Friday, May 6, 2016


With just less than a week left I felt like doing a compilation of stuff that I find weird, different or amusing here in South-Africa. Be that customs, rules or anything. So I'll start with my favourite one:

1. The public taxis, or combis.
These are vans that drive around a certain route and pick up anyone who needs a ride, much like a bus. But unlike a bus, they don't have predefined stops and if you jump on the front seat, you'll have to help the driver count the money. You also don't pay when you get in or get out.  People pay at seemingly random times and hand money around the car announcing how many people they're paying for. Stopping the taxi also needs some knowledge. At least in Lenasia, if you want to go driving around Lenasia you point down when stopping the taxi. This route costs R7 (around 40cents). If you're going to Joburg, you point up and it costs R16 (around 1€). The condition of the taxis also amuses me. Some of them clatter and make so much noise and are just generally banged up beyond recognition and might be missing some glasses and just have some loose plastic covering the holes instead. In one of them, the shift stick was loose and everytime the driver changed a gear, he hit me in the knee with it.

2. Car guards
People on parking lots that you pay to watch your car so it doesn't get stolen.

3.  Phrases, words etc.
The one I hear is the most is "howzit". It's not a question, just a hello. After that it's "eish", "izit", "lekker, "sho" (I have no idea to spell it), "yoh", (usually repeated many times". One thing that amuses me is how many nicknames I have here. I always get lots of nicknames but here people have trouble pronouncing my name so they just call me whatever version they're comfortable with, like Tunalo, Tunali, Tanala, Tanel, Tunala etc. My favorite though is Tananas. Apparently it means being little tipsy, and most people call me that. Even people that I don't recognise greet me with that name.

4. TV
Television is on, always, everywhere.

5. Animals
The amount of dogs is mind boggling. There are dogs everywhere,  I guess people keep them as guards and when they breed, you get strays. Funniest animal related thing I've seen though is a small herd of goats and cows grazing in an unofficial garbage dump. I just always forget to take a picture of it when passing that shack town.

6. Attitudes and work ethics
For a Finn, this is hard to get used to. Lots of stuff is left for the last moment and the whole pace of the day seems slow. Arranging a transport for example takes a long time, when I was leaving for Cape Town, I only got a ride 8 hours before I was supposed to be at the airport. People wake up really early but don't accomplish that much. Only expection is housework, or at least in my host family. The whole house is clean, dishes and laundry done before I even wake up.

7. Cashiers
People are really friendly, but cashiers NEVER smile. Even the security guards smile when they greet you, but not those cashiers.

8. Hot water
Very few houses I've been to give hot water straight out of the tap. I guess it's to save electricity.

9. Walls and gates.
They're everywhere.

10. Vendors in traffic lights.
They're really persistent too, if they see a potential buyer they will run after the car. Most of the time they actually catch them too because of the horrible traffic lights, which brings us to the next point.

11. Traffic lights
Pedestrian traffic lights never tell the truth,  they might show green when cars are speeding by and red when no-one is moving for a minute. Just cross the road when cars moving to the same direction as you are moving.

I'm probably missing a lot funnier or more unimaginable things but I really wabted to get this post out tonight. 

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Taneli in Cape Town 2016

I spent 6 days in Cape Town as a holiday from my normal activities here in Johannesburg. Soon as we arrived in downtown Cape Town it felt like a different country. I haven't been to the actual Joburg center that often but the biggest difference I noticed straight away was how clean it was, there wasn't nearly as much trash littered around.

I found us a hostel with pod beds so that can be crossed off the list, and the hostel was pretty nice in general too. I got the same experience what I've been used to hostels in Europe, good service, friendly people and most importantly showers, I haven't been to a shower for the whole time here since I always have to bath.

We went for a night out with some people we met at the hostel, others had worked around Africa and were taking some time off like us and others were backpackers. I got my first trouble with thieves when we were going back but luckily they only took my sunglasses.

We spent lots of our time in the Waterfront, mostly eating. I mostly ate seafood which I do normally anyway when going out to eat but I had to do it much more in Cape Town, it being a coastal city.

Only tourist attractions we got to actually go to were Table Mountain and the penguins close to Cape Point, or the more well known name for it, Cape of Good Hope. The girls also took a sightseeing bus around, but I was still debilitated by our night out so I couldn't join. Still, I felt like got everything I could've wanted, minus some extreme thing like abseiling or sky diving.

I have been lucky with the public transportation in Johannesburg, taxis are generally pretty banged up and might take a long time but only one of them has broken down so far. But in Cape Town we ran into problems several times. The most notable one was when we were on the train back from the penguins and Simon's Town and it decided to stop dead on the tracks between stations. After 30 minutes people were freaking out, one woman was yelling at the driver to open the door and tell us what's going on, one man wrapped his belt around his fist and said he'll beat the driver with it and another man had scissors out. We finally got to the next station but it wasn't our stop so we had to walk and get a public taxi. The guy with the scissors helped us and showed us where to go and in the taxi he explained he would've stabbed the guy with the belt if he started a fight. In the end I gave him 20 rands for helping us since I wasn't too keen on getting stabbed.

