Why Am I Here? Why Am I Me?

It’s 3am and I’m alone. Billions of stars in the sky, blank desert horizon in every direction. It’s cold, really cold.  Starting the fire takes me a half hour and the effort barely sustains me with enough heat before the fire starts.

After sitting for an hour with random thoughts, my mind starts to settle.  I was here to find answers and so I might as well start with the obvious.  Why am I here?  I mean, how can you expect yourself to get anywhere if you don’t know where you’re going, right? or at least figure out why you’re even on the road.

How do you get to answers, though? are they in books? are they in you? I’d imagine both – knowing what’s outside and what’s inside. Knowledge of the world and knowledge of self.

The desert has a way of blocking out everything except you.

And then, a new thought occurs to me… Why am I, me? Me in particular. Sitting in this spot, thinking this exact thought.  I don’t have anyone else’s experience but my own. This self-reflection has me stuck right here in the present, exercising my will to move , to act, to do anything I want.  But what is that exactly? What do I want to do? What should I do?

I’ll be grappling with this for a lifetime, but for now, let’s at least answer it generically. You’re here for a reason, and you’re you for a reason. Only you can be you and, well, you’re already here, so you may as well keep asking the question why until the answer comes to you or is answered for you personally.  After all, you are going to have to live with the answer.

Continue Reading

The Things I Hate and Love About Dubai

The gap in my blog posts recently was due to a trip to Dubai for my cousin’s wedding.  It was a very enlightening trip simply because, before, my perspective of Dubai was mired only in its total absorption in extravagance and overt luxury.  I couldn’t see anything else. Every trip there, work or otherwise had me rolling my eyes over eating food and shopping. There’s only so much you can do… and the heat kind of limits doing anything outside.

So anyway, let’s get to the list…

Hates

  1. Capitalism on Steroids – Everywhere… Luxury, Opulence and extravagance from the $30m licence plates to the upturned noses.   You cannot avoid the show of wealth and while it’s cool to gawk at the Lamborghini’s, Bentley’s, Rolls Royce’s, Muscle Cars, etc. After a while it infects you.  It’s a place for the insanely wealthy who want to show it and the those who aren’t insanely wealthy but aspire to be… or at least in its presence.  Maybe it would rub off on them like cheap perfume.
  2. No Soul – You feel the fake.  The country did come up from nowhere, with nothing nad now hitting records for what? Biggest building, biggest light show on the biggest building, etc. etc. They’re trying too hard man and as with all shows of wealth you can sense that something fundamental is missing.  You see it in the people too ,especially the expensive places… the disdain for everyone else, how they treat anyone who doesn’t live on their level.
  3. Growth for the Sake of Growth – The place is HUGE. It reminds me of Joburg it’s so big. Like it takes you at least a half hour from place to place and you’re generally surrounded by skyscrapers.  On this last trip, I’ve heard it seems the same problem like back in 2008, where contractors up and disappeared might be happening again. There is one hell of a lot of property in Dubai and I’m not sure there are enough people or businesses to fill up that space.  All of this growth also means it’s being built on cheap labour with dodgy labour practices.  It’s a shit show all the way through.

“Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of a cancer cell.” – Edward Abbey

Loves

  1. The Desert – My cousin took me to the desert with a couple of friends, a place called “Maliha”. We stayed up till like 3.30am with a camp fire, talking and listening to music and drinking chai.  It was amazing.  The vastness of the desert and the stars makes it so much easier to take breath and introspect.  Think about Life and your place in it.  Answer all the big questions for yourself.  Making new friends in such an isolated place is also very easy.
  2. The Normal People – Away from the cars driving past willing you to look at them with your mouth open. There are normal, everyday people in Dubai just trying to live their lives and get by. But when you’re going there on holiday you don’t get to see it. It’s the guys who make karak chai on the corner, the local cafeteria’s making shawarma, the others getting by day to day in corporate jobs sending money back to families in other countries.  I was looking for a soul to Dubai, these people are it. They make Dubai what it is, both the extravagant and the quotidian.
  3. Family – This is specific to my time their recently where I got to spend time with my cousins who I’ve only seen off and on for short periods and over decades.  I’m also like 10 years older than all of them, so I got to really bond with them at an age where we’re more or less on the same level.  That and spending time with my aunt and getting involved with helping set up all the wedding bits ( as family does) was a really awesome experience.

Continue Reading

Progress is Perfection.

 

You see, at the end… all of this doesn’t matter.

This world is nothing, man.  I mean, what’s the average age again… seventy, eighty years?  Even with modern technology, maybe a 100 years? You put that in a cosmic perspective and it’s nothing. A blink of an eye.  So what are you so anxious about?

