Monday, January 26, 2009

wherein she goes on and on about cape town

it's the interview meme that keeps on giving! i asked molly from ohfortheloveofblog to interview me after i interviewed her last week and here are her questions for me. i totally loved the mix of serious and frivolous. :-)

molly:  I’m dying to know about your trip to Cape Town in, was it 2007? What did you do? Where did you go? What was the best and the least pleasant thing about your stay?

i was last in cape town in november of 2007. i had visited once before, in july of 2006. both trips were related to my job, so on both trips i got to hang out with sailors. i think there are many reasons that i fell in love with cape town that first time...partly, since it was july, i was in a summer holiday mood, so although it was work, it felt a bit like a holiday. i was lucky with the weather as well, despite it being winter in that part of the world. i was attending an officer's seminar and got to meet a load of great guys from the fleet down there, plus, i stayed in a funky protea hotel (victoria junction) . i think when your hotel is different from the usual anonymous business hotel, it puts you in a better frame of mind. the protea hotels are hip, funky places with fun decor and playful meeting notebooks with jokes and time-killers in the watermarks. you can't help but feel in a good mood when you stay in one. (and yes, protea people, if you stumble across this, you are welcome to quote me on this.)

another reason it was so great was that i got to hang out with one of my favorite people. i stayed over the weekend and she took me to the winelands. here we are, trying out the wares at delheim (i highly recommend the chardonnay sur lie if you can get your hands on some):

and how can you not completely fall madly in love with a place that looks like this, even in the winter? or where your friend has a friend who works here and you can visit the factory and walk away with rather a lot of beautiful purses for yourself and your friends and family (zebra shopper on the right is MY actual bag).

because it was work, i visited a training centre, the idyllically-placed SAMTRA in simonstown. the managing director was so kind that after he took me on a tour of the simulator and the facilities, he drove me down to cape point, since i hadn't been there before:

after which we had the most fantastic seafood lunch overlooking the sea and even caught a glimpse of some whales languishing off the shore. then, a little walk on boulder beach to meet some of these guys:

on my second visit, i had a number of meetings and once again had the chance to visit SAMTRA and i stayed in the fab fire & ice protea hotel with its shark cage elevators and the dramatic high-backed chairs in the dining room. i think it was over a lovely dinner conversation with the MD of SAMTRA and his wonderful down-to-earth wife on that trip that i first admitted out loud how tired and burned out i was by the prospect of starting all over again with a new boss. it was such a relief to discuss it with such kind people.

so, for me, cape town and the people i know there, make it a place where i feel comfortable and relaxed and where i feel i have time to think and clear my head. i'm not sure how it happened, but it seemed to be a magical combination of great people with whom i felt totally at ease, a gorgeous setting and quite possibly the general vibe that i felt in the air when i was there. perhaps the fact that i was literally far from my everyday reality at work gave me the space i needed literally and metaphorically and psychically for that matter, to think and see my situation for what it was.

one of the places where the chill-out, relaxing vibe is spot-on is at spiers' moyo. i actually visited there both times i went, but on the second trip, i think that lying there, giggling with my good friend and her daughter while sipping a crisp chardonnay was what did the trick for me and helped me on the road to my decision to leave the job that was so bad for me, even tho' it meant i no longer had a ready excuse to visit cape town anymore.

but, seriously, how can you not think clearly in a place like this:

where a perfectly lovely woman comes by and paints your face like this:

and you can lean back and chat with your husband back in the northern hemisphere like this:

it has actually occurred to me that the pattern she painted on my face did something to clear my ability to think and see things more clearly, directing and unblocking the flow of my thoughts. do you believe such things can be so?

i honestly can't think of a single unpleasant thing about either of my stays, but will admit that i was in an ideal situation. i was picked up at the airport by our company driver and he took me everywhere i wanted to go when i wasn't with colleagues and business associates. this may have left me rather protected from some of the realities that are no doubt there. for example, we merely drove past shanty towns and although i talked to the driver about them, i didn't really experience them or the people who live there.

i was told some stories of a spate of incidents where some people were causing serious accidents by throwing large rocks down onto cars on the freeway below from an overpass, but again, didn't face this reality. i didn't have time on either visit to go to robbin island (or rather, i probably would have had time, but chose the winelands instead, which shows you my priorities), and i am sure that would have been a sobering experience.

there are many reasons to return--for example, i didn't get to climb table mountain. not to mention that now i've met some really cool people here in the blogosphere that i would love to meet in person (see SA blog link list in sidebar). i would love to go with my family. i might even like to try a bit of camping. and although i don't really have a burning desire to check the big five off my list, it would be fun to see some of those beautiful animals, especially if sabin was along, because she would find it amazing. so basically, i keep an eye out for opportunities for us job-wise in that part of the world and feel that someday, the right thing will come along. and in the meantime, it's definitely on the family holiday destination list.