Regarding work, we held the sport's day on the Saturday before I went on my holiday. There were some kids coming early to the centre who wanted to help us carry all the stuff to the field which helped a lot. The event went well, but organising was a mess, in ours and school's end. We were supposed to have the whole field for us but there was a library group there also. When the first kids started arriving, I was at the gate helping split different aged kids evenly but it wasn't good enough for Sydney and we took 30mins of the start to sort them better. I held the warm up, Sydney explained the rules and prayed but after that everything got messy. During the event the volunteers didn't let Sydney explain the game and everyone was doing their own thing. For the 2nd event I had to gather everyone around and tell them only one can lead the sport and others have to just help them the way it's specified, and it seemed to help. Sometimes people needed reminding of how to do things but we managed.

Now I just have 3 weeks left here and I don't know how I feel. I don't feel homesick at all but Finland is my home country so I feel obligated to want to go back. Hopefully I have time to go to Soweto for a historic tour and learn more of South African history, a trip we've planned since I arrived here.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Lion King

I had some trouble with my internet connection because I ran out of airtime (that's what they call prepaid usage here) and couldn't get wifi connection, so I haven't been able to update the blog. Now that I think about it, pretty much everything here is prepaid, even electricity is bought at local shops as units.

After the last blog update, we went to Soweto, which apparently is the biggest part of Joburg. We drove around with the guys and went to the biggest mall there. For some reason everyone always wants to show the malls, I guess they just want to show the fancier parts of their country.

Our car broke down that same day and we had to walk to the gas station because we thought it just ran out of gas. After filling the jerry can, a nice security guard gave us a ride, and once again I was on the back of a pickup truck. At least I got my exercise for the day when we tried to jump start the car by pushing it up and down the road.

Speaking of exercise, I've started jogging and made a mistake on the 2nd day when I woke up bit too late and went running at 10am when the sun starts getting really hot. I can't complain though, there hasn't been a single cloud besides couple odd days of rain during the 4 weeks I've been here.

Last week was 100% lazing off, we had no work besides Sydney helping one girl with her English because her report wasn't so good last semester. We also went around asking for funding for the centre since money is a problem right now, but it was just meeting new people and having coffee and then telling a bit about the centre and where the money would go. I got to know the amount of money what the children's event held back in Finland at my school generated, and I'm grateful of it. With that funding on the way, we hopefully can make some of the ideas happen that I've suggested to Sydney. We'd like to thank everyone who participated in making the event happen.

Back to my lazing off days, I've been hanging out with Rocko and the others, or how they like to call the group, the "broforce". We went to some local festival with fairground rides, stalls and other amusement park stuff. With them I eat way too much chips though, we always get chips and bread to eat. Oh yeah, that's the common way to eat chips here, you put them on slices of bread and it's called khotes, which is Zulu language.

Sydney and his family was invited to a birthday party on Saturday and I decided to stick around with them and go empty the party of their food supply. We drove some ways towards Pretoria and I slept most of the way but when I woke up I felt like I was in a different country. I've seen maybe 10 white people in total in Joburg and Lenasia but all the sudden we were surrounded by them on the freeway. Oh and once again I was in the back of a pickup truck.

On Sunday I finally reunited with the girls who also came to do their work practice here, but they're working on a different side of Johannesburg in Benoni. We went to Lion Park, which is exactly what you could guess by the name. There were other animals too, like giraffes, ostriches, mangusts, hyenas, cheetahs, african wild dogs, zebras and antelopes but the highlights were seeing the lions eat and getting to pet the lion cubs.

Even though the lions were in captivity, it felt like a mini safari. The enclosures were big and we drove around in big open safari trucks. You don't really realise how huge the lions are until they walk right next to the car, or how cute the cubs are until you get to pet them. We also went crazy with the girls in the gift shop, because they had everything that we'd planned to buy as souvenirs. I thought I need to get a second check-in bag for the flight home just to carry all the souvenirs back.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Just chillin'

I did wake up in time for church and made it on the free bus that goes around picking up people for church. There I found out the pastor's reason why he wanted me there. I had to hold a speech, to greet everyone and let them know who I am. It came from the bushes so I had no speech prepared. In my opinion I did well improvising the whole thing and actually got some ooud laughs out of the audience.

On Monday I went to visit downtown Joburg with two guys I met at the fellowship , Rocko and Remano (I met them before but that's when I talked to them). We walked around, went shopping and just fooled around. I still have lots of parts to see in the city and lots of people want to take me to different spots so they'll have to figure out who takes me where.
I also went to get a haircut, and got a head massage which hasn't definitely happened to me in a barbershop in Finland. The barber also trimmed the edges with razorblade and the whole thing took around 10 minutes and cost 35 rand, which is just over 2 euros.

Work has been mostly office stuff this week, easter holiday started and not many kids show up at the centre. We planned the sport's day, tried to get sponsors for the prizes, lunch etc; cleaned the centre and organised the library. On Wednesday night when I was watching TV alone in Sydney's house, security guards showed up at the door and told me there was an alarm at the centre and I had to accompany them to check it. Luckily it was a false alarm.

