It’s the perfect seat under the tree, in a garden. With the sound of the waterfall from all sides. The white lady is smoking, seated on a table before mine, she is enjoying her coffee more than she is on the cigarette. Miles Davis plays from a restaurant above the tree, 1959 classic- So What. The book am reading, Cancer award – Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.
This feels like a perfect day, one you would pray for, that one day when you wake up in the morning, and trouble is not on the drive way. He left early while you were still a sleep. My masala tea has arrived, with honey on the side. I smell the fresh lemon, just the way I like it, rather love.
Is this the day? Except it’s not. Am about to face some lady in a small window. She will look at my papers then decide if she will grant me a visa. So life has taught me one thing. While in your “enjoyment of plenty” trouble is always on the way. Today, today might be that day……when trouble will be home earlier than I expected. But every time I have visa appointment I struggle with this kind of feeling, strange, weird kind of feeling. Just like the one am having now.
If you’re planning a trip to Europe, there’s a good chance you’re applying for a Schengen Visa. Regardless of which Schengen country you’re travelling to, you’ll be expected to answer a few standard questions regarding who you are, you travel arrangements, and how you plan to fund your holiday/study.
Once all your paperwork and documentation is completed and set in order, you’ll be expected to attend a Schengen Visa interview, which will determine whether you eventually receive your Visa or not. The interviewers are trained to detect hesitation, unwillingness to answer certain questions, etc. and are trained to reject Visa applicants if it seems like they’re hiding information or providing false information.
That being said, it’s a common rule of thumb to be as calm, composed, and articulate as possible during any kind of interview, especially a Visa interview. If you have nothing to hide and everything about your Visa application and the reasons for travel are truthful, all you need to do is treat the interview as a regular conversation. Treating the interview as a regular coffee-shop conversation is the easiest way to have a Visa approved – provided that all the questions are answered – no matter how personal or seemingly degrading they may seem. Don’t hesitate, no matter how weird or personal the questions are, as the interview is designed in a specific way and there is a specific way in which to answer even the more complex questions.
Tips to keep in mind when answering Schengen Visa interview questions:
- Be calm, composed, and articulate.
- Breathe and stay relaxed.
- Give precise and comprehensive answers.
- Answer all questions truthfully to the best of your knowledge.
- Smile and take every question positively, understand that the interviewer is trying to see whether the information you provide is accurate by studying your responses.
- Be honest and don’t answer more than what is necessary – stick to the point.
Today, I request my Schengen to travel to Poland city of Krakow, for JandBeyong one of the Joomla! world event taking place in June. This will be my second travel in Europe, my first visa application to Spain last year was rejected, I had to appeal and after that it was granted. I have since learnt that it’s different every time. And the decision whether you are getting a visa or not is dependant to the person issuing the visa, how you conduct yourself during the interview and whether your paper work is in order.
It is important to smile and remember that the interviewer, too, is merely doing his/her job and that this job is of a certain level of importance, as there are many people that travel overseas on holiday visas and then look for employment (which is illegal). Your job when you’re at that interview is to be as calm, courteous, and articulate as possible. Don’t hide any information or give any half-information. Answer all questions to the interviewer’s satisfaction providing all the details you can in the most concise way.
I do not guarantee that after you have done all the above you will be granted a visa, as I said and I say it again, the visa is issued by a human being, and even that guy at the visa window might be having a bad day. So I have walked here with hope, guided with prayer and believing that everything will work out just the way God has planned them.
Your Schengen Visa has been granted.
Most roads in our part of Kenya are either in a state of disrepair or under construction. Mainly, you are driving on shoddily constructed roads with crater-like, car-swallowing potholes and sharp unmarked speed bumps, all threatening to destroy your car and strand you on the side of the road. Either that, or you are driving directly through road construction as it happens with only a hint of how avoid the beastly machinery blocking your way. You have to clutch the steering wheel and tell the kids to hold onto their seats as you bump along the “diversion” (under Construction).
Why the constant disrepair and repair? I’ve been told road construction is a big boondoggle. Apparently, a big proportion of the road budget goes to greasing palms, so things like quality cement and other important ingredients for road making get short changed. The road lasts half as long as predicted and the boondoggle starts again.