molly:  Absolutely no hint of judgement in this next question, I’m genuinely just curious: do you think about, and if yes, how do you offset / rationalise / ignore the size of your carbon footprint from all the flying you do? (Or, if they’re work-related flights do you notch up the environmental debt to your employers as I would.)

i will admit to a shocking lack of thinking about such things until rather recently. back in 2007, when i traveled more than 150 days, i didn't think about it at all. all i thought about was how ridiculous it was to try to get from singapore to constanta, romania in two days (no direct route and involving not one but TWO horrible london airports) and how much i hated those business class seats on BA where you are FACING your seat mate and if you have a seat mate (read: random stranger) that doesn't want to put the little wall up, you're a bit stuck. in other words, i was pretty shallow. or maybe i was just really, really busy and had no time to think.

these days, i think about it because i'm still working in oslo and that involves a commute by air. i have wondered how much longer that will be defensible on my part (and my employer's, for that matter). the airlines (especially the ones i fly most often--SAS and KLM) have made it easy to pay a few euros extra (i think it's 8) to offset the CO2 and i choose that option, passing along the cost to the company, after all, they are asking me to do the traveling. however, i'm also usually traveling in a fare class where i feel that i'm paying enough for the ticket that it's defensible. as i see it, the super cheap, discount-rate tickets probably aren't covering a lot of ability on the airline's part to do anything extra for the environment (not that i don't go for those when there are five of us flying somewhere), like upgrading to newer, more fuel efficient planes.

frankly, i think that the global economic crisis will make companies think harder about how much they require their employees to travel. they'll use the technologies that are available (not that i think that face-to-face meetings aren't necessary some of the time, they are) to hold virtual meetings. people won't be placed in the ridiculous situation i was placed in of giving a 30-minute presentation in singapore on a monday and the same presentation in constanta, romania on the wednesday of the same week, then being expected to be in newcastle for an opening of a new office on that friday. and i wasn't even top management. i think that level of madness will come to a well-deserved end. as will last-minute trips halfway across the world. on more than one occasion i was asked late on a friday afternoon to be in singapore on the following monday. however, that hasn't been the case for the past year, my current employer is MUCH better at planning than the old one was.

molly: How many pairs of shoes do you own? How about some pics of your favourites?

i'm a little fearful to actually go and count, tho' it's not as bad as it once was. i have probably 4 pairs of heels that i wear for work with suits. 4 pairs of havianas that are my summer wear and which i wear around the house when it's not too cold (i actually have them on now because we really warmed up the house with the fireplace today). i have two pairs of furry boots--one red, and new purple ones that i just bought (on sale, of course), plus a pair of tommy hilfiger wintery boots that can get muddy (the furry ones really shouldn't) and a couple different pairs of wellingtons for those many rainy days in denmark (different styles for different moods). i've got nike running shoes (the iPod ones, despite the fact that i don't really run except when chased--but as we know, i love gadgets) and nike tennis shoes for casual wear. two pairs of K swiss to wear with jeans. a couple of pairs of flats (i'm a sucker for camper shoes). one pair of crocs. two pairs of el naturalistas, which are my latest everyday shoes. i've got a couple of pairs of sparkly shoes for with fancy dresses, but i don't use them that often, so they're at the back of the closet. i've got riding boots, which i haven't used in far too long. but, as requested, here are a few of my faves:

jessica simpson stilettos
(i know, i lose a few IQ points every time i wear them, but they're beautiful)
the beloved SA havianas (i will cry when these wear out)
please ignore the pedicure, but do note my one and only tattoo:

my summer flats from last summer:
my first pair of purple el naturalistas:
and the newer pair of red ones that i wear nearly every day these days
(and since it was taken with my iPhone, perhaps a small lesson in why people shouldn't use mobile phones while driving):
and last, but not least, my new purple furry bumper boots:
molly:  I’m sure there’s a part of you that thinks about moving back to the States now that it’s a Whole New World over there. If your husband’s work would allow it (‘cos I believe that’s the main reason you’re all in Denmark?), would you consider it? Are you considering it?

actually, we're not considering it at all. the economy over there is still in the toilet, despite the new president (granted, he's had less than a week). and, despite my occasional frustrations with the danes, our life is here. originally, i came here because my husband was an officer in the danish army and i was but a drifting graduate student. also, when we got together, his girls from his previous marriage were small. too small to be put on a plane to the US to visit us. but now, ten+ years have gone by and our life is here. our house, our friends, sabin's school, her friends--not that i wouldn't take an expatriation in a heartbeat. i just wouldn't imagine it being to the US.

