The Guns of April

I don’t agree with this, but it is a very interesting perspective.

I don’t believe however there are any angels in this story.

I do also believe that the West and America stands for good, and embraces wholesome values. NATO is a defensive alliance. I don’t believe anyone in NATO wants war. Quite the opposite.

I know that America is not a perfect place. Far from it. They have done so much bad shit in the past. But for my adult life, America has stood for something positive. Again, not perfect, but they do strive for freedom and equality.

Inside Zelensky’s World

Perhaps it was lucky for me to meet the President toward the end of a very long day. Nearly two months into the invasion, he had changed. There were new creases in his face, and he no longer searched the room for his advisers when considering an answer to a question. “I’ve gotten older,” he admitted. “I’ve aged from all this wisdom that I never wanted. It’s the wisdom tied to the number of people who have died, and the torture the Russian soldiers perpetrated. That kind of wisdom,” he added, trailing off. “To be honest, I never had the goal of attaining knowledge like that.”

Peace and quiet

We got a new Apple laptop, and my old faithful machine got fixed. Jackpot! The technician thinks the motherboard may have got fried by power surges from load shedding. Never a dull moment.

We are staying at a golfing estate called Fancourt, close to the small and charming city of George. It is very pretty here and quiet. We are staying at my brother Alon’s holiday home. Golf is the name of game here, but I have never played golf before and probably never will. I have always admired this game, and thought of it as graceful. A sport where you can compete against yourself. When I look out the bedroom window now I can some folk playing a round. It all looks very peaceful.

The house comes with a golf cart which is very cool. This has got me thinking. Isn’t this what a Tesla car is. Just with more flair and vooma. Perhaps Elon Musk is a golfer and got inspired by golfing estates. These golf carts are everywhere here, and they seem pretty nippy. Silent machines that the Bunster loves. I am convinced that golf carts are like simple Teslas. Interesting that they never evolved into family cars. Seems like this was staring everyone in the face for a long time, especially golfers. Ok, ok. I am being a bit silly.

I love photography and have a keen eye. I have tried to take some pics that can capture the beauty and scale of this place, but the camera does not do it justice. This needs to be seen in person. From what I understand this is a world-class resort and is up there with the best of the best. I hear a lot of people that retire come and live here permanently. I can definitely see the lifestyle that this provides and it is appealing, and again, I am not a golfer. The setting is magnificent, and the air fresh and crisp. You have the ocean about 10 minutes away by car, and there is lot of cool eating places all over the place.

The Cape Dutch looking houses here, in one part of the estate, are appealing to me, aesthetically. And in terms of what you get for your money it is not expensive in world pricing. Because of SA’s weak currency and the low confidence in the economy, the housing prices at Fancourt in US Dollars, for example, are not going to scare anyone away.

SA has a brain drain problem with so many skilled and good people leaving the country. Two of the newest and most popular countries where people are going to include Portugal and Holland. America is not on most people’s top 5 places any more, for quite a while now. And Australia, while it remains popular, has no appeal to me – you could not pay me to live there. So when we came to Fancourt 6 days ago, we started to think about this as a possibility. Since the war started in Ukraine and we had to leave our stunning home in magical Kyiv, we have spent a lot of time thinking about where we could live. Our plan is to return to Kyiv and help with the rebuilding. But, if God forbid, this war takes a turn for the worse, and we cannot return, then we need to think about where we are going to stay in more longer terms. I have to say that Fancourt has captured our imaginations for sure.

When it doesn’t rain …

We are in Fancourt, staying at my brother Alon’s place here. He is here with us too. And Lisa and Aras are also here. They all came down with us from Johannesburg to settle us in. I was once here in Fancourt a long time ago, for a weekend. I think that was about 20 years ago. It is raining now, and we just finished some load shedding.

Last night my old faithful Dell laptop died on me. I was on the phone with Dell support this morning early and they said it sounds like the motherboard is poked. It is still raining … pouring.

One way I am dealing with the nightmare of this insane war is to write. I make so many notes all the time. There are so many observations, and a tidal wave of emotions, all bundled with exhaustion and confusion. So to have my laptop go kaput now is just the pits. I am now using Alon’s laptop and they are all in the lounge listening to ABBA music and playing Jenga. It is still raining. But the electricity is back on so everything is ok.

After I chatted with the Dell support man in India, who was very friendly and on-the-ball, we drove to the mall, about 15 minutes away, and we went to the Incredible Connection and looked at the laptops there. I have always worked on an IBM compatible PC, but never on a Mac. I know, I know. And then, with a burst of inspiration that came from Luke, our brother in Cape Town, who was on a Garden Route solo bike trip, the decision was made: we purchased a MacBook Air. They didn’t have stock in the shop – it should arrive Monday or Tuesday. Bye bye PC … hello Apple laptop.