But when the road is completed it’s … well…. amazing. Some of your journey is inevitably on fresh road, and you sail by feeling like you’re on a high speed train. Like you’re time traveling. But don’t get too comfortable because this is actually where the worst of the road accidents happen at the absence of potholes, diversions or speed bumps lulls long haul drivers into careless and often lethal complacency.
While on the speeding lane, the only lane, then you meet NTSA. The guys with the speed gun. They always know where to get you. Which is unfair because you would think that speed enforcement should be done justly. But wait a minute, Not here. So then, you find yourself paying a cash bail of Kshs 5,000…….and you are appearing in court on Tuesday at 9am. Whether you are at your destination or back where you started, court will be at least four hours drive.
So the roads in Kenya are no picnic. And speaking of picnics… you better pack one, because there are no fancy roadside restaurants, drive-throughs or convenient stores. There are tons of roadside vendors, but unless you can make a snack out of a kilogram of potatoes, some tomatoes and an uncut pumpkin, you’re out of luck. So we do not hesitate to buy dinner, a little grocery….maybe a lot of it. Some snack……roasted maize. There is also cold yogurt at Delamere……right on the road. You drive in the darkness for a long time, then you are lucky to see the sunrise. Suddenly everybody wakes up, hell breaks loose. The sun becomes hotter, the road becomes busy and people become mean. All in one day. Then there is mother nature, with all her mercy, and suddenly you have no visual.
So I ask myself, why do I keep doing this? Its fun, yeah trust me. Except for the fact that you have to pay for a cash bail on your overspeeding, living life with some sense of danger is a normal thing here in Kenya. Sometimes danger is an enemy. But when she is a friend, we make good use of her. Stay around her and interact with her greatly while exploiting her resources. All this for the hope of seeing what lies at the destination. A different life, cultures, landscapes and family. To be able to see them, you have to go through this, maybe more. Today you are enjoying your drive, tomorrow you are spending the night in the middle of nowhere. Funny but close to reality.
You want some action. A darkness encounter, the heat and cold. The animals, mother nature…… you know, the same kind of action you want from an episode of the Real Housewives of somewhere. Or so I hear.
I want to see the world, so I take on it bit by bit.
This year, I will be ending the year somewhere in the middle of Johannesburg, I have no idea what happens in Jozi when the year is ending. My first time to usher in a new year in South Africa, I was in East London in Eastern Cape. The venue of action was Ebuhlanti Beach Front also known as Marina Glen, the most popular hang-out spot in East London. On this day, Buffalo City Metro organized a concert that was free for everybody.
Looking forward to now my present situation – being that I will be ushering the year in Jozi, I had to contract the help of google, to just make sure I will be at the right place when that time comes. If you have used google, you will know how quick he is when it comes to solving this kind of problems. Among the top two spots as advised by google was; Greensleeves Medieval Kingdom, this is always a hit (so google says)– certainly something different and fun! End of year function at Greensleeves Medieval Kingdom in Sterkfontein. They offer you superb food along with Medieval Feasts, DJs, costumes and entertainment to give you the perfect end-year event after a long year. (It already sounds good to me).
Vegas Nights, a fantastic idea if you are planning on having a Las Vegas-themed year-end office party. They offer a great variety of the most loved and exciting games from Vegas to spice up any occasion. Play a bit of Blackjack, Poker or Roulette and Craps and Vegas Nights can tailor make your fun gaming year-end event depending on your budget, venue, concept and number of guests! (I am a married man, and what the movies say is that some people who desired a Vegas experience ended up being married with the least of their knowledge).
My end year picks are now down to two, Vilakazi Street in Orlando West or 7th street Melville. This two places give you a true picture of what it means to be South African. 7th Street is home to many hotels and restaurants but for this end year the restaurant the catches my heart is .Xai Xai Lounge, Melville.
Local musician and journalist, Chris du Plessis, runs this lively yet laid-back cocktail bar, rumoured to be the hottest joint on the Melville Strip. Pronounced Shy Shy, the lounge is modelled on the much loved cocktail bar of the same name in Maputo.