Any problem you can think of… what? You lost your job, You got robbed, you broke your leg, you got divorced, somebody deceived you, somebody broke your heart. Whatever, pick a problem. In the bigger scheme of things, it’s nothing. You will get over it. It’ll fade away into nothing and you will learn and grow from it. That’s the point.

Little by little, each problem you overcome makes you more of who you are and progress is perfection.

Continue Reading

Focusing Somewhere Between Ideas and Events.

 

Drama. Everywhere.  You know where it starts and ends?  With people.

People discussing other people, judging other people, comparing themselves to other people, etc. etc.

I’m sure you must’ve come across this quote…

“Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

It’s been doing the rounds so much it’s become a cliché and, ironically, the quote itself is about people.  Anyway, it’s not just about “great minds”,  it’s about living a life that’s yours alone and free of worry. People are the root of the problem, or more specifically, your obsession and focus on other people.

Leave other people alone.

Focus on yourself.

Everything you will face in life will have less meaning and be far more difficult to overcome without knowledge of self, first and foremost.

Getting knowledge of self is the hard part. It involves self-reflection, understanding everything about yourself from the small things like your favourite colour and favourite food, to what you believe about why you are alive and what your purpose is on Earth. Why are you here? Why were you born?  You need to sit down alone, ask yourself these questions and answer them for yourself and be convinced by it.  This won’t be sorted out in a single sitting, it will take time… but in order to get the rest of your life sorted out you have to do it.

Next, you need to get into reading, watching and listening everything that will help you answer the questions you need to.   This is where we tie in the title…  Your life is made up of events and, more importantly, your reaction to events. Pay attention to the things that happen to you and around you… how are you reacting to them? why are you reacting in that way? Is it the right way to react (is it better for you in the long-term)? Start a Journal. Write this stuff down. Re-read it later.

Finally, ideas. This is the goldmine. The bigger the better. But, keep the focus on yourself, what’s important for you to understand and answer.  Philosophy, Religion, etc.  may seem boring in the face of TV series and endless memes. But go after everything be ruthless asking yourself the bigger questions, seeing what questions were asked and explored before you…

Why should you do this, exactly? What will you get out of it?  First, you will know yourself in such a way that no event, or person can affect your state of being. You will be able to stand on your own, hold yourself to a higher standard. Second, you’ll start to see reality for what it is rather than what you’d like it to be. You will start to understand how things really work underneath it all.  How the world runs, with you in it… and how you can really affect change, for yourself, within your circle of influence and the world.

Little by little, piece by piece, one step at a time.

Start now.

Just a final note: Once you start this journey, it doesn’t end… but you wouldn’t want it to. I guarantee it.

Continue Reading

#MeToo, Women, The Golden Globes and My Commitment

The recent action by the women at the Golden Globes and the resurgence of #MeToo reminded me of what I wrote back in October last year when this topic started gaining ground, people started coming out and raising awareness about what a shit show it is to be a women in today’s world. I did have my head in the sand and was complicit in all the small jokes, the little comments, the conversations I brushed over and all of the above that I ignored and let slide.

It started with this post…


“Going through my feed. Shocked at the amount of #MeToo posts. It makes me sad and very angry. As a male I’ve just had my head in the sand about the extent to which sexual assault and harassment happens to women. This is eye opening and I feel really helpless. Short of castrating any fucker who would blatantly attempt this kind of thing in my presence… What can I do to help? I want to do something.”

After which I had spoken to a good number of women who made me realise that apart from being ignorant, I was complicit.  I didn’t see it, because it’s everywhere. We’re steeped in the culture and so we don’t notice it. We see it as normal when it’s anything but.

The follow-up post was this one, and I need to live up to it. It’s a commitment I still stand by.

Click or Read Below… I couldn’t get a better shot of this post.

 

“Following on from yesterday’s post on #MeToo. The loop needs to be closed with a commitment and an action list which I hope you will hold me accountable for, in person and online. So here goes, #HowIWillChange.

1. Recognise that I can be the bad guy without being the perpetrator, letting things slide when there is harassment is as bad as the act itself.

2. I will listen more closely to the women around me, especially those close to me, seek to understand first and then, if necessary, act.

3. Never enable any misogynistic behaviour, no matter how passive, and to not accept any excuses or diversion tactics of abusers. In private and in public.

4. Acknowledging my own capacity for this harmful behaviours and taking responsibility for it as well as my own “unlearning” of these behaviours.

5. Proactively learning more about women’s issues instead of expecting them to explain it to me in order to understand how they are impacted.

6. Call out mansplaining, and expect to be called out for mansplaining. Seriously, it must be fucking irritating and so demeaning.

7. Same with hepeating, acknowledge women more for any contribution no matter how small, and let any hepeaters know that they can’t get away with stealing ideas and expecting to be credited.

8. To not stand by quiet when women are forced to spend tons of energy to fight for or protect their own dignity or rights.

