Thursday, March 30, 2006

Celeste Designs in Mozambique

Celeste Designs in Mozambique
Originally uploaded by make_change.
While I was living in Mozambique in 2004, I befriended a very talented Celeste, singer and clothing designer, who has just sent me a photo of one of her original designs. If interested, email:

Drakensburg pose

Drakensburg pose
Originally uploaded by make_change.
I just posted some photos online from the past two months here in South Africa. This is probably the only photo I have of myself since the rest of my batch are shots of animals, beaches, and waves. I have also been collecting some video of these places which will make for a nice travel video. Today, I am packing all my things up to move down the street to a new flat. I am also having a braii in front of Garvies to ring in the weekend. This weekend, I'll probably be working on my two papers on the Marxism, the Washington Consensus and Mozambique. Have a great weekend!

Monday, March 27, 2006

Time of the Writer 2006

This was an international writer's festival that took place at my university last week March 20 to 25, 2006. I had the chance to attend the Wednesday evening talk on Writers crossing borders. This evening started off with Dennis Brutus from South Africa, an activist now working at the University of Pittsburgh. If you want to hear the most passionate speech about struggle of apartheid from one who was arrested and incarcerated on Robben Island with the likes of Nelson Mandela and Govan Mbeki (Thabo Mbeki's father), keep your eye out for Mr. Brutus. He spoke about South Africa today, where he sees the "elite transition" of a minority ruling over the country... once being white South Africans, now being a small group of black South Africans. His thoughts are provocative is bluntly looking at a government which may have ended South Africa's apartheid in the early 90s, but has also introduced a new "global apartheid" of banks and corporations through the IMF/WB pushing for the repayment of the apartheid regime's debt. These are banks in London and New York which are asking for repayment by the people of South Africa for a government that used the money to purchase arms and weapons to see the death of its people. When Mr. Brutus stood before the Supreme Court in New York a few weeks ago for the reparations for the victims of apartheid, the government of South Africa stood before the same court and refused this case to move forward. How does a government decide to deny its people the compensation from an atrocious past? Amazing speaker and makes you question whether those who have fought for the struggle have actually ended up selling out at the end.

The other two writers Abdelkader Benali from Netherlands/Morocco and Patrice Nganang from Cameroon spoke about their new books related to their images of their past. Benali's book is about a young Moroccan boy growing up in Holland and Nganang's book about a Cameroon pub from the eye's of a dog. Interersting stuff!

A Poverty of the Mind - NYTimes

There is a March 26, 2006 opted article in the New York Times by Orlando Patterson on his interpretation on why poverty exists in the United States particularly among African-American males. He believes that cultures evolve and that to an extent may have much to do with media's portrayal of successful stars and this pride and peer pressure that falls among this certain group. Check the article out.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Drakensburg Waterfalls & Lesotho

Last night, I came back from a two day trip of an amazing view of another part of South Africa called the Drakensburg. It is this amazing range of mountains with a completely flat top and green covering all around the 'burg. The deep crevices show where there were once rivers flowing from the top and all the lines of sedimentary rock that layer up like a cake. Tomorrow, I'll upload the photos from the trip. We drove up through Sani Pass, which can only be taken with 4x4. Our friend, Max, just had his Jeep shipped out from the UK so up we went on this trek. At the top of the mountain part where we reached, you arrive at the border of Lesotho which consisted of a flock of mountain goat, some decrepit gate and a building that said "Customs" and inside were 5 men all hovering the small fireplace. Oh yes, it was very chilly at the top at 2870M and what is at the top of the mountain: the highest PUB in Southern Africa!!! excellent.

We stayed at the Sani Pass backpackers and pitched tents for the evening. There were loads of people from Belgium, Canada, South Africa, Austria and others at the place. Since we stayed in tents it only costs 45R. We had a braii (bbq) with morrocan flavoured chicken and lamb sausages. The next morning, went over to the Sani Pass Hotel and at the back of the hotel, is a 15 minute trail walk to this waterfall where you can abseil or swim under the water fall. After a nice morning picnic on the river, we drove 3 hours back home to Durban.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

strange creatures...

