the next month. Yes, it does suck. I will now leave you with a few ellipses…

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My Malfunctioning Face

My cousin did a real good blog last year sometime on an operation that her mum underwent on her hands. As a result of the operation, like any other operation, she did not have 100% usage of her hands for quite a while. It’s amazing what effects not having control of one’s hands are. Anyway, I think her hands are now normal, which is pretty awesome 🙂 Go check out the blog though: http://starfishbowl.wordpress.com/2007/02/08/my-mothers-hands/

Over the last few months, it’s become quite apparent to me how important your senses actually are. The senses are vital for our survival and that if we lose any sense, it can be pretty catastrophic.

When I was a kid, I suffered from a pretty common ailment know as Hay-Fever. Basically, it’s clogged sinuses meaning that you have a runny nose and are allergic to everything! If you encounter anything that you are allergic to, then your nose starts running. Since you are allergic to everything, it logically follows that you always have a runny nose! I think everyone has experienced a runny nose when they had the flu – note that you can’t really smell much when this does occur. Yeah, imagine a childhood spent without the use of your smell because your nose is constantly blocked! Anyway, I did detail a rather extreme case of Hay-Fever. With me, I was allergic to a lot of things but a combination of medication and the fact that I wasn’t a severe case meant that severely blocked noses normally occurred only during the high-risk periods … you know, change of seasons and Springtime when all the marvellous pollen pollutes the air. Luckily, as my doctor predicted, I grew up and the Hay-Fever disappeared.

My family has a well-documented history when it comes to short-sightedness. Most members on my dad’s side of the family tree have glasses. So, as genetics dictates, I ended up with glasses. Oddly enough, my siblings ended up with perfect 20/20. Anyway, a few years ago, my optometrist realised that my eyes were deteriorating at a rather rapid rate as compared to what she would have expected. Luckily for me, she checked my eyes for a certain condition that she had done extensive research in and what do you know, she diagnosed me with keratoconus. This is a condition where your cornea is thinner than normal and as a result, does not have the normal shape. Instead of being spherical (well, a half-moon shape at least), the cornea ends up deformed with the maximum curvature being closer to either one of the poles rather than at the equator. What also happens, due to the thinned cornea, is that craters form. What this does is mess up your vision! And because of the nature of the actual condition, this also means that, in most cases, regular glasses cannot successfully correct your vision. In extreme cases, a cornea transplant is required to allow the patient to see properly. Again, as was the case with my Hay-Fever, I did not have a severe case of the condition! However, the condition is degenerative and if not picked up and treated at an early stage, you face the prospect of severely limited sight and a future cornea transplant.

One thing to note – have you ever heard of someone donating a cornea? Sure, people donate kidneys and livers pretty often but the chances are that you have never heard of someone donating their cornea. This does show one thing – the waiting list for this transplant is mighty long and it’s sad to imagine how many people are without vision because there is not a suitable donor.

Last year, I underwent two separate procedures to help stop the degeneration of the condition. I was pretty impressed by the method mind you – it really is pretty cool how it happens. The procedure is called Collagen Cross-linking with Riboflavin. Yes, it is the collagen that they use for botox! And yes, riboflavin is indeed Vitamin B2! And no, I did not go for a botox injection and a Vitamin B2 injection! The procedure is a non-surgical technique that gets the five layers of your cornea, which are made of collagen, to intertwine and cross-link thereby strengthening your cornea. Think about a three-stringed plait and how much stronger it is than the three pieces of string that it is composed of – this works on the same principle. This procedure, being non-surgical, does not involve the ophthalmologist separating the five layers with a scalpel and then plaiting them together. Rather, several incisions are made on the lens, and then riboflavin drops are introduced onto the eye over a half an hour period. After this period, the eye is “baked” under a UVA light for a further half an hour. Seasoning and parsley are then tossed onto the eye and voila, a tasty meal! Okay, it doesn’t really bake but this UVA light reacts with the riboflavin and the cornea and the layers are intertwined into a cross-linked matrix. And yes, that is really awesome. For more information, check out: http://www.centreforsight.com/procedures/other/3-cr.aspx