After what we have been through recently I didn’t things could get any more stressful, but when your work is mainly involving a keyboard, having your laptop konk out is just not cool. But not the end of the world. Just a proper pain in the ass, and a waste of time and some money. Soon I will be a Mac person. I am told by all Apple fans that I am going to love it after a few days of getting familiar with the MacOS.

I hope to be up and running again soon with a new laptop, and then I can try and write some more. Meanwhile, in Ukraine there are much bigger problems than my stupid laptop. Please God this nightmare war ends soon.

One of many many stories …

I have been writing down and collecting funny, quirky stories from my adventures in Kyiv for over 14 years. Here is one of them.

So, we are all on the phone one morning, and in the apartment building there is quite a bit of renovation/construction work going on, because it is still a “new” building and not all the residents are living there yet. Between, Monday and Friday you often hear hammers and drills and it generally is ok, as it may be a few floors down, or, above. But that day it was very very loud – it has happened a few times, and when they drill into the concrete the whole building can hear it. When it goes quiet you can think again. Not the biggest problem in the world, and they always stop promptly at 7 pm each day, during the week.

So, where were we … we are all on the phone, and the drilling is loud and I can’t hear shit, and they can hear over the phone the loud noise. Craig, who is on the call, says “When will they stop all the construction work ?”

The noise is most of the times in the distance and not very loud. About once a week it is loud, and only for a few hours at a time. Like that morning. The first time we hear this extra loud concrete drilling we all got a fright – it felt like the building was about to fall down. Once it was so loud and I scurried downstairs to the admin office and in broken Russian I asked about the construction.

Zhanna, the cool lady who looks after the building, speaks English. She is a very kind person with a great sense of humour. I chat with her and her colleagues, Sergey, Sergey and Sergey (it gets confusing sometimes). Between my scatty Russian, they understand that I am stressed and worried. They tell me all is normal and that I must not worry.

What I really want to find out is “When will this current drilling be complete so that we have an idea as to what date the noise will ease off ?” And that is when things get colourful.

Eastern European culture is very very defensive. No one is ever wrong and no one ever makes a mistake. Did you watch that brilliant TV show Chernobyl? That is an example of this culture.

So, when I ask when the drilling may end they straight away get defensive and start telling me that they are doing nothing wrong and that the builders are following the rules and that they are allowed to drill from 9 am to 7 pm from Monday to Friday.

I say that all is cool and yes, I tell them that I know all of this. I just want to try find out when their construction project will end so we can try plan ahead. For example, I tell them, that if they are only going to drill for one more week then we will be ok, but if it is for 3 months then maybe we will go walk in the park during the day … trying to explain to them why we want to know. And, it is a simple question : we just want to know. Call me curious.

Again, they start with : But what is the problem ?

I again say that there is no problem and that I am just curious. I just want to try find out when the drilling will stop.

They are not hearing me, and their view is that I am complaining and causing trouble.

I pick up on this and say that I am not complaining – I just want to try and find out when they may be ending their construction.

And again it goes on with the defensive push back. No one understands what I am about, and because I am soft spoken and not aggressive, they are very confused. To them I look like a doose – a guy that is complaining and he looks not happy.

I am not complaining and I am not happy or unhappy – I am just polite and am trying, for the love of God, to get an answer. They pull out some paperwork and point out that we also made construction in our apartment and no one complained when we were making noise. I can see that I am now being labelled a trouble maker, and if this were Soviet times I would be sent to Siberia for my bad attitude.

Craig says to me, “This shit there never changes.” Craig has been to Kyiv many times and has experienced this when we shot that Ukraine concept video back in 2018.

The thing is, they have been suffering in Ukraine for over 1000 years. And we had been suffering, because of the drilling noise, for a few hours. Well, not exactly suffering but it was very loud, and you can’t work when the drilling is happening. They can’t understand what I am complaining about. But I am not complaining. If there was drilling for a 1000 years, then go ahead and complain, but their view is :go back, and enjoy the noise, because for a long time we didn’t have any drilling. So, they seem to like drilling and can’t understand why we would complain about it. But I was not complaining. I was simply trying to find out when they estimate the construction will finally be over.

In the end we all laughed, nervously, and I left clueless, and with them all being suspicious of me. The next time I went to ask them something they all disappeared when they saw me coming. Like it was “Look, there’s the complainer again, coming to make trouble.”

I did not complain. I was simply trying to find out when …

They have been suffering here since +- 400 AD, when Kyiv was formed. They reckon a bit of suffering builds character. I guess the drilling noise is seen, er, heard, as a positive thing. And they don’t like trouble makers, who complain, and then start revolutions.

I am not starting a revolution. I was just trying to find out when the construction guys may end be coming to the end of their building project.

I am laughing now, as I write up this story. I miss Zhanna and Sergey and Sergey and Sergey. I miss everyone in Kyiv. They are soulful people with big hearts. I hope we can return to Kyiv soon. And I miss the drilling. Those were good times.