I forgot to mention how my Human Rights Day went... well, uneventful as I type away at this opinion editorial that I need to hand in on Friday... until the afternoon. I went out surfing in the morning for about 30 minutes just because it was such a nice day and the sand banks have made it a very easy paddle out for my lazy surfing day. I went back to my reading of this book called "Looting Africa" by my professor Patrick Bond where it speaks about whether these white ribbon, celebrity campaigns have been a waste of valuable resources to more geniunely active social movements like the ones happening right here in South Africa. There are protests on the privatization of water as even in the South African constitution, it is the basic right for all citizens to have access to this natural source of life. With privitization, those who are not able to pay the high costs of water (large portion of one's salary for the poor) get their water disconnected or have alternatives like pre-paid meters (shuts off if can't pay), or installation of ventilated pit latrines or worst, shallow sewers where the thin pipes are designed so that the women must follow "Maintenance Procedures" of cleaning the clogged pipes from feces. What right to water? Water privatization is already not working as is the example of Argentina and Paris' Suez. The have been inadequate in providing the service of water to the people.

Okay, after some deep reading (1 hour), decided for a second surf at low tide and once out on the break, my body is feeling sharp but mild stings from something in the water. The other boys in the water said it was fireweed and that I should suck it up. Um. no, it's stinging all over my leg and arms! So I paddled back in after 15 minutes and jogged over to the KwikSpar for some lunch. In the evening, John and Candice, my neighbors were having a braii (BBQ) so though that I would join them for some boerwors (yummy sausages) and steaks. So, I'm holding out my half-bitten boerwors in a hot-dog bun when something hits my head and on to part my arm and bun. I look at my arm and it looks like a very long stickbug I could shake off, but oh no, it was a GECKO on my boerwors! I screamed and tried to shake it off with one big swing. John who is South African said that he had never seen a gecko jump off the wall for food before. insane and why me. I gave the rest of my bun to Dude.

Strelitzia - Bird of Paradise

I thought that I would post a few things that have been a part of my life in the last few months. The Strelitzia or Bird of Paradise plants are the raddest exotic plants that I have ever seen (besides the hibiscus). So unusual in shape and not rare by any means in Durban. You see them everywhere yet I'm completely drawn by how exotic it is by shape and nature. (I'll try to post the photo if it didn't take so long to upload!). A new used bike so that I can cycle to the grocery store and back. Yessss... and Dude, this pooch that is in permanent retirement home at the Bluff. He is a great study buddy that sleeps on his mat and begs for food anytime he gets the change. I'll keep trying to load the photo but in the meanwhile, use your imagination. [update: looks like the upload works afterall!]

Monday, March 20, 2006

Corruption - what does it mean back home?

This is the latest article from Adbusters #64 comparing corruption in the same scale where one participates in it for their mere survival versus corruption in Quebec with the Liberals favouring their friends in the Gomery Scandal and other similar stories summed up in their article. So what does that mean for Canadians? Basically, tax money that was meant to be spent on Canadian nationalism campaigns had overpriced the estimate costs and the savings were pocketed to the contractors (friends) who supported the past government. It also means that smaller crimes of bribes in order to feed one's family of 6 should be considered twice before thinking about the bigger scale bribes happening in our own backyards.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Studying all weekend...

Today, I have a 90 minute essay writing test where I need to prove that I have understood all theories up to now. I must have been in a daze when I initially read some of this material because second time looking at a few articles, I realized that I still have little comprehension of neo-Marxism and regulation theory, so I'm going to just give'r and see what piece of art comes out by 11am.

We had a visitor, Nicola, from Holland up for a few days at the house and now she is in Sodawana Bay doing some free diving. The rest of the weekend was spent a few hours surfing out front because there is a huge sandbank covering the reef. It makes it so much less scary when you know your wave pounding will not end up with scars. This Tuesday is a holiday; Human Rights Day, so I'll be propping the beach umbrella up as I try to suss out a good development economics editorial for submission for this Friday. Any ideas?

Friday, March 17, 2006

End of Development?

If I knew for a certainty that a man was coming to my house with a conscious design of doing me good, I should run for my life… for fear that I should get some of his good done to me. (Thoreau 1977 328)