The actual procedure is done whilst you awake and you have local anaesthetic applied to the eye. One of the most mind-blowing experiences I had was when the doctor scored my lens. As he did it, the lens shifted slightly and the world looked like it moved and then oscillated back into place. This was done with an eye-clamp – the type that forces your eyelids open so you can’t blink. This can be a harrowing experience. Try not blinking for a minute and see how your eyes and mind react. Now imagine this happening for an hour. Now also imagine that for the last half hour, you have to stare at a rather bright violet light. As mentioned, this whole procedure was mind-blowing and when you do stir from it at the end, you do need to step back and analyse what you just went through. Luckily, an hour is not a long time so no real permanent damage can be done. Au contraire, the eyes are now “fixed” in the sense that the cross-linking has strengthened the eyes and degeneration as a result of keratoconus is now a thing of the past!

For the next three days after the procedure, I experienced one of the most eye-opening experiences of my life. Well, okay, my eyes weren’t really open but yeah! As a result of the procedure, usage of my right eye (that’s the eye I did first) was severely limited. Although I could see in the broader sense i.e. if my mum was in front of me, I could see her; I couldn’t do simple things like read a book or newspaper. The blurring was so bad that even the figures on television were difficult to discern and watching television was a rather pointless exercise. All I had was my iPod. Although listening to an iPod is pretty good entertainment, when it is the only thing you can do, it does start effecting you! Other “normal” activities required great concentration and care – things like climbing stairs and eating food. Let’s not even talk about driving! We do take our eyes for granted – having eyesight is so important to just live. I can’t fathom what it would be like for someone who loses their sight in an accident – waking up in hospital and realising that they will never see their loved ones again, won’t appreciate nature’s beauty, won’t be able to read or reply to emails. I’m sure you have read lines like my previous sentence before but well, that is what happens and it is pretty scary. I was pretty lucky that my eyes did normalise and, now that the procedure has been done on both eyes, I have relatively normal vision although even with my new hard contact lens (which is able to correct your eyes better than glasses), my eye site is still not 20/20. But hey, I do have vision and I am very grateful for that!

I watched Cinderella a few weeks ago at the Johannesburg Civic Theatre. I didn’t realise that it was a ballet meaning that all it would be was dance with no speech. However, it was a brilliant performance. I’m wouldn’t call myself a fan of ballet but I did enjoy it. During the interval, whilst waiting to buy drinks, a couple joins the queue behind me. What made them special was that they (or at least one of them) could not speak. Unlike me, in order to ask the bartender for a drink, one of the guys had to type out his order onto his cell phone just so he could communicate with the bartender. As per usual with my rather overactive mind, I did start imagining a world where you couldn’t speak and had to find other ways to get a point across. Imagining only takes you so far and this past week, this mute experience became a reality. My body is apparently lacking a vital mineral and well, this has manifested with ulcers developing in my mouth – on my gums and tongue. Quite simply, if I ate correctly, I would be fine; alas… What has now happened is that I have, effectively, lost my ability to speak for a few days. Again, as with my eyes, this is temporary and within a week or so, I should be able to speak properly. And again, as with my eyes, it has made me appreciate the value of speech. There are the usual problems of not being able to communicate with people at work and if you go out with your friends, which I did, it really is pretty weird not being able to reply to any comments a they make. Travelling in a car is worse as, I have realised, banter within the confined environment of a motor vehicle requires both parties to actually contribute. My cousin is a chatterbox of note that never does shut up but even she had problems talking to me whilst we commuted as she received no feedback whatsoever! What did affect me the most was that without a voice, courtesy was thrown out the window. I couldn’t greet people when they greeted me, I couldn’t thank my aunt for the lovely supper she had made, I couldn’t engage in light conversation with the security guards, cleaners and shop assistants that ensure that the world works and I couldn’t even speak to my parents when they called me on the phone. A side effect of these ulcers is that they oddly sap a lot of the happiness from your body – much like dementors – leaving you irritable and slightly depressed. As I couldn’t talk to anyone about anything and all the courtesy I had was thrown out the window, this left me feeling even worse. Again, one needs to think about people, like the gentlemen and his partner at the theatre, who are unable to speak at all…

