Author: Megan v

I'm a South African-Australian, who's somewhat nomadic. I'm in communications in the not-for-profit sector. I love interviewing people - everyone has a story to share!

The Mpanga – the best Burundi coffee

Today I tried the best Burundi coffee in the world – the Mpanga.

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The Mpanga won the Burundi Cup of Excellence Competition and was bought at auction for 62 times the market price of coffee.

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While I’m no expert on coffee, especially Burundi coffee, I thoroughly enjoyed this brew!

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The Espresso & Coffee Guide blog provides information on all things coffee including Burundi coffee.

I went to my local Campos Coffee in Dulwich Hill for this. Today is Burundi Champion Day at selected stores.

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Travel blog – The Netherlands Day 1

I thought a lot about whether to do a travel blog prior to starting my travels. I decided to do it, but in retrospect, as I wanted to live in the moment while on my travels (although I did post a lot of Instagram shots). 

The adventure began even before I left Australia. I’m sitting in Sydney airport waiting to board my flight, when I realise that I have my arrival days in Amsterdam wrong. Panic sets in quickly and I whatsapp’d my friend Petra telling her my mistake (and praying she gets it). She responded just as I was boarding. Fortunately she hadn’t left her place yet to meet me at the airport. I felt so bad. I am usually very thorough with details, which is very out of character for me to make a mistake like this.

The downside of living in Australia is the long travel times nearly everywhere. The time and costs to head to Europe alone is what has stopped me from visting the region in nearly a decade.

I flew to Amsterdam via Abu Dhabi, which calculated to 24 hours and 10 minutes of travel. Yes, just over one whole day to get to the other side of the world! What’s happening with the Son of Concorde?

Day 1

I arrive at Schiphol at 7am – bright and bushy tailed (well not really), but very excited about being here. Getting through immigration was so straight forward, the officer asked why I’m here and how long I’m staying. Less than a minute to get the clearance to enter. While I waited about 10 minutes to get to the officer (the downside of not having an EU passport/card), it wasn’t the drawn out interrogation that I’ve received in the US and the UK (that’s to come).

Living in Australia you get used to thorough quarantine inspections and declarations — even between states (especially to South Australia). Well it was practically non-existent in Schiphol! I collected my suitcase and walked straight out, which felt a bit strange.

Thanks to Petra — who I met during postgraduate studies, and who works in television in the Netherlands — prior to leaving Australia she sent me  this amazing video which got me quite excited to see Amsterdam (and other parts). From the video (below), I came across the I amsterdam website and decided to get the 24 hour card. How much can one fit within a 24 hour period in Amsterdam?

The first thing I noticed when I arrived at Amsterdam Centraal train station was the smell. The canals smell. While it isn’t an awful smell, the odour is noticeable to one who is not a local (I think Australia smells dusty). Walking to the cafe on Singel (it was a random selection) to use the free wi-fi, I got whiffs of the other famous smell of Amsterdam — marijuana from the coffee shops.

Due to my day arrival error, I have to entertain myself for most of the day while waiting for Petra to finish work at 6pm. She recommended going to the Anne Frank Huis (Anne Frank House), as it was still quite early. I arrived just before 10am to a small line (with about a 15 minute wait, as I didn’t book online). I didn’t really know what to expect, and to be honest, to date I still haven’t read the book, although I am fully aware of the narrative.

The importance of this history cannot be underestimated. Being in the actual house where she once lived a restricted, silent life, was haunting. The visit is slow, as you move single file through the house, often while waiting for the group ahead of you to finish in the room. Being my first day in the Netherlands, I really noticed the staircases. They are narrow and steep compared to the wide and short Australian standard. I definitely felt it in my legs.

The fact that this history remains at the forefront is a testament to the Dutch and the Frank family. To have to live in the dark inside a house, and never be able to go outside and breathe in fresh air, would have been difficult, especially for a child/teenager. Seeing the video footage at the end and the information of where and the date members of the house died was quite confronting, even though I already knew the outcome. I think what hit home the most, especially as a parent, was the interview of Otto Frank, where he said: “… most parents don’t know REALLY their children!”