9. Acknowledge Male Privilege. The socialisation of ALL MEN, including myself, into vicisounsness andentitlement whether we act on it or not.

10. I will never blame a victim or stand by while it happens.

11. To actively switch all discussion about women from being victims where events “happen” to them and actively show the responsibility of the perpetrators.

10. Teach my daughter that she does not need to put up with any of the shit that goes on to demean and put her down. To recognise her worth and to recognise all of the above bullshit that goes on for what it is.

And finally… do all of the above without expecting praise or congratulations.

Shoutout to all the women who commented on the previous post to help me understand this and make this commitment… and, most importantly, to the women in my family who are so awesome, I have no words. I love you all.”

 

Continue Reading

Do Not Go On The Deep Web

For every curious person, you know the one thing they tell you not to do… you obviously have to do it, or at least see. You know what I mean?

Have you ever had the experience, though, where you regretted looking? That’s generally the dark web, and specifically my experience with it.

The dark web has random buttons all over the place, specifically for the curious.  I don’t know what to tell you except that it just isn’t worth it. the plaec caters to the dark side of humanity. Think of the worst, gory flick you’ve ever seen… yeah, the dark web has worse. Fiction doesn’t come close to reality.

The worst and weirdest of sexual fetishes, violence, psychopathy.  And it isn’t hidden, it isn’t hard to find. It’s there and before you know it, it scars you and leaves you wondering why you would put yourself through that. It’s the worst. I know you’re curious but don’t do it.

There’s stories online about the scary shit people have come across there… and that’s probably just the tip of the iceberg.

So, unless you’re actually using it for legit purposes (journalism or activism)… just trust me. Don’t even attempt it. It’s not worth it.

 

Further Reading:
Creepy Stories about the Dark Web

 

Continue Reading

Life Lesson: Respond, Don’t React.

“It’s not what you look at that matters, what matters is what you see.” – Henry David Thoreau

This is one of my favourite quotes, if only because it addresses so much of how we experience life.  Every problem, every success, every experience no matter how mundane has the ability to affect you in profound ways.

The underlying philosophy is that what you experience does not matter. How you respond to whatever you experience does matter.  One of the biggest lessons I have had to learn in life is how to respond to situations instead of merely reacting to them.  You need to put a gap between whatever happens to you and your response to that stimulus, you need to give yourself time to weigh the options and choose the path that’s better.

Then we have to ask “better for whom?” Ideally, you should be attempting to get win-win situations. Assholes think only of themselves. Don’t be an asshole.

Continue Reading

How To Live in Istanbul

Coming to Istanbul for a holiday is great. There’s so much to enjoy here. All the things to see, the history seeped into everything you look at. The interesting food you get to try out. The interesting culture you get to learn about.  There’s bad stuff too though, pickpockets, overzealous salesman, fake goods, nobody speaking english, etc.

But living here… is something different. Yeah, you get all the above but the volume gets turned down and it’s like looking behind a curtain.

The lack of English becomes a real problem and you can’t go on living by Google Translate and Charades for ever, so tip No. 1 is…  LEARN THE LANGUAGE. The simplest way is to use apps like Duolingo and Memrise. Also, the best Turkish/English dictionary app is called Sesli Sözlük. Google Translate is useful for quick things, but isn’t as accurate for the long term.  Admin is the hardest, trying to get anything done when someone doesn’t speak the same language as you (and they generally lose interest in you and shoo you away, literally) is the most infuriating thing ever.

 

Pickpockets are something to look out for at all the tourist spots, but when you’re an expat and venture further out, you still stand out and you still get targeted.  I’ve had friends and family experience theft of handbags, with wallets, passports, everything in posh, high end shopping malls like Zorlu, Mall of Istanbul, etc. with some very devious tricks. So Tip 2: Just be careful out there.

The food… is always fresh, but bland. The vegetables are amazing, I actually eat tomatoes raw here. Coming from a South African Indian background, the blandness is NOT a good thing. One week in and I was scouring the city for a good Indian restaurant… and there’s like 5. Not all that great though.  Okay, I’ve recently found one decent one, but I digress…You can survive with the food here, but you’re gonna need to find some home-made food at some point, so Tip 3: bring your own spices to cook your own or do a better job than me at shopping for what you need. But, since you are going to eat out at some point, get on YemekSepeti, it has an app too. You can use Chrome web browser, it automatically translates the site into English for ease of use.

Next, Getting around the place.  Public Transport is AMAZING here. Tip 4: Get an Istanbul Kart, it’s like an Oyster card in London, it’s cheaper than single tickets and works across busses, the metro and the ferries all over Istanbul. Next, Tip 5: Download Trafi, it’s an amazingly accurate public transport app which lets you know the fastest way to get where you need to go with Public transport. It’s like the Citymapper app in London and elsewhere, but specifically for Istanbul.

