Hectic Work and Soccer Weekend

The last couple days of work went by in a blur! I must say working with the interns from Norway is a pleasure – they bring both a level of enthusiasm and energy to the process that is just phenomenal.

There are eight total. Two are working on a business plan with the Food Tents team, two are working on a business plan for voluntourism, two are working on a business plan to make orphanages financially sustainable, and two are working on helping with the hamper and collateral design for Purple Heart, and then with an entrepreneurship competition that the Hub is going to be having next month.

What I find great about working with them, too, is to be able to provide strategic guidance but have someone else do the legwork! Quite a challenge for a perfectionist, detail-oriented person like me but it’s interesting – at each point in my working life when I have had to move further away from the trenches, or the front lines, I’ve actually found it easier to give up than I suspected I would. This is no different. It is great to have people work on business plans for some of these things, because we just haven’t had the bandwidth.

The orphanage project is particularly interesting to me because even the business model is unclear – should it be a consulting business, or should it actually buy up orphanages in order to standardise cost structures and make it easier to obtain government and donor funding, while at the same time working the revenue side at the grass roots level. This is where the feasibility study comes in – you need to do just enough operations and financial analysis to decide which path to pursue in more detail in the business plan.

I should also give a kind shout-out to the folks at Twitter, who restored a deactivated Twitter account that someone had been brand-squatting on. This was all done quickly and efficiently, despite their policy of never reactivating deactivated accounts. I figured they might make an exception in this case, and it turns out I was right!

Unfortunately throughout the whole week I had been getting more and more sleep-deprived thanks to a combination of lots of work, World Cup, and waking up early in the morning. Friday morning’s coaching session consisted of two cups of coffee (which I didn’t even feel – and this from someone who doesn’t drink caffeine except for in emergencies), and trying to explain percentages to Patrick. He was taught a formula to determine percents, which he could do on his mobile phone, but he had no idea what a percent actually meant. It was so interesting trying to step back and explain something that is as basic to me as calculating 20% of 100. We got on the subject when I tried to explain that as the model required 20% of weekly profits to going to repaying the loan for the initial inventory, and I realised that he didn’t understand the concept that as profits went up, so would the amount going to repay the loan. So I used the muffins in the center of the table (no, I didn’t eat any) to explain: if you have 10 muffins, and 10 people, how many muffins does each person get? 1. OK, so each person gets 1, and there are a total of 10 so that is 1/10 which is what percent? So if you have 100 muffins and 20 people (you get the idea). Yeah so anyway I think at least part of this sunk in; we’ll see next week!

Friday was really, really hectic – I was literally running around the entire day. At least I can run around easily now, so that’s a definite plus. It was particularly stressful because I had (er, I mean I wanted to) leave early to go watch the USA game which started at 4. Mind you work “officially” ends at 3pm on Fridays (this being Cape Town!), but boy did I feel badly running out at 2:58!

I met up with my one friend from Stellenbosch at my apartment complex, and after I borrowed a Tunisia jersey (best design I have seen, actually, shame they are not in the World Cup!) we headed to Zula, again managing to snag a table on the balcony. Really, where better to watch World Cup games than the balcony of Zula I ask you? I could seriously just move in there.

Well, that game was extremely entertaining, if nerve-wracking! My co-worker showed up about half-way through so the three of us enjoyed the game. Wow, imagine the stress of a comeback against Slovenia … on the plus side, at least Germany had an embarrassing loss earlier in the day.

So there were some English fans there. I’m sorry, actually, I think that Cape Town was pretty well invaded by English fans that day … anyway these particular fans were kind enough to paint a shield on my face. The least they could do, I suppose, having been more interested in watching Long Street for Algerians to jeer at than watching the USA game!

Not satisfied by the small-scale face paint, my friend went for the full-on face paint (one of the most ridiculous things I have ever seen in my entire life!) on the way to the stadium. This after interrupting a fabulous conversation I was having about Plato with one of the bartenders – he actually knew Thucydides which was highly impressive to me! But as it was, we had to sprint to our seats to get there for the national anthems: the queue to get in was just as absurd as it had been the prior week. Suck; I’m going to have to leave work so early on Thursday.