Anne Frank Huis

More than a museum

When in Amsterdam do as the Amsterdammer do — how could I not go on a canal cruise? Plus it was included in the I amsterdam 24 hour card. While Australia has one of the longest living civilisations in the world, the documented and man-made history is still relatively young. To go through canals that have been around for over 300 years (well in one way or another) is amazing to me. To learn of this rich history, seeing the houses and building (many that are not straight) was wonderful. It also made me think of the Girl with the Pearl Earring, while I know the novel was set in the Delft, the canals and the building reminder me of the time. More about the Girl with the Pearl Earring in my next post!

What does one do, when you’re extremely tired and needing to stay awake in a different time zone? Keep going! After the canal tour ended, I ventured onto the tram and headed for the Rijksmuseum. It was a really warm day, and I was thinking  I didn’t pack enough lighter clothing. It was Spring, but I knew Spring in Europe is very different from Spring in Australia.

Sydney doesn’t have trams. They are trying to get the light rail to more locations (which is pretty much a tram, but it’s very restricted). Another thing Sydney doesn’t have are masses of cyclists. You see and hear all about the bicycles in the Netherlands, but seeing, hearing and experiencing it is definitely something else! Approaching lights you continuously hear the ringing bells — fortunately I managed to avoid being hit by a cyclist! Trying to cross the bicycle lane to get to the lights can be dangerous if you’re not paying attention. One thing I really liked was the count down clock at the pedestrian crossing — you knew exactly how much time you had to cross the road.

I successfully caught the right tram all the way from Amsterdam Centraal to the Rijksmuseum. The size and architectural structure was enough to make me awestruck! Once inside, I had no idea where to start, so I just started walking.

Art like music definitely brings people together. Nearly every nationality was present in the museum admiring the various artifacts, sculptures, paintings and tapestries. Groups with a tour guide speaking in their mother tongue, to people with headphones on wandering the numerous exhibitions. Once again I was in awe seeing so many masterpieces in one location. Seeing pictures of painting in a book, magazine, on a poster or on the internet is nothing compared to the real thing. Rembrandt’s Night Watch was HUGE! I really had no idea of it’s size. The fact that people were crowded around admiring it, with two security guards on close watch speaks volumes!

For those unfamiliar with history. The Dutch did a lot of sailing around the world! They stopped at the Cape of Good Hope (Cape Town and my parents’ and family’s motherland) on their way to East Africa, India and Malaya (present day Indonesia). It became the Dutch East India Company’s supply station. As a mixed race South African, I don’t know what my ethnic make up is exactly, but walking into the Javanese Officials room and seeing the painting was like looking at my relatives!

The standouts for me were:

Portrait of Raden Syarif Bustaman Saleh, attributed to Friedrich Carl Albert Schreuel, c. 1840

This young Javanese man in Western attire with strong Asiatic features and hair, lived in Europe for 20 years, where he studied both portrait and landscape art. He returned to Java, dying in 1880 dying from a blood clot, although he thought one of his servants had poisoned him!

Portrait of Raden Syarif Bustaman Saleh attributed to Friedrich Carl Albert Schreuel, c. 1840

Portrait of Raden Syarif Bustaman Saleh attributed to Friedrich Carl Albert Schreuel, c. 1840

Five Javanese Officials, anonymous, c. 1820-1870 

Five Javanese court officials, anoniem, c. 1820 - c. 1870

Five Javanese court officials, anoniem, c. 1820 – c. 1870

The Rijksmuseum website states:

The axiom ‘clothes make the man’ also held true in Indonesia. These are not actual portraits, but ‘types’. The accurately rendered garments and batik motifs indicate not only the region from which these men came, they also provide information about their rank and status. These resolute, confident figures are exceptional and were probably painted by a non-Western artist. In European depictions, Indonesians were usually depicted as adversaries, colonial subjects or ‘innocent’ primitives.

My photo isn’t the best, but the digital images are on the museum’s website.