Expect décor that is Mozambique inspired, with a jungle-meets-ocean theme and drinks to match – beers and tropical cocktails. The word on the street is that this cocktail bar serves the best Caipirinhas in Joburg as well as other whacky numbers like Nelson Mandela and Graca Machel.
The cool clientele is an intriguing mix of hippy types, local artists, intellectuals and bohemians, who gather at Xai Xai to engage in heated conversation over cocktails and Mozambican beer. If all this debating makes you hungry, the lounge serves great Portuguese-African fare.
“With tables spread along the pavement, red formica chairs, red tablecloths and chilled Laurentina lagers, it’s like Maputo without the heat and mosquitos”………so they say.
But then, ushering a year in Jozi without Vilakazi Street is already starting a year wrong, because this place, is where the true South African spirit is, I mean. Vilakazi Street is the most famous street in Soweto and it the only street in the world to have had two nobel prize winners as its residents. Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu lived and live in Vilakazi Street. Nelson Mandela’s house has become a museum and the Tutu’s house is still used as a normal home by the Tutu family.
Sakhumzi Restaurant on Vilakazi Street gives you an authentic Soweto experience with a buffet of a wide variety of local dishes, from the starter to dessert that has a combination of cake, blue berries and ice cream. Which makes me wonder why this are not top of Google’s list of top 10 spots in Jozi to usher in your new year. My thought is that this is Johannesburg, not a small village in Malawi. My way of ending the year maybe small or on budget or troubled, but here is where the big boys live, and am sure there is a big party somewhere, beyond my pockets reach.
So wherever you usher in your new year, I hope your wishes for 2017 come true for you and come end of the year, we will be taking stock yet again.
The city of Durban is known for being a natural paradise with its sun-kissed beaches and subtropical climate. It is built around one of the busiest ports in South Africa, but it’s the city’s scenic coastline which is the ultimate attraction and has become a hit among cycling enthusiasts.
Durban’s beachfront promenade was revamped in 2010 and has grown into a revitalising space for runners, walkers, skaters, and cyclists who flock to the promenade for a sporty day of fun in the sun, or to take in the ocean breeze during their daily workout.
Durban – The Ethekwini municipality is in the process of creating about 40km of cycling lanes in Durban and the surrounding townships, which they hope will change the face of transport in the city.
I have been a guest of this city for the last 10 days and I should say, while Durban has not yet achieved its dream of ‘WALKING DURBAN’, they are on the way there. In most parts of the city, they may have achieved the 40km of cycling or almost. What they need is to cultivate the culture in the people. Thanks to my host for the AirBnB we have been staying, we were privileged to have two mountain bikes, one for me and one for my wife. The location we were staying was just perfect for cycling, down florida road to Moses Mabhida Stadium, then cross to the waterfront. The Moses Mabhida has endless open spaces for cycling, and it also houses a cycling shop where you can rest a bike.
Durban certainly houses a few popular cycle routes that offer a revitalising outdoor experience for the everyday cyclist. The must-see attractions in the town is the Giba Gorge Mountain Bike Park in Pinetown and the MTB Trails in Karkloof which is regarded as the best trail riding destination in South Africa. Another place you can see while on your bike is the Durban Botanical Garden, while the don’t allow cycling inside the park, it provide fresh sights for a cyclist who loves to engage with nature on a personal level.
With Durban eager to make itself a bicycle-friendly city, the aQuellé Tour Durban has been embraced by recreational cyclists as a significant opportunity to take full biking advantage of. The annual 45km fun ride begins and ends at the Moses Mabhida Stadium, taking riders through the M4 up to Umdloti and back, with striking views of the sea throughout.
The city also has a few well known bike clubs that offers cyclists a place to gather, host weekly events and socialize. Cyclesphere and Kings Park Cycling Clubs are two such examples of the many bike clubs that the city has to offer. A personal visit to cyclesphere gave me my birthday gift, a Giant 29er mountain bike that they were giving on a great offer. I have had a chance to test it, before it was wrapped in a box ready for Johannesburg, before I fly it to Kenya.
Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika (God bless Africa) was originally composed as hymn in 1897 by Enoch Sontonga, a teacher at a methodist mission school near Johannesburg. The song became the official anthem of the African National Congress (ANC) and a symbol of the anti-apartheid movement. It came to represent the suffering of the oppressed and was considered the unofficial national anthem of South Africa.
Because of its connection to the ANC, the song was banned by the apartheid government. In 1997 — three years after apartheid ended — Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika was combined with the former South African anthem,Die Stem van Suid Afrika (The Voice of South Africa) — to form a new national anthem, which is still sung in South Africa today.
Today I journey through the history of South Africa, beginning from the house the sits on the highest hill of Pretoria – The Union Building. Like a castle on a hill, the Union Buildings tower over the Pretoria city centre. The buildings are situated near the top of Meintjieskop and from this vantage point a visitor has uninterrupted views of Pretoria’s tall skyscrapers and the surrounding jacaranda-lined suburbs. Also clearly visible on some of the opposite hills cradling the city are two other landmarks: Freedom Park and the Voortrekker Monument. It sits on very a green land, with its face looking onto the daughter hill that hosts the Voortrekker Monument, another symbol of the apartheid struggle.
Unfortunately the inside of the buildings are not open to the public but visitors can walk right up to them, while the terraced gardens and lawns present many spots and angles from which to photograph this magnificent structure. During the day there are arts and crafts for sale next to the parking area and one might even spot a local artists busy sketching pictures of their surroundings. The public spaces are open until late in the evening and the parking area and grounds are well patrolled by police. At night many people come here by car for a quick stop to enjoy the view of city’s night lights. People are allowed to have picnics, walks, take pictures and enjoy the environs of this place.
Sitting on a 52 hectare undeveloped hill overlooking the city of Pretoria. It was here that the nation’s heroes would be honoured and the complex story of South Africa and its people would be told. Freedom Park is a memorial to honour those who sacrificed their lives to win freedom. It also celebrates and explores the country’s diverse peoples, and our common humanity. A tour around the park brings you closer to nature, and indoor are filled with education through videos, pieces of artifacts that are rich in the history of the apartheid struggle.
This majestic monument sits in a nature reserve and is easily visible for all who arrive in the tshwane region by road. Our trip was derailed by a tire puncture, but in no time, we found help from a guy who works here, and the tour began. The monument was built to honour God, under the leadership of Paul Kruger, then the president of South Africa. The Cenotaph, situated in the centre of the Cenotaph Hall, is the central focus of the monument. In addition to being viewable from the Hall of Heroes it can also be seen from the dome at the top of the building, from where much of the interior of the monument can be viewed. Our tour guide says that the person who sat here in the monument decided who sits at the union building and the fact that its easy to see the monument from union building, they would be reminded everytime who put them there.
The Apartheid Museum is hosted at the Gold Reef City in Johannesburg. A consortium, called Akani Egoli (Gold Reef City), put in a bid that included the commitment to building a museum. Their bid was successful, the Gold Reef City Casino was built and an adjacent piece of land given for the construction of a museum. Taking picture inside the Museum is prohibited but there is a lot to learn. The tour takes at least three hours, taking you through the history of the struggle, the life and work of Nelson Mandela, the Rivonia Trial, apartheid machine and many more.
8115 Vilakazi Street and Hector Pieterson Museum
8115 Vilakazi Street in Orlando West might be the most visited house address in South Africa, but am not certain. This was home for Nelson Mandela before he went to prison and 11 days after he came out of prison. His wife Winnie and the children kept staying here while the husband was serving a prison term at the Robben Island Prison. If you were here a while back, you will notice that the house has been renovated to prevent it from falling apart, but the walls represent the original house built in 1945. Vilakazi street attracts all activities, this is where young South Africans who have made it in life come to enjoy the weekend, displaying their expensive toys on the roads while they occupy different restaurants that run through the street.
Kliptown Open Air Museum
The Kliptown Air Museum is where delegates to the congress of people met to adopt the freedom charter in 1955. This is now the cornerstone of the bill of rights and the South African Constitution. The museum and square is dedicated to Walter Sisulu, a Stalwart of the freedom struggle.
