Jozi Love

There’s this moment when you’re driving on Route 2 into Boston when you come over the crest of Belmont Hill and all of a sudden you can see the city laid out in front of you in the distance. The Pru. The John Hancock Building. The bridge. Yeah, I do sometime get nostalgic. I’m glad I lived in Boston. I am. I was so happy my first few years there.
Moving on. Recently I’ve been flying into Lanseria Airport, which is a small airport northwest of Johannesburg. The main airport, O.R. Tambo is huge: one of the biggest, if not the biggest, on the African continent. Not that huge. But bigger than Cape Town or Lanseria. Oddly enough, people still refer to it by its old IATA code, ORT. It’s now JHB. I think. It might be JNB. It confuses me, and I’m good enough with IATA codes that I still know Lanseria (HLA), Toronto (YYZ), and Corpus Christi (CRP).
But I digress. So when you drive south towards Joburg from Lanseria there is a similar thing that happens, where you come over the hill and you see downtown Joburg in the distance, and houses & rolling hills in the foreground. The last time I flew in there it was night, so I didn’t notice. This time, my heart skipped a beat.
I had left Cape Town Saturday afternoon, after doing not much more in the morning than practicing my clean (it’s FINALLY starting to come together), and then Karen. I hate wall balls so, so much. So I decided to do 150 of them. I could have made a better choice, because my mobility is shocking after a week or so of on-and-off illness, and definite stress/lack of sleep.
I really like Joburg. Like, I start to get a bit upset when I leave it. It’s weird. I’m not sure what the appeal is, to be honest. It’s a young city. It’s charming with the trees, and charmless with the sprawl and lack of mountains. Maybe it’s that the altitude makes me crazy. Maybe it’s just that I like the people up there. Probably it’s just that the grass is greener.
No, I’m not planning to move to Joburg. I had written ‘No, I’m not moving to Joburg’ but I have learned to be careful with definitive statements about my future. Almost every one I have ever made has turned out to be wrong.
Yes it’s charming with all the trees (biggest man-made forest in the world), and yes there are some nice restaurants  and  sunsets, and that fun mix of dodgy and dangerous and extremely affluent all check-to-jowl, but really it’s the people, and the fact that there are some people up there that I really like. Like REALLY like. The air is thin up there, more on that in a bit, but there is an energy to the place and to the people. It’s not charmless, although some parts of it can be (sorry, Midrand). And then you get the chance to giggle every time you drive past Avastar.
And there’s just something about the moon … I was sitting in Parkhurst on Sunday evening and the moon was almost full. The sky was grey, the clouds were purple, the moon was luminous. As Shirfu says, it’s not the Cape Town moon or the American moon. It’s the moon. But I notice it more in some places than in others.
We’ll see how I feel when winter comes and it’s very cold and the sun sets super early; it’s an hour earlier than Cape Town.
Why was I in Joburg? Well, I suppose you could say I was selling. Or shopping. Or both. Or even, you might say, dating. Hence having a pimp to set me up.
Meeting new people is strange. One of the topics that came up in one of the meetings is just what I like so much about South Africa. Well, hard to say, although I’ve tried to address this in the past in the blog and in various conversations. One thing is the contrasts, the beauty & the beast, the affluence and abject poverty. I also like how straightforward people are. There were some comments made in initial meetings that were very, ahem, to the point. I’m not easily ruffled and they weren’t directed at me, but that is one of the things that I like. I’m straightforward, usually, and I appreciate when others are as well.
Of course I also have this unfortunate habit of answering almost every question given to me honestly, including ones I perhaps shouldn’t. But it’s telling: someone asked me in the week what my biggest challenge was. I had to think about it, and I almost wrote it here but realised that would be giving away too much. If you want to know, ask. I’ll tell. If I trust you even a little bit. What I will say is that in the grand scheme of challenges, it’s certainly not bad. There are some people I wouldn’t want to be right now, and we’ll leave it at that.
I also had no fewer than three people in the last week ask me flat out about my love life. I don’t recall this ever happening in litigious America, but what the hell? Go ahead, ask me almost anything about me … just don’t ask me how much I’m paying for bandwidth. A promise is a promise. I won’t necessarily volunteer information but if you ask, I’ll almost always answer. I’m weird that way. Direct, I suppose.
One other thing I will say about Joburg: training at altitude is hectic but addictive. On Tuesday we had a metcon: 400m run, 25 kettlebell swings, 400m run, 25 wall balls, 400m run, 25 kettlebell swings, 25 wall balls. So I know enough about altitude not to redline and die panting, and I was going great up until after the first set of wall balls. At some point in there I spiked my heart rate, and when that happens you don’t recover if you’re not used to it. I also just really hate wall balls.
But then I came back the next day for more. I am not sure what it is, I think maybe just the novelty of my body not being able to do what it can normally do. Or that when you’re oxygen-deprived and then recover you feel that much more awesome and alive.
What scares me more than anything is competing at altitude. Both for myself and my teammates, but especially for them. I am afraid that if they are not used to it, the adrenaline will cause them to go out, as one does, and then they’ll hit the wall and not be able to recover fast enough. But you know what? This is all outside our ability to control. I didn’t get into this to be a competitive athlete, and I don’t think I was put on this planet to focus my life on it. It’s a hobby, and one I take very seriously, but it’s given me so much in terms of mental & physical strength that the placement in competition won’t be what I remember years from now. Although let’s not kid ourselves, I’m competitive as anything and I hate to lose. In sport. In sales I like to win more than I hate to lose. I think that’s the salesman’s resilience.
