Thursday, April 29, 2010

Three Countries in Three Days

(Celebrating 101 blog posts!)

I had quite an eventful week, I have been in three countries in three days, spent 23 hours in the air and all for a four and a half hour interview. It’s quite bizarre now that I finally have time to sit back on solid ground and think about it. However, the experience was a great one: I was fortunate enough to fly business class on the Airbus to Paris, then on a Learjet to Luxembourg, and then back again to Paris and Johannesburg, South Africa. This trip was not only an eye opener on how the truly wealthy lives but also filled with some extraordinary experiences.

Only on an airplane can one clearly differentiate the vast differences between social status and the economic class system. It something that must have been dreamt up by Capitalists and is the thorn in the side of any Communist. You see, I have flown many times before but always in economy class. Whilst sitting there in my cramped seat eating bland food I always secretly wondered what it was like behind that curtain separating my cabin and that of the fortunate people where the seats are more comfortable, the cabin crew more attentive and the food better. Finally after several years I had the opportunity to find out and it was everything I expected.

Flying business class has many advantages. You and your luggage get priority. You have access to comfortable airport lounges where you are spoiled with food and drinks, access to the Internet and play stations all of which are free. When it’s time to board the plane you embark and disembark first. Your luggage gets handled separately as if superior to those of the others and all airport transfers are effortless. On board you are treated like royalty, being welcomed with champagne and warm towels while you settle into your large comfortable chair that reclines a 180 degree with build–in massage function. After takeoff you are served decadent orderves (hors d'oeuvres), followed by an appetizer (l’entrĂ©e), then have a choice of four main courses and the meal is concluded with a delicious trio of desserts – all accompanied with the appropriate wines off course!

I have always been partial to foi gras, even though I have a intense distaste for the manner in which it made, but as I saw this as a “once in a life time” opportunity I fully exploited it – I had the foi gras orderve and appetizer, it was scrumptious! Little did I know that foi gras would be a feature on almost every menu I was presented with during the following days. The experience of leaving the Airbus and boarding the Learjet didn’t disappoint, even though the seats on the jet reminded me of economy class with the only differences being they are slightly more comfortable and are real leather, the service during the flight was immaculate as was expected. For a while I felt like a rich bitch and it was something I could get use to.

Arriving in Luxembourg being relaxed and having been spoiled beyond belief I exited the airport looking for my hotel’s driver. There was a young man standing with board with a hotel’s welcome logo on it. It wasn’t the hotel I was booked in at, but I assumed my reservation had been changed. I approached him and ask whether he was my driver, he responded by saying he was there to collect a guest from Paris and both of us assumed that guest was me. So it was off to the Le Royal Hotel. On arrival it soon became clear that there had some misunderstanding and my original booking was still in place. Somewhat embarrassed I took a taxi to the Grand Hotel Gravat, a quaint four star hotel in the heart of Luxembourg. My room was basic but the view was spectacular. I was awestruck standing on my balcony looking at my 200 degree view. On the one side the most spectacular park views and on the other side views over the old Luxembourg.

Not wanting to waste any time I hastily unpacked and then went for a stroll. I was amazed by the people and how relaxed they all seemed. Most dressed in perfectly tailored suits, designer shoes and groomed to perfection. While climbing down, which felt like a thousand stairs, I descended into the submerged park in the heart of the city. It being spring the smell of flowers and new growth permeated the air and it looked like a forest from a fairy tale. I walk passed business people having their lunch, (oddly enough Chinese take away), people walking their dogs and groups of joggers. After drinking in all the wonders I decided to leave and had to make my way up all those stairs again. When I reached the top I was dripping with sweat and vowed to join the gym for the second time.

Now being late afternoon I returned to my hotel to get ready for my dinner. While getting dressed an orchestra of Church bells sounded the end of a working day. With a cigarette in hand I watched Luxembourg returning home from a day’s work, many popping into shops to buy bread, passing friends and stopping to have a chat and cigarette, convoys of black German cars, porches and Ferrari's’ making their way home. At seven I was joined by the man who was responsible for me coming to Luxembourg, we took a brief stroll around the park to the restaurant where we had a fabulous dinner. The food was only triumphed by yet another spectacular view. Watching the sunset over the most beautiful city I have seen, while sipping good wine and having an interesting conversation most definitely was one of the highlights of my trip. At around eleven I returned to my hotel for some much needed sleep.