It is amazing how people do lead their lives not being able to speak and/or see. For these people, the raised profile and Braille on the 2009 South African election ballot paper is their reality and knowing how to effectively use sign language is not just a skill you put on your CV but the primary means of getting their thoughts out to others in the world. Thinking back to the ballet, although there was not a word uttered during the entire ballet, the story was beautifully portrayed and communicated to the audience. I guess humans are indeed fighters and any hurdle will be conquered no matter what.

Coke Zero Fest 2009: I am the Walrus

I’ve read articles about there being a single specimen left of certain animals or a selected group that cannot successfully continue the species. I guess watching Oasis play is akin to that – they are one of the greatest bands to grace the music world and they have no direct successors.

Coke Zero Fest 2009 in Johannesburg just concluded about an hour and a half ago with Oasis closing what was an epic festival. The venue was moved to Riversands Farm just north of Fourways in Sandton as opposed to the Newmarket Racecourse in Alberton in the South. There were positives and negatives but from my point of view, it was mostly positives. The biggest negative was actually getting to the venue. The venue is not a new venue for music events – several smaller festivals have been held there with people coming over and camping for several days. This, on the other hand, was a single day concert with people getting there at an allocated time and wanting to leave once the bands are done. The problem with this venue was that it is off the R511, which is a single lane road. People sat for hours in traffic just to get there and well, at present, people are still sitting in traffic trying to get home. Thank http://www.phatfusion.net/googleDrive/ for directions to the place even though the one road that I suppose to take ended up being a private road leading to a farmstead. I might have been shot had I trespassed.

Other than that, the festival was brilliant – some of the best organisation I’ve ever seen at any event. Most importantly, the bars were extremely efficient – lots of staff and they had a little production line thing going where there were people dedicated to pouring the drinks and others dedicated to serving. Prices were also reasonable with a set fee for all drinks (R15) which meant no messing around with small change or wondering what the price differences are. Toilets were adequate although there were some problems that came up around 6pm when, I think, some of them clogged up. The actual venue was superb – no horse poo to get on your favourite shoes and jeans. The actual area was huge with several shaded areas to sit and just chill out. The one thing that was missing was the music-focused feel of Newmarket. The ground here is uneven and at some parts of the grounds, you can’t see the stage. This can be seen as a good or bad thing actually. There were also enough landmarks so you won’t get lost and well; it felt SO much like a festival! Last year, I did criticise the organisers a lot for a job badly done – this year, COMPLETE opposite. Big up to BIG Concert and Coke Zero!

There has been a lot of criticism of the choice of bands this year. This became even worse when Red Jumpsuit Apparatus and Bullet for My Valentine pulled out less than a week before the show. I think merely by attending the festival and seeing the enormous and diverse crowd, you would see that all this criticism was like a bumblebee buzzing during a hurricane. My thoughts were simply that the headliner was Oasis. For the price that you paid for your ticket, you probably wouldn’t be able to see Oasis play a show in the UK let alone an outdoor show. I saw no reason whatsoever for them to justify the line-up when a band of the calibre of Oasis is present. Coupled with that, you had a veteran band in Snow Patrol, what more do you want? I do hope that the organisers actually do bring quality bands next year rather than listening to some whiners who can’t recognise, respect or enjoy real music.