This was the opening quote to Arturo Escobar’s article called Imagining a Post-Development Era. I really didn’t understand this quote until pulled into this context that it was the “First World” that invented this idea of the “under-developed” in the “Third World” and that in their deep industrialized beliefs, should come upon these developing countries and help them work towards being a “civilized society” and cure them from the ailments of poverty through their “development programmes”, aid organizations, and other expertise in the name of answer. It kind of reminded me of this story about Dan who invited some people into his house who wanted to talk about morality, spirituality and the way to the light… and he shut them down with his own arguments that didn’t see their return any time soon. It’s this self-imposing power relationship that undermines an individual’s abilities to decide their own fate. In the class, there was this discussion of the “voice for the voiceless” where one argued that it’s ridiculous to think that someone from the outside could come into a community and say they can relate and be an agent to say, an impoverished community and help them see the way to their survival. Another guy asked what was the problem with helping, say a mother with 23 kids who can’t go to a line-up that is 3 days long in order to request social services. I replied that it shouldn’t be our decision to make and that it should be decided by the woman herself when she is ready to speak up for her children and that the best we, as outsiders, can do is facilitate when the woman is ready to speak up for her rights. How can I be the judge that this woman is capable or incapable? That’s the idea of analysing the idea of social movements where people from the grassroots are deciding to take a hold of their lives and fight for their children’s right to a better life. I think it has to be local participation and locally owned establishments who understand their needs and the needs of their community under their own history, culture, language and beliefs can there be a change. It’s also this aspect of sustainability, loyalty, legacy, longevity, that makes localism seem more effective for development than say, the work of outside NGOs. Perhaps if it isn't social movements, perhaps someone else can look outside the box for any ideas besides "development". Then people can take Dan's lead and show development to door never to return.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Development as Freedom

Well, I finally have some webtime to spare! I've just been busy with school work as we come up to near half-way point of the 1st quarter so all of us are scrambling to submit our first assignments and prepare for the first test of the year. I just wrapped up two presentations (one on Smith's basic supply/demand concepts and another on the post-Washington Consensus) and a paper. Now I'm a few reading packages behind so I should get on that. Right now, we are covering post-development concepts with writers like Amartya Sen (Development as Freedom) where she states that development will take place only once people are provided with "substantive freedom in enriching human life". Freedoms include the ability to combat starvation, illiteracy, numeracy, and the ability to engage in polical life, enjoy economic resources, social programs, the sight of transparency and the provision of security.

Other things: South Africa had won the Cricket ODI series 3-2 to Australia with a record 438 in 49.5 overs. Apparently this is unheard of in the game of cricket and people have gone ape wild over this victory especially happening on their home turf. I haven't seen much of the rugby take place but I know our team is the Sharks and there are loads of crazy rugby fans noted by their apparel, stickers on cars, and continuous talk about the next game. Yea, I think I can grow to enjoy both sports.

It's starting to become autumn here in Durban. Hot weather by day and a bit of a chilly breeze by night. It's beautiful though with the purple skies lighting up beyond the clouds.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Down to work

So, looks like I will be spending the weekend working on a 5 page paper and as some of my old roommates would know my habits of working on papers, I will probably be worrying about it all weekend while doing short stints of fun things but feeling completely guilty for doing fun things... then sleeping at 10pm Sunday night with papers all around by mattress to only have to wake up at around 3am Monday morning to hammer out the gist of an okay paper. So maybe I should wrap up the worrying and just do the paper this Friday and have the whole weekend free? Well, then it just wouldn't be the diga way. Have a great weekend.

by the way, I learned some Zulu phrases yesterday from an 11-year-old, Kersti. All I remember right now is Yebo! YES!! Let me know if you find any good Zulu learning websites so that I can hold conversations with random people at the bus stop or listen in on people saying, "man, that girl is crazy!" or "don't hit the monkey on the road". or "are these grapes washed?". okay.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Moving - to down the street

So goodbye to my ocean view beachfront home to just down the road in a smaller "granny flat" with a tiny ocean horizon site as they call it in S.A. The builders are full steam with renovations at the house where I am living, fully plastering and knocking out walls for new bathroom fixtures... this means I'll be hosting a huge moving away party on the 31st of March! My new place is $225 CAD per month with water/electricity included, has a small kitchen, small loungy area, bedroom, bathroom but I'm a little concerned whether there will be any appliances included (as in basic fridge, stove, etc.). We'll see at the end of the month. Good thing I can still walk down to the beach.

At the big house, we had Nontemba come in for half a day at R40 ($10 CAD) once a week to clean the rooms, bathroom, patio, and kitchen. Domestic workers are a commonplace to have at home as well as your gardener. I guess it would probably be a good idea to keep that job going for her since she will not be able to clean at the construction site and I'm not sure if she has other work or income going besides this.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Today's Economics Seminar

Today was another enjoyable economics again reviewing the neo-classical economics, through the Great Depression then into ideas of today's world with a video presentation of John Pilger's "New Rulers of the World" from 2000. Pilger goes into Indonesia to investigate the underworld of sweatshop labour, the IMF's response (Stanley Fisher's quite defensive reply) to Suharto's regime and how the world was amazed by this Asian miracle which was in fact made up of authoritative bosses, corrupt and unaccountable, and the poor left in work camps with poor sanitation and no water access.