The crowd for the match (England-Algeria) was pretty much a full-on home-field advantage for England. Which would have been a good thing had England been able to get the ball out of midfield and/or convert on any of their scoring opportunities. As it was, the crowd booed them a lot. At least we had something approaching a brass band in one of the sections near us; turning the mood of the game into something akin to a college football game. So that was pretty cool!

Despite the complete and utter lack of scoring, I thought the game was pretty entertaining. I also managed to entertain myself by refusing to eat the street food having skipped dinner and doing dishes at midnight so that I could make myself some eggs. This was all the more amusing because I had the exact same meal for breakfast the next day.

Saturday morning I went and … well enjoyed would be the wrong word a workout that managed to make me sore the next day; a bit of a rarity. Considering that my triceps were jelly for a good hour afterwards, I’d say I got off lucky. This workout was most notable by all four of us lucky enough to do it sprawling on the floor after without moving for a solid couple minutes. Ahh, lying still felt so good. Also, unlike some people, I didn’t have to push any torture device-like objects around the parking lot with a hangover. An hour and a half after my workout ended and only one “oh, you’re still here?” comment from one of the coaches I went out to meet a couple friends for lunch.

After lunch we proceeded to the fan fest (my first time there!) to catch the Ghana game (they tied). Our group had grown significantly at this point so we took a shared taxi over to the waterfront where we proceeded into some heavily-fortified compound to the rented flat of a couple from Angola who are in town for a couple of weeks with their gorgeous two-year-old daughter Stephanie. For some reason this little girl just loved me – she kept following me around and when I picked her up she refused to be put down – every time I tried to give her to someone else she would grab me. Whenever her parents took her she would start crying! I’m convinced it’s because I was having a good hair day.

We watched the sad Cameroon loss here (yes, it really is all about the African teams), and I’ll admit by the end of the game I was getting very sleepy – sleep debt was finally catching up to me. However, the excitement of taking a bus that resembled a roller coaster back to the fan fest woke me up, and about five of us proceeded back to Long Street to … you guessed it, Zula! There we drank and danced, and I concluded that the only good thing about there being so many World Cup tourists in town is that I think I bought only one drink all night. For the most part they are tremendously boring, and ask all these ridiculous questions like “how safe is it really to live around here?” Ummm … depends how foolish you are. So eventually around 3am I went to grab a cab home, and another reason it will be a bit nice when the World Cup is over is these cabbies are a pain in the neck to negotiate with. They must think all people with American accents don’t know what’s up.

I am unable to sleep in, so I woke up, caught up on some work, went on a grocery run (typical Sunday), thought about going to the beach but decided against it because I couldn’t bring my laptop. Sad, eh? Then I proceed to watch three soccer games in a row, broken up only by taking a nap and cooking dinner in the middle. Yep, a lazy Sunday. Well, the World Cup only comes once every four years.

On to Monday! For some reason I just wasn’t mentally with it in the morning … not paying much attention to what I was doing in the workout. Sample:
“Jump up on the box and step down.” What do I do? Jump on the box and jump down.
“OK when I say bring your elbows up, don’t bring your chest forward?” What do I do? Bring my chest forward. And then I forgot that wall balls start at the bottom. I think I was distracted by the mountain of work I knew I had waiting for me at the office.

But, in positive news, I managed to accomplish everything I needed to! The best news of the day is that I took two of the Norwegian interns with me to a printing company in Pinelands and pretty well sorted out the Purple Heart hamper design in about 40 minutes, and found an existing pattern that would work for us so that we don’t need to spend R600 and wait a few weeks to have a dye made to our specifications. Updating the model to account for the hamper cost was actually good fun, and it amused me to no end to go down to the Purple Heart offices and measure the size of the candy bars so that I could calculate how we would need to cut the cellophane rolls. As my co-worker pointed out, this sort of activity is actually more challenging for me than writing some market or industry analysis, and it’s always good to stretch one’s brain in new ways.

The only other news is in Spain’s first goal of the World Cup (somehow they lost to Switzerland ???) I witnessed the most beautiful goal I have seen in my life. Stunning; this must be why they call it the beautiful game. Also as I have a bet that Spain is going to win it all, it’s nice to see them win a game!


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