I got to the festival whilst Foto Na Dans were playing. Honestly, they just sounded so bad. It has nothing to do with the language that they sang in – I would rather have heard a heard of buffalo in childbirth than listen to them again. Then again, last years first band – Lonehill Estate, was not really that good either. Oh well. Evolver played an amazing show and although I haven’t been the biggest fan of theirs, I have such respect for these guys for stepping up to the plate at the last moment due to the cancellations and they played a brilliant set that got the crowd hyped – kudos to them. Cassette played a set which, it seemed, was a carbon copy of the one played at Emmarentia Dam a week ago but that’s not a bad thing. The Dirty Skirts also played an okay set though it seemed to lack, “Homewrecker.” I could be mistaken as I was past sobriety by that point.

The whole festival vibe of this year’s Coke Zero Fest meant that meeting people was a pleasure. Festivals bring out this side of you that doesn’t exist at other places. It’s this friendliness that is completely different from any other situation – you know that you are there to enjoy yourself, not take anything too seriously and have a laugh whilst engaging in conversation that is not entirely devoid of value. This was bred this year and well, I did meet some pleasantly off-centre individuals that did increase the entertainment value of the day. So, I give another big up to the organisers for actually allowing Coke Zero Fest to graduate to the real festival stage. This did prevent me from beating up an emo kid though. You can’t win them all hey!

I first saw Zebra and Giraffe in Durban when they first launched onto the scene sometime last year. Since then, they’ve become a bigwig in the local music industry whilst still remaining pretty grounded. It’s so easy to speak to the guys in the band when you see them at a venue and they are genuinely into making conversation. The set that they played was probably the biggest gig they have played and well, in my opinion, they were probably better than Panic! At The Disco who played after them – not that the Panic set was bad! Zebra and Giraffe’s set was carried out, as I see it, with such passion and professionalism. I was seriously impressed by such a young, local band raising the tempo to such the level where the transition between the local band and the world-class, international band was seamless.

That said; Snow Patrol played a magical, mesmerising set filled with so many great songs. I met the lead singer yesterday at the press conference for the band. I also got a picture. I also told him I was a groupie. Lol. My friend complimented him on how great, “The Golden Floor” is, which he actually did play. I wonder if she had anything to do with it. Hmm…I was especially pleased that they played my personal favourite, “Shut Your Eyes.” Even better was the extended version of this with the crowd participation which satisfied me just fine. I really enjoyed the intensity that the band brought to each of their songs. Then again, Snow Patrol’s songs are complex songs and with the passion that they used to deliver these songs to the crowd, it had this magical effect that gripped the crowd and sent them to this beautiful place. That’s where music lives – real music and it does take a special band to take you there. Snow Patrol – salute.

At the press conference, Noel mentioned that he would like Oasis to be remembered as the seventh greatest band of all time. Above him were the likes of The Beatles (#1), The Rolling Stones, The Who, The Jam, The Sex Pistols and The Kinks. Noel then mentioned The Stone Roses at #8 and that just wowed me seeing that I hold them in such high regard yet so few people recognise this. I was wowed so much so that I actually missed the rest of his list. That list mentioned above is pretty impressive with the bands being of a calibre not seen in years. To have Oasis sit at #7, they would need to be pretty special. I would like to argue that they indeed are. After watching their performance, I am convinced that they are but I’ll get to the show in a bit. That list also got me thinking as to which modern bands, formed after 1990 or a band that came into prominence in the 1990s, can hold their own within that class of decorated bands. It’s actually so hard and the only bands that did come up were Oasis and Red Hot Chili Peppers. Nobody else comes close to even competing on that scale. It’s a pretty scary thought though – what is to happen to great music. Who are the bands that we will tell our children that we watched? Who are the bands that we will play for our children to demonstrate the power that music has and how special it can be? Hearing The Beatles for the first time is a religious experience. Listening to what Jimi Hendrix does with a guitar changes your life. Are we to rely on just Oasis and RHCP to carry on this legacy? It’s a pretty sad state of affairs.

