The first week

That’s the view from my 10th floor flat, BTW.

Monday was my first day of work! As I had a rental car, I picked up Dami who works with me and lives in the same building. Dami is Nigerian-born but has been living in London for quite some time. So, the first day of work is always interesting because you are not quite sure what you have gotten yourself into, and what the culture is like. This is going to be a long post already so I won’t say much more at this point other than to note that my impressions of the place were right: if you took a dotcom startup and stuck it in South Africa in the social entrepreneurial space, you’d have heart (and I’ll have everyone know I’m staying on brand thank you very much). Except that it is a bit more laid back. This is Cape Town, after all!

Interestingly on the first day the morning activity was to describe what had brought everyone to heart and why they stayed. The consensus seemed to be the people, and the mission, in that order. Not a bad start. Plus, the office space in the Old Castle Brewery building is very nice …. very Silicon Valley. Er, I’m sorry, Silicon Cape!

The CEO, Peter, is quite interesting. I hope to get to know him better but from the brief interactions I had with him by my second day I was highly impressed. Now as many of you know, I am not easily impressed. He appears both intelligent and knowledgeable, and he is driven.

So heart is building an incubator for social entrepreneurial startups. They will come in, receive funding, mentoring, and training. My job is to help provide the material for the training, and to help deliver the material until the school grows to the point that this can be done by a facilitator. heart is planning to replicate this model throughout Africa, really as quickly as possible, but first we need to get it right here, in Cape Town. I came at a very exciting time because everything is happening and is being developed right now – by the end of the week we had delivered our first class (the first class in the Feasibility Study module, about industry and market analysis). It is good also that we are first testing out the incubator methodology on in-house projects because the feedback we got was solidly constructive criticism. You can’t improve without criticism, and one of the things I like is that people speak their mind.

Much more will come on this subject, of course, but I will say that I like the mission, and I like a lot of the approach. I’m so new that I can’t really judge but I hope (and at this point believe) that it will work, and it will have an impact. But boy, there is a lot of work to be done. As much as I am hopeful that this will turn into a great learning experience for me, I am a little disappointed in myself in this first week. I was distracted by settling in, learning the new company, searching online to find a car to buy, etc. that I didn’t put 110% of myself into my work. So, I don’t want to have to look myself in the mirror and be disappointed with myself next week. Time to step my game up.

Of course, the week wasn’t all work! Monday night I went out to Somerset West to see Warric, and we went to a bar called The Old Bridge, which was quite nice, I thought. Although I’m sure it gets old if you go there all the time. Warric and I also taught at Hector Peterson, and I always enjoy his company. Afterwards, I took him back to Stellenbosch because his car was in the shop. Then we had another beer and somehow it got to be 1am so I headed back to Cape Town and went right to bed!

I had discovered online an organic grocery store in Woodstock, near where I work. I went there on Wednesday to pick up my weekly bag of groceries (it’s basically a CSA). I got there just fine but one of the roads I had driven was a one-way and it was quite a mission to get back, especially seeing as it’s quite difficult to make any right-hand turns in this town unless there is a robot (traffic light). This is one of the local terms I intend to pick up because I find it quite hilarious. Anyway the bag itself is awesome, for R130 (which is about $17 at the most recent exchange rate) you get an entire bag of groceries! The first week I had a bag of applies, a bunch of sweet potatoes, 2 mangoes, the world’s tiniest pineapple, scallions, broccoli, radishes, arugula, lettuce, green peppers, tomatoes, and I can’t remember what all else. Either way, it’s a great deal, especially since quinoa is like R60 for a bag (oddly the red is cheaper than the white!). Hopefully I can find that cheaper somewhere! I find myself quite quickly not translating back to dollars at all, just judging what is relatively cheap and relatively expensive in rand terms.

Wednesday night I went to a hash in Diep River which is southeast of Cape Town, in what’s known collectively as the Southern Suburbs. But there wasn’t a trail, we just ran. And then we ate at a nice restaurant so we didn’t do circle although they did buy me a drink and made me drink it all down just like that and sang the most innocuous song anyone could think of, very quietly. I suspect the Sunday runs are a bit more of what I’m used to, but I guess in about a month there are going to be like 50 people from Hong Kong coming in for a Wednesday run, so that should be quite interesting, to say the least!

Thursday morning I had my “orientation” session at Cape CrossFit. Yes, time to join the cult … I’m already trying to recruit others! At lunch Dami and I went down to the FIFA ticket office and I bought a ticket for the France/Uruguay match on opening night. The slogan used here in SA is “Feel it, it is here.” You can definitely feel the excitement building. 32 days to go, as I write this. I think it will be pretty cool to watch the opening parade or whatnot in the fan park in downtown then go out to Green Point and watch the match (it’s match #2; match #1 in Joburg, of course).

Thursday night was drinks night and as we got kicked off the top floor public area, we went to this guy John’s room as his roommates weren’t in yet. He has a much nicer kitchen than I do, I’m quite jealous! He’s from Texas and worked in the oil industry (he’s now working in microfinance), so we had quite an interesting discussion. I’ve always found the mechanical engineering portion of the oil industry completely fascinating.

Friday night was pub golf. This is essentially a pub crawl with rules – there are 9 holes (although I suppose you could do 18); each bar is a “hole” and to make each hole you need to drink the drink that the organizers have specified for that bar. I was a bit freaked out by a shot of either whiskey or tequila on the 8th hole, but it went down easier than I thought. Maybe it was the two double vodka limes I’d had a bit earlier. Eh, Long Street is a bit hectic. I do prefer quieter bars but it’s OK once in a while.

On to the first weekend!

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