The Arrest of Diepo Negoro by Lieutenant-General Baron De Kock, Nicolaas Pieneman, c. 1830 – c. 1835

The Arrest of Diepo Negoro by Lieutenant-General Baron De Kock, Nicolaas Pieneman, c. 1830 - c. 1835

The Arrest of Diepo Negoro by Lieutenant-General Baron De Kock, Nicolaas Pieneman, c. 1830 – c. 1835

Prince Diepo Negoro was an opponent of Dutch rule in Java and played an important role in the Java War. A truce was called and he was invited to negotiate but he was arrested on 28 March 1830. The Prince wanted a free state under a sultan and he wanted to be the Muslim leader Java. Apparently De Kock advised other Javanese nobles that Diepo Negoro needed to lessen his demands or other measures would be taken. He was exiled to Makassar. Raden Saleh also painted the arrest years later.

A short walk across the park led me to the Van Gogh Museum. Unfortunately upon entry I discovered that the famous Sunflowers was on loan to The National Gallery in London. The Courtesan (after Eisen) caught my eye, as it was quite different from his other works. Seeing his other work got a bit repetitive, as he used the same stroke style and similar colours.

The temporary exhibition was Fire beneath the ice by Félix Vallotton. This was the first time I heard of  Félix Vallotton, but I was mesmerised by the lady with the bright blue eyes and sun dress, with one exposed shoulder and a black wavy bob (ooooh how I wish I could get my hair like that!).

Felix Vallotton - Back from the sea, 1924

Felix Vallotton – Back from the sea, 1924

Vallotton was a Franco-Swiss artist who belonged to Les Nabis (the prophets). According to the Van Gogh’s program Les Nabis were “young, avant-garde artists embarked on a new path whose highly decorative style of art was influenced by Gauguin and Japanese prints.” He was known as le nabi étranger — the foreign prophet. The black and white wood cuts reminded of comic strips to an extent. Visit felixvallotton.wordpress.com to see some of his woodcuts.

Many of his other works on display were of naked women. While he painted many women over the years, which showed some affection in the images. He wasn’t affectionate to women and married a young widower for her money (her family were wealthy art dealers).

After the museum, I walked over to Vondelpark and sat on a bench for a while, trying to stay awake, as I had to wait until 6pm to meet Petra after work. I slowly made my way to our meeting spot and sat on another bench people watching in the dusk.

What I liked:

– the architecture

– the art

– the atmosphere

– lots of hybrid (mixed) people, as a fellow mixed-race person I got excited

– transport was easy to use and efficient

– the Dutch are fluent in English

What I didn’t like:

– lots of Dutch smoke cigarettes, it was hard to avoid it (especially as an Asthmatic)

A doer or a dreamer?

I have always seen myself as a doer. I get things done (sometimes even when I don’t really want to do them). Isn’t that a doer?

I also seen myself as a dreamer. I dream to make changes in my life, many of which I have fulfilled. I have also always viewed myself as being practical. I do things that I need to do, like go to work to pay my bills and look after my son, clean (although I don’t like it) and other mundane tasks.

This morning I was listening to my favourite radio show TK in the AM. Due to the time difference between Sydney and New York, I listen to the podcasts about eight hours later. In today’s episode, their guest Shavon Meyers discussed her current projects (short films, photography), how she’s further developing her skills by doing courses (not necessarily degrees) and how while she has a paid job. She’s doing this with the long term plan of having her own company, doing and being paid for what she loves (her element as Sir Ken Robinson calls it).

The discussion turned to being a doer or being a dreamer. A dreamer dreams about what they want to change, but a doer keeps dreaming and takes the steps to make their dreams a reality.

And then the cold reality check sinked in. At the moment, I am just a dreamer. I’m not taking the steps to make my dreams my reality. Having my dreams, but not trying to execute them are going to keep them in my mind and not in my reality.

As mentioned in my previous post At a halt I have invested in a career coach and have transitioned out of the university administration into communications, which really made a difference in my life and happiness. But now I’m at that place of feeling unsatisfied again.