during the bush years, it was out of the question. i skulked through passport control, head hanging low and while i no longer feel i have to do that, i think the US would drive me crazy. the bush legacy is is at least partly an enhancement of the lack of common sense and trusting in employees that was always there. i see it when i encounter those lovely people from "homeland security." they have no visible ability to think for themselves, no sense of humor and frankly, many of them don't even have all their own teeth. it would drive me crazy now after being gone for so long.

i don't like how i feel when i'm in the US. i'm more stressed and i feel it changes me into a more hurried, rushed person who could go postal (as we say in the US) at any moment. i'm more aggressive--verbalizing threats against other drivers and the like. i'm a kinder, gentler person here in DK (tho' i realize i might not always seem that way on this blog). in short, i like me better here.

i always say that i have a mid-atlantic feeling--adrift somewhere in the middle of the atlantic, not belonging on either side. i no longer feel fully like an american nor do i feel like a dane (tho' i fear i act like one more often than i'd like to admit). and both are surely by choice. you don't get over eight years of distancing yourself from bush in less than a week of the new president (as much hope as he gives me). i guess i'm quite content to continue voting and holding an american passport and living here, observing it all from afar. i can't actually imagine a situation in which that will change.

molly: What plans, if any, for your etsy shop?

good question. i created it last summer sometime, but have never listed a single item. i have some kind of huge block/fear about it. i think the block has to do with the creative block in general that i had after leaving my stressful job. perhaps now that i feel that clearing out, i will take the plunge and list something. i'm just not sure what. probably my pillow creations come to mind as the first thing i'd be willing to list. or perhaps some gocco cards. or my little fimo clay robots or maybe some of the 25 pairs of earrings that i've made. or maybe even some photos printed up nicely...(perhaps what's stopping me is the array of choice).

but i can always find a zillion excuses. like that i don't have a zipper foot for my old sewing machine, so i couldn't make pillows with a zipper so you could easily wash them. so i'd need a new sewing machine before i could list anything. or that i don't really know how to bend those little wires with the earrings, so they don't look entirely professional.  these are the stories that i tell myself in my head, but i know they're just excuses. hmm...i don't really have any excuse about the gocco cards, so perhaps that's where i should start.

i think if i'm honest, i'm also a little bit afraid of making what's fun and light-hearted into work and drudgery and something that i have to do. today, i can stay up late sewing or painting if the spirit moves me. if i were selling things and people actually ordered them, then i would HAVE to do it. there would be constant pressure to come up with something new or to keep doing something that i'd become tired of.

so, frankly, i don't really know what i will do with it. i probably should just give it a whirl. what am i gonna remember?

molly: Bonus frivolous question (‘cos there was nothing frivolous about Question 3...) -  which is, so far, your favourite Murakami novel and why?

i love this question, but will answer it in another posting because i think we've all had enough for now (and it's now nearly 2 a.m. as i write this). i realized this evening, after my sister left and i had time to sit down that i've really missed this whole blog thing. i'll be by this week to read what all of you have had to say while i've been running around. and i will tell you which is my favorite murakami sometime this week. thank you molly, for getting me back on the blog bandwagon again.


Sebrina Wilson said...

Love reading these!!

Molly said...

Thank YOU for being such an encouragement to be on the blogwagon in general!
Loved your answers, thanks so much for them. I'm deeply envious of more than a couple of those pairs of shoes and glad you did such cool things in CT - both times. I've had chats with others about the healing/mystical powers of the face-painting at Moyo and I think you're spot on there.
Lovely interview!

Lynne said...

The best thing about the fact that you love Cape Town so much is that I'm sure it means you'll come back and we'll have a chance to meet.

Let me know when you head south and I'll organise a "bloggie friends of Julie" event. Somewhere where we can watch the sun going down over the mountains, breathe in the fragrance of the fynbos and drink something incredible.

the Campfollower said...

Hey there! I was exploring your blog via your shots of Albania. Great stuff here. I dread moving back to the US as well due to the crazy pace of life people try to push themselves to there. I like it here in my little bubble better too!

I thought I would try to sell my pillows in my etsy shop too...but then after I was all done decided I just would rather keep them my self.

If you are ever visiting my hemisphere I would be happy to show you around.


julochka said...

hi campfollower--glad you stopped by, i've been drooling over your quilts on flickr for awhile now.

if i'm ever in Oz (and you never know), i will definitely look you up! :-) if you're still there then!

Pia K said...

I was in SA in Feb 2007, incl CT. Loved it. Such a beautiful country, though with so many, too many, heartbreaking contrasts still. Robben Island was an incredible experience, one of the most memorable I've ever had. One of my best food/overall experience was at Sirocco in Kalk Bay, something similar to Moyo. They're good at such places, the South Africans:)

I totally adore Camper and ElNaturalista! But I do believe I have way too few of them (of course), and it bugs me that one pairs of Camper I have doesn't fit, have never been worn and why did I even get them...:/

Ooops, long comment.