So anyway, Snow Patrol did take us to this beautiful place that is the home of music. Oasis took us further – to a destination that is unfathomable with its beauty and splendour that the place we were taken to by Snow Patrol seemed like a concrete playground. Hearing Wonderwall, Don’t Look Back in Anger and Champagne Supernova – ok you know what, I can’t describe it at all. These songs are some of the greatest songs of all time from any genre or time period. I’m not even going to try explain what I felt when I heard them. It was just WOW. Anyway, no other band can have the lead singer walk off stage after the lyrics of a song has been sung whilst the rest of the band play for another three minutes. No other band can have this lead singer just stand and command such respect from those who are watching him. No other band can stir up feelings of pure bliss. No other band can end of with a Beatles song (“I Am the Walrus” in this case) and make it feel better than right. Sure, other bands put on better stage performances and make sure they sing in the right key but that is what makes Oasis so different. They are music. All other bands are music practitioners. Even though you probably can’t recognise it, what was witnessed was music perfection. And I am so glad that I did witness it.

The festival this year was probably the best event yet. I wish I could portray how good the Oasis set really was but well, I suggest you catch a show of theirs somehow. I can’t thank the organisers enough for what was a brilliant all-round package that exceeded my expectations. Next years festival is going to be really difficult to match up to this one.

And I do make a plea to the organisers to use their brains and move the festivals to 27 April and 1 May so the events do not clash with Splashy Fen – the reason for the clash is beyond my rational understanding but let’s not go there.

The Election Brigade: Think Jacob wielding an Axe

So elections are upon us again. Thinking about the glorious year, 1994, means you have to think back 14 whole years. I remember being nine years old and enjoying every minute of the campaigning and going to the polling booth. My parents were both VERY involved with the elections and my mum was actually an officer at a polling booth. She was the first person to vote at that station mind you. I also remember actually being allowed into the polling booth to actually seeing what goes on. I had that whole ink sprayed on my hand (it had quite a nice taste if I remember correctly) and those UV machines were mind-blowing! It would seem that as a nine year old, most of it would have gone over my head but alas, I wasn’t the average nine year old. My knowledge of politics then is probably greater than most peoples’ knowledge today and these people are going to be the ones determining who runs our country! More election stories later – let us go on with what this blog is really about – one PIW (President-In-Waiting) Jacob Zuma.

So much has been said about Mr. Jacob Zuma (Who I’ll refer to as JZ from now on – that will be explained), our apparent heir to the presidential throne of the country. The mere fact that he has been nominated as the preferential candidate for the ANC has caused ripples locally and internationally. Unlike Thabo Mbeki, JZ comes from a completely different background. Yes, he was a hero of the struggle but unlike Mr. Mbeki, he didn’t end up going to university to plonk out a few pieces of paper. Instead of being a diligent student that ate a roti roll every Thursday because the Indian vendor on campus made this delicious beans curry, he instead went to what a t-shirt I have refers to as “The School of Hard Knocks.” He also doesn’t smoke a pipe – well not the European styled one at least! Whereas a proper president like George W Bush has a single wife who he loves and cherishes, he prefers to spread this love around collecting a wife every twelve months or so. He also seems to spread his love hygienically with his use of a shower after any love spreading sessions. He also had a “generally corrupt relationship” with convicted corrupteer Schabir Shaik. He also has a voice that’s better than any of the Idols contestants. Quite a colourful individual don’t you think? Almost as colourful as a guy who is anti-establishment, was once a boxer and even divorced his wife and married the ex-wife of a friend of his – wait, that was another president of ours!

This rainbow of colour has meant that a whole bunch of disgruntled disgrunts have a huge problem with him assuming the throne to rule our glorious land. His lack of moral culture is not what our country needs – we need a president that will have a perfect moral standpoint to guide us through this troubled time where the world’s economy has collapsed and whilst trying to boost the calibre of our country, we need measures that will keep the country from collapsing. Basically, a NEPAD on steroids that will allow South Africa to gain a mythical status of a country that left the Third World and entered the First World in under 20 years. I think somewhere included in these hopes is details on how to build an anti-gravity machine and start a colony on Europa.