 

If you’re in a hurry and want to use a taxi cab, you can use the Bitaksi app, which you need to register with a Turkish mobile number. I would still recommend using Bitaksi anytime you require a taxi, simply becuase you’re far less likely to get ripped off. All details of the driver and their cars are stored in the app when they pick you up, plus they can get reviewed… and nobody wants a bad review because it means they will get less money.

UBER and CAREEM are also available. Pro-tip: Uber XL’s are the same price as taxi’s here… so you can luxuriously lounge in Mercedes Vito instead of a standard cab if you wish.  Just avoid Uber going to the airport, it’s apparently “banned” and there’s fines for the driver and the passenger if caught out… but it works everywhere else in Istanbul with no problem at all.  So Tip 6: Use Bitaksi, Uber and Careem whenever you can to have a more pleasant travel experience.

UPDATE (21/07/2018): Uber and Careem are now actually illegal in Istanbul, so while you still can use them, be careful, you could get fined.

 

You could hire a car, but I don’t recommend that. Driving in Istanbul majorly stressful if only because the drivers work with a margin of error this big –> ||. So, unless you’re planning a road trip across all of Turkey (which I do HIGHLY recommend you do), just get taxis.

UPDATE (21/07/2018): If you’re alone and don’t have any luggage (beyond a backpack), Scotty is like Uber and Careem but with motorcycles (vespas) and is 2/3 the price of a taxi and you skip a lot of traffic. It’s amazingly an amazingly quick alternative to getting around the city when you’re in a rush.
Scotty App

Making Friends… here’s a list of Facebook forums and groups you can join… Expats in Istanbul,  Istanbul Expat Centre, Foreign Women of Istanbul, Expat Events in Istanbul,   Istanbul Expats & Internationals Group, Expat @Savers and Cook’s Corner for Expats in Turkey. If you’re going to be doing the admin on your own, I recommend you make some Turkish friends fast that can help you out, otherwise it’s like navigating in the dark without a torch.

Lastly, if you need more than the tips above… My Merhaba.com, TimeOut Istanbul, yabangee.com,  The Guide Istanbul. I’m sure they’re more detailed for anything I’ve missed out like great places to eat, what’s hot and happening, etc. etc.

That’s about all you need to get started 🙂 Enjoy Istanbul… all things taken into account… it is a beautiful city.

Continue Reading

The Best Steak in Istanbul

So this is pretty hard, actually.  There are a lot of great steak and burger places in Istanbul.  But, I can only talk about what I know so don’t kill me in the comments (Who am I kidding, nobody comments here! hahaha.)

First, I want to talk through the experience of having steak in Istanbul. It’s AMAZING.

The meat literally melts in your mouth, falls off the bone… and it tastes like it’s supposed to taste, obviously with added salt…

… but seriously though (I’ll get to Nusr-et later), that’s exactly what it is.  Now, granted, my experience before this was over-cooked steak, Indian style, overloaded with spices so you don’t actually taste “meat”.  This was a revelation.  and this goes for all the meat – beef, lamb, whatever.

That’s not all though, there’s mustard, two kinds, light and dark… the dark is the one you want to go for (which we refer to as wasabi, because it has the same effect but different, kinda)… Now, I’d like to get into that experience, but a good friend of mine actually poetically put it down as…

“There’s a moment when you’re rolling your eyes at the amazing steak and then the wasabi kicks in and plays on the nasal passages it’s like a theme park ride it’s awesome.” – Zubair Habib

Another notable quote to make my point … “the steak was amazing… I love that it’s naked, just steak, no sides no sauce.”

Okay, let’s get to the meat of the matter, what are the best places in Istanbul to eat steak at?

  1. Nusr-et
    It may seem like a cliche because of all the media attention and the meme extraordinnaire but make no missed-steak (hahahaha), this place is the real deal.  I recommend the Meat sushi (for the theatre and the thing itself), the Beef Ribs and the lamb chops. The one in Etiler is the original steakhouse.
  2. GÜRKAN ŞEF
    Trademark Moustache, same quality as Nusr-et. Story is they both trained at the Gunaydin (next in the list) in the list before they became big names themselves. He’s obviously not as big as Nusr-et but the place is just as expensive and he’s just as quirky.  Go straight for the steak on the menu, but even the lamb chops were pretty amazing.  This guy’s also in Etiler.
  3. Gunaydin
    These guys are the standard Turkish Steakhouse, but that doesn’t mean it has any lack of quality.  It’s less expensive than the above, less fanfare and theatre and quirkiness, but it has all the great meat you need.  The one in Etiler is the best, in my opinion, but they’re everywhere… you can’t miss them.  Go for steak or kofte on the menu, they’re all good.

I should mention though, generally, the service is pretty awful, everywhere. Still trying to figure out why… but it is what it is.

… and sorry for the dad jokes.

Continue Reading