Seven o’clock the next morning I was rudely awakened by a marching band. First I thought it was a bizarre dream. I made my way to the balcony and there they were marching towards me – a marching band of approximately a hundred people. I was not aware that there was some festival that day, and it was one of the most queer wake-up calls I ever had at a hotel. So being awake I ordered breakfast, had a shower and got dressed and packed my bags. My interview was scheduled for 10:30 and I was ready by 10am. The interview was conducted at a very posh Gentle Man’s Club in the centre of old Luxembourg, hands down the most culturally rich and impressive part of the city. It was a four and a half hour interview with one of the most interesting and rather eccentric people I have met in quite some time. During the interview we also took a walk through one of the world’s cultural heritage sites which was breathe taking. We then returned to the club and the interview was concluded with a four course meal. After the interview I returned to the site we walk through previously, this time camera in hand. I was on a tight schedule and did not have much time for pictorials. I made it back to the hotel, taxi waiting, got changed out of my suit into jeans and a T-shirt and made way back to the airport.

Arriving at Charles De Gaulle in Paris at 17:35 I had six hours before taking the Airbus back to Johannesburg. Paris being a city with many smokers I found it strange that they did make any provisions for smokers in their international departures hall. Faced with the prospect of 16 hours without a cigarette I decided to hang around outside the airport for a couple of hours. During this time I probably smoked about 10 cigarettes while doing my favorite thing – people watching. At some stage there was a model sitting next to me on the bench. She was headed to New York. She was a pretty girl but very thin and presented rather bizarre behavior. After her 20th cigarette she went and bought a three cheese sandwich and a large bottle of water. All normal behavior but what followed intrigued me. She opened up the sandwich but instead of digging into it, like a normal person, she proceeded so smell it; alternating a puff of smoke with a deep inhale of cheese aroma. She continued doing this for several minutes. Eventually she stuck her pinkie into the cheese stuffing and sucked on her finger. This she repeated twice and then went back to smelling the sandwich. Eventually she took one big bite out of it and chewed on that bite for a good 15 minutes. She then downed a liter of water before throwing the sandwich of which she spent a good hour smelling and only took one bite off away. She came back smoked two more cigarettes and then proceeded to check in for her flight, probably still hungry. I decided to do the same.

One thing you should know about Charles De Gaulle airport is that they take their security quite seriously. Any unattended luggage, bags or parcels will bring the airport to a standstill. Every so often you will hear a security announcement stating that they have identified an unattended item, and the owner of the item should come and claim it. Ten minutes later this announcement will be repeated this time in a more serious tone. Then they will announce that the police had now seized the item and it will be destroyed. The bizarre thing is that after the second announcement the police and army will barricade the area surrounding the unclaimed item. Whether this barricade prevents you from checking in for your flight and possibly missing your flight is inconsequential to them. In my case the item causing the disruption was a takeaway bag filled with food left against the wall of the corridor leading to passport control – causing the whole of international departures to come to a complete halt over a burger, chips and a Pepsi! I wonder how and by whom that unclaimed parcel was destroyed!

Eventually I made it to the business class lounge with 3 hours to spare before boarding the plane back home. It’s funny how when you are not allowed to do something you actually can become obsessed about it. Now being in a smoke free zone, the only thing I wanted to do was smoke – and I was not alone. I tried to take my mind off it by browsing the Internet, checking my Facebook and Twitter. Trying to do this on a French keyboard proved challenging as all the letters and numbers and function keys were in the wrong place making me feel dyslectic. Eventually I got the hang of things but the craving for a cigarette become just too much. Luckily I brought nicotine patches! Reaching into my bag I grabbed a couple. As I was opening one a visibly agitated lady stormed towards me. It was a rather frightening sight and I thought she was going to assault me and I was ready to hide under the table. Half way towards me she hollered “Is that nicotine patches?”, relieved I nodded. Out of breath she reached me and offered to purchase one from me for 20 Euros. I gave it to her for free. As the nicotine started to be absorbed into my system the craving subsided and while sipping a glass of champagne I watched the sunset, saying good bye to Paris, the city I only saw from the sky.