So, a man like JZ can’t do this? Why can’t he? Is it because he sings and dances after each speech he makes? Is riling up a crowd not allowed? Does a good president just nod and accept? Or does a good president merely make up a catch-phrase that drives people to sing and dance? Wait…hmmm, that’s not right. It’s quite clear – JZ is a people’s president. Much as Barack Obama has won the hearts of everyone around the in his country, JZ does the same in South Africa. He is a populist and he is there to give the people what they want – wait, not want; need. And he is doing this using techniques used by a lot of successful people – he is selling the JZ brand. Let’s look at the simple abbreviation of his name. Although it has no connotation to the rapper, JZ is catchy and easy on the mouth no matter what your mother tongue maybe. Instead of using his name, he has a nickname – much like so many famous people e.g. Bono. His lifestyle is analogous to so many rich and successful people – so many corporate moguls and royalty lead a hedonistic life filled with pleasure yet they quite successfully are able to run countries and companies that are several times the size of small countries. His entourage is made up of the latest Black BMW’s which is THE car of choice of the hub of Africa – Gauteng. He has his own theme song like a wrestler does and his speeches mesmerise much like a preacher. He is a brand and people like brands – deep down, you want to be like the head of, let’s say a premium-watch brand and have a yacht in Monte Carlo and a llama farm in Peru. You also want the house that you see on MTV Cribs and even deeper down, you would love throwing a party for your 16 year old like the one’s they throw on “My Super Sweet 16.” He’s not going to turn down anything materialistic like Ché Guevara did. So why question the moral fibre of someone who is merely living that dream?

Another issue around JZ is the apparent hunger for power as perpetuated by our national jester, affectionately known as JuJu. Back at the famous ANC National Convention in Polokwane held just over a year ago, Thabo Mbeki was ousted from the leadership. A few months later, he was removed from the presidency. This was hailed by critics as a low-point in our democracy. It’s so unprecedented that your president is removed from office. It’s a disgrace! What was clear was that the ANC took a hard-line on hunger of power and not conforming to what the policy for the country was. Back in 1994, the ANC promised a “Better Life for ALL,” which has turned into a better life some, albeit a rather huge “some” and a life still filled with poverty for others. Post-1994 has brought a life that is magnificent for this “some” – the sheer choice that we as South African’s have is astounding. We have one of the world’s most progressive constitutions. Career wise, we can become whatever we want and excel in it. We have the world’s best cricket and rugby teams. We have access to countless services offered by Europe and America. We can buy the latest and greatest in technology and some of our leading technology companies are consulted with before products are given the green light for the international market. We have been given the freedom to become insanely rich. So rich that members of the South African public are able to buy Aston Martins and make South Africa the third (or is that second) largest market for Aston’s in the world.

However, we also have one of the fastest growing rates of discrepancy between the have and the have-nots. We have an economy that brings such luxury to the high-classes but at the same time means that more and more beggars appear at the robots at your favourite intersections. The economy has built a hugely successful middle-class that can excel and quickly move to the lower rungs of high society but this has not filtered down into the townships on the edges of the city or the rural settlements in Limpopo. I’ve seen with my own eyes the closing down of so many “corner shops” run out by small-to-medium enterprises. Drive to a small town in Mpumalanga and you probably will end up eating at a Nando’s or Mochacho’s chicken outlet. The local shops don’t exist anymore and neither do their suppliers as the contracts for materials provided to these chain stores are coming from another enterprise that’s selling products nationwide and making a huge profit. Although these enterprises provide work, the workers are paid a pittance and the owner is the one that is benefiting the South African dream. And so the knock-on effect goes on – as there are none of the local shops open, people aren’t given a choice of where to buy and they are now forced to buy from a chain store with inflated prices. But this pittance of a salary is nowhere close to allow them to have a decent life. As a result, the person stays in below that poverty line even though life has been made “better.”