There are many places I haven’t visited, I hope I will have a chance to do that on my next visit here in South Africa. My vacation has not ended, will be headed to Amanzimtoti for Christmas, and travel back to Johannesburg to prepare my travel back home. So you still be seeing me around. See you in KwaZulu Natal.
Sanibonani kusuka kimi lapha eGoli.
Today I am reporting from the city of Johannesburg. Its said that this is a divided city – the poor mostly live in the southern suburbs or on the peripheries of the far north, and the middle class live largely in the suburbs of the central and north. This is my third visit in Johannesburg and for me its a special visit. I have come here while in a hurry to get somewhere else, and that place has always been East London in Eastern cape – a place I have called home for the times I have visited South Africa. Most of the friends that lived in East London are now back in Nairobi, today, it’s sad am not visiting East London.
Am here with my wife Naomi, we just got married and what a way to start our marriage. Jo’burg as they call it is a place full of life. Jo’burg is a vibrant, diverse, cosmopolitan city: a melting pot of nationalities, races, religions and cultures. It offers a unique blend of first-world sophistication and emerging market vitality. The City is renowned for its hospitality – possibly because many residents weren’t born here but have been attracted by the lively job market and upbeat lifestyle. Jo’burgers excel at making people feel welcome. As foreign investment continues to grow, Jo’burg is becoming home to large concentrations of foreign residents and it is not unusual to hear French, Portuguese, German, Italian, Greek, Hindi or Mandarin around town.
We started our trip here with a stay in Kempton Park, a town thats hosts the O R Tambo International Airport. Every morning we jogged the streets of Kempton Park. Took a Gautrain to Sandton, an Uber to Emperor Palace and a taxi back to our hotel. Since we arrived here everybody has been so kind to us so much that we have felt at home struggling in our Zulu disability. Many times I have visited here have not helped me in polishing my Zulu, I know a little of Xhosa but when you are in Jo’burg ‘Xhosa is a conquered tribe’ my phrasebook comes in handy.
We then moved to Riviera, down the streets after our drop at the Sandton Gautrain Station. This neighborhood is home to the Johannesburg Zoo and the Military Museum of South Africa. When jogging in the morning, we meet a lot of people jogging too. The park of the Lake Zoo is good for walks and relaxing and it offers nature lovers a peaceful time to enjoy and reflect on the sights and sounds. We have had the opportunity to visit this places, and we are grateful for the value they have added in making our trip memorable. One of the things we really wanted to do is the Bungee jump at the Orlando towers, well, we managed to get there after a lot of missed turns with our Cell C TUK TUK driver and when we finally did, we didn’t get the days right and we only managed to do a tour. The bungee jump starts on Thursday and ends on the Sunday, the other days they only do tours.
We have made two trips to Pretoria, one on the Metro Rail which took 1 hour and forty five minutes, with a million stops. When we finally got there we were so pressed for time we could manage only a walk on the streets and a few photos. Thank God that the following day, our Host organized another trip, we drove in his 2006 Lexus Sedan on the Gauteng road and in less 30 minutes we were in Pretoria. We spent the morning touring the downtown, Union building and the Freedom Park, and our afternoon at Voortrekker Monument.
Johannesburg is weird, because half of it is like Los Angeles. It feels like just wealthy parts of L.A. But half of it is severe slummy, something like Rio De Janiero or something. So it’s kind of weird, because it’s both happening at the same time. But this is home for many, the half wealthy and the half poor, going around with their toils, some in posh coupe convertible enjoy the nice roads, the N1, N2, N3s and others walking to find their destination. Some jogging around the Johannesburg Zoo, some cycling and some wondering why they have to live with animals in the city. Everybody here calls this home, and its been home for us too. But beauty, beauty is seen in everything, in the posh skies of Sandton or the poor streets of Orlando, we see beauty everywhere.
As we continue to tour this great nation, tomorrow we head to Kwa Zulu Natal, we will be in Durban City enjoying the sun and the listening to the songs of the Ocean. We will keep up with our updates on the social media platform. You will love the pictures.
For now, Vilakazi Street is calling.