At 23:35 the Airbus lifted off from Charles De Gaulle on route to Johannesburg. Again with champagne in hand I looked out of the window and pondered on how lucky I have been for the experience I had. Things like this do not happen to many people nor does it happen often, I have been fortunate and if all goes well I will get the job and be able to do this again soon.

Till next time.

Ricky Martin

Sunday, April 25, 2010

My Hell

Every so often, after a tongue lashing by some fanatical Christian group, I ponder what hell must be like. After all that’s where they say people like me are going. Yesterday I needed to do some last minute shopping for a few items I considered necessary for my trip to Europe for which I am leaving tonight. It was during this unassuming outing that I finally discovered what my hell will look like.
Being somewhat anal retentive I like making lists and when going on a trip you absolutely need a check list. When I cross referenced what I had on my list one item was missing. I am also not shy to admit it was an item of make-up. Yes, I sometimes do wear a little miracle powders and creams; after all I was not born an oil painting. Under my eyes I have a slight pigmentation that I find unsightly and frequently will cover up with concealer and it was my concealer that was finished. Pure vanity then drove me and hubby out of the house in cold wet weather to do some shopping.
With the weather being miserable and it being a Saturday I was convinced that the shopping centers would be quiet. The first one we went to was slightly busy but not crowded. However, I was made to stand in queue to pay for an unscheduled purchase. After this little detour I made it to the makeup counter and asked for the concealer I wanted. The sales lady (who needs a lesson in applying her own makeup) looked at me as if surprised. She paused for a moment and then responded in a sarcastic tone that they didn’t carry Yves Saint Laurent products and I had to go to their larger franchise in a larger shopping center. Being a bit taken aback by the woman’s attitude and surprise that a man would ask for makeup and be specific about what he wanted, I decided to let it go so I turned around and left.
Arriving at the second shopping centre the first warning sign was that we couldn’t find any parking. It took me 20 minutes to eventually find an open parking bay. It was in a section of the center I have never been and I also never knew they had a Go Kart track there – the noise was mind numbing. The walk to one of the entrances was more a hike than walk. As we entered the centre it looked like the whole town decided to go shopping and I was slightly overwhelmed. I don’t like crowds and I don’t like shopping centers - combine the two and you have the perfect torture. By now I had a headache and my mood was slowly deteriorating. Kids were screaming and their screams where cutting like knives through my ears. People were rude and navigating my way through crowds of people was frequently hindered with obstacles of trolleys, shopping bags and window shoppers that were stationary and refusing to give way.
After some minor altercations and me cursing a few people in my mind, we eventually made it to the shop. This too was packed to capacity and would be any fire marshal’s nightmare. As we got there hubby said he wanted to go have a look at some belts while I buy my makeup. Horrified at being left amongst this sea of people, memories of me getting separated from my parents in shopping centers when I was small came flooding back. Needless to say, hubby didn’t leave my side. I bought the concealer and I hesitantly accompanied him to the belt section.
By now my headache turned into a migraine. We had got what we came for and it was time to escape this noisy crowed pits of hell. Going back to car proved more treacherous. Again we had to fight the crowds but this time we were going against the stream. Finally making it to the car I had a sigh of relieve, but the torture was not yet over! We still had to get out of the parking area and as luck would have it probably a hundred other cars decided to leave at the same time. Now we were stuck in a traffic jam in the parking lot and it was a race against time. You only get 20 minutes to leave after you paid for your ticket and no cars was moving. My patience was being tested, my head was throbbing and I started to realize what road rage felt like. Going down 5 levels in the covered parking was like watching snails race, we were moving but I didn’t feel like it. With 3 minutes to spare we made it out and I was free!
My hell would be being trapped in a busy shopping centre. I would be forced to walk around aimlessly, not being allowed to sit down. There would be no quiet spot to hide from the crowds. The sound of children screaming and crying would only be replaced by elevator music. Strange people will continuously invade my personal space, bump into me and refuse to get out of my way. This will be my hell and it will be utter torture. Now I have to finish packing and make my way to another very crowed place – THE AIRPORT!

Till next time.

Margaret Cho - Gay males/Straight males

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Show Me Your...