What JZ is bringing, with help from the SACP and COSATU, is a hope to the downtrodden people. It’s a way to undo these wrongs brought to these people that weren’t actually brought about apartheid but brought about through measures to better the county. I’m not saying that the policies since 1994 haven’t been good – au contraire, they’ve allowed our country to bloom like nobody could have predicted (not even Eskom!) It’s now time for the country to bring everyone that promised life.

Let me just digress and give you another election story. During the last elections, I was an observer at a polling station near my residence in Durban. A couple walked in along with one of the couple’s parents – an elderly woman. This elderly woman wasn’t really clued up about politics and basically was there to just cast her vote (as a real citizen should) as a way to vary her day. Listening to her being so non-coherent about the ballot and not even knowing what was on the ballot made me think to myself – democracy is a farce. Here I am, with so much more knowledge about making a choice on that ballot paper yet my vote counts exactly the same as hers. That seems like a terrible injustice – placing the fate of our country in the hands of someone that obviously knows nothing about it.

My election story above was what I thought about when coming up with the ideas for this blog. Why democracy works is because it takes into account every soul in this country. Even the elderly lady without any political knowledge is amounted the same rights in this country. She may not be able to comprehend the magnitude of what it is to vote, but she does deserve a life with access to clean water, a pension to survive on and the right to live in a dignified way. What you make of that life beyond that is dependant on you and is helped out by all the favourable laws passed since 1994. However, there are still people who are not living a dignified existence. THAT is what JZ is bringing to the table – a right to a dignified existence. Actually, it’s not JZ, but the ruling party, the ANC. We’ve seen it happen that Mbeki was ousted for not acting in a way that is good for the country so there is no reason that JZ could be ousted if he strays too far from this path (Maybe I’m wrong but I really do hope I am right on this!!!) The ultimate aim here is to have a country where the ALL people are happy. It’s not only the people that shop at Woolworths Food that must be happy. It must encompass those workers from Woolworths Foods, their extended family and the communities of their extended families. The unions are up in arms with news of the countless retrenchments in the resources industry because this is denying people a right to a dignified existence. Yes, big business needs to take whatever measures required to avoid bankruptcy but this MUST be balanced by the cost it has on people. It’s also why the unions are at war with Trevor Manual even though so many businesses love him. The upper classes, classes that sometimes believe that they have rights outstripping those of the lower classes, have been amazingly catered for in the last 15 years and now, it seems it’s time for the lower classes to have their day.

Now, if you remember the beginning of this blog, I detailed how JZ is a rock-star with questionable morality. I can’t agree with him on the moral grounds – it really is impossible for me to do so. But being that rock star that he now is, is so important – he commands the worship of a rock star exactly the way you may idolise a real rock star. He is the rags-to-riches hope that millions of South Africans need to allow them to believe that tomorrow will be a better day. He may be a flawed individual but at the end of the day, he is going to deliver just as you know that your favourite band will deliver when you see them in all their glory on stage whilst doing what they do best.

So Did My Education Teach Me Wrong?

Exam time is one of the most interesting times of the year. People do act differently during this time and that’s a real good thing – it is exam time after all and it does differ from other, easier, less-stressful times of the year. Or does it? It appears as if this is not true and well, I worry.

Now exams to me have always had an utmost importance attached to it. Maybe it is just my upbringing but I have rationalised and thought long and hard about this and I do agree what my parents taught me about exam time is indeed right. My family background was, one could say, of the typical Indian background which put education above anything else. If you want to make something of yourself – educate yourself. From the time we started them back in Standard 2 (or Standard 3 – not too sure…), when exams were around the corner, I learnt. I stayed at home, with my books and learnt. Even if I was “done” revising, I still was in this mode that I am writing exams and every other pleasure, as you interpret it, took a back seat. This worked fine until around Standard 9 and Matric but we will get to that. The time for me was really a time of sacrifice. As I was a child, this meant that I won’t be going outside to play cricket for maybe a week or that my TV time would be cut short. But, I accepted this for the simple reason that Education IS important. Without it, we really are nothing. Although Bill Gates did drop out of college, he wasn’t uneducated. He put the time, effort and sacrifices into making something of himself and he learnt and innovated along the way. This does fall into the realm of education – or at least I hope it does.