Today I went to the church because Rocko asked me to have easter lunch with his family, because it's Good Friday. There were 2 kinds of fish, and lots of different salads. For dessert we had custard and jelly and cake because there was a surprise birthday party for one guy named Able.

Afterwards we drove around meeting new people and just walked around on the street. Rocko and others went to dance in some house and I didn't bother that much because I can't dance. Rocko promised to teach me to dance though.

Now I'm sitting at his home, where I'll stay the night because in the morning we'll leave to Soweto.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

BBQ etc.

I've set myself on certain routines. I wake up at 9am, take a bath, eat breakfast and just go lay in the sun because work usually starts at 1pm for me. I apply a thick layer of sun screen first though; I burned myself once and I'm not thrilled to do that again. Sometimes I go to the local shop and buy soda, which is really, really cold in the fridge there.

Easter holidays started on Friday and we thought Thursday and Friday will be slow at the centre. We were wrong.

Sydney had to go run some errands on Thursday morning so I was left to open the centre all by myself. Soon as I unlocked the doors and turned off the alarm, a woman in distress came in and told me his son uses drugs and is geared up on something right now. She said he agreed to go to rehab though but doesn't know how long he thinks that way so we need to act fast. I didn't know where to send him, I thought of clinics or the rehab center ran by Sydney's wife's brother. In the end I just tried to calm her down and informed Sydney so he can come and sort it out.

It'd take Sydney 1 hour to get back so I told the woman to go home and come back in a bit. After she was gone, a horde of little kids showed up at the centre even though it was raining and then I remembered. They're supposed to get a snack, but we didn't do shopping the previous day. I ran to the shop in something that could be classed as a tsunami but made it back alive.

Friday was calm at work, some kids proud of themselves showed up but mostly to just show their report cards. We planned the sport's event a bit more, settled on a date for it and I made the posters.

Saturday I accompanied Sydney and Joshua to a fellowship of men meeting at the church. We sat around the table drinking coffee and tea, singing and talking. The men were interested in what Finland is like so I told them everything from the nature to politics, which led us on a discussion of South African politics. The priest had lots of strong opinions and in my opinion really good ones too. He told me he is going to take me fishing someday.

We also went to visit Sydney's wife's, Zipporah's, brother again. I rode there on the open back of a pickup truck which I think is pretty illegal in Finland.  There were lots of people again and I introduced them to the Finnish board game "Star of Africa", which I brought with me from Finland as a gift. Afterwards I played soccer and hide and seek while waiting for the men to grill us some steaks and chops. It felt really good to eat lots of meat again because the daily diet here doesn't include the amount of meat what a Finnish man is used to.

Tomorrow I'm going to the church in the morning because I promised the priest I'll be there, a decision I somewhat regret now because I'm pretty tired after all that running earlier. We'll see if I manage to force myself up in the morning.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Settling in

Everything is different here and in the start life here felt surreal. I've travelled around Europe and seen many different counties but you can really notice that I'm on the other side of the globe.

Biggest difference to Finland is the crime. Everyone are so careful when it comes to security. There are fences, gates and locks everywhere. Windows are barred and some fences are lined with barbed wire.

It's understandable when you hear the stories. I was talking to the lady next door and she was robbed the previous week while walking back home from the shop, and the shop is just 100 meters away. She also told me that she has to take the long way around when visiting her father because the straight route goes through a shacktown, in which some old lady was strangled last week.

Other less grim differences are the people,  who say hi and ask how you're doing even if you don't know them. I sat on the sofa the other day and some guy saw me through the open door so he shouted "hey boss, how're you?".

One thing I also had to get used to is eating with hands. I still use a fork sometimes but I want to act like the locals do so I try to manage. One thing that scares me though is the amount of bread served, it's used as a helper when eating with hands. People drink lots of coffee and tea, but the coffee is nowhere as strong as in Finland, and as far as I've seen, always instant and not brewed.

At work we're planning activities for the centre because at the moment it acts as a homework club for most part. So far these plans include cooking nights, sports day, parent's day and hands and crafts to spruce up the place.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

First church

After I finished the last blog update couple days ago, more kids showed up and I had to try and explain where Finland is. Wisened by this,  when we set up a library in the youth centre the next day, I searched for an atlas with a map of Earth. I don't think I've ever seen such big reaction of amazement and surprise when I showed how far away I come from.

Most of my days at work I help kids with their homework, mostly english and maths. The skill level varies a lot, and there are 12 grades but for example there can be a 15 year old and 21 year old on the same grade.

I gave suggestions to Sydney about having different days and more activities for the centre, like board games and cooking nights etc. and we started planning them for the future weeks.

I'm not a religious person, but I just got back from my first African church and it couldn't be any different than Finnish. There are electric quitars, drums and back singers and the whole church participates with lots of passion. The whole service in general has lots of interaction with everyone. I probably had to greet around 40 people 5 times each.