Lady Gaga is slowly replacing icons like Cher & Madonna as musical icons in the GLBT Community. (I almost feel blasphemous for even uttering these words but it's true.)
In this music video GaGa explores the dark side of gay S&M. I always love it when artists push the boundaries, don't you?

Till next time.

Lady GaGa Teeth Official Music Video

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Last Minute Panic before Europe!

A few weeks ago I was contacted by a European Company. They informed me that I was shortlisted for a position which I telephonically interviewed for the week prior. Now they wanted me to visit their offices in Luxembourg for a formal interview and to meet with their Director. They will carry the cost of my travel, incidental expenses and accommodation, all I have to do is obtain a Schengen Visa and assist in some of the minor arrangements on my side. It’s all terribly exciting but the practicalities of arranging this two day international trip are proving to be a pain in the ass and the source of some last minute panic!
When I told my husband about this new career opportunity it’s needless to say he shared my excitement. However, being the rational and practical one in our marriage he couldn’t resist asking me if I had done some research on this company’s credentials. In a serious and concerned voice he started interrogating me “What if they are part of some people smuggling syndicate and kidnap you and sell you into the illicit sex trade?” “What if this is a ploy by some group to get you out of South Africa and into Europe? In the last year you have pissed off the Vatican, the Ugandans, the Westboro Baptist Church and countless others!” Noting my husband’s concerns I could only respond by saying that I don’t believe any of the people he had mentioned would spend their time and money on me – an unknown but opinionated blogger from South Africa. I convinced my husband there was no sinister motive or plan transpiring and in the process also convinced myself.
The next day I received an e-mail from the recruiter indicating the dates the Director had available and was instructed to identify dates that convenience me. I did and then came the real problem -trying to find a flight schedule that would facilitate my itinerary. It soon became apparent that there were no direct flights to Luxembourg from South Africa and a layover was inevitable. After scouring many airlines I finally discovered that Air France would be the best option. It was a direct flight (10 and a half hours) to Paris, then a 4 hour layover followed by an hour flight to Luxembourg. The other airlines either had multiple stops or lengthy and complicated layovers or transfers. With this flight schedule I will be spending a total of 22 hours in the air. At least I will be flying business class so it should make my flights moderately comfortable. However, the frequent flyer miles I will accumulate to spend 41 hours in 2 different countries to attend a 4 hour interview and dinner invitation seems a bit excessive. Yet there are many business people that do this every week and I wonder how they cope?
Now that the flights had been sorted the serious matter of the Schengen Visa needed my attention. Having visited the Belgium Consulate’s website it started to seem like a daunting process. They want to know all, require supporting documentation and ask for everything but a DNA sample. I soon realized I would be caught up in red tape and piles of paper. Invitation letter, air tickets, hotel bookings, proof of employment, bank statements, travel insurance and the list goes on and on. Spending a good 3 days requesting, collecting and sorting out paper work I finally have everything they require and plan on submitting the application tomorrow. One problem though, I fly in less than two weeks and they say it could take up to three weeks to be processed and approved. So let’s hope for the best, but I am silently panicking!
All arrangements for my trip seem to be coming together. If all goes well my Visa will be approved in time and I’ll make it onto the plane on the 25th. I am not really sure what to expect. Having been for many job interviews in my adult life I have been exposed to all kinds of interviews and people. I have been asked stupid questions, strange questions and inappropriate questions but manage to learn from all these encounters. However, never have I been flown business class to an international destination for an interview. This should be an interesting experience. The only downside is that I will be visiting two beautiful countries and not have any time to fully appreciate them. I will be spending a total of ten hours stuck in Charles De Gaulle airport in Paris not being allowed to leave. However, I will be getting to see the Eiffel Tower arriving and leaving the country by plane – tragic isn’t it? I will be visiting Luxembourg and may have a little bit more time to site see but not nearly enough as I would have wanted.

If all goes well I will not be kidnapped by some ominous sex trade syndicate as my husband fears, nor will some religious or conservative group I recently criticised on my blog try to take me out. I am going on this trip with an open mind and positive attitude of not ever letting any opportunity pass me by. Who knows I may even get this job!

Till next time.

Hillarious Virgin Atlantic Advertisement

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The Ugly Truth!