While I enjoy the communications work, I really love talking to people (which in my current role doesn’t happen enough). I LOVE interviewing people. I truly believe that everyone has a story to tell. I think this is why I love documentaries (and particularly ones on people).

Through my original career coaching sessions, I said that in my five year plan that I want to be a communications consultant in Spain (I still don’t fully understand why I chose Spain) and freelancing as a documentary researcher. Now that I have gotten a taste for communications, I think I need to shift the focus slightly. I want to interview people regularly, whether it’s for the camera, on the radio, for print or in preparation for a larger project.

My affirmation — another reason I love TK in the AM, the theme for their Friday show is Affirmation Fridays — I will take the necessary steps to become the doer fulfilling my dreams. I will interview people regularly and love the amazing stories I hear. I will also move back to London in 2015 (that’s a post for another time).

Listen to the episode I needed to hear!

 

Why did Tony Abbott wait until he was almost 24 years old to become an Australian citizen?

The Australian Independent Media Network

Image courtesy of ausopinion.com Image courtesy of ausopinion.com

There are a few questions about Tony Abbott’s citizenship that need answering, writes clarencegirl in this guest post.

When Anthony John Abbott was born to an English father and a first-generation Australian mother at a general lying-in hospital in York Road, Lambeth, London, on 4 November 1957, his parents did not register him as an Australian infant born overseas or immediately apply for Australian citizenship on his behalf.

Presumably because at that time Richard and Fay Abbott thought they would be permanently living in England and raising a family there.

He therefore had only one official nationality status – as a British subject and citizen.

In fact it was not until over twenty years after the family had arrived in Australia as subsidised assisted migrants that Tony Abbott’s parents applied to register his birth with the Dept. of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs and apply for his…

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Revolutionary by music?

One can’t underestimate the power of music.

This morning by son asked me to play Free Nelson Mandela by The Specials. Funnily enough I was around his age when I heard this song.

When he was five his favourite song was Eddy Grant’s Gimme Hope Jo’anna. It was interesting having a conversation explaining apartheid, especially when a five year old asks question. Catchy tunes can do that! Plus this one provided education.

Will my son continue to like songs like these that have a message attached to them, or will be become like the vast majority of the world’s population and be sucked into pop culture and listen to the mine numbing tunes about partying and making money? Only time will tell.

Another song I remembered growing up was Artists United Against Apartheid – Sun City.

It seems in the West we don’t really get songs like this anymore. Is it due to increased literacy levels or maybe people just don’t care? As it’s still going on all over the globe.

Who do you think you are?

On Thursday I had to go to the Post Office for work. The clerk was very chit chatty, soon he began to stammer slightly then asked me: “Are you Indian?”, I responded (as usual), “No, I’m South African, and yes I’m asked all the time!”.

Technically I am Australian. I was born here, but growing up brown in a white Australia, I was always questioned about my nationality (which really is my ethnicity). I would say I’m Australian, then they would ask where are my parents from, I would respond with “South Africa”, which would follow with “well then you’re South African not Australian”. How come the white kids didn’t get that?

I have lost count on the number of times people assume they know what I am. In high school, a friend’s mother said to me, when I told her I’m not Indian, that “you don’t know what are!” It can be frustrating, even upsetting at times for someone to pretty much tell you that they know more about you than yourself, when they know nothing. This is the reality of being mixed race, and not just two or three races, but heavily mixed.

The flip side is that it’s a great ice-breaker/conversation starter. Depending on my mood, I will often let someone have three guesses. Nine out of ten times they’re wrong. The one out of ten are often spot on, particularly if they understand Southern African history and noticed the gold pendant of the map of Africa which I wear around my neck (well now past tense as my son lost it just before Christmas). I am always fascinated by the guesses. The top three are Indian, Sri Lankan and Persian. Other more common ones are Colombian, Brazilian, Arab and Mauritian. The more unusual have included Puerto Rican, Maori, Thai and Eritrean.