Well, it was good to be not sick and back at it. I suppose as I’m talking about training I should say, irony of ironies, that the blog post that for some odd reason gets 1.5x the normal hits is the one where I make a public commitment to 8 hours of sleep (although Stickers and a fangirl did pretty well, too!). This, by the way, is one of the best posts I think I’ve written that never got many hits.
I have been good; at least at trying. I had some insomnia in Jozi due to over-excitement, no doubt, on Tuesday morning I woke up after 6.5 hours, couldn’t get back to sleep, so meditated instead. Not as good as sleep, but you do what you can. Speaking of meditation we’re now starting qigong tai chi, which sounds like two worlds colliding dangerously.
As we also know I’m very impatient, so my first thinking after the week’s meetings were: ‘Wow, I should have done this months ago’ followed closely by ‘But there’s no way I could have done this months ago.’ It’s learning. My strategy has been the same since December. But even still, every month comes big clarifications when you get to the details. I do, however, have some interesting stuff coming, once I finish my budget and margin analysis this weekend (yes, this is what I do for fun). We’ll see how the market responds to it, as one does. No other way to find out than to go try to sell.
This week was also exciting because a) we got new furniture, b) we got verbal commitment on what is going to be a big deal for us (it’s not banked until contract is signed and money’s in the bank!), c) I got to have a call with one of my favourite Wi-Fi boys (this one in California), d) Bryony fixed my shoulder, or very nearly, by fascial release on my back which means I was right, and e) my house in the States finally sold which means I can stop doing the equivalent of burning money every month. And I have a very exciting to-do list for the weekend. AND the CrossFit Open starts next week.
Change is in the air. The financial year ended at the end of Feb, and autumn made itself quite apparent when I landed in Cape Town and it was raining sideways. After I’d just been arguing that it doesn’t do such things.
I did learn one other lesson this week – the moment you make a comment about the macro-environment, it can change. Change is the only constant. Innovate or die.
Do, or do not. Yoda’s a smart guy. Or … not sure you can call him a guy. Smart little thing.
  • “Awake yet?” – Grant
  • “That’s going to be messy.” “Yes it is.” – Conrad & JP
  • “Are you hacking into servers in Washington?” – random guy in the bar
  • “No, I don’t like the music. I’m here for the Wi-Fi.” – Ellie (true!)
  • “You can’t very well videotape a 5km run!” – Ellie
  • “A snail is like a cross between a mushroom and a calamari.” – David
  • “Yes, he would.” – Gian
  • “You have to trust your middle managers.” – Gian
  • “I think you just did.” “Oh, right. So I did. Never again.” – Ellie & Lance
  • “Market share is a lot of luck hey.” – Doug
  • “You need contrasts.” – Doug
  • “You don’t explain feelings. You feel them.” – Ellie
  • “Every day we delay we’re leaving money on the table as far as I’m concerned.” – Ellie  
  • “I think that taking acid when there are a bunch of other people riding motorcycles around you may not be a good idea.” – Mike
  • “You don’t have a comeback for that, do you?” “No. Damn you.” – Ellie & Rob
  • “I’ve also learned not to take so long to learn my lessons.” – Keldon
  • “That’s the guy??” “That’s the guy.” – Keldon & Ellie
  • “I don’t know if that’s how pimps work, but it’s how your pimp works.” – my pimp (now this was after protesting that I was two-timing him with another match-maker!)
  • “People aren’t buying last mile.” – Stuart
  • “You’re the only one in the industry who thinks that.” – Lance
  • “They’re very competent.” – Stuart
  • “That call I just hung up on twice? That was Telkom.” – Stuart
  • “I used to be soft. Then I hardened the f*ck up.” – anonymous, non-CrossFitter
  • “You are married. To your job.” – Ryan
  • “The pimp’s job is only done when you cash the check.” – my pimp
  • “Welcome to the deep end.” – Ellie
  • “Every algorithm works great until something fundamentally changes.” – Roelf
  • “The Open is going to shake things up.” – Julian
  • “When the roads are expensive and bad, cloud is not a good solution.” – Andrew
  • “It smelled like burnt computers. That’s what 9/11 smelled like.” – Andrew
  • “It is a form of product marketing, I suppose.” – Ellie
  • “Did he just say he dropped something off a roof? He just said that, right?” “Yes, he did.” – Ellie & Adam (not our guy, and not an AP!)
  • “Well they did have sandwiches. But I don’t really count that as food.” – Ellie
  • “Clarity of mind is really the best gift you can give yourself.” – Rapelang
  • “Most of them won’t understand what you mean, so you have to go with personality.” – Rapelang
  • “3-4 months is a long time for us.” – Zach
  • “Hey, guys, the Ruckus dropped my connection.” “Yeah, we unplugged it.” – Ellie & Adam
  • “If you’re as good at sales as I think you are, it doesn’t matter what you think.” – Doug (that’s where he’s exactly wrong)
  • “Do it. Hit it. Hit it hard.” – Doug 

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