South Africa had a very eventful Easter weekend. The brutal murder of a white supremacist and the blame for the murder justly or unjustly squarely put on the shoulders of a radical youth leader who have been singing a song ruled by a South African High Court to be hate speech. Did the song “Kill the Boer, Kill the Farmer” and the careless attitude of one radical person lead to the murder of the country’s most infamous farmer? Will this senseless act of violence tear the fabric of tolerance and is South Africa on a precipice of erupting into chaos of racial tension and retaliatory murders?
Sixteen years after the abolishment of apartheid South Africans wanted to believe we live in a country that has moved beyond institutionalized racism. We declared ourselves the Rainbow Nation where blacks and whites live together in peace and harmony. Was this only an illusion and optimistic idealism? Hopeful ideals slowly started to wane with the emergence of an extremist 29 year old youth leader called Julius Malema. This young man who covets publicity and power first started making reckless utterances attacking and insulting politicians in his own political party and then he focused on opposition parties. In the last year his blatant racist slurs and perpetuation of intolerance slowly escalated. Some interpret his calls to “Kill for President Zuma” and now “Kill the Farmer” to be inciting the masses to murder, creating an environment of festering hatred and racial tensions polarizing our nation along very definite racial lines.
This weekend South Africa’s most infamous farmer was murdered. Eugene Terre’Blanche was found bludgeoned and stabbed to death in his farmhouse. The attack was so violent his face was unrecognizable and blood spatter was even found outside the bedroom he was murdered in. It’s alleged he was murder by a 15 and 28 year old respectively over a wage dispute. Eugene Terre’Blanch was not a nice man. Once the leader of the Afrikaaner Resistance Movement (AWB) he violently tried to derail South Africa’s first democratic elections by a terror campaign of planting and setting off bombs that killed many. He was found guilty of attempted murder and spent three years in jail for attacking a black man who is now brain dead. He made no secret that he believed the white race was the superior race and his neo-Nazi doctrine and style of leadership made him very unpopular amongst liberals in the country. Personally I condemn Terre’Blanche’s murder but he was by no means an angel. He was just a human being with radical political beliefs, beliefs that I do strongly condemn. His death is almost poetic justice as the “Swart Gevaar” (Black Danger) that he and his right wing group feared would destroy South Africa finally led to his untimely demise. But murder, no matter the victim is a vile act of inhumanity!
Many South Africans are reeling with shock over the murder. Some right wing groups are calling for retaliation. White people are enraged and some even scared. Black people are also angry and political leaders are calling for national calm. All the while Julius Malema appears oblivious and deviant. The day after the murder he once again sang the banned song “Kill the Farmer” in Zimbabwe and in a television interview when asked about the murder he apathetically responded by saying he had no comment to give about “such people”. Many people have drawn a direct connection between Malema’s song and the murder of Terre’Blanche and rumours of the pending assassination of Malema has also been reported in the media. To top it all conspiracy theories are rife and people are starting to draw connections between what has happened and a third force operating in South Africa wanting to destabilize the country before the 2010 Soccer World Cup that South Africa is hosting in June this year.

So is this the beginning of a major calamity in South Africa? Should people be scared?

Let’s consider the facts. Racism is still alive and well in South Africa. In some parts of the country it’s more overt than in others. Farmers are killed in South Africa every week and for some reason the killing of one farmer (Terre’Blanche) has made the international media. What is not reported is that on many farms the labourers are treated badly by their employers; some are exploited and treated with no dignity. In some parts of South Africa apartheid never ended and it’s causing anger – an anger that leads to murder. Julius Malema with his song “Kill the Farmer” certainly is not helping to resolve boiling tensions and since he started singing this song at political rallies farm murders increased. The true problem lies with the relationships between white farmers and their black employees. If this is not remedied blood will continue to be shed and our prisons will be filled.
It’s also not just white people that are racists and Julius Malema is a prime example of this. The large scale xenophobic attacks during 2008 also spring to mind where 62 people were killed and over 150 000 people were displaced. The ugly truth is South Africa still has black and white racists, discrimination even in ethnic groupings and hatred towards foreign labourers stealing South African jobs and their women.