Both of my parents were classified as Cape Coloured during Apartheid. So therefore I am a Cape Coloured. According to the Population Registration Act, 1950 ““coloured person” means a person who is not a white person or a Bantu”. In Section 5 (1) and (2) distinguished the following subgroups: Cape Coloureds, Malay, Griqua, Other Coloureds, Chinese, Indians and Other Asiatics. Classification was determined according to physical appearance and social acceptability (including language).

Identity card, ID card, pass card, South Africa

My father’s South African identity card

My mother’s South African identity card

The breakdown of the different Coloured classifications is complicated (and difficult to find online). My parents and their parents were from Cape Town, hence the “Cape” Coloured classification. Another issue is people either don’t know or don’t want to talk about the past, especially the brown past. Learning about the European side of the family is very easy, but trying to find out about the brown roots is difficult, especially once you get to slave records (I haven’t been able to get that far back). You always know bits and pieces.

Due to this, the issue of racial definition in South Africa is complex. Particularly when different ethnic origins and mixes are clumped together as in the case of the Coloureds. It’s hard to explain this to people, but I can spot a Coloured a mile away and I didn’t even grow up in the country.

The impact of the racial definition of being a Coloured in post-Apartheid South Africa is also a complex subject. The documentary I’m Not Black, I’m Coloured (below) goes into a great amount of detail explaining the definition, while not comprehensive — a whole 12 part series would be the only way to do this — it does discuss the impact of being Cape Coloured in today’s South Africa and how not being white or black still plays a big part in employment and political power.

Mandela to me

I knew this day would come soon, for months it had been a close call, but one can never fully prepare for death.

The passing of Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela will be remembered for a long time. People will remember where they were when they heard the news. But what is more powerful is that people will also remember the day that he was released from prison.

Anyone walking into my parents home could be forgiven for thinking that Madiba was a relative. As you walk into the dining room you are a greeted by a photo of Madiba and Fidel Castro smiling and embracing. There are other photos throughout the house, as well as numerous stickers of him, the African National Congress (ANC) and the anti-Apartheid struggle — accumulated over the years through my father’s involvement in the freedom struggle.

Growing up in the eighties in Adelaide, I was exposed to Madiba, the ANC and other anti-Apartheid struggle movements from a young age. My sister would have to share my bed when comrades were in town as they would be in her room. Our weekends were spent at rallies or protests, at a young age we could chant and walk the distant telling the masses (of Adelaide and the country) to help end Apartheid in South Africa. My Dad’s involvement in the ANC impacted the whole family, we sacrificed a lot for the betterment of all South Africans.

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Me celebrating Mandela’s 70th.

My strongest memory of the anti-Apartheid struggle days was when an image of an elderly man was released for the world to see. Prior to this the image of a handsome, strong man was used when referencing him. The new image was a shock to the system, this once young man was old and looking slightly fragile. It was like having an image of a distant cousin you hadn’t seen in years, and once you see them you have to adjust to the changes that time have given to them.

My dad made most of the banners and placards that were used for protests and rallies. On a Saturday morning, he moved the furniture in the dining room, taped canvas to the wall and set up an overhead projector to trace and paint the new image onto the canvas. The fumes of the paint lingered in the house all day.

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The banner to the left, my Dad under it on the left (black top and grey jacket).

Reflecting upon it as an adult, I’m grateful for the decisions my parents made, it taught me to be compassionate and it ignited my passion for humanitarian matters — a world where all people have their basic human rights (we’re still fighting for that one).

I can never fully articulate into words the impact Madiba has had on me. He made the world a better place. My son knows the importance of his legacy to the point that he bought me a book about Mandela for my birthday this year.

Thank you Madiba for teaching me tenacity, resilience and fighting for what you believe in. Thank you for teaching me the importance of compassion and treating all people as humans. And thank you for being you.

Madiba may have left this world, but he lives on through millions of people worldwide, including me.

During my lifetime I have dedicated my life to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons will live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal for which I hope to live for and to see realised. But, My Lord, if it needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.

Nelson Mandela’s ‘I am prepared to die’ speech, given from the dock during the Rivonia Trial, Pretoria Supreme Court, 20 April 1964. This transcript is as published on the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory website.