Stuff I'm reading: The Perverse Economy: The Impact of Markets on People and the Environment"
One of the speakers from the conference, Perelman describes how the market becomes unjust to people and the environment with applicable economic theory. From his opening remarks, I like how he drew upon the 18th century British aristocrats who were too lazy and unconcerned with the agricultural land that they ruled hundreds of kilometres away, were only brought out to the countryside during gaming season. Only then could the people speak to the landowner of their concerns. This de-motivated state and landowner's decision making based on little information led to Adam Smith's idea of the rule of markets and the demand and supply curves we all have seen in Econ 101. At the conference, he also related this 18th century case to South Africa apartheid.

If anyone is interested in access to the books that I mention on my blog, give me a shout by email.

Besides that, the weather has turned for the better so I've been out for runs in the afternoon at the beach, lots of back stretches, and by sunset watching the ghost crabs crawl out of their dugged up holes and scurry back into the ocean.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Another beautiful weekend

Just a quick note before I head to a group meeting. Chilly weekend on the Bluff with lots of wind coming through the coast. I had to even pull out the sleeping bag to keep warm in the evening. I did more reading for class and Saturday evening found another side to Durban called Florida Road. My impression of Durban from my last visit was one of shops closing down at 5pm, everyone shutting down and heading home before dark. I went to meet some people from my class at a lounge place called Society on Saturday and there was this vibrant row of patio chairs filled with trendsters having dinner at 11:00pm or chatting over a latte... who would have thought!

I also thought that I would throw in a description of security at the university. It is not like a wide open campus where one can enter, student or non-student, into the grounds. You need to have a secured student card to swipe into the gates, then to get to the computer lab, you need to swipe again through a metal turnstile, very secure. If you want to get into the library, you must leave your bag in one of the lockers outside and you have only take your binders and pens. The university does not depict reality of the city or of South Africa at all. Here, it is very much a higher status place where only the select rich few can have the privilege to attend uni. Sure, there are a few students with refugee students or those on scholarships or bursaries from their goverments, but there are even more Einsteins out there who will not have the chance to reach their potential due to the reality of inequality. During apartheid, there was a university for Caucasian students, one for Indian students, one for Black students and I'm not sure where you would go if you do not fall under any of these classifications. They have definitely started to break through barriers by merging these campuses to one University of Kwazulu-Natal and not distinguishing schools by race.

Off shore winds (NW) made the waves look mighty fine this morning! Kathleen

Friday, March 03, 2006

Focus on the Global South

I also received this copy of "the Derailer's Guide to the WTO" published by a group called Focus on the Global South. There is a free download on their website as well. A woman at the conference showed a lovely propaganda-filled film named, "WTO: why is it REALLY BAD for you." Both items are informational on their sides of the recent Hong Kong Ministerial meeting in December. If you would like to see their side on anti-dumping and subsidized products from the west, feel free to check it out.

What I'm reading about in South Africa

Hein Marais, writer and journalist who works closely with the UN on HIV/AIDS, was supposed to speak at the conference this weekend but sent his regrets with a free copy of his new publication, "Buckling: The impact of AIDS in South Africa". You can download a free copy from the Centre for the Study of AIDS website based out of the University of Pretoria, South Africa.

Social Action

Here is attempt # 2 for this post... "better to die in battle rather than hold alot a very revolutionary and very pure banner and do nothing... try and make your revolution, go into combat, advance a little, in the right direction, instead of dreaming about utopias..." Hugo Chavez, President of Venezuela, Aug 2004. This conference week has resonated many messages of social action and movements most necessary in places still fighting for the rights of a social democracy. I can only believe that people do not back down to conformity and see a world slowly trickle back into history...

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Informal Markets

Yesterday was South Africa's municipal elections with the African National Congress most likely to gain most support across the country.

Other news: at the conference, Caroline Skinner was speaking about the informal economy and how the current government believes that this sector contributes very little to the national GDP. Caroline refutes the case that the informal sector contributes substantially to national budget particularly because most of it is unreported work (domestic work, contract factory workers, small fruit stalls). One attendee also brought up a very important point even applicable to home. She said that the socio-economic security of this unreported work is hurt because if the government chooses not to recognize or identify this work, they do not feel responsible to provide public services to these individuals. Even in North America, there is a trend of more contract work and part-time work to unskilled and even semi-skilled workers because again, the choice for employers wishing to cut costs for profit and thereby not passing on the basic services of healthcare and worker's compensation to their workers.