South Africa is in a crisis – a public relations crisis. The ranting of an attention seeking young man and the country’s leaders’ inability to rain him in is causing tension that may just finally boil over. A career racist’s murder caught the world’s attention even though it may be only for a brief moment. Our ability to hide from the world that South Africa is still racially divided have been exposed. Our persistent denial that we as a country still have some serious problems and still have a long road to reconciliation ahead has been obliterated.
It took great effort to dismantle apartheid, why now 16 years on is the same effort not being put into building a united nation free from discrimination, racism and fear.

Till next time.
Tempers Flare!

Julius Malema kicks BBC Journalist out of Press Conference

AWB man causes chaos at e-TV studio


Friday, April 2, 2010

It's War!

Life is filled with trends, fashion and there seems to be the next big thing around every corner. It’s all very confusing trying to keep up and often time it’s frivolous and expensive. Now being green and hyper aware of your carbon foot print seems to be the next "in thing". If you’re not green you are slowly destroying the planet and taking the whole world with you thereby making you a selfish bitch. This led me to wonder how green am I and am I a bitch.
I have to admit being aware of our impact on our environment is very important and not something to take lightly. After all we don’t want to live in a messy junk filled waterless sauna one day. Even though hubby and I don’t plan on having children any time soon (if ever) and the concern of what we are going to leave behind for them is not a pressing concern, we do have a social conscience. For one I would like to leave this planet having made it a slightly better place. In doing so I have come to realize that small things does count.
Having recently moved into our new house and for the first time in many years having a garden again we had to make some decisions. Would we have a lush and beautiful garden that could make it onto the cover of any designer garden fashion magazine? Or would we have a garden that’s environmentally friendly, water wise and low maintenance? The decisions was a simple one, we opted for the low maintenance. We decided to only plant succulent and indigenous plants that would still be esthetically beautiful, water wise and resilient under any weather conditions. In addition we would also have a small organic vegetable garden. All good and well in my head but when it came to practical application it proved challenging.
Every weekend for the last two month these two eager queers have been slaving away, digging holes, fertilizing soil and replanting very stubborn and prickly bitches. Both my hands and that of my husband took turns growing blisters, both of us have been wounded and spilled blood. Hard labor has never been so unappealing! I have learned the hard way that planting any plants with thorns is a skill one must acquire before attempting it, if not your hands and arms will be stabbed, sliced and scratched leaving you looking like a self mutilator. After weeks and the loss of blood most of our plants, some of which I still look at with some degree of resentment, have found their stations in the garden and are flourishing. With all the hard work completed the vegetable garden was next.
Planting vegetables and growing them from seeds I thought would be less labor intensive and I was right. However, this posed a whole new set of unique challenges. You see birds, insects and snails would become my new nemesis. After planting our vegetables and herbs all seemed to be going well then one morning I arrived to find a battle had occurred and half our harvest had been devastated. The previous night and early that morning all the insects, snails and birds of the neighborhood discovered our vegetable garden. Half our crop was destroyed and the devastation enraged me. This was war!
Our cats were lectured about the food chain and threatened not to be fed again if they did not do their natural duty and chase away any bird no matter their size. Being green I knew when it came to insects I could not use conventional pesticide, but I desperately wanted them dead!. After some research I found a recipe for an organic pesticide that consisted of garlic, chilies, vegetable oil, dishwashing liquid and water. All the ingredients were put in the blender, mixed together and then the deadly juices strained into a spray bottle. Armed with my secret weapon I marched onto the battle field an unleashed my fury. I did learn one important battle lesson - never stand downwind from the vapor; the wind will blow it back into your face and when it gets into your eyes you are painfully reminded that there are chilies in your organic poison. I finished the whole spray bottle in the back garden and with the poignant smell of garlic in the air I saw my enemies scatter and die. I couldn’t help but think of all the families I destroyed but the fleeing of guilt soon passed as I realized my vegetables and herbs were safe for now.

Being green is important to safe our planet and all of us should at least try to make an effort no matter how big or small. However, something people don’t tell you is that it takes some effort and a lot of dedication. We have a water wise garden that’s environmentally friendly but we still have to kill and chase away unwanted visitors. We recycle and use electricity sparingly, some days it’s inconvenient and too much of a hassle. Small sacrifices will be well worth it one day. This rock we life on should be respected and nurtured if we want to survive.

Till next time.

Going Green: Supernews

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