Now, is education important? I would think it is. In a country with a growing economy where people with the know-how end up making ludicrous amounts of money because of what they have learnt, it is the responsibility of one’s self to make sure you are not left behind. And even though education rewards you with a simple piece of paper to say you are competent even if you aren’t, this is your passport to success. Yes, some people without formal education have made it huge but I think statistically, a person with a sound education is more likely to get somewhere than someone without one.

Now back to my revelations of late High School – one thing I did notice was the “unimportance” a lot of people put on examinations. It appeared to me that other cultures, such as the White culture did not put as much as importance on exams as Indian families do. I remember when I was in Standard 9, the First XI Cricket team were scheduled to play matches during the Matric exams and there were Matrics in the team. As one can guess, this just boggled my mind. What’s even worse (well, in my view) was that during an assembly, our principal applauded the players for their commitment to the team. Granted, maybe the said person might be a candidate to play for the Provincial Team but well, the truth was that he really wasn’t. And, and this is important, I don’t have anything against cricket – it actually is my favourite sport to play. Yet, in my eyes, this person is jeopardising their Matric results all in the name of a game.

The ‘jeopardise’ part comes into the realm of, “If I used that time to study rather than on something else, I may have got a better mark.” It’s something quite a revelation even though the concept is simple – when you study, you put everything into studying so to make sure that with the limited time you’ve been given, you do the best you can – simple right? Well, then why do people insist on going out during exams? Granted, you wrote two heavy papers that week and your next paper is next Wednesday but going out on Friday means the whole ritual is required – the preparation and psyching yourself up and then the comedown of the next day. The actual time spent “out” is not time you lose – it’s the two days before and after the event that are truly lost. Then there is the whole mindset thing and you DO go into a specific mindset when you do study and it is an important element in allowing you to do well. Now, instead of the five odd hours you sacrificed, you have sacrificed two whole days plus whatever time it takes you to get back into the exam mode. My response to this is just why don’t people just sacrifice that single weekend and after exams, party like its 1999?

A trend nowadays, well, actually – it has been happening for a while, is that the best parties happen around exam time. Granted, most of the clientele attending these events aren’t necessarily the people that are writing exams but with tertiary education being accessible to so many people, a lot of the intended clientele would be exam-writing people. There might be a reason for these parties occurring during exams but as somebody who is writing, why can’t you just miss the party? It’s not really a big sacrifice in the greater scheme of things. Going to your paper still drunk or intoxicated by whatever substance that you abused is a major handicap. With the market for jobs being so competitive and reliant on people having the necessary skills, why shoot your self in the foot? It’s only going to come back and bite you and when it comes to living the life you envisaged, you won’t be able to because there is someone better than you out there. From what I have encountered, this person will basically just blame the government for a multitude of things but we won’t even go there. Something that this might be having an effect on is the skills shortage prevalent locally and internationally. A lack of focus is depriving the world of valuable human ingenuity which could have unfathomable disastrous effects.

It’s quite distressing even thinking about this. I guess that the world is changing and education is not seen as important as it once was. I know that although it did hinder me socially in some respects, being truly focused during exams has got me an amazing job that I can handle because of the intellect that I possess. And at least I know my kids will be given this seemingly “unfair” advantage. Maybe you should give your kids this advantage as well. 🙂

And I give you a heads up

So basically, I want to continue the blog that was started during my awesome trip to Witbank and my training at the Power Plant. Well, it all starts here with my common phrases and the like. I will try and blog as often as I possibly can but even though I have a laptop, getting it out of my bag in